Do Climbing Shoes Make a Difference? (Do You Need Aggressive Climbing Shoes?)

Climbing shoes are an essential part of the equipment needed to enjoy your climbing experience. There are many different types of climbing shoes available, which brings up the question of how important they are.

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Climbing shoes offer many variations in design based on the type of climbing you will be doing. This can include the type and shape of a toe box, lacing system, overall construction, and rubber sole material. These elements all contribute to the fit, feel, and performance of your shoe while climbing.

Depending on your skill level and the type of rock you will be climbing, you may want to consider purchasing a more technical shoe. If you are new to climbing and will be attempting to climb a wall for the first time, or if you have difficulty with grip strength or balance, then a less aggressive shoe may be best for your needs.

You will not have as much control over each step when wearing a less technical shoe. As your skills improve and you begin to move higher up the climbing wall, then you may want to consider buying a more technical pair of shoes that give you better support for gripping and balancing each hold.

These athletic shoes also provide better protection from rocks that may be alongside the wall you are attempting to climb.

Do Climbing Shoes Make a Difference?

Yes, climbing shoes absolutely make a difference!

Climbing shoes are designed with a snug fit (you can curl your toes inward for better grip) and sticky rubber soles. This lets the wearer stay planted where they are and also be able to feel the surfaces with their feet better than they could with a regular shoe.

Regular shoes do not have the same sticky rubber soles, feature a much looser fit, and also have an insole that provides extra padding. This means climbing with a regular shoe will leave you less able to grip surfaces as well as struggling to feel them at all!

Climbing shoes are not mandatory for climbing, but they will make your experience more comfortable and safer by providing extra support for your feet and ankles. The right pair of climbing shoes can also protect you from injury by preventing blisters or other foot problems that can occur when you climb with poorly fitted shoes.

Because they provide such a significant advantage, many climbers choose to wear only climbing shoes when they climb. This is especially true if you’re interested in bouldering or sport climbing, which only require basic sneakers or athletic shoes. Certain types of rock climbing may also require special footwear to provide enough grip on wet surfaces or uneven footholes.

Athletic shoes work well for indoor rock climbing but may not be suited to outdoor climbs because they aren’t durable enough to handle the extra wear that comes from hiking down to the base of a cliff or mountain. Climbing shoes will often have reinforced soles with sticky rubber and sturdy stitching that can withstand constant use outdoors.

How Important Are Shoes for Climbing?

The type of shoes worn when climbing is very important, especially when climbing outdoors.

Outdoor climbing is inherently more dangerous than climbing at a gym inside because you are exposed to the elements and the natural terrain can be unforgiving. You need to wear climbing shoes in order to maximize grip and be as safe as possible (plus, it’ll be easier to climb with the proper shoes).

 

La Sportiva Women's Tarantulace Rock Climbing Shoes, Grey/Hibiscus, 37

 

If climbing at a gym, it does not matter so much whether or not you wear shoes made for climbing, although it certainly won’t hurt to wear them and can help you climb better overall.

How Much of a Difference Do Climbing Shoes Make?

Climbing shoes can make a big difference in your overall climbing experience.

Climbing shoes are shaped differently than regular shoes, designed to fit tight around the wearer’s feet and allow the toes to curl inward (providing grip when traversing rocks). They also have sticky soles to facilitate a good grip on the rocks.

Regular shoes fit more loosely and usually do not allow the toes to grip surfaces. Although some shoes are designed with high-grip soles, they likely won’t be as grippy as climbing shoes are.

In other words, regular shoes can leave you unable to have the precision with your feet need to successfully complete a climb, as well as being less securely planted on the rocks themselves!

What Are the Characteristics of Climbing Shoes?

Climbing shoes are characterized by their unique shape, snug fit, and sticky soles.
The shape of a climbing shoe allows for the wearer to curl their toes inward while climbing, ensuring they can get a good grip on the rocks.

Climbing shoes also fit much tighter than regular shoes, ensuring the wearer has the ability to feel the surfaces with their feet.

Although many other shoes come with decent grip and tread, climbing shoes are particularly sticky in the soles. This allows the wearer to be able to confidently plant their feet on foot and not worry about the shoe itself slipping

Climbing shoes are designed with several features that help climbers get a grip on the rock.

  1. For one thing, the rubber used in climbing shoes is usually much more sticky than regular sneaker soles. This helps climbers stick to the rocks, but it also makes them more slippery if you’re walking on flat ground.
  2. Climbing shoes typically have a stiff heel that’s meant to help climbers stand up and edge their way up a rock face. The stiffness can be bad for your foot if you’re walking around on flat ground, though, especially if you have high arches or plantar fasciitis.
  3. Even so, climbing shoes are still better than ordinary sneakers for climbing because they have a very stiff front part of the shoe under the toes and ball of your foot that helps climbers control their feet on small ledges and irregular surfaces.
  4. They also provide extra support for your ankles, which is helpful because climbing can put extra strain on those joints.

Do You Need Aggressive Climbing Shoes?

Whether or not aggressive climbing shoes are for you depend on what kind of climbing you plan on doing. Aggressive shoes help your feet stick in small footholds by forcing your toes to point downwards. They can also help you get more power from the inside on your toes. However, if you don’t plan to use multiple small footholds, you don’t need them.

 

La Sportiva Miura Women's Climbing Shoe, White/Jade Green, 42

 

How should aggressive climbing shoes feel?

Aggressive climbing shoes can feel slightly extreme if you’re switching from beginner’s shoes. They should feel snug but not like a painful squeeze. You want your mind to be on climbing and not how your feet hurt.

Do Better Climbing Shoes Make a Difference?

Better shoes always make a difference, but this is especially true when it comes to something as intensive as climbing. For something like that, you want shoes that fit as well as possible, offer the best possible support, and have the greatest durability available.

Worth the Money?

Most of the time, more expensive shoes denote higher quality shoes, with better features and traits. Because climbing is very intensive and can even be dangerous, you should always invest in the best shoes possible, for both efficiency and safety, not to mention your own health.

Can You Climb with Normal Shoes?

You can climb with normal shoes indoors, but this should be avoided when climbing outside.

If you’re climbing at a gym inside, you can sometimes skid by without buying climbing shoes. The environment will be clean and you will have plenty of safety features on hand to ensure you don’t get hurt.

If you are climbing outside, you should definitely wear shoes made for climbing. They have the shape to help you grip the rocks as well as a sticky rubber sole to help your feet stay planted wherever you place them. It is dangerous to try to climb outside with regular shoes.


In summary, climbing shoes are designed to help you grip the rock with your toes and give you extra friction. They are made with a sticky rubber, which gives you more purchase on the rock – some climbing shoes even have spikes on the bottom, which give you, even more, purchase and make it easier to stick your foot in the crack.

The tread on climbing shoes is different than other types of footwear. Rather than being flat and smooth, they are very deep and almost look like they have little ridges cut into them. This allows you to use your feet in ways that are impossible without climbing shoes.

Most climbing shoes have a very large toe box – that’s because many people will wear them with two pairs of socks, to keep their feet warm and dry when they climb. Many people choose their shoes based on what socks they’ll wear with them, then try to find a pair of shoes that fit those socks (or even better, try on several pairs of socks until they find ones that fit).

This toe box is also necessary because if you’re doing any type of crack climbing (pulling yourself up between two rocks), then your toes can get stuck if the toe box is too small.

You may also be interested in… What to Do with Smelly Climbing Shoes? and How Long Do Climbing Shoes Last?