As you finally get around to taking the plunge and try rock climbing, you quickly realize that those bulky running shoes are not designed to assist you in getting up the wall. So as you start climbing, you want to think of your feet and seek out a new pair of rock climbing shoes. Luckily, we at The Adventure Junkies have done all the work to make sure you find the best cheap climbing shoes to get you started on the right foot.
If you’re new to climbing, you might not realize that your feet play a crucial role in keeping you on and moving up the wall or rock. From plastic gym walls to rock slabs, cracks, overhangs, and boulders, finding the best shoe for your foot and style of climbing will help you push your climbing goals. Find out what features to look for and pick out the perfect pair to get started with from our list below. You’ll be sending the grades in no time!
For more of our top climbing footwear recommendations, check out the Best Climbing Shoes.
Quick Answer –The Best Cheap Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva FinaleView at REIFive Ten Anasazi LaceView at BackcountryMad Rock DrifterView at BackcountryScarpa HelixView at REIEvolv Defy/ElektraView at REI
Comparison Table– Best Cheap Climbing Shoes
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La Sportiva Finale
5 mm Vibram XS Edge Rubber
Five Ten Anasazi Lace
1 lb 1.2 oz
Stealth C4 Rubber
Mad Rock Drifter
Science Friction 3.0 Rubber
15.2 oz (Men’s)
Scarpa 3.5 mm XS Edge Rubber
9.8 oz (Men’s)
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.
Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.
Slip-lasted (more sensitive, less stiff shoe)Can Be ResoledTensioned Heel Rand (thicker heel for more support)
BEST FOR: ALL AROUND USE
While on the beginner end of La Sportiva’s line, this shoe has much to offer and is a solid choice for a climber on a budget. The grippy Vibram XS rubber provides good edging and is excellent for building confidence in beginner climbers. The tensioned heel rand provides a snug fit and allows for stretch only in the back of the shoe.
The unlined leather uppers make it one of the most comfortable La Sportiva models. The lace up closure enables ample adjustments for a solid fit. Although it is on the more expensive end of beginner shoes, the durability and versatility make up for the added cost that will help advance your climbing.
Slip-lasted (more sensitive, less stiff shoe)Can Be ResoledAsymmetrical Toe Tip (for better edging on rock/wall)
BEST FOR: VERSATILITY
Five Ten has recently improved this shoe that is popularly known as “the Pinkies.” A new heel cup provides a snugger fit to assist your super cool heel-hooking moves and the asymmetrical toe provides maximum edging on the tiniest of edges.
The Stealth C4 rubber on the bottom and sides of this shoe is so sticky that even on the most polished rock, you will feel solid in your stance. Though the Anasazi lace-up is at the high end of our cheap shoe list, compared to its performance, it’s a bargain.
Slip-lasted (more sensitive, less stiff shoe)Moderate Asymmetrical Curvature (for moderate edging on rock/wall)Lined Toe Box (for more toe comfort)
BEST FOR: BEST VALUE
While predominantly a gym shoe, this simplistic and flat profile shoe has the ability to perform on hard boulder problems outside as well. The double Velcro closure helps with fit and allows for easy removal between climbs so your feet don’t cramp up during your rest. The leather upper provides excellent comfort and the lined toe box helps prevent overstretching.
The grip from the super stickiness of Science Friction rubber soles provide beginners with confidence. Slightly less durable than other shoes on the market, the Drifter may wear quickly, especially if used outdoors. But you really cannot go wrong at this price point.
View at Backcountry
View Women’s Version
Closure: LacesWeight: 15.2 oz (Men’s)Liner: NoneUpper: LeatherOutsole: Scarpa 3.5 mm XS Edge Rubber
Board-lasted (less sensitive, stiffer shoe)Can Be ResoledLight Heel Cup (cushioned, but still flexible)
BEST FOR: ALL DAY COMFORT
A light heel cup on these inexpensive shoes from the renowned climbing shoe company Scarpa provides cushion for all day wear on longer multi-pitch climbs without needing to take them off between pitches. Lacing all the way to the toe gives an ultimate fit for any foot.
This shoe’s durability is worth the few extra bucks. The 3.5mm XS Edge Rubber provides everything you need to edge and crack climb, making it a solid choice to transition from beginner to intermediate climber.
Split Tongue (for tighter fit without bunching)Variable Thickness Rand (VTR; for better durability)Antimicrobial Liner (for fresh smelling feet all day long!)
BEST FOR: GYM CLIMBING
A well-tested and dependable shoe, the Defy model caters to men’s feet while the Elektra is its equal for women. The split tongue and Velcro closures make putting these shoes on and taking them off a cinch and ideal for gym climbing. The variable thickness rand (VTR) is thicker in areas of the soles that wear down faster like the toe and heel, increasing shoe life.
With synthetic suede on the upper, this shoe will not stretch. A neutral profile makes these models comfortable and appealing to beginner climbers. While not great at edging, the low cost makes it a very popular first gym pair.
View at REIView at Backcountry
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING CLIMBING SHOES
The options listed above offer not only sound prices, but also shoes for all types of climbing, indoors and outdoors, and that can be worn by both beginners or more seasoned climbers. As with most technical gear for a new sport, more expensive climbing shoes usually does equal better quality. However, if you’re just starting out, then buying a cheap pair to get you on the wall without having to use stinky rental shoes from your local gym is well worth the minimal investment. Just keep in mind that you may want to consider upgrading to a more expensive pair of climbing shoes once you start smashing grades like King Kong on Rampage.
The profile is the shape of the shoe. As your climbing progresses and technique improves, the shape of the shoe becomes more important. A neutral profile is good for beginners, but can also be a good all day shoe for harder climbers.
More aggressive shoes have downturned toes and in general, fit tighter. If you are looking to do harder boulder problems or overhanging climbs, a downturned toe is a wise choice, but it is not a shoe you leave on your feet all day or even between climbs. The asymmetry or curvature of a shoe is also something to consider when looking at which shoe profile you’ll need for your style of climbing.
Like any shoe, you don’t want your heel slipping out or rising up when moving on the wall in climbing shoes. Start with your street shoe size and work from there. The shoe should fit snugly, but not comfortably. It should be so tight that your toes curl down, to maximize your grip on the rock. A snug fit feels good on vertical terrain and helps you perform better. Check out this Rock and Ice article on fitting rock shoes for more information.
Trad (traditional) climbers will seek a more comfortable shoe that can perform well in cracks and be worn all day on multi-pitch climbs. As you start climbing steeper terrain and gravitate towards a more aggressive shoe, as with bouldering and sport climbing, you will want an even tighter fit.
Climbing shoes do come in half sizes, which can make all the difference. Many shoes are sized in UK or European sizes, so make sure you have the correct conversion before purchasing. Try on several brands and sizes as they vary across the industry. Evolv and Five Ten have begun making shoes the same as street sizes. La Sportiva and Scarpa are consistent, but often require a trial fit to get it right.
STIFFNESS AND STRETCH
Any new shoe is going to require some level of breaking in and will stretch somewhat over time. Leather shoes such as the Mad Rock Drifter, La Sportiva Finale and Scarpa Helix will stretch, so plan accordingly when purchasing. The Five Ten Anasazi and the Evolv Defy/Elektra are synthetic and will not have much stretch so get as close to your fit as possible with these. Leather shoes also tend to be unlined, which allows for stretch compared to synthetic linings.
Rubber plays a huge role in climbing shoes and all rubber is not created equal. Rubber that sticks well is usually softer and less durable whereas harder rubber lasts longer. Soft rubber provides good friction for smearing, but unlike harder rubber, it will not edge as well. For new climbers or those doing long multi-pitch trad climbs, a harder, more durable rubber will be the better bet. You should also consider if the shoe can be resoled. This can save you time and money in the long run in not having to regularly purchase shoes and break them in. Learn more about the science of sticky rubber and the role it plays in climbing performance.
The three types of shoe closures are Velcro, laces, and slippers. Laces allow for better adjustments but can take longer to put on and take off than the other two, making them a better choice for all day, multi-pitch climbing.
Velcro can be tightened almost as well as laces and enables a quick on/off change. It’s a good choice for gym or sport climbing where you will frequently be going between climbing and street shoes. Velcro can also be convenient on multi-pitch climbs, where you can easily open the straps to give your feet a breather and not worry about taking them off and dropping them down the climb.
Slippers are the easiest for on/off and are usually the most comfortable of the three systems. However, because they tend to be unlined and pretty basic, they are more often used in specialized areas like crack climbing.
If you are looking to climb hard and fast, every ounce may count, so it’s worthwhile to peek at shoe weight when purchasing. The material of the upper and the thickness of the rubber will contribute to weight. Weights will vary from the lighter Mad Rock Drifter to the more substantial Five Ten Anasazi.
The outer layer on the bottom of the shoe, which touches the ground.
Footbed of shoe where the foot actually rests.
The layer of rubber wrapping from the toes to the side of the shoe.
The entire front section of the shoe.
The section the heel sits in.
For more of our top climbing gear recommendations, check out these popular buyer’s guides: