Bouldering is a competitive sport, and recreational activity, both. It is performed without the use of harnesses or ropes on small rock formations.
The right shoes would be the first thing a climber would need when they settle on it as a hobby. The salesman should be informed if the climber is buying his first pair of climbing shoes. That way, he could guide the climber better.
In this article also we will share tips and other important things related to bouldering shoes for beginners.
Important Features of a Beginner Bouldering Shoe
One feature that stands out at first glance in a beginner shoe is that it’s flat. The shoe for an advanced level would have a prominent curve. The toe of a beginner’s shoe is almost rounded.
A beginner shoe is made with a sturdier rubber sole. It helps them last longer as a beginner learns to use his feet on climbing.
The first shoes someone wears for climbing should have greater comfort. Rock climbing can be a tough sport. With comfortable shoes beginners can keep trying to learn the skill. If their feet will be in pain they won’t be able to pursue it.
Deciding on the Type of Shoe
The material and the features of a beginner shoe make a huge difference to the beginner.
Leather vs. Synthetic
Though uppers of both types would do, a beginners shoe should have a leather upper. One rule to keep in mind is that leather stretches while synthetic does not. This means that beginners would have to size it small and painfully wait for it to break in. Some leather uppers stretch to a whole size up. A synthetic shoe would stay the same size.
Other advantages of a leather upper for beginners is that leather gradually takes the shape of the climbers foot. It is also generally more durable.
Lace, Velcro, or Elastic Closures
All three types of closures work well for beginners. It is a decision the climber can make on their own after thoroughly studying the three choices. Some shoes also offer two types of closure choices. That way the climber can get the comfort of their choice along with the preferred type of closure.
Lace closure is mostly a good idea for newbies. It helps adjust the tightness and fit of the shoe. Beginners will first prefer the comfort of their shoe and may want to keep it loose. Later, as they begin giving preference to their performance they can tie the shoe tighter.
Laces are a challenge when one has to remove or wear their shoe time and time again. And in case a lace breaks, it is difficult to replace.
Bouldering is always easier with Velcro closures. Shoes with Velcro can be removed and worn with ease. It may not give a performance enhancing fit though. Yet, it could be recommended for bouldering but not crack climbing.
Beginners would find shoes with elastic closures most comfortable. These shoes are also called slippers. They offer easy on-and-off, a snug fit, and great comfort. But since these shoes tend to expand with time, climbers would have to get the tightest size possible. Breaking in may be a painful experience with them.
Categorizing Bouldering Shoes
Soft vs. Stiff
The stiffness of the sole and the midsole is another way of categorizing bouldering shoes. A soft shoe allows climbers to flex their feet around holds. They offer increased sensitivity between rock and foot. Climbing on longer routes will be easier with soles that are stiff. Beginners could do with a midsole of moderate stiffness.
A thick rubber would be the best choice for beginners. It would last a good while, and lack of stickiness would not be a concern for beginners. With time a climber would give preference to grip over durability. Mileage matters more than difficulty at the onset of a climbing career.
It is always best for beginners to go for shoes that are comfortably tight. Shoes are that too tight will discourage beginners from pursuing climbing. Moreover, a beginner does not explore terrain and holds that require a very tight or high-performance shoe. The right shoe size would be the same as a person’s street shoes, or only half a size down.
Men’s and Women’s Bouldering Shoes
Men’s climbing shoes would generally be wider and stiffer. This has to do with the men’s feet are mostly wider in size. They also tend to run heavier.
Women’s shoes are mostly narrower and softer according to their foot size and type. There may sometimes be exceptions depending on a woman’s foot size. Men and women often wear shoes that may have been designed for the other. A lot of companies have sizing guides that compare the sizing of the two. That makes it easier for a beginner to pick out the style, comfort, and fit for their foot.
Some call a climbing shoe’s sensitivity a “double-edged sword”. It is great for climbers to be able to experience the feel of the terrain. The softer the material of a climbing shoe, the greater its sensitivity. It allows the climber to know exactly where his foot rests on a hold.
However, the softer a shoe is the less protection it gives. It is less stable under pressure.
This article will help beginners pick out the right shoe for themselves. We will explore six of the best options for those who are new to climbing.
This is a flat profile shoe with a Velcro closure. It comes at a modest price, is reliable and durable. It has a leather upper that settles into a nice fit.
It’s a good choice when climbing as a newbie. It increases the climber’s foot strength on vertical platforms. Being a neutral fit, the shoe provides greater comfort. The medium-stiff feel gives good support during climbs.
They are easy to break into. The shoe has the versatility and good support but is not meant for intense climbs.
- All-around comfort
- Generally affordable
- Attractive design
- Good grip
- Good fitting
- Velcro strap tends to leave marks
- Sizing is confusing
- Rubber isn’t exactly tacky
This too is a flat profile shoe and has a synthetic upper. It has a Velcro closure and a stiff sole. The stiff sole provides relief to the calves. It is also surprisingly good for smearing.
The thickness of the rubber is consistent throughout the length. The density of the rubber varies according to the section of the shoe. For example, the rubber is less dense where the shoe should be more sensitive.
The insole is lined with nylon. It has been treated with an antimicrobial compound to ward off moisture. The Velcro durable straps lock in opposite directions. This helps to hold down the upper more efficiently. The tongue of the hoe is split. It overlaps giving reducing pressure on the foot.
- Midsole offers great sensitivity
- Smears well
- Generally affordable
- Lacks edging ability
- Doesn’t dry out well causing odor problems
- Not the most affordable choice
The Black Diamond Momentum meets the requirement for most beginner shoes. It is comfortable, flat, and simple. They boast an “Engineered Knit” upper, unlike the usual leather or synthetic upper. This makes the shoe a little more breathable than the others.
A solid, all-around performer the shoe has Velcro closure. It is known to perform well on overhangs and face climbs. It has a Neo-Fuse rubber which is durable, and provides good grip. The soft midsole provides great comfort.
- Attractive looking shoe
- Breathability is better than other shoes
- Stretches quite a bit over time
- Breathability is not exactly much different than leather uppers
- Causes blisters
- Velcro closure is substandard
This shoe has been designed keeping beginners in mind. It offers comfort, a natural shape, and is considered affordable. The shoe has Velcro closure and is good for a moderate performance. The straps lock into a web-kind pattern allowing a more customized fit.
The shoe has a rigid 5mm FriXion rubber. It is one of the stickier rubbers. The quality construction lends durability to the shoe.
There are not one but two loops at the back of the shoe which makes it easy to pull the shoe on. The design of the shoe gives beginners the motivation they need to keep going.
- Velcro closure
- Gives a more precise edge than some other beginner’s shoes
- Lack sensitivity
- Velcro closure isn’t exactly comfortable
These shoes are listed as technical, all-around shoes. It can be used on moderate to intermediate terrain.
It’s a flat shoe that is moderately stiff and asymmetrical last. It’s made with the TRAX SAS rubber that is a slightly stiff compound. The rubber is designed with varying thickness in the shoe. There’s thinner rubber on the pressure points. The toe area has a thicker patch of rubber.
The closure system is easy to open and close. They are known to edge and smear well. Made with a synthetic upper, the shoe does not stretch much.
- Technical, all-around shoe
- Two upper straps help adjust the shoe better
- Not much breaking in required
- Durable rubber
- Good closure system
- Not meant for overhanging boulders, or sports climbing
- Heel hooking is tough with the thinner rubber
- Edging not as strong as other aggressive shoes
The Scarpa Force V grants excellent support to the foot. It also has excellent sensitivity to help improve the beginner’s footwork. The shoe boasts a moderate downturn, and a medium soft midsole.
The most special feature of this shoe is its fine randing. The Bi-tensioned rand wraps around the heel ensuring that the shape is retained. It helps improve the performance toward the toe area. And yet, the toes don’t get pushed into the toe box. This way the heel also remains securely fitted to the foot.
The VIBRAM XS Edge 4mm rubber allows edging support, and firmness. The uppers are leather, but the shoe has synthetic padding. There are two Velcro straps and the opening is wide.
- Great for long climbs
- Easy Velcro closure
- Not the most sensitive shoe
- Feels quite warm on sunny days
- Not meant for wide feet
- More comfortable inside the gym
In my view, the La Sportive Tarantula would be the most preferred shoe for beginners. The lace-free design makes it super easy to wear and remove the shoe. The fastening system is simply great because of the well thought out adjustment system. The opposite side locking straps that can also be moved up and down can tighten or loosen the shoe.
For a beginner shoe, it’s quite aggressive. The low asymmetry, rigid sole, and flat profile help beginner make faster progress. The unlined upper proves to be quite comfortable once the shoe breaks in. As beginner’s feet are unaccustomed to climbing, the rigid sole lends excellent support.
It has an unlined leather upper adjusts well around the foot. The shoe is quite versatile for a beginner shoe. Moreover, it comes at a great price making it a real all-rounder.