Last updated on April 13th, 2023 at 05:45 am
Are you new to climbing and looking for a pair of shoes that will outlast your beginner phase? Maybe you like to spend your time grumbling up cracks. Or perhaps you’re just on a tight budget and need to make your next pair of climbing shoes last.
The hard truth is that in order for climbing shoes to perform well, they have to be constructed with relatively thin and lightweight materials that have a limited lifespan.
Typically the first area to go will be the rubber on the sole and around the toe area. The good news is, this may be prevented if caught early enough with a resole. There are also a few tricks you can do yourself to extend the life of your rubber too.
THE TOP THREE
Durable Climbing Shoes
In reality, the durability of your climbing shoe is going to be directly related to how thick the rubber is. Thicker rubber makes for a stiffer shoe that can take more of a beating. Because of this, most of the shoes on our list are classed as stiff climbing shoes.
It’s also worth remembering that the lacing or velcro closure may take some damage due to abrasion or simply from the high tension they are under from keeping your grubby trotters securely in place.
When looking for a durable climbing shoe, you will want to think about how they balance outperformance with durability and what you can do to minimize wear.
Let’s dive in.
MY TOP PICK
La Sportiva Mythos
The Sportiva Mythos is an oldie but a goodie. They have been around for three decades with very few changes to the original design. This was a ground-breaking shoe in its day and could be spotted on the feet of top competitive climbers. Nowadays, the Mythos is typically used by tradsters looking for all-day comfort on easy to moderate terrain.
Given that they feel most at home on cracks, the Mythos can take a real beating. They’re equipped with beefy laces and rubber rand running along the sides so you’ll be decently protected when jamming. They take no time to break in and will mold to your foot due to their leather upper. And don’t worry, once you’ve worn through the durable 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber they’ll take well to a resole or two. We have found that the Mythos can take up to 4+ resoles before needing a permanent retirement. Not too shabby.
For women: The women’s Mythos shares very similar characteristics to the men’s shoes. The Women’s version also uses the XS Edge, a stiffer Vibram compound designed for big-wall and multi-pitch climbing.
UPDATE: The classic Mythos has been replaced by the Mythos Eco. As the name suggests this is a new eco-friendly version that uses a biodegradable leather upper and La Sportiva’s recycled FriXion rubber.
BEST FOR SPORT CLIMBING
La Sportiva Katana
For most shoe designers, when creating a high-end performer durability is assumed to be a given compromise. Using uber-soft and sensitive rubbers and extra light materials means for a quick break-in, but also a quick break down in performance. But when it comes to the La Sportiva Katana, that is not the case.
This is an unlined leather shoe with a high degree of downturn and moderate asymmetry. This is backed with La Sportiva’s patented P3 system (Permanent Power Platform) so it’ll keep it’s aggressive downturned shape throughout the life of the shoe. This shoe shines when edging. Its 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber will inspire confidence on the smallest of holds. The Katanas are also often used as a secret weapon when it comes to small cracks. Additionally, the lacing system is well reinforced and after many uses, has yet to show any signs of wear.
For such a high-end shoe we a thoroughly impressed with the Katana. It’s a true powerhouse that may just come to replace all the others in your quiver.
BEST FOR BIG WALLS
Scarpa Maestro Mid
This moderately high-cut boot is constructed with durability in mind. But then again, we wouldn’t expect anything less from Scarpa. The Maestro Mid is a high-performing crack climbing machine intended to take the pain out of the most uncomfortable of jams. It’s got a moderately aggressive shape with an asymmetrical and flat last, supported by a tensioned rand for extra support. They’ll keep you and your ankles well protected in the heinous of cracks.
We love the attention to detail in this shoe. This comes through on the side stitching on the leather upper. In addition, Scarpa has chosen to hide away the eyelets of the laces under the leather, protecting them from abrasion. The Maestro Mid is also equipped with 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber.
We think the Maestro’s performance rivals that of the TC Pro, with a more durable construction (TC Pros are known to suffer from lacing failure and delamination). This shoe also comes in an “eco” version using natural dyes. That’s a plus in our books.
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
La Sportiva Tarantula
The La Sportiva Tarantulas are a common sight in modern climbing gyms as more and more newbies take up climbing. They make for a great beginner shoe and are a popular pick due to their durability, cheap price tag, and relative performance.
They’ve got a fairly neutral profile and medium stiff sole. They fit most feet fairly well, leaving no dead space behind and molding to your foot as they break in. This is thanks to the unlined leather upper. If you have particularly narrow feet, you might want to have a look at the Tarantulace instead.
The most durable feature of this shoe is the rubber. When starting it can take a while to learn how to be precise with your feet, but the Tarantulas are ready to stick it out for the duration of that learning curve. They’ve been equipped with a thick 5mm FriXion RS rubber with medium stiffness. This does come with the compromise of reduced sensitivity and friction (ironically), so you may even find that you outgrow the shoe’s performance level before they ever break down. For the same reasons, the Tarantulas can also be a popular pick for gym climbing and high mileage sessions.
If durability is the priority and you plan on squeezing every ounce of use from these shoes, we would recommend going with the velcro version. The thin material holding the laces is bound to snap quicker than the metal attachment point of the velcro straps.
For Women: The women’s version of the Tarantula is almost identical, except it uses the Women’s RL45 last, designed to fit the narrower and less arched foot.
BEST FOR BUDGETS
Black Diamond Momentum
The Black Diamond Momentum fulfills a similar purpose as the Tarantulas. As the relatively new kid to the block, the Momentums have proven to be another great choice for new climbers. They’ve got a very similar profile with a flat, moderately stiff sole. You’ll get a similar level of performance and durability due to its rubber thickness and compound (in this case, the 4.3mm NeoFriction).
The advantage the Momentum has over the Tarantula is the material choice for the upper. While leather tends to retain moisture and is quick to build up the stench, Black Diamond’s innovative knit technology remains light and breezy. They also added a hemp liner to the toe box, which helps wick away sweat where it matters the most.
For Black Diamond fans that enjoy the boulders, take a look at the Shadow.
What’s Your Favorite Durable Shoe?
Durability can mean different things to different climbers. For a beginner who’s going to put their shoes through the wringer, we would highly recommend going with either the Momentum or the Tarantulas. Though their performance isn’t all that impressive, we think they are a great choice when you’re honing your skills. Seriously, these things are meant to take a beating!
For the more experienced climber that doesn’t want to be buying a new pair 4-5 months, your pick will depend on the type of terrain you are climbing on. We love the Katanas for their durability and performance and feel they shine on all types of terrain. However, their aggressive fit and heavy price tag may not be for everyone.
Whatever your style of choice is, keeping your footwork squeaky clean, and resoling your shoes when needed really is your best defense against durability issues. While these may be some of the most durable climbing shoe on the market, eventually they will break down. Treat your shoes well, and they’ll reward you with longevity.