How to Pick Out Your First Pair of Climbing Shoes

How to Pick Out Your First Pair of Climbing Shoes

Have you finally had enough of climbing in ill-fitting rental shoes while hearing all of your climber friends tell you how much better your climbing will feel and be in your own pair of climbing shoes? It's time! You're ready to bite the bullet and get a good pair of climbing shoes. However, like all climbing gear, a pair of climbing shoes is an expensive and substantial investment. With so many brands, styles, and options available - how do you know you're choosing the right pair?

The Basics

Here are the basics of climbing shoes: shoe types, fit, and life.

Shoe types

There's more than one type of climbing shoe? Yep.


With no downturn in the toe, neutral shoes are the most comfortable style of climbing shoe and are designed for sustained comfort while providing a thicker rubber sole for support. They are the go-to beginner shoe but are a step up from rental shoes. These won't be as useful on more challenging and steeper climbs, but don't worry; they'll get the job done!


These shoes have a slightly downturned shape giving you an edge on technical routes with precise footwork. The downturned position allows the climber to "grab" the rock with their toes a bit easier than the flat position of a neutral shoe. The rubber on most moderate shoes is generally stickier and thinner than the rubber on neutral shoes for increased precision.


These shoes are more downturned than moderate shoes, further increasing the strength and power the climber can derive from their foot positioning. These shoes are not ones you'll want to wear all day as they can be uncomfortable due to their aggressive (almost banana-like) shape. They are excellent shoes for steep, overhung climbs with small foot holds.

**While we include aggressive shoes so that you are aware of the difference, we encourage you to start with a neutral or moderate shoe (depending on how quickly you are progressing) as your first pair!

Shoe Fit

How do I know what's the right size? Great Question!

Comfort Sizing

Sizing for comfort is your best bet with your first climbing shoe. Neutral shoes will be the most comfortable, while aggressive shoes will feel the most uncomfortable. When you try on a pair of neutral or moderate shoes, start with your street shoe size. If your toe touches the end of the shoe - that is normal! You want them to fit snuggly for best performance. If they are loose/your toes have room, try going down .5 a size to 1 full size. On the other hand, if your toes painfully curl at the end of the shoe, size up!

Performance and Sizing/Downsizing

Sizing for performance is more applicable when purchasing a pair of moderate or aggressive shoes. With the more downturned shoes, you are looking to enhance precision. Many professional and elite climbers will size down (aka 'downsizing') from their street shoe size by 1-3 sizes, so they have the snuggest fit possible. That subsequently allows them to feel their foot placement on each hold much better than in a looser shoe.

Keep in mind that each climbing shoe brand will feel and fit slightly differently, even if the shoes are the same size across brands. Your best bet is to go to a local outdoor gear shop or climbing gym to try the shoes on in person! Don't be afraid to ask your employees for help as well - most employees at outdoor stores or climbing gyms are experts at helping you size your climbing shoes!

Shoe Life

So, how long will my investment last? It depends.

Technique, Climbing Frequency, and Shoe Type

Technique and climbing frequency will contribute to the overall wear of the rubber on the shoe. The better your technique, the longer you can prolong the life of the rubber. For example, if you have good footwork, you will not scrape the rubber along the wall with every move, and the shoes will last longer. Additionally, the less frequently you climb, the longer the rubber on the shoes will last. Moderate and aggressive shoes also have thinner rubber on the soles than neutral shoes, which leads to quicker wear. A general rule of thumb is that shoes will last from 6 - 12 months for a climber putting in 3-5 sessions a week.

Best of luck on your climbing shoe search, and cheers to future sends in your new shoes! Let us know what your first pair of climbing shoes is/was in the comments below!

Butora Endeavor Climbing Shoes