We talk to some climbers about their favourite shoes for all climbing levels, and where to find them.
Akmal, Head of our Climbing Programmes, Shantel, an Inter-Climber, Fang Ling, a 5-year climbing enthusiast, and Christian, co-founder of Full Crimp Milk share some of their favourite shoes and give their honest shoe advice.
Q1: To you, what makes a good climbing shoe?
I think a shoe with a good fit. It depends on your heel cup, your foot arch... It really depends. Even talking about things like velcro vs laces vs slip ons - when you have an arrow foot, you might want a means to tighten it. You can custom laces, and sometimes velcros can loosen, it’s really all up to your personal taste. It’s best to try on different shoes before deciding!
I think one thing that is often overlooked is also the inner material of the shoes. Many times, shoes that are about 80% cloth tend to smell easily over time and this smell does not really go away even after washing.
Shape and stiffness affects mainly how comfortable you are when you are climbing, and is determined by your needs and level as a climber. If you are new to climbing, it is good to get a pair of shoes that are not very downturned and of mid-stiffness. This helps you to get used to wearing climbing shoes especially after downsizing!
A reasonable level of comfort is imperative while not sacrificing performance! I want to be able to smear, edge, heel, toe efficiently at the grade I’m at and not feel like I’m achieving solidarity with my Chinese ancestors with traditional feet binding.
Q2: As a beginner - what shoes did you wear and do you recommend them? If not, what do you recommend?
For beginners, I think a good budget for climbing shoes is $90-$150. I like Evolv for beginners. Another good brand is Red Chilli.
Hmm it’s always a battle between getting super flat beginner shoes vs. something a little more intermediate as your progress at the start of climbing is always super exponential. Within the first month or so of really getting into it, you’ll learn sufficient technique that warrants a slightly more downturn shoe.
So I’d suggest a mid level shoe that is neither too aggressive that you don’t know what to do with it nor too flat that it will do you a disservice when attempting harder indoor stuff. Perhaps: Scarpa Instinct VSR / La Sportiva Pythons or Cobras.
As a beginner, I owned a pair of Madrocks. I think they discontinued it but the most similar pair would be Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoes. I think this pair of shoes was very beginner friendly given the medium stiffness and easy closure Velcro function. It also had a moderate curvature which eased the adjustment into the shoes.
Q3: What are you wearing now? Any thoughts on intermediate shoes?
I don’t think there’s such a thing as intermediate shoes. Once you wear beginner shoes for over one year, it’s time to force yourself to start on aggressive shoes. For those, I like La Sportivas and Scarpas - I wear the Scarpa Drago LV.
For Asian fits, personally I like La Sportiva Katanas - not too aggro but aggro enough.You have less support but you have good control of your toes. Right now I’m wearing PER-ADRA S-01 LVs. They’re expensive but I love them! The shoe fit is very nice because it has a smaller heel cup.
The shoes I'm wearing now are Tenaya Oasi LV. I’ve had this pair for about a year now and I do enjoy the snug fit of it and how it enables the precision of my footwork. But the inner material is 80% cloth, so it smells super easily and the heel cup had quite a bit of space, so my heel kept moving while climbing. I very much prefer Five Ten Hiangles.
These Hiangles had a super snug fit for my small heel and is unlined! I did not wash my pair (slightly gross I know) for a good 3 years and it had no odour. I highly recommend this pair if you are a moderate to advanced climber
I’m on my 6th pair of La Sportiva Theories (Low Volume / Women’s)! It’s a mega soft comp shoe that allows you to drop your heel on shitty volumes and has a pretty legit edge/downturn for overhangs and *MOST* slab needs.
Soft shoes basically provide you with ‘sensitivity’, allowing you to feel what you are stepping on and quite often ‘mould’ your foot position to accommodate the foothold/volume.
I prefer Women’s / LV models of most of the shoes I purchase as the heel cup fits the Asian foot profile a lot better. You want a snug heel with little to no extra space to prevent your foot from moving when doing aggressive heels.
One possible disadvantage for this and many other soft comp shoes is the fact that on tiny foot jibs on a slab, you’re relying super heavily on the strength of your toe/foot as the rubber is not providing as much support as a harder, stiffer shoe might. This can hurt.
Other soft shoe recs: Unparallel Flagship, Scarpa Dragos, Tenaya Mastia
WHERE TO BUY CLIMBING SHOES IN SINGAPORE?