Do you wear 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.

Wear socks with climbing shoes to keep your feet warm on winter snowy, winter days
If there’s snow on the ground, wearing a pair of socks is a necessity!

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 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

Table of Contents

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

Advantage of 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.
  • 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 climbing specific socks for climbing and bouldering. These 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.

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 some 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 climbing shoes damage feet?

Climbing shoes that are sized too tightly can damage your feet. A 1998 study by Killian, Nishimoto, and Page showed that 81% of survey respondents reported foot or ankle injuries. The authors pose that this is due to them sizing their shoes too tight. When you’re bouldering, you need to protect the ground with crash pads. But with how tightly compact our shoes are we run into a second issue. The surface area of our foot is decreased which means we have less material to absorb impact. This can lead to foot injuries on bouldering falls.

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 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.

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!

Should you try on climbing shoes barefoot?

You should try on climbing shoes with how you intend to wear them. If you’re going to wear them barefoot, then try them on barefoot. But if you plan on crack climbing, or outside in the cold, or want to keep your shoes smelling good, then wearing socks while trying them on is the way to go.
Do you wear socks with climbing shoes? We’re curious what other climbers do and if they have a system for when or when not to add socks. I personally have started wearing them all the time to prevent blisters and hot spots on my feet.

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