What Climbing Shoes Do Professionals Wear?
The shoes used by your climbing heroes.
Climbing shoe have come a long way since their humble beginning in the ’70s and ’80s. With over 500 climbing shoes currently available, the overwhelming range of specialized shoes has allowed the climbing elites to make some seriously mind-boggling ascents.
Achievements that were once deemed impossible, like free soloing El Cap, climbing the Dawn Wall, or establishing a V17 boulder, are all realities thanks to the new breed of superhuman climbers and their range of cutting-edge equipment.
The guys and girls that are pushing the boundaries of rock climbing understand how important climbing shoes really are, and know exactly what to look for in new pair of climbing shoes. For these reasons, keeping an eye on what shoes professional climbers wear is one of the best ways to keep up with the ever-changing world of climbing shoes.
So, whether you are looking for a new pair of shoes, or you are just curious about what shoes your climbing heroes are currently wearing, you have come to the right place. We have deep-dived into the world of professional climbing shoes and done the research into the shoes worn by climbing royalty.
Alex Honnold Climbing Shoes
Alex Honnold has become one of climbing’s biggest superstars. His crazy free solo of El Cap made in an instant global celeb and resulted in him amassing nearly 2M followers on Instagram. Alex has worn La Sportiva for the majority of his professional climbing career. And being sponsored by LS, Honnold isn’t spoilt for choice when it comes to world-class climbing shoes. In fact, he regularly utilizes their endless section of La Sportiva shoes.
For the majority of his big wall and Yosemite ascents, like his famous free solo of El Cap, The Nose speed record, and the Fitz Roy Traverse, Alex’s go to shoe is the TC Pro. This shoe was designed with climbing in Yosemite in mind. “It’s the ultimate trad climbing shoe. Amazingly stiff for slab climbing and comfortable in cracks” Alex Says.
When Honnold isn’t free soloing 1000ft up, you might find him working on a bouldering problem or sport climbing route. For these situations, the Solutions are his shoe of choice. “I like the downturned toe and the high-performance fit. They’re also amazing for heel/toe hooking – it’s rare that a shoe is great at both… I use them for pretty much anything other than trad climbing”. Some of Alex’s noticeable ascents while wearing the La Sportiva Solutions include Ambrosia (V11), Cobra Crack (5.14b) and Atonement (514b).
Alex has also been known to frequently use the Miura, having free soloed Half Dome in 2008 as well as Astroman and The Rostrum in 2007 in a pair of Miura’s. He also uses them for vertical bouldering problems like Too Big to Flail (V10) and Mandala (V12.)
Adam Ondra Climbing Shoes
Adam, another La Sportiva athlete, uses a various shoes depending on the project he is working on. As he stated himself “For me, there is no such a thing as the best shoe ever. But there is the best shoe for certain kind of climbing.” As part of his Road to Tokyo series, Adam gave us a closer look at his shoe collection and dropped some of his shoe-knowledge on us.
Adam interchanges and utilizes the features of each climbing shoe more than any other professional climber. In fact, he almost uses every model La Sportiva has. He has also been know to wear two different shoes at the same climbing, depending on the demands of the route.
If he’s working on overhung sport climbing or bouldering problems, the chances are you will see him in a pair of Solutions or Skwamas. The Solutions have helped Adam achieve some serious accomplishments, including the first ascent of Silence, a sport route widely considered as one of the hardest in the world and the first to receive the grade of 9c (5.15d).
The Speedster is another favourite of Adams with him stating that “for me the Speedster is the best shoe with No Edge technology, ideal for onsighting in not too steep terrain”. He has used this shoe to complete some noticeable ascents, most noticeably the first ascent of La Dura Dura.
Adam also used the Katana Lace for his repeat of the Dawn Wall, the famous route first conquered by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson in 2015.
Chris Sharma Climbing Shoes
Chris has been one of the biggest names in climbing for the last 20 years. Having been climbing for so long, Sharma certainly knows a thing or two about good climbing shoes. Unlike Honnold or Ondra, Sharma has partnered with a variety of climbing shoe manufacturers across this career.
His first partnership was with Five Ten, at a time when Chris was beginning to establish a name for himself, by building an impressive resume of first ascents. For his first ascent of Necessary Evil, the first-ever 5.14c in the US, Sharma was rocking the Moccasym. This shoe shoe is all-rounder and is considered as one of the best slippers on the market. For his first ascent of Realization, the world’s first 5.15a sport climb, Chris was using the Anasazi VCS, another leading 5:10 model.
Chris’s partnership with Five Ten came to a swift end in 2006, and shortly after, his relationship with Evolv blossomed. During his time with Evolv he helped design his own range of ‘Sharma Signature’ shoes including the Shaman, Supra, Pontas and Nexxo, all of which Sharma would regularly climb in.
One of the first, and most used, shoes that Sharma developed was the Pontas, a Velcro all-rounder with a pointy toe, sharing many similarities with the Five Ten Anasazi VCS. Sharma used the Pontas, and later the Pontas II, on some of his hardest ascents including Jumbo Love (5.15b) and Es Pontas (5.15a).
The Sharman, another model from his Evolv collection, was specifically designed for steep overhanging terrain which Chris has used for some big deep-water solo attempts including El Bufador and Alasha.
In 2018 Sharma became an ambassador for Tenaya, a Spanish climbing shoe brand. While he can be found crushing in a pair of Iati and Mastia’s, word on the street is he is working on his own series of Tenaya shoes too. Keep your eyes peeled!
Tommy Caldwell Climbing Shoes
Isn’t it every climber’s dream to have their own line of climbing shoes? For Caldwell, that dream became a reality after the release of the TC pros in late 2009.
The TC Pro’s big debut came in 2008 with Tommy and Justen Sjong’s ascent of Magic Mushroom on El Capitan, and has since been used on most of Tommy’s projects including his famous Dawn Wall ascent. A flat toe box, stiff sole and Vibram XS Edge rubber all contribute to this shoe being one of the best slab climbing shoes on the market.
When Caldwell isn’t working on a big wall project he favors the Solutions for bouldering and sport climbing routes.
Janja Garnbret Climbing Shoes
If you have been watching any of the IFSC competitions (or the Tokyo Olympics) you have probably noticed Janja crushing on the competition circuit for the last few years. Having won the bouldering world cup in 2019, she became the only competitor to win all 6 individual events in the history of the competition. She also became the first female Olympic climbing champion in August 2021, solidifying her position as one of the best climbers in the world. Did I mention that she is only 21 years old? Madness.
When Janja was still making a name for herself back in 2015, she made her senior tour debut in Chamonix with a pair of Women’s Miura’s. However, since late 2016 she has been sponsored by Five Ten and exclusively climbs in the women’s version of the Hiangles.
Nina Williams Climbing Shoes
Nina, a 29-year-old climber from Boulder, made a name for herself by climbing some serious scary highballs, most noticeably the first female ascent of Ambrosia, a mammoth 50-foot, V11 boulder. She’s is also widely recognized as one of the strongest female boulders in the world right now.
Nina was a Five Ten ambassador since April 2007 – June 2019, so she is no stranger to a pair of Five Ten Hiangles. In fact, this was her shoe of choice for several years, hailing the women’s version the “best piece of women’s-specific piece of gear she has ever used”.
After Nina’s partnership with Five Ten ended in June 2019, she has teamed up with Scarpa and can frequently be seen training and sending some serious projects in the Scarpa Instinct VS and Instinct Instinct VSR.
Jimmy Webb Climbing Shoes
Recognized as one of the world’s best boulderers, Jimmy has flashed over six boulder problems rated V13 or higher and has even made some impressive ascents of V16 boulder problems.
For the most part of Jimmy’s career, he was sponsored by 5:10 and favored the Five Ten Team and Hiangles, having established some of his most noticeable ascents in these shoes.
In February 2019 Jimmy, like Sharma, became a Tenaya ambassador and has already made some memorable climbs including an ascent of Lucid Dreaming (V15) in a Pair of Tenaya Mastia’s. Speaking about the move, Webb stated “I tested these boots before making a decision I truly felt my climbing could improve. Super proud to be a part of such a rad brand and very excited for what the future holds.”
Nalle Hukkataival Climbing Shoes
Nalle might not have the global fame of some of the other names on this list, but this Finnish crusher is considered one of the best boulders in the world, having established numerous first ascents and repeats of V15/V16 problems. Even more impressive, he established the world’s first V17 Burden of Dreams in Lappnor, Finland.
For the most part, you will see Nalle crushing the worlds hardest boulder problems in the La Sportiva Solutions, which is the shoe he wore for Burden of Dreams and Giogia (V16). He has also been known to use the Miura VS for less overhanging projects like Livin Large (V15).
Daniel Woods Climbing Shoes
Another big name in the Bouldering world, Daniel has climbed more than twenty V15 boulder problems making him one of the most successful boulders. During his time as a La Sportiva ambassador Daniel would exclusively use the Solutions, a shoe which he completed many national and international climbing championships and noticeable ascents in.
However, in 2017 his partnership with La Sportiva came to an end and a new relationship with Evolv formed. Woods has since used the Evolv Agro, an aggressive performance shoe. The Agro isn’t the only Evolv shoe that has caught Dainel’s eye. Alongside Paul Robison, Daniel co-designed the Evolv Phantom in 2017, a shoe that has one thing in mind – bouldering.
Shauna Coxey Climbing Shoes
Shauna is not only one of the UK’s to climbers but is also reconsidered as one of the best female climbers in the world, being a two-time bouldering world champ as well as taking home various other medals at the IFSC Word Cup events.
At the beginning of her climbing career, Shauna was drawn to the Five Ten Anasazi, not only because 5:10 made the first child-specific and women-specific climbing shoe but also because the Anasazi had sent more 5.14s than any other shoe in the world.
As Shauna’s climbing abilities improved and raked up an impressive list of ascents her requirements for her shoes increased. Initially she modified the Anasazi herself by sticking Stealth rubber patches over the top of the Toe box. After talking with the 5:10 design team about her upgrades, the Anasazi Pro was born.
Although the Anasazi line was retired in 2019, the next generation upgrade, know as the NIAD VCS, has now become her go to shoe.
Alex Megos Climbing Shoes
Alex is known as an all-around climber with some serious ascents under his belt. As well as leading 5.15c and bouldering V15, Alex is best now for being the first climber to onsight a 5.14d. He also competes in the IFSC circuit and regularly competes in sport and bouldering competitions.
Alex is another Tenaya athlete and almost exclusively uses the Tenaya Iati.
Magnus Midtbø Climbing Shoes
Magnus is a retired professional climber, having competed in various World Cups between 2011 – 2017. Although nowadays, he is probably best know for his Youtube climbing vlog and Instagram channel.
Magnus has some serious ascents to his name, the hardest of which is the Ali Hulk Sit Start (9b), which he topped out in August 2010.
For most ascents, whether in the gym or at the crag, Magnus uses the Scarpa Drago.
Ashima Shiraishi Climbing Shoes
At the age of 15 Ashmima because the first female climber, and the youngest athlete ever, to achieve the grade V15 with the ascent of Horizon. As well as crushing some of the hardest sport and bouldering problems in the world she also managed to her her hands on her very own signature shoe, the Evolv Ashima.
Specifically designed for youth climbers, this aggressive shoe is designed with a supportive last that is perfect for developing feet while uncompromising in performance.
While this shoe has now been retired, Ashima has a new, limited-edition, signature shoe. The new shoe in question is a special version of the Evolv Zensit in collaboration with Brain Dead, with all profits being donated to DEI groups.