When you’ve got the climbing bug and become tired of paying for rental shoes, it’s time to go purchase your very own boots! Exciting. I’m sure you’ve done your research and know what you want, but it can be overwhelming. Downturn or flat, lace or hook and loop, Evolv or Boreal? Overall, your first pair of shoes will take a beating as you learn, so cheap and cheerful with a good fit is the best place to start. Here are a few points to consider to try to make the shoe shopping stress free…

Try them on. The Internet may have the better variety and prices, but I can’t stress how important it is to go out to the shops and try a bunch of different shoes on. Your foot shape can make or break a pair of climbing boots. Personally I have small, wide feet so I find it harder to fit into brands with slimmer designs, or even female specific shoes.

shoe calculator
Climbing Shoeculator!

This leads nicely into sizing. Bouldering particularly seems to be a contest of who can downsize the most (depending on the brand). Downsizing isn’t always necessary, but sometimes a shoe can hurt more if it’s too big. There’s not really a set rule for sizing in each brand, as every shoe is as different as every foot. Bare in mind that climbing shoes will be uncomfortable, because they make your foot into a little claw, but they should not be painful. For bouldering you want a tight, glove like fit so you can get feedback off the holds.

If in doubt, use the banana fingers shoe calculator, it’s extremely good at giving you a gauge of what size you’re looking for in each brand and fit.

Another way to check if the shoe is a good fit, is to physically measure it against your foot. A rough guide for the length of the shoe can be tested, by holding the sole of the shoe against the bottom of your opposite foot. Make sure the shoe heel is level with your own. From this position you can see where the toe of the shoe lines up with your big toe. A good guide is to have the tip of the shoe toe, come halfway up your big toe. This will give you a tight performance fit, perfect for bouldering.

These were my first pair, Evolv Elektra

Also check what material the shoes are made from. If the shoes you are buying are leather, they will stretch by 0.5 to 1 full size once worn in, where as synthetic shoes will hardly stretch (if at all). Remember that the first few climbs will break in your new boots, so they will get more comfortable!

For a beginners first pair of shoes an all-rounder with a flatter shape is probably the best, so long as they have a tight fit. As for fastening systems, lace ups are good for adjusting the fit of the shoe, where as velcro/hook and loop are easier to take on and off. I’d suggest getting whatever you’re more comfortable with as they both have pros and cons, plus most shoes come in both options.

So, that ended up a longer list than I anticipated, but I just wanted to try and touch on everything! Hopefully this has helped, but if not and you were just looking for a list of shoes, here are a few starter recommendations:

Boreal Joker, Evolv Defy or Elektra, Red Chilli Lady Spirit or Durango, and of course the excellent Five Ten Anasazi, if the heel fits and you have some extra cash.

– A Girl Who Climbs

Bonus Tips

* Cotswolds will price match a website in store, if you can show that your size is in stock online.

* Banana fingers have amazing customer service, and will post you out more than one pair of shoes to try for sizing, and sending the shoes back is easy enough.

* Epic TV shop is extremely well priced, and have free shipping to the EU.

* Check out EBay, you can get brand new boots for a fraction of the price once you know your size.