Rock Climbing Equipment

The Absolute Guide to How Rock Climbing Shoes Should Fit

Rock climbing shoes are the key connection between you and the rock, the wrong fit or style can hold you back. Whether you go for a mega downturned climbing shoe or a flat-lasted climbing shoe, the general rule is the same:

Rock climbing shoes should fit snug around your feet with no air pockets or pressure points and allow for good forefoot mobility.

When trying on climbing shoes for the first time, the right size will almost always feel too small. This is perfectly normal as we are used to wearing trainers with space for our toes to wiggle. Remember, it can take a few climbing sessions to break into your shoes.

Depending on the material which lines the shoe, this can mean more or less stretch which should be accounted for. As a general rule, synthetic uppers will not stretch however they can mould to the contours of your feet over time. Leather uppers are more likely to give, up to 1/2 a size.  

Fit preference obviously depends on the individual but many beginners end up buying shoes that are too big because they are put off by the unusually tight initial fit. When you are first learning to climb you want to look for a snug but comfortable fit. Unlike street shoes, climbing shoes serve the purpose of keeping your feet firmly stuck to the wall so you want to avoid any air space that will reduce contact. Your toes should not wiggle inside the shoe and you should have good forefoot mobility.

Keep in mind that as you progress, you may find yourself looking for a shoe that addresses different demands of the sport. This could be a tighter shoe to encourage better footwork and getting more positive response from foot placements on technical terrain, or a stiffer/softer shoe for edging or smearing. Remember that climbing shoes are designed to be worn without socks but if you need to compensate for shoe stretch in future, socks can of course be worn.

This leads us onto the next question: What are the different types of rock climbing shoes and which one is right for me?