Climbing Shoes: Laces vs Velcro! This debate might seem simple, but climbers tend to investigate all of the nuances of pieces of gear that seem simple. Climbing shoes have revolutionized the sport. The sticky rubber on these shoes helps us put our weight on the smallest of chips. But my favorite climbing shoes are the one that feel the best on my foot. That’s why we always recommend trying on a pair before you buy.
Depending on your personal preference, you may lean towards velcro shoes over lace shoes or vice versa. But there are some advantages and disadvantages to each shoe. I have had both velcro climbing shoes and lace climbing shoes over the years of my climbing career and see advantages to both types depending on the style of climbing.
If I could only choose one, I would go with lace ups. That doesn’t mean that laced shoes are better. It’s just what I prefer. If you aren’t sure which one you like more, you just need more experience climbing in different types of shoes!
You’ll find many climbers who have their own preferences on laces vs velcro.
The best climbing shoe is going to be one that fits your foot shape and is a snug fit. The worst thing you can do is buy a pair of climbing shoes that are too tight. Tight shoes are going to hinder your performance and cause long-term issues to your feet. It’s true that many climbers downsize their shoes, but I’ll take comfortable shoes nine times out of ten.
What are the exact difference between velcro climbing shoes and lace climbing shoes? Let’s find out!
How to choose lace or velcro rock climbing shoes
Choosing your lace or velcro rock climbing shoes is going to come down to the following factors:
What style of climbing are you doing?
Climbing styles is one of the main factors in your decision. For sport climbing and bouldering, it makes sense to have a velcro or slip on shoe that can easily be put on and taken off. Sport climbers will usually switch between climbing and belaying. After each route they climb they will be taking off their shoes and switching into a sturdy shoe for belaying. It can get annoying tying and untying your shoe every time you have to belay. Velcro climbing shoes excel in their ease of use.
Bouldering and sport routes will also often be overhung and climbers will wear an aggressive shoe that has a downturn. These downturns help you dig into footholds and generate more power.
A more aggressive shoe will also have a tighter fit. A tighter fit will mean that your feet need to breathe! Velcro closure shoes will have your shoes off in a jiffy so you can relax and massage your little piggies.
If you’re doing trad climbing or want to be able to leave your shoes on for all day routes, then being able to take off your shoes quickly won’t matter. You can wear laced shoes, tie them once and be good for the rest of the day.
The best crack climbing shoes are always lace ups or slip ons. Velcro straps can get caught in the cracks and deteriorate. I had a pair of 5.10 Anazasazi VCS that took on the crack at the climbing gym one too many times. The tips of the velcro straps got torn up and some of the velcro closures stopped working. I now use an older pair of shoes for my gym crack climbing adventures!
But laces can still get beat up and they will deteriorate over time. La Sportiva sells shoe laces on their websites as replacements. You can replace your laces any time you need! I’m not the handiest person in the world, but I can poke the lace through the eyelets — easy peasy.
How wide is your foot?
The width of your foot is going to play a factor in which type of shoe to get. I’ve talked about many times that you want your climbing shoes to fit comfortably. Different climbing shoes will work better than others for your foot. I have some funny shaped feet, narrow width, very long toes and tailor bunions poking out! It’s taken me a while to find my comfortable shoe, but I’m glad to say that I finally have after a lot of trial and error.
My current pair of velcro climbing shoes are the Scarpa Vapor V. And I’m loving them for bouldering! They are a softer shoe with a 3.5mm rubber sole, and I’ve been loving tackling the slab bouldering routes with them. But for people with narrow feet like mine, it can be tough to get the straps tight enough to a secure fit.
The straps on velcro shoes can only be cinched down so far before there’s no more material for the shoe to use. I have narrow feet and I found that my straps were nearly going down to the rubber sole of the climbing shoe.
One trick to make up for this is that you can wear socks with your climbing shoes! There’s no rule that says you have to go barefoot in your shoes! I bought some thin compression socks off of Amazon that have worked perfectly for making my velcro shoes fit and keeping the blisters off of the top of my toes.
Pros of Lace Climbing Shoes
- Laces are replaceable
- Laces can be adjusted for a customizable fit on different foot shapes
- Crack climbers will prefer having lace shoes when foot jamming in cracks
- Lace climbing shoes are usually designed for maximum comfort
Cons of Lace Climbing Shoes
- Take longer to put on and take off in between routes
- Laces can come united mid climb
- Lace loops can get caught in quickdraws (this has happened to me!)
Pros of Velcro Climbing Shoes
- Quicker to put on and take off
- Can downsize them more since you can take them off when not climbing
- Velcro climbing shoes are often designed for maximum performance
Cons of Velcro Climbing Shoes
- Velcro shoes will only have two or three straps to adjust the shoe fit
- Straps aren’t replaceable like shoelaces
- Straps get caught up in cracks
Readers also asked
The closure system for you climbing shoes comes down to personal preference. Velco and lace rock climbing shoes each have their own advantages and disadvantages, I like velcro for bouldering and lace up shoes for trad climbing. I personally wear laced climbing shoes a majority of the time, but I do have a pair of velcro rock shoes that are fantastic.
Rock climbing is a sport where your footwork and technique are one of the most important factors. A climbing shoe can make a huge difference on a route and can be the difference between sending and falling. I highly recommend finding climbing shoes that fit your feet well.