Wondering What Size Climbing Shoes to Wear?

This might help

No matter how long you have been climbing, the chances are you have heard people talking about wearing ridiculously small shoes. Granted there is some sense in this but, unless you are climbing some really serious routes, the chances are this isn’t going to apply to you.

The Short Answer

The general rule of thumb is that the right size for you is going to be very close to the street shoes you normally wear.  I have seen people on the internet say that this isn’t true, however, I am yet to meet some who wears climbing shoes +/- 1 size from their normal street shoes.

The Long Answer

There’s more to finding the perfect fitting shoe than just picking the right size. There are a few things to bear in mind that can impact the fit. 

How hard are you climbing?

Once upon a time the hardcore climbers wore smaller shoes to compensate for poorly designed shoes. Nowadays, shoe manufacturers have become a lot better at shaping shoes for a tighter fit and better performance. What I am trying to say is that downsizing shoes is a thing of the past, so try not worry about it to much.

That said, if you are working on some tough projects, you are going to want a shoe that gives you the best performance possible and ones that doesn’t leave any gaps or cause movement within the shoe.

If you are just starting out in climbing, the most important thing for you is to find a comfortable and supportive shoe that will nurture your climbing ability.

Climbing Discipline

What style of climbing I intend on pursuing is another important factor I take into account when deciding what size climbing shoe I should wear. If your main pursuit is bouldering and sport climbing, a tighter fit shoe is more desirable. If trad or alpine climbing is more your cup of tea, then comfort is more of a priority than performance.

The Brand

Like any shoe, climbing shoe sizes generally differ across each brand.

Granted, this does make finding the perfect size a bit trickier. The good news is that brand sizes stay pretty consistent across their range. So if you have experience wearing a certain brand of shoe, this is definitely help you out a lot.

Mind the stretch!

I very important point worth remembering is that depending on the material of the shoe, you will see some stretch out of your shoes.

Upper’s on climbing shoes come with three types of material – Leather, synthetic and hybrids – all of which stretch differently. If you have your eye on a pair of leather climbing shoes, be prepared to see them stretch up to a whole size bigger (if not more) after putting them through their paces.

Hybrid uppers will still stretch, but not as drastically as the the leather upper, so expect to see about a ½ size stretch out of these. Sythentic uppers on the other hand, will hardly stretch at all throughout the course of their life.

How do you know if you climbing shoes fit?

Chances are, even if you find the perfect size climbing shoe, they still won’t be the most comfortable pair of shoes you will ever own.

The first give away that you have the right size shoe is that they will be comfortable (or at least bearable). There is no point buying a pair of shoes that you spend more time taking off than climbing – I learnt this the hard way.

If you have ever been to a shoe shop and had your shoe professionally fitted, you will notice that the shop assistant will be looking at a few areas of the shoe whilst around the store.

This is the same idea for climbing shoes. As a general rule, you want your toes to be touching the end of the shoe, but not completely flat, so they create a arch shape with your toes.

You will also want to make sure the heel fits and that there isn’t a gap between the bottom of your heel and the inside of the shoe. Also make sure the sides of the shoe are not too tight or lose, or this will certianly effect how well you can edge.

The Verdict

Trying to find the right size climbing shoe is never an easy task. If you have the chance, I would suggest trying out the shoes you have your eye on in a local store. Even if you can try the same brand, it will give you a good base to work from.

As a general rule, stick to your normal shoe size and take it from there, you won’t be far off. The points I shared above will give you a pretty good idea about what size will work best for you.

Using Amazon to buy your new shoes is particularly useful due to the fast delivery and easy return system – so even if you don’t manage to find the right size for your, just send them back!


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