Are you ready to step up your game in the climbing gym? You’ll need good footwork and good shoes. The gym rental shoes will only get you so far, and you’ll definitely notice an upgrade with your own pair. If you’re looking to cruise up steep overhanging routes in the cave or properly use tiny foot chips as you practice your technique, a shoe designed for performance is your key to climbing harder routes. You’ll also want to focus on finding a shoe that is comfortable for your specific feet, so you can climb as much as you want. Here at the Adventure Junkies, we can guide you to the best gym climbing shoes for you.
For more of our top climbing footwear recommendations, check out the Best Climbing Shoes.
Quick Answer –The Best Gym Climbing Shoes
Black Diamond MomentumView at REIFive Ten Anasazi ProView at BackcountryLa Sportiva Katana LaceView at REIFive Ten HiangleView at REIButora AcroView at REILa Sportiva Miura VSView at REIScarpa Instinct VSView at REIevolv ShamanView at REILa Sportiva SolutionView at REISo iLL Free Range LVView at REI
Comparison Table– Best Gym Climbing Shoes
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Black Diamond Momentum
Five Ten Anasazi Pro
La Sportiva Katana Lace
Five Ten Hiangle
La Sportiva Miura VS
Scarpa Instinct VS
La Sportiva Solution
So iLL Free Range LV
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.
Microfiber Toe Lining (to minimize stretch)Fabric Uppers (breathable)Molded Rubber Sole
BEST FOR: AFFORDABILITY
You’ll notice the Black Diamond Momentum right away since the fabric upper is definitely unique in climbing shoes. The mesh knit provides a perfect fit straight out of the box, as well as extreme breathability to prevent your feet from sweating during a hot gym session. The fabric comes in a variety of colors, so you can choose a favorite or pick out a couple of pairs, as the price point is right for a gym climbing shoe.
They also provide good performance combined with comfort thanks to a molded rubber sole with a moderate downturn. Though the Momentum might not shine on steep or technical routes, it is a fantastic shoe for putting in mileage on most routes at the gym.
High Friction RubberMesh Tongue (for breathability)Extra Toe Rubber (for use at all angles)
BEST FOR: VERSATILITY
With input from professional climbers, Adidas upgraded the classic Five Ten Anasazis by adding a patch of Stealth Mi6 rubber to the toe to provide amazing edging performance. If you love to toe hook, these shoes will be your secret weapon. Featuring Stealth C4 rubber on the soles as well, the Anasazi Pros help your feet stick with precision on a variety of holds.
The comfort of the Anasazis got an upgrade, too, with a new mesh tongue for extra breathability when your feet are sweating from trying hard. The velcro closure and unlined uppers provide a great fit, too.
The La Sportiva Katanas are a classic shoe that you’ve probably already seen around the gym, and these shoes are popular for a reason. They feature a moderate downturn for the ideal combination of performance and comfort. The Vibram XS Edge rubber is harder than some other options, which makes it excellent for edging on tiny holds and toeing in on steep overhangs.
La Sportiva has also taken comfort into account with the Katanas, designing a special lacing system to give a snug fit without being too tight or uncomfortable. The breathable tongue and lining really help to wick away moisture and keep the Katanas from smelling terrible even if your feet sweat a lot during your sessions.
With an aggressive yet comfortable fit, the Hiangles offer reliable performance on any type of gym climb. The C4 rubber on the soles is thick and super sticky, giving you the friction you need in a variety of situations. It’s also quite durable, so you won’t wear through these shoes too quickly.
The combination of elastic and velcro closure allows for easy on and off between climbs as you’re moving from route to route in the gym. The shoes tend to run slightly small, but the upper is unlined and will stretch about a half size, then conform perfectly to your foot.
Custom Injected Midsole (to maintain downturn)Rubber Toe PatchHighly Adjustable Closure System
BEST FOR: SPORT CLIMBING
The Butora Acros are an aggressive shoe for performance on the steepest routes. They’re constructed to preserve the downturned shape for the life of the shoe, giving great performance for gym lead climbing (where you ascend the route by bringing the rope up with you and clipping it into quickdraws for protection as you go).
The Acro has a stretchy tongue and a Velcro closure system to make them easy to get on while allowing you to tighten them securely to your feet. Butora offers models of the Acros for both wide and narrow feet, as opposed to a men’s and women’s version, so you can get the proper fit for your foot shape.
Precise Fit (with 3 straps)Sweat-wicking LiningMidsole Support
BEST FOR: PRECISION FOOTWORK
If you like to tiptoe on the tiniest footholds when you climb, the Miuras will make you happy. The aggressive shape combined with stiff Vibram XS Edge rubber gives you precision placement on just about any hold you can find, from razor-thin edges to micro-pockets. The midsole of the shoe is also flexible so you can smear when you’re climbing slab (less than vertical terrain).
Though the stiff rubber does mean sacrificing some comfort in this shoe, the Miuras do have a 3-strap closure system to adjust for a precise fit. Plus, the lining wicks away sweat to let your feet breathe and not slip around in the shoe.
Two-Part Sole (for extra flexibility)Non-stretch Upper (for precise fit)Sticky & Durable Rubber
BEST FOR: BOULDERING
If you have a passion for bouldering, the Scarpa Instincts are the powerful shoe for you. The Instincts have a unique two-part sole to allow the front and back of your foot to move independently. They’re also tensioned to provide power to the toes, which are covered in stiff Vibram XS Edge rubber for performance. The heel features a softer rubber for a more comfortable fit.
The stiffness of the rubber and the wide toe box of the shoe can limit sensitivity on small footholds, which is why the Instincts are better for boulderers than climbers looking for an all-around shoe.
Roomy Toe BoxExtra Rubber on High Wear ZonesInset Front Strap (for better toe performance)
BEST FOR: STEEP CLIMBING
The aggressive downturned shape of the Evolv Shamans excels on steep walls, but the shoes are more comfortable than one might expect, due in part to an especially roomy toe box. These shoes are also quite durable, thanks to thicker rubber in high wear areas, but thinner rubber in other sections of the sole for sensitivity.
The velcro strap closure system is designed to pull the sole of the shoe tightly into the arches of your feet for a powerful performance fit. The Shamans also feature a special “love bump” of rubber under the toe to fill dead space while directing energy to the toes for edging.
Highly Adjustable Closure SystemAsymmetric Toe (for performance)Molded Heel Cups (for a snug fit)
BEST FOR: POWERFUL PERFORMANCE
The La Sportiva Solutions are a super aggressive shoe to give you the power to climb the hardest routes. With extremely sticky rubber and a super aggressive downturn, you can be confident that these shoes will stick to anything you can get your toes (or heel) on.
This aggressiveness of the downturn might not make for the most comfortable shoes, but the Solutions are designed to fit your foot exceptionally well. The trademarked Lock Harness closure system of the Solution pulls the rubber outsole to meet the leather upper, locking your foot in place securely. The specially designed midsole also maintains the shape of the shoe and provides extra support as you’re climbing.
Tensioned Heel (to provide downturn for power and precision)Extra Toe RubberPadded Tongue (for comfort)
BEST FOR: STYLE
So iLL shoes have a distinctive look inspired by retro footwear, so if you want to stand out in the gym, the bright green (high volume) or pink (low volume) So iLL Free Range are the stylish climbing shoes for you.
Beyond looks, these shoes are high performance due to extra heel tension providing an aggressively downturned fit, and Dark Matter rubber, which was originally designed with superior stickiness for Navy SEALs. The Free Range shoes also have extra rubber coverage for great toe and heel hooking capabilities, and the velcro closure attaches in a way to precisely fit your feet with a minimum of extra room anywhere.
View at REIView at Amazon
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING GYM CLIMBING SHOES
Each person has unique feet, so the most crucial feature in a gym climbing shoe is that it fits your feet well. Most manufacturers offer suggestions for sizing based on your street shoe size. You can order shoes online using the company’s sizing suggestions, but trying out a few different styles at your local gym is a great idea before buying a pair from the guide above.
REI offers some tips for selecting a climbing shoe and figuring out if you have the right fit. Once you find a pair you love, here are some tips for taking care of them so they last longer.
A good fit is vital in a climbing shoe. When you’re buying a gym climbing shoe, you should generally size down from your street shoes. This means that your shoes will feel uncomfortable and probably even a little painful when you first wear them. That’s okay because you want your climbing shoes to fit very snugly. All climbing shoes will need a break in period to form to your foot, but shoes with unlined, natural leather uppers stretch more, while shoes with synthetic lined uppers are designed to fit closer to size right out of the box.
Features like breathable tongues and wicking linings make shoes more comfortable and minimize sweat and odor. Some shoes even have extra padding, but you can lose a little sensitivity with too much padding.
Certain shoes fit certain feet better, so what is comfortable for you might not feel the same to someone else. The uppers of most climbing shoes will break in and conform to your foot because they are typically made of malleable fabric. But because the toe and heel are covered in rubber, they won’t adjust to fit your foot over time. So, if your toes don’t fit in the toe box or the heel cup digs into your foot when you try the shoes on for the first time, you should consider a different shoe.
When you find your perfect shoes, you want them to last, and thick rubber is extra durable and provides great performance. However, thinner rubber is desirable for more sensitivity on tiny footholds, so you might have to make a trade-off in durability if you’re hoping to climb like a pro. Also, if you’re getting an aggressive gym climbing shoe, make sure that the downturn is designed to last for the life of the shoe and not lose its shape over time.
Method of taking the shoe on/off and tightening to fit. Options include lace-up, velcro straps, and slip-on.
Material that composes the upper portion of the shoe. Usually leather or synthetic, and can be unlined, lined, or padded.
The bottom of the shoe, which is always rubber in climbing shoes. Each brand has its own proprietary rubber with different properties.
The model around which the shoe is built. Slip-lasted shoes are softer which makes for greater sensitivity; board-lasted shoes are stiffer but tend to be more comfortable.
How much the shoe curves down in the toes. Flatter shoes are generally more comfortable, but more aggressive (i.e. more downturned) shoes provide better performance, especially on overhanging terrain. Beginner climbers should look for a neutral to moderate downturn.
For more of our top climbing gear recommendations, check out these popular buyer’s guides: