The Best Bouldering Shoes for Beginners

When I first started bouldering, I had no idea that it was going to be addicting and fun. I had done powerlifting and cardio before, but never was I so challenged physically and mentally like I was when I was bouldering. The sport is also a great way to meet new people. There’s always a group of people at the climbing gym sharing beta and trying to send problems.

But one thing that tripped me up when I first started bouldering was climbing shoes. I scoffed that a climbing shoe could really make that much of a difference. But this shoe is engineered, built and perfected for rock climbing. It’s not surprising that these pieces of equipment can make or break some gym climbs.

But finding climbing shoes for beginners can be a bit tricky. There’s a common misconception that bouldering requires an aggressive shoe that is extremely tight. But that’s actually something we want to avoid when we’re buying our first pair of climbing shoes.

Beginner bouldering shoes should be a comfortable shoe. One we could leave on for a while without feeling pain in our feet. Eventually, most shoes get uncomfortable and we take them off. But we don’t want to be taking off our shoes after every bouldering problem.

The best place to start on your search for shoe is the rental shoes at your indoor climbing gym. Get a feel for what you like and don’t like. Then when you’re ready for your own shoes, head to your local shop and try on shoes from our list below!

Table of Contents

How should bouldering shoes fit?

Before we get to our favorite climbing shoes for beginners, read this important note on fit.

Get a pair of shoes that fit and are close to your street shoe size. The best beginner bouldering shoes will be the pair that fits your foot and is not sized too tight. We have more information on how to size your shoes perfectly. But here are the key takeaways:

  • Get a shoe with a neutral profile
  • Aim for a snug fit. Do not get tight shoes that hurt your feet
  • A good pair is a comfy pair

Now, on to our climbing shoe recommendations!

What are the best bouldering shoes for beginners?

  1. La Sportiva Finale – Editors Choice
  2. La Sportiva Tarantulace – Best Budget Buy
  3. Scarpa Vapor V – For Advanced Beginners
  4. Evolv Defy/Evolv Elektra – Best Vegan Beginner Climbing Shoe
  5. Scarpa Origin – Most Comfortable Bouldering Shoe for Beginners

La Sportiva Finale – Editors Choice

The Finales enjoying the view at Seneca Rocks, WV

Pros

  • A versatile shoe that can be used for all climbing disciplines
  • A slight downturn for steeper bouldering
  • Soft shoe that can smear well and feel smaller holds
  • Durable enough to withstand scrapes against the climbing wall
  • Transitions well to outdoor climbing

Cons

  • More expensive for a beginner shoe
  • The heel construction can painfully rub some people’s achilles tendon and may not be the best fit

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

The La Sportiva Finale is my favorite pair of beginner shoes because of the incredible value and performance of these shoes. I recommend these shoes to all beginners regardless of what style of climbing they’re doing because of how versatile these shoes are.

These shoes can be used crack climbing, trad climbing, bouldering, and sport climbing. Of course, there are some drawbacks where they won’t excel at advanced techniques in the sport, but for an all around shoe these are my absolute favorite.

Durability is a very important factor for beginner shoes because of the beating climbing shoes take against the highly textured indoor climbing walls. Beginner climbers are working on their technique and that means there will be a lot of toe dragging up the climbing wall.

Repeated toe drags on the wall will quickly wear through the rubber and leather in our climbing shoes. These shoes are constructed with 5mm of Vibram xs edge rubber to withstand the climbing wall while we work on our technique.

I also prefer lace up shoes for a beginner bouldering shoe so we can adjust the fit of our shoes. Getting used to most climbing shoes is annoying and if we only have two velcro straps then we only have three places where we can adjust the tightness. But these shoes have nine eyelets where we can get the perfect fit.

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

La Sportiva Finale Tech Specs

Stars4.5 / 5
MSRP$109.00
Amount of StretchOne full size
Sole5mm Vibram XS Edge
ClosureLaces, nine eyelets
Weight8 oz
SizesEU 34 - 48 (half sizes)
FitMedium asymmetrical curvature
ProfileFlat
Midsole1.1mm LapsoFlex
Climbing shoes can be resoled giving them additional longevity in their lifespan
Get your shoes resoled before you tear through your rand. These shoes are still able to be resoled, but at an additional cost.

La Sportiva Tarantulace – Best Budget Buy

Pros

  • One of the most affordable climbing shoes on the market
  • Durable. Made with 5mm FriXion rubber to withstand regular use
  • A stiff shoe that provides support while building foot muscles

Cons

  • Neutral profile won’t excel in overhanging terrain
  • Some quality control issues in production

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

The first pair of climbing shoes I ever bought were the La Sportiva Tarantulace and they were an excellent shoe for my needs. My technique needed a lot of practice and thankfully these shoes were durable and affordable.

I was only gym climbing and the highly textured walls and holds at my gym were known for eating through shoes. I was expecting my shoes to be destroyed, but I found that my Tarantulaces held on for quite a while. La Sportiva used 5mm of their FriXion rubber on this shoe to make a shoe that lasts longer.

The downside is that we lose some sensitivity on the shoe. Meaning that since there is more material between our foot and the holds, we lose some feeling of what we’re standing on. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is a tradeoff to think about. These stiff shoes will help us when edging and climbing for long periods of time but will hinder us when climbing on steeper problems and smearing on slab walls.

I also recommend these shoes because they are comfortable. The best way for beginner climbers to improve is to spend time climbing. You don’t want your session to be cut short because of pain in feet from an uncomfortable climbing shoe. The best shoe is the most comfortable shoe and the neutral profile from this shoe makes it a great first pair.

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

La Sportiva Tarantulace Tech Specs

Stars3 / 5
MSRP$85.00
Amount of Stretch0.5 - 1 size
Sole5mm FriXion RS
ClosureLace (six pairs of eylets) Also avail as velcro
Weight9.3 oz
SizesEU 34 - 50
FitComfort with low asymmetry
ProfileFlat
Upper MaterialUnlined Leather

Scarpa Vapor V – For Advanced Beginners

Pros

  • Wider toe box provides comfort for wide feet
  • Fantastic all around shoe
  • Rubber toe patch added for toe hooking

Cons

  • Some climbers reported issues with heel cup fit and air bubbles
  • Expensive for a beginner bouldering shoe

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

The Scarpa Vapor V isn’t exactly a beginner bouldering shoe, I would recommend it to intermediate climbers or advanced climbers. But they look sweet and have some useful features. The downside of this shoe is that it costs a lot. If you’re predominatly gym climbing, you could be paying a lot of money to quickly destroy your bouldering shoe.

The Vapor V Is one of my favorite soft shoes. If you look at the bottom of the shoe, you’ll see that the rubber sole doesn’t go the entire length of the shoe.

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

Scarpa Vapor V Tech Specs

Stars4 / 5
MSRP$195.00
Amount of StretchUp to 0.5 size
Sole3.5mm Vibram XS Grip 2
ClosureVelcro, 2 hook straps
Weight8.5 oz
MidsoleTalyn (1.5mm)
SizesEU 38 - 50
FitModerate asymmetrical curavture
ProfileModerately downturned

Evolv Defy/Evolv Elektra – Best Vegan Beginner Climbing Shoe

Pros

  • All vegan materials
  • Affordable, durable, and comfortable shoe
  • Wide toe box fits wider feet

Cons

  • Does not edge as well as other stiffer shoes

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

The Evolv Defy and Evolv Elektra are both the best beginner bouldering shoes that are also vegan. The difference between these two is that the Defy is the male version and Elektra is the female version.

The main differences in these will be the color of the shoes and the fit. The Elektra will fit narrower feet better than the Defy, which is great for wider feet.

The Evolv Defy is one of the only vegan bouldering shoes for beginners. These bouldering shoes are an excellent choice for vegan climbers who are new to the sport. Since these are synthetic shoes, they will not stretch to become larger.

They will mold to your feet the more you climb in them. But with all non-leather shoes, they will not stretch to a larger shoe size. Try purchasing these near your street shoe size or half a size smaller maximum.

The Defy uses a velcro closure system that makes taking the shoes on and off a breeze. If you’re climbing indoors, there usually isn’t a reason that you need to take your shoes off after every climb. But as you transition to the outdoor climbing, it’s convenient to switch out from bouldering shoes to approach shoes to walk on uneven terrain.

The toe box is wider than other shoes which helps for longer day comfort. If you have tailor bunions, this shoe reduces the rub and pain on these bunions.

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

Evolv Defy Tech Specs

Stars3 / 5
MSRP$88.95
Amount of StretchMinimal
SoleTrax high-friction rubber
ClosureVelcro, dual hook and loop
Weight8.5 oz
SizesUS 5.5 - 15
FitLow asymmetrical curvature
ProfileFlat
LiningAnti-odor mesh

Evolv Elektra Tech Specs

Stars3 / 5
MSRP$88.95
Amount of StretchMinimal
SoleTrax (4.2mm)
ClosureVelcro, hook and loop
Weight6.3 oz
Sizes4 - 11
FitModerate asymmetrical curvature
LiningMesh
MidsoleMX-P (1.4mm)

Scarpa Origin – Most Comfortable Bouldering Shoe for Beginners

Pros

  • Leather upper for extra padding
  • 5mm vision sole
  • Comfortable and durable for gym climbing

Cons

  • Rubber feels slippery, hard to smear in them
  • Neutral profile won’t excel in overhung or steep problems

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

The Scarpa Origin makes our list as one of the most comfortable bouldering shoes for beginners. Sizing these is important, if they are too tight for your feet then they are still going to hurt. But Scarpa has done everything in their power to make these one of the most comfortable pair of shoes for beginners that’s on the market today.

The leather upper has additional padding for the top of your foot. In the past, I have sized a shoe too tight and my toes continuously rubbed against the leather upper. I’d take off my shoes and see that each toe had a fresh blister on the top of it. I’d have to find a thin pair of compression socks to protect my toes from the leather upper.

But with Scarpas, I hardly notice any irritation on the top of my toes. I think part of this is that I am smarter about the sizing of my shoes. But my feet always feel gently caressed by the leather upper on the Origins and the Vapor V.

The Origin has a flat and neutral profile, this will keep your foot in a neutral position. It won’t be bent into a talon like an aggressive shoe would. Being able to keep your climbing shoes on for a long session is a nice luxury to have when you’re hanging out at the gym with your friends.

One thing that I experienced and noticed in reviews online is that the rubber did feel slippery. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was just the humidity of my gym, because I have noticed other bouldering shoes losing some friction during the humid summer months.

But other users online did think there was some slip in the rubber as well. The shoes will be very comfortable and easy to take on and off, but as you progress in your climbing career you may notice that standing on some slabs will feel harder than in other pairs of shoes.

Men’s Buying Options

Women’s Buying Options

Scarpa Origin Tech Specs

Stars3.5 / 5
MSRP$108.95
Amount of StretchAlmost a full size
SoleVision 5mm
ClosureVelcro, two straps hook and loop
Weight7.6 oz
SizesEU 39 - 50
FitLow asymmetrical curvature
ProfileFlat
Upper MaterialSuede leather

Frequently asked questions

How do I choose my first climbing shoes?

The best way to choose your first pair of climbing shoes is to try on pairs at a store or gym. Make sure that you shoes are comfortable and fit well. A big mistake many climbers make is buying shoes that are way too tight. Climbing shoes that are too tight will make you perform worse and can cause lasting damage to your feet.

Can beginners do bouldering?

Bouldering is an excellent way for beginner climbers to try out the sport. You can go to your local bouldering gym and tell them it’s your first time trying out indoor climbing. An employee will give you a tour of the gym and instructions on how to use the bouldering wall.

Can running shoes be used for rock climbing?

Running shoes should not be used for bouldering. Climbing shoes have been engineered for the sport to provide support on climbing holds. The rubber used on these shoes stick your feet to footholds. Running shoes are made of different materials that are designed for running, not climbing.

Do beginners need bouldering shoes?

Beginner bouldering shoes will be a huge help as you start to go to your new bouldering gym. Climbing shoes have been engineered for rock climbing whereas running shoes do not perform well at the bouldering gym. Beginner shoes typically focus on comfort so you can get more mileage on the climbing wall. Indoor climbing is an excellent way to practice and many gym will let you rent or test out shoes on their walls.

What should I look for in bouldering shoes?

Bouldering shoes for beginners should be comfortable and affordable. Buying climbing shoes can get expensive and our first pair of shoes will get beaten up as we improve our footwork technique. I always recommend to buy a neutral profile shoe that does not have an aggressive downturn. These beginner bouldering shoes will help you climb longer without getting pain in your feet.

What is the most comfortable climbing shoe?

The Scarpa Origin and the La Sportiva Tarantulace are two of the most comfortable beginner bouldering shoes. We highly recommend trying them on in person before purchasing because our feet will fit shoes differently.

Where do I buy beginner bouldering shoes?

Your local climbing gym or outdoor store will have shoes for you to try on. Gyms will often give members a 10 or 15% discount on gear bought through the gym. You can also check Facebook and Cragislist for used shoes. Be sure to try them on in person before buying!

Does rubber matter for beginner bouldering shoes?

Rubber is what separates a bouldering shoe from a running shoe. If you’re climbing indoors a lot, the rubber gets eaten up quickly by the high friction climbing walls. I like to recommend a beginner bouldering shoe that has 5mm of rubber so the shoes last longer. But the best beginner bouldering shoes is going to be a shoe that fits your foot well. The La Sportiva Finale has 5mm of Vibram XS Edge rubber which is why its one of my favorite beginner bouldering shoes.

Review Criteria

Our review criteria for beginner bouldering shoes looks different than it would for other pieces of climbing gear. We emphasize comfort and durability in our reviews because those are the two most important factors for new climbers. A new climber should not need to be worried about their feet hurting from improperly sized shoes.

Since new climbers are working on their technique, we also looked at the durability of rock climbing shoes. Shoes that can withstand regular usage at climbing gyms is preferred.

We also looked at the other following traits for our review:

  • Price
  • Durability
  • Comfort
  • Functionality
  • Longevity (will this shoe transition to other styles of rock climbing)

Read more about how we review gear.

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