Articles ยป Do You Wear Socks With Climbing Shoes?

Do You Wear Socks With Climbing Shoes?

You can wear socks with climbing shoes, there’s no rule that wearing socks with climbing shoes makes you a worse climbers. I like to wear socks when I’m climbing outside to keep my shoes smelling better and my feet warmer in the winter.

Ultimately the choice is yours if you want to wear socks with your rock climbing shoes. Take a look at our list of the best climbing shoes to find your next favorite pair.

Socks With Climbing Shoes

One of the biggest misconceptions I had, when I was just starting out climbing, was that I should not wear socks with climbing shoes. My friend asked me, “do you wear socks with climbing shoes?” I said heck no! That’s blasphemy.

I thought that my climbing shoes needed to be as tight as my pain tolerance could withstand. I wore them with bare feet so I could stand on the tiniest of holds. Even though I was climbing beginner bouldering problems, I thought that I was outsmarting the climbing world by wearing my climbing shoes without socks. My footwork would be dialed and my sends would become legendary.

I climbed and climbed holding on to this idea. My friend once wore socks with climbing shoes and I couldn’t believe it! He’d never be able to climb hard with fuzzy demons covering his feet.

Slowly, I eventually came to an epiphany. Yes, you can wear socks with climbing shoes and it can be advantageous! Now, I find myself wearing thin socks with climbing shoes more often than not! Now if you were to ask me, “do you wear socks with climbing shoes” I would say, 100% yes!

This might just come down to personal choice now, just like if you want a velcro or lace up climbing shoe. But we’ve thought about this for many years and have come up with a guide to help you decide when and when not to wear socks with climbing shoes

Do I Need Socks With Climbing Shoes?

Do you wear socks with climbing shoes has an answer that comes down to personal preference. Many climbers wear thin socks if they are breaking in a new pair of shoes or are climbing outside on a chilly day. But if you’re gym climbing, then you are perfectly fine to have no socks when wearing shoes.

Wearing socks with a new pair of shoes to keep my feet from blistering

I like to wear thin socks when I am breaking in a new pair of climbing shoes. I’ve noticed that when I’m wearing climbing shoes for the first time, my toe knuckles rub against the shoe lining and they’ll blister very quickly. I once took off a pair of shoes after bouldering for 30 minutes and each of my toe knuckles had fresh blisters.

Climbing socks, like ones made by La Sportiva could come in handy for this scenario. But I don’t think there’s a huge need to go buy a specific pair of climbing socks. The most important thing is to wear a pair of socks that are comfortable with your shoe. For me, that has been a thin sock that just provides protection against the lining while I break my new shoes in.

Do Socks Make You a Worse Climber?

Socks won’t make you a worse climber. For some reason, a lot of people think it’s silly and that only noobs wear socks with their rock climbing shoes. There’s really no reason to think that wearing a pair of thin socks with your shoes is going to make you a terrible climber. I’ve seen incredible climbers wearing regular shoes that aren’t special.

I think if you’re a beginner or intermediate climber, you should be more focused on your technique than the shoes you’re wearing. You can think about your body position, your center of gravity, and how your feet are positioned on the holds instead of if you have the most expensive pair of climbing shoes or not.

When Should I Wear Socks With Rock Climbing Shoes

There are a few times when you should absolutely wear socks with your climbing shoes.

The first time is when you are wearing rental shoes. Gyms and guiding services do their best to sanitize rental shoes using disinfectant spray, but sometimes you can’t be too careful. You don’t want to wear shoes bareback with hundreds or thousands of other people.

Another time to wear climbing shoes is if you have sweaty feet. Foot sweat and climbing shoes don’t mix. It’s the quickest way to make your shoes stink and it may cause the shoe to not fit as well as when you first wear it. Wearing a sock will help absorb some of the sweat and keep your shoe safe.

If you’re climbing outdoors on a cold day then wearing thicker socks can help keep your feet warm and keep you sending all day. Most climbers wear their shoes so tight that they could not even think about wearing a sock with their climbing shoe. But you could size your shoe up a bit so the socks fill up the empty space. That way it will feel like your shoe is worn tight while you get the benefits of warm feet.

Remember that your feet swell later in the afternoon. Take that into account when you’re trying to figure out the right size for your climbing shoe.

Advantages of Wearing Socks With Climbing Shoes

  • Socks will help you fit into a larger shoe. It can be tough to find the perfect pair of shoes and if your pair of climbing shoes feel a tad bit too big. You can wear socks to take up more room in the shoe. I’ve worn a thin pair of socks, like SmartWool, and compression socks with my shoes. Both of these do an excellent job at filling out shoes that have been too wide or too long and made a snug fit. This doesn’t mean you can wear a thick pair of socks if the shoe is way too big.
  • Prevent hot spots, blisters, and uncomfortable rubbing when breaking in a new shoe. I remember breaking in a pair of new shoes that may have been sized too tight. I wore them for a few problems on the bouldering wall and when I took my shoes off, I said hello to fresh bloody blisters on top of all of my toes. Thin socks would have kept my piggies safe and let me test out my new rock climbing shoes.
  • Wearing socks will prevent your shoes from smelling worse than a hockey glove. If you haven’t had the pleasure to smell a hockey glove yet, I will do my best to describe it. It’s a combination of mildew water bottle smell that was dumped from the heavens into a car that left its windows open. Sweat, mold, mildew all combined into a small area packs a potent punch to your sniffer. Wear socks to absorb your foot moisture and keep them out of the lining of your shoe
Trad climbing at Seneca Rocks, WV!

Disadvantages of Wearing Socks With Climbing Shoes

  • You won’t be able to feel the textures of the rock as well when you wear socks. You’ll also see this referred to as the sensitivity of a shoe. Your foot in the climbing shoe can feel the gritty nubs of the rock while you’re standing on it. This can give you confidence if you’re about to make a committing move. But when you’re wearing socks, you’ll have an extra layer between your feet and the climbing wall. You may find that your climbing ability will improve when you can feel every nuance of a hold.
  • Socks for you climbing shoes is another piece of gear to buy. You already shelled out big bucks for climbing shoes that are designed to be worn bare. So why bother getting a pair of climbing specific socks? It’s extra money to spend and another piece of gear to pack for the approach.
  • Socks can cause more slipping inside your shoe. Depending on how your shoe fits, adding a sock can create a slippery surface for your foot to move around in. Imagine standing on slab or throwing heel hooks and feeling your feet sliding back and forth. It would be impossible to trust your feet with that on your mind.

What Socks Can I Wear With Rock Climbing Shoes?

La Sportiva sells specific climbing socks for climbing and bouldering. These climbing socks were created specifically for the sport so they come with an ergonomic fit and are snug fitting to take up as little room as possible. These climbing socks are a great option and they look pretty cool. But they probably aren’t 100% necessary as a generic thin pair of socks.

A thin pair of wool socks from SmartWool or Darn Tough will work perfectly for chillier months. You can also use these for both the approach and climb, but an additional pair of socks doesn’t take up much room and feels so good to change pairs after wearing the same socks all day. These are also a great option for extra padding for your feet when you’re crack climbing.

Compression socks give the tightest fit and won’t take up much room, but will give you protection against rubbing and chafing that wearing climbing shoes will do to your feet. I haven’t seen many climbers wear compression socks, but they are quickly becoming my go to.

Can You Wear Climbing Shoes Outside?

Climbing shoes were made to be worn outside! Back in the day, climbers didn’t have specialized climbing shoes, but they wore big leather boots. Climbers wearing socks was the norm. I can’t imagine what it was like trying to edge while wearing those boots. As time went on climbing shoes became a specialized technology and we now have aggressive shoes that turn out feet into pitter patters of power.

A pair of socks will help pad your feet for this crack climb!

Readers Also Asked

Can you boulder barefoot?

You can boulder barefoot, with climbing shoes, or even while only wearing socks! There have even been free solo ascents made wear the climber wasn’t wearing any climbing shoes. There aren’t any rules in bouldering. If you’re having fun, you’re winning.

Do you wear socks with rented climbing shoes?

I would recommend wearing socks with rental shoes since you aren’t 100% sure where else they’ve been! Rentals will generally be slightly larger shoes, it helps to have a sock to help the shoes fit better. Wearing socks will protect your feet from any fungus or germs that the shoe may have contracted. Once you get your own pair, it’s up to you how you want to wear them!

Photo of author
Rob developed ORB to help himself categorize and find all the outdoor gear he needed at great prices. He loves writing about the outdoors and climbing. Rob is a certified Single Pitch Instructor through the AMGA.

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