Do Climbing Shoes Have Insoles? (Why They Are Better Without Them)

Climbing shoes are designed to fit very tightly to your feet and not have a lot of extra space. This allows for maximum precision and control when you are climbing. With all that tightness, though, climbing shoes can cause discomfort if you wear socks with them.

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Many brands of climbing shoes don’t have insoles either because it would take up valuable room in the shoe, or because it wouldn’t do much for comfort. Instead, most climbing shoe brands sell different types of footbeds and insoles separately if you want more arch support or heel cushioning.

Climbing shoes are typically designed with a flat, rigid sole that offers the most amount of contact with the rock. This style of shoe is intended to keep you close to the wall for better control.

Do Climbing Shoes Have Insoles?

No, most climbing shoes do not have insoles. Climbing shoes are designed to permit the climber to effectively grip surfaces. A lot of the climbing process is feeling your way around the rocks.

Climbing shoes are designed to fit like a second skin, so they do not have removable insoles. Some shoes have removable footbeds which can be replaced with custom orthotics if you need extra support, but this is not the norm.

The lack of an insole helps you to feel the surfaces more easily than you would be able to if the shoes had the extra padding provided by an insole.

 

SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Black/Orange - 9

 

While an insole would make the shoe more comfortable, it would actually impede the ability to climb, because the wearer would not have as much feedback from their feet about the surfaces they are traversing.

Why Don’t Climbing Shoes Have Insoles?

Climbing shoes lack insoles in order to allow the wearer to feel the rocks beneath them as much as possible.
When climbing, you need to be able to feel the surfaces beneath your feet to know where and how to place them.

An insole provides extra padding in a shoe, protecting the wearer from the harsh surfaces they walk on and keeping their feet comfortable.

This is counterproductive in climbing, when you need to be able to feel the rocks underneath your feet to best know where and how to place and grip said rocks.

Climbing shoes don’t need cushy insoles because they don’t bear the brunt of your weight. In fact, the stiffer your climbing shoe, the better it is for performance, especially at the beginning of a climb when your foot is working hardest.

Shoes like the Five Ten Anasazi have a firm midsole and non-compressible arch that help you push hard against small holds. The stiff midsole helps transfer energy from your foot to the rock, which makes it easier to stick tiny edges and cracks.

Climbing shoes do have padding for comfort and a sensitive sole for balance and edging. But there’s no medial post or arch support—those are things that could compromise performance on tiny holds at the beginning of a climb.

A solid pair of climbing shoes should fit like a well-fitted running shoe, so you can feel each edge in your soles as you push off with each step.

Can You Buy Insoles for Climbing Shoes?

Most climbers don’t wear insoles as they like to have as little between their foot and the rock as possible. For stability reasons, this makes climbing easier and more comfortable. However, you can purchase insoles for climbing shoes in most shoe stores, especially ones specialising in outside gear.

Maybe your shoes are slightly too loose or you find the bottom of them too thin when climbing. However, if you want to purchase some insoles, you need to be careful about which ones you pick. They need to fit your shoes perfectly and make sure that the insoles don’t make your shoes too tight and uncomfortable.

Can You Wear Socks with Climbing Shoes?

Most modern climbing shoes are designed to be worn without socks. That being said, there are still plenty of good reasons to wear socks while climbing. Here’s what you need to know about wearing socks with climbing shoes.

Sensitivity Versus Convenience

Climbing shoes are designed to be thin, light, and tightly fitted to the foot. This is to give the climber the best possible chance of being able to feel and adjust for the smallest changes in their very delicately placed feet on a steep or difficult climb. Because of this, many advanced climbers opt not to wear socks with their shoes.

For beginners, though, this extra sensitivity isn’t strictly necessary. Additionally, the tightness of the shoes can often lead to blisters and discomfort when taking them off after an extended climb.

Wearing socks with your climbing shoes reduces that discomfort, makes frequent climbs (as you need to do when practicing) easier, and keeps your feet safer from crags.

Why Do Climbing Shoes Have Two Loops?

Climbing shoes generally have two small loops on either side of the back of the ankle. These are used to aid in pulling your climbing shoes on. Since climbing shoes should fit very snugly so as to safely climb without worry of tripping over too loose shoes or losing them while climbing, it can be difficult to pull them on.

 

Black Diamond Mens Momentum Climbing Shoes, Ash, 40+ EU/8 D(M) US

 

These two loops provide the same service as a shoe horn would for normal shoes so that you can easily pull your climbing shoes on and not worry about slippage during your climb.

The reason climbing shoes have two loops is so you can quickly take them on and off without untying them. It’s also useful if you need to adjust the tightness of your shoe while you’re climbing since you can tighten the top loop without having to tie them again.


In summary, climbing shoes don’t have insoles because they’re designed to fit your feet precisely. Since the shoe is designed for your foot, there’s no reason to replace your foot with a stiff insole.

The climbers who do use insoles tend to be those who are looking for extra cushioning or arch support. For example, if you have flat feet, it may feel better to use an insole with a raised arch support. If you have high arches and need additional support, this may help as well.

Moleskin provides similar benefits without the bulk that an insole provides. Moleskin is made from soft cotton fibers and is great for protecting against blisters and hotspots. The soft material molds to the shape of your foot and is easily cut to size using scissors or nail clippers. Moleskin can be easily applied to the areas of the shoe that contact your foot, such as between the toes or under the ball of the foot, to provide extra cushioning where needed.

Some climbers prefer socks with their climbing shoes, while others enjoy going sockless. While some people think that socks are necessary with climbing shoes in order to prevent slipping and sliding, others believe that they can actually lead to blisters and other problems

You may also be interested in… Should You Size Up in Climbing Shoes? and Can You Use Spike Shoes Without Spikes?