If you’ve landed on this article, it’s probably because you’ve decided to invest in your first pair of climbing shoes. Congratulations! Buying a pair of climbing shoes for beginners isn’t hard, but does require quite a bit of research and trial and error before finding the ideal pair for your feet. However, having your own shoes that fit well can enable you to accelerate much more quickly in your climbing and bouldering skills. We created this guide with all of the information necessary to buy the perfect pair of beginner climbing shoes for you.
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Renting vs. Buying Climbing Shoes: Why Buy?
Most people typically rent shoes their very first time climbing in a gym. Many gyms even include the cost of shoes in their price of admission. While this is an easy and cost-effective option for beginners who aren’t sure if they want to climb regularly, rental shoes can often inhibit your progression as you get better and better at climbing.
Instead, we recommend buying your first pair of beginner climbing shoes once you’ve joined a climbing gym or made a conscious decision to climb regularly. When you buy shoes, you can find a pair that fits your feet better than rentals and is more suited to your specific needs. A good pair of beginner climbing shoes will enable you to progress quickly without sacrificing comfort or providing too many unnecessary bells and whistles.
Our picks for the best beginner climbing shoes are below, but we’d strongly recommend reading our list of things to consider when buying climbing shoes before diving into our recommendations.
Best Climbing Shoes for Beginners & First Timers: Our Picks
When evaluating the best beginner climbing shoes, we put ourselves into the shoes of a first-time climber. Because every climber who chooses to progress will eventually outgrow their first pair of shoes, we wanted to ensure that our recommendations were realistic and practical.
What we determined is that there are key criteria that a beginner should look for: fit, materials, and price. At a minimum, your first pair of climbing shoes should be snug but comfortable, and shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. In line with these, our recommendations here include the best of the best shoes at the most attainable price points.
*Note: you can scroll down to our methodology for more information on each component.
- Best Overall: La Sportiva Tarantulace
- Best for Bouldering: Evolv Defy & Elektra
- Most Versatile: Butora Endeavor
- Best for Outdoor Climbing: La Sportiva Mythos
- Best for Quick Progression: Evolv Kronos & Kira
- Best Premium Beginner Shoe: Scarpa Force V
- Honorable Mentions: Mad Rock Drifter, Scarpa Origin, La Sportiva Aragon
La Sportiva Tarantulace
Best Overall Beginner Climbing Shoes
- Materials: Leather upper; FriXion rubber outsole
- Closure: Laces
- MSRP: $85
- In A Nutshell: Affordable, durable, comfortable option for those starting off in climbing
Take one look around the climbing gym and you’ll probably spot a handful of folks sporting La Sportiva’s Tarantulace shoes. It’s no surprise that this beginner-friendly shoe is so popular – it’s high-quality, comfortable, and affordable, the perfect combination for those wanting to dip their toes (pun intended) into the world of climbing.
Best for gyms and beginner-level outdoor climbing, the La Sportiva Tarantulace is an ideal choice for those who are buying their very first pair of climbing shoes. It’s built for comfort and wearability, avoiding the foot pain typically associated with more advanced shoe types. We’ve chosen the Tarantulace as our pick for the best beginner climbing shoes because they offer everything an early-stage climber needs at a great price.
What this model doesn’t offer is top-of-the-line materials (the FriXion sole isn’t the stickiest) or technical capabilities, which means you may find them difficult to use once you’ve reached a certain skill level. However, for those looking for an entry-level shoe that will support you in your early days while you learn critical climbing techniques, the La Sportiva Tarantulace is an exceptional choice.
Evolv Defy & Elektra
Best Bouldering Shoes for Beginners
- Materials: Leather upper; TRAX high-friction rubber outsole
- Closure: Lace or Velcro
- MSRP: $99 ($89 with velcro)
- In A Nutshell: Soft, comfortable, and flexible, these shoes are ideal for tackling short, tricky bouldering problems
Planning on bouldering? The Evolv Defy (men) & Elektra (women) are our picks for the best beginner bouldering shoes on the market. Our founder loves these shoes so much, she uses them regularly at her own bouldering gym! With a soft, snug fit and grippy soles, these shoes are fantastic for those who are learning to boulder indoors or outside. Moreover, the extra flexibility in the sole will help you build foot strength and technique early-on.
We’ve chosen these shoes for bouldering because they’re super comfortable and well rounded. The TRAX rubber soles are excellent for learning smearing and working with tiny toe holds, and the upper offers one of the most comfortable climbing shoe fits we’ve encountered. Combined, these characteristics offer structure and stability for new boulderers who are just getting their footing in the sport.
While this is a fantastic shoe for beginners, the neutral aggressiveness and flexibility may eventually inhibit your growth as a climber down the road. However, as a first pair of bouldering shoes, we’d wholeheartedly recommend the Evolv Defy & Elektra.
CHECK EVOLV DEFY PRICES HERE:
CHECK EVOLV ELEKTRA PRICES HERE:
Interested in getting shoes specifically for bouldering? Here’s our complete guide to the best bouldering shoes for beginners.
- Materials: Suede & leather upper, Butora rubber outsole
- Closure: Velcro
- MSRP: $110
- In A Nutshell: With sizing options to fit any foot, this versatile shoe can tackle any indoor and outdoor climb with ease
Looking for the perfect fit? Cue the Butora Endeavor, one of the best beginner climbing shoes for folks wanting to try out climbing in more comfortable footwear. This hardy, durable shoe is great for indoor or outdoor climbing and offers more long-term potential as you excel at climbing with its slightly downturned last. Combining performance, comfort, and a reasonable price, don’t overlook this fantastic shoe when considering the best climbing shoes for beginners.
One thing we love the most about Butora climbing shoes is that they come with different fit options for wide, regular, and narrow feet. This means basically any climber can find a precise fit in the Butora Endeavor shoes. These shoes are designed to feel really good on the feet, meaning you can climb a long time without having to pull your shoes on and off while cringing in pain.
La Sportiva Mythos Eco
Best For Outdoor Climbing
- Materials: Leather upper; 4mm ECO recycled rubber outsole
- Closure: Lace
- MSRP: $145
- In A Nutshell: An eco-friendly pair of climbing shoes that performs in rugged outdoor conditions
If you’re one of those climbers who is itching to get straight outside rather than training in the gym, the La Sportiva Mythos Eco (and the equivalent women’s version) are a fabulous choice for you. Built with premium materials and designed to withstand rough outdoor conditions, these durable shoes are one of the best climbing shoes for beginners who want to do both indoor and outdoor climbing. We especially love this shoe because it’s built using recycled materials, a more environmentally friendly option than many of the other picks on our list.
For indecisive climbers or those still figuring out their ideal climbing type, this shoe is a great investment that will grow with you as your climbing skills do. However, at $145 MSRP, it is quite a bit pricier than many of the other shoes on our list. If you know you want to climb indoors and out, you can’t go wrong with the Mythos.
Evolv Kronos & Kira
Best For Quick Progression
- Materials: Synthratek VX synthetic upper; TRAX SAS high-friction rubber outsole
- Closure: Velcro
- MSRP: $130
- In A Nutshell: A comfortable yet solid fully synthetic step-up shoe for folks who learn and progress quickly
As climbers, it’s always a bittersweet feeling when we outgrow our gear, and that can happen quickly when you’re spending a lot of time at the gym or on the crag. Luckily, the Evolv Kronos (men) & Kira (women) exist for people just like you, as their utility extends beyond the first few steps in bouldering or trad climbing. Unlike the Defy/Elektra, these shoes take on a slightly more advanced build, which is advantageous for more difficult overhang climbs and technical routes.
With high-quality synthetic uppers, an easy-to-use velcro closure, and a grippy TRAX rubber sole, these have all the bells and whistles necessary for ambitious beginner climbers wanting shoes that won’t inhibit them. Moreover, these slightly downturned shoes are built for progression into the intermediate stages of climbing. However, they’re comfortable enough for beginners to feel confident early-on, as opposed to other more advanced models which can hurt quite a bit to wear.
CHECK EVOLV KRONOS PRICES HERE:
CHECK EVOLV KIRA PRICES HERE:
Scarpa Force V
Best Premium Beginner Shoe
- Materials: Suede leather upper; Vibram XS edge rubber outsole
- Closure: Velcro
- MSRP: $159
- In A Nutshell: While these are a bit of a splurge, it’s worth it for beginners seeking premium comfort and support
Those who value comfort and quality will be hard-pressed to find better climbing shoes for beginners than the Scarpa Force V (and the equivalent women’s version). Made with plush suede and grippy Vibram soles, these shoes are an excellent choice for beginners. From the time you put them on, you’ll be able to feel how much more padded and cozy these shoes fit as compared to other, more minimal options on our list. For climbers who have never put their feet into awkward, tight shoes (like most climbing shoes), these offer a respectable alternative.
As the most expensive option on our list, the Scarpa Force V is truly an investment in your comfort. And with the premium materials and design (plus a more comfortable climber), you’ll likely see these perform slightly better than some of the no-frills beginner models we share.
- Materials: Suede leather upper; Vision rubber outsole
- Closure: Velcro
- MSRP: $115
- In A Nutshell: Scarpa’s entry-level shoe boasts superior construction, but with minimal room for growth
There are few climbing shoes for beginners as well-designed as the Scarpa Origin (and the equivalent women’s version). Created to address the growing entry-level climbing community, the Origin was designed with comfort and durability in mind. Made from soft suede uppers and grippy soles, the Origin is a fantastic companion for any new climber looking to gain experience in a trusted pair of shoes.
We’ve tested the Scarpa Origin extensively in comparison to La Sportiva’s competitor, the Defy/Elektra, and La Sportiva had the edge with its comfort and softness (a plus when you’re learning to climb). While the Origin was clearly very well-designed and made of fantastic materials, it was a bit more rigid and tight around the toes. However, you really can’t go wrong with the Scarpa Origin, and we’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking to invest in their first pair.
- Materials: Knit synthetic upper; rubber outsoles
- Closure: Velcro (with a lace version)
- MSRP: $99.95
- In A Nutshell: A decent beginner climbing shoe sporting a comfy but progression-inhibiting design
A frequent flyer at the climbing gym, the Black Diamond Momentum (and the equivalent women’s version) is one of the most popular climbing shoes for beginners. Black Diamond is no stranger to the climbing world, offering a range of gear for beginner climbers to advanced mountaineers. The Momentum is a unique shoe because it has a synthetic knit upper, offering lightweight breathability in comparison to the leather and closed synthetic designs on our list.
The biggest downside to the Momentums? They’re not the best for quick progression. One of the reasons why the Black Diamond Momentum is such a popular choice is because it is often sold in a beginner climbing kit, including a harness and belay device. What this means in practice, though, is a somewhat one-size-fits-all design approach, with a little too much wiggle room for the precision required as you advance as a climber. We feel that this is a shoe that could quickly hold you back from more difficult routes, but if you’re looking for a starter gym shoe that’s breathable and roomy, the Momentum is one of the best climbing shoes for beginners.
- Materials: Leather upper; Science Friction rubber sole
- Closure: Velcro
- MSRP: $75
- In A Nutshell: This no-frills shoe is a decent value option (if not slightly flimsy) for beginners on a budget
If you’re looking for a pair of climbing shoes at the cheapest price, the Mad Rock Drifter is a common choice for climbers who are just starting out. At an MSRP of $75, this is the lowest-priced shoe on our list, and with a leather upper and snug construction, it’s a decent choice for climbers.
However, as with many other types of outdoor gear, you get what you pay for with these. The build has been reported to be a bit less durable than other shoes, wearing out quickly with regular use. While the Mad Rock Drifter is a decent first pair, for regular climbers, we’d recommend spending the extra $10 and getting the La Sportiva Tarantulace, which is a much better and more reliable shoe in our experience.
- Materials: Leather upper; Vibram XS Edge rubber outsole
- Closure: Laces
- MSRP: $109
- In A Nutshell: Fantastic beginner-friendly performance shoe with possible heel issues
For ambitious beginners hoping to progress to tough grades quickly, the La Sportiva Finale (and the equivalent women’s version) is a fabulous contender for a first pair of climbing shoes. Thick, sturdy soles with Vibram XS Edge rubber (our favorite for grippiness) make these a solid choice for beginner climbers, while an unlined leather upper offers durable comfort and minimizes foot pain. There’s a lot to love about this shoe, but our favorite thing about it is that it’s built to last from the first days through the intermediate stages of a climber’s journey.
Built for both sport and trad climbing, the Finale performs indoors and outdoors for both roped climbs as well as bouldering problems. Its thick sole and leather upper offers lots of durability for high-volume climbing, but this may require a longer break-in period for the shoes to stretch and accommodate your feet. Like its main competitors, the Kronos/Kira and the Helix, the slight downturn offers more longevity for the shoe as you progress, making the $109 price tag well worth it.
Many users have complaints about the heel of the La Sportiva Finale, which is what knocked it down on our list. When we tested this shoe, we did find that the women’s version had a bit of a baggy heel, made uncomfortable by the design of the rubber in the back. We wouldn’t knock this shoe completely, however; we’d recommend trying it on and determine for yourself if the heel design is an issue.
- Materials: Synthetic suede upper; Stealth C4 3.5mm rubber
- Closure: Velcro
- MSRP: $90
- In A Nutshell: A beginner-friendly shoe with solid construction, if you can get the sizing right
Another solid choice in our lineup of honorable mentions is the Five Ten Kirigami. This shoe, made by Adidas’ climbing brand Five Ten, is a top-of-the-line beginner climbing shoe made of a synthetic upper and grippy rubber soles. And, at $90, it’s reasonably affordable too.
The biggest pain point of these shoes is the sizing issues. According to many customer testimonies, there seem to be a few sizing discrepancies that cause issues while climbing. Customers say this model usually runs small but stretches out quickly, so we’d recommend buying your shoe size or slightly larger for optimal fit.
- Materials: Leather upper; FriXion rubber sole
- Closure: Velcro
- MSRP: $110
- In A Nutshell: Slight downturn and durable materials make this a great option for quick learners
Think about the La Sportiva Aragon (and the equivalent women’s version) as the slightly older sister to the La Sportiva Tarantulace. It’s made of similar materials, it’s beginner friendly, but sports a slightly more performance-oriented design to target extra ambitious, quickly progressing climbers. This makes it one of the best climbing shoes for beginners who want to advance their skills fast.
Like the Evolv Kronos/Kira, the La Sportiva Aragon is perfect for quick progression and more technical routes than you’ll find in purely beginner scenarios. It doesn’t have the grippiest soles, but the entire design has durability in mind for both indoor and outdoor climbing. If you’re looking for a shoe to use to uplevel your skills quickly, the La Sportiva Aragon is worth consideration.
- Materials: Suede upper; Vibram XS Edge rubber sole
- Closure: Lace
- MSRP: $109
- In A Nutshell: A beginner-friendly trad shoe designed for performance and progression indoors and out
Yet another star in the beginner climbing shoes lineup is the Scarpa Helix (and the equivalent women’s version). Well-designed and perfect for trad climbing, the Helix is only a “beginner” climbing shoe in name — it’s actually one of the more advanced options on this list. However, if you’ve got a little bit of experience under your belt and plan to climb primarily outside, this shoe gives the La Sportiva Mythos (above) some tough competition. The Helix has all of the strength and durability required for long-distance climbing without too many unnecessary bells and whistles.
If you read through the Scarpa shoes on our list, you’ll notice a trend: these things are built for comfort and performance. On the Helix, you’ll find soft suede leather uppers, a comfortable padded tongue, and lace closures for a precise fit. The super sticky Vibram XS Edge rubber soles enable precise footwork in the gym or on the crag. Combined, these premium features result in a comfortable wear that offers technical performance unparalleled by some of the more rudimentary options on our list.
What to Look For When Choosing a Pair of Beginner Climbing Shoes
Buying your first pair of climbing shoes can feel like a daunting task given the number of great options out there. A lot of the vocabulary used to discuss climbing shoe designs may feel foreign to you, and thanks okay! We’ll break down everything you need to know about shoe designs and fit in this section so you’ll have a basic foundation for what to look for and ask about when you’re ready to buy.
Generally, beginner climbing shoes are a) the cheapest and b) the flattest of all of the shoes at any retailer. Beginner shoes typically have flatter, more roomy toe areas and a simpler design than more technical ones. The more rounded, pointy (and expensive) shoes are useful for advanced outdoor climbers who need as much precision and performance as they can get. While beginners could use these, they’re much tighter and less comfortable and will provide too many technical features for those just starting off. (We do not recommend starting off with a super downturned shoe!)
Gym Climbing vs. Outdoor Climbing
Whether you want to climb indoors or outdoors may affect the shoes you’ll want to consider. After all, conditions and mileage do vary when comparing gym climbing with outdoor climbing. While any pair of shoes will work for both mediums, some shoes will perform better at the gym while others shine outside.
For climbers who plan to primarily climb indoors, you’ll want to look for a shoe that’s comfortable and durable, as you’ll be logging more climbs more quickly than outdoors. True “beginner” shoes with a neutral aggressiveness, thick soles, and more comfortable features are best suited for indoor climbing. Additionally, you may want to consider a Velcro option for easy on-and-off access at the gym. Flexible, soft shoes are much more appropriate for indoor climbing because they’ll help you built foot strength and technique early in your climbing journey. Those planning to do roped climbs may want to offer for a slightly stiffer shoe, though, as too much flexibility can cause fatigue earlier in a long route.
Outdoor climbing generally requires a bit more precision and technique than indoor climbing, and this is where a bit of downturn and stiffer soles can be more useful. Footholds can be small and much more daunting, and having a pair of shoes that can support you in tricky situations can provide confidence and security. While you’ll probably end up climbing in the gym before heading outdoors, if your endgame is to get out in fresh air, it’s wise to consider a more technical pair of shoes like the La Sportiva Mythos, the Scarpa Helix, or the La Sportiva Finale.
Snug (But Not Painful) Fit
You may hear conventional advice telling you to buy the tightest shoes you can cram your foot into. As you get more advanced in your climbing skills, you can opt for a more performance-oriented, tight-fitting shoe. However, at the beginner level, we’d recommend opting for a shoe that fits snugly without feeling constrictive.
Like we mentioned above, beginners are likely to look for different characteristics in a shoe than more advanced climbers. The #1 most important thing for beginners to remember is that a shoe’s fit is the most crucial aspect to consider. In the beginning, you’ll be developing your strength and technique, and an ill-fitting shoe that hurts to wear or, conversely, flops around will only hinder your progress. Instead, we recommend seeking a shoe with little wiggle room that still fits comfortably enough to wear for several hours at a time.
The only way to truly know whether or not a shoe is a good fit for you is to try it on. You’ve got a couple of options here: either go into a local retail shop or climbing gym and try on different pairs of shoes, or order several pairs and then return the ones that don’t fit well. Typically, you’ll want to order your own street shoe size and then size up by half-sizes from there.
The “uppers,” or foot-facing materials, are a critical component of any beginner climbing shoes. You’ll find different types of upper materials on our list, namely leather/suede, synthetic, and knit uppers. What you choose for your first pair of shoes comes largely down to preference. Essentially, there are arguments for and against different types of upper materials for a shoe.
Leather and Suede
Leather and suede uppers will stretch and conform to your feet over time, but typically require a break-in period to get to that point. These are the most durable shoes, and you’ll find that the vast majority of high-end climbing shoes are made of leather uppers. Many climbers find leather uppers to be the most comfortable as well. Leather is generally our choice when it comes to buying any climbing shoes, but for beginners, this isn’t quite as important, since you’ll probably upgrade your shoes before it matters in a significant way.
Synthetic and Knit
Synthetic uppers are a vegan-friendly choice and generally do not stretch, making them a great plug-and-play option. You won’t have as much of a break-in time or an adjustment period with synthetic shoes. However, they are typically less durable over time and often develop a stink to them that’s less prevalent in leather shoes. Evolv’s Defy/Elektra and Kronos/Kira all have synthetic uppers and they’re some of our favorite choices for beginner climbing shoes.
Knit uppers, like those found in the Black Diamond Momentum, are the most breathable choice, but are the least durable of all. These aren’t very common but you may see them from time to time – we’d generally recommend synthetic or leather uppers before knit ones.
We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that, in our opinion, the type of rubber on the sole doesn’t matter as much as the thickness of the rubber. What I mean to say with this is that there are certain types of rubber – Vibram’s XS Edge being a prime example – that are known for maximum grip, while others – like FriXion – which are less sticky but last longer.
For gym climbers, opting for a thicker sole is key because you’ll typically burn through more routes, more quickly indoors. Outdoor climbing can be a little more nuanced, as you’ll climb less but face grittier conditions in your shoes. In general, we’d shoot for anything 3.5mm and up, and if you can snag a shoe with TRAX or Vibram rubber, you’ll have an easier time progressing, smearing, and performing on smaller holds.
Closure: Laces vs. Velcro
So you’ve chosen a shoe with a robust sole and a durable upper. Now what? You’ll have to decide on a closure. There are three types of closures you’ll see on climbing shoes – velcro, shoelaces (lace), and slip ons. We don’t usually recommend slip ons because their fit can’t be adjusted like Velcro or lace closures can. But Velcro and laces have their own benefits, and many climbers tend to prefer one style over the other.
For fine-tuned comfort and performance, laces are the way to go. Laces are a lot more precise than velcro, and can be adjusted based on your personal preferences. Additionally, they can compensate for areas of the shoe that may be tighter or looser based on your unique foot shape. However, they are less efficient, taking more time to put your shoes on and take them off. Outdoor climbers generally prefer laces because they’re more streamlined than Velcro.
Velcro, on the other hand, is the mothership of convenience. You can take your shoes off and put them back on with ease, which is especially helpful during the break-in period when your feet are starting to hurt. Moreover, they require less time and effort to adjust, although can be more limited in customization by the closure design. Velcro also wears out over time and can be less durable than laces in certain situations.
If you look carefully, you’ll notice that a lot of shoes have Velcro and lace versions, so you can have your pick depending on your personal preferences.
As a beginner, you’ll generally want a flat/neutral or slightly downturned shoe. Your shoes should not look like bananas as a first-time climber. Most climbers start off with a completely neutral shoe, then opt for more downturn/aggressiveness over time. Some climbers who plan to climb often and progress quickly may choose a slightly downturned option, like the Evolv Kronos/Kira or the Scarpa Helix, to start so they can progress without having to upgrade. Either way, don’t get ahead of yourself by choosing a super aggressive shoe to start with – it’ll only cause your foot more pain than necessary and hinder your learning and development.
The final characteristic you may hear about is “softness.” Shoe softness refers to how bendy or flexible the shoe is, versus solid and rigid. In general, we’d recommend a softer shoe for learning to climb because it will help you strengthen your foot muscles and build technique without relying on your shoes completely. For bouldering and gym climbing, a soft shoe can be especially helpful and versatile. Longer routes may require a more rigid shoe for stability and support.
What to Bring Rock Climbing
- Climbing shoes – Climbing shoes are the #1 most important piece of gear you need for any kind of rock climbing. We always recommend buying your own shoes (rather than renting) for those planning to climb regularly.
- Chalk – Chalk helps fortify your hand grip on the wall. Many gyms do not offer free chalk to climbers, so we’d recommend bringing your own chalk in a portable chalk bag you can strap around your waist on longer climbs.
- Harness/belay device – If you’re planning on climbing with ropes, you’ll need a harness and a belay device (note that some gyms have these pre-installed). Check out our guide to the best climbing harnesses for our favorite recommendations.
- Water bottle – Hydration is key in the gym or outside. We love when our water stays nice and cold, so we usually opt for our Hydro Flask lightweight bottle.
- Tape – Calluses, blisters, and tears happen when you’re on the crag. To bandage and cover any painful areas of skin, we’d recommend carrying a roll of climbing tape with you when you’re climbing indoors or outside
- Nail clippers – Climbing can be a thousand times more difficult if your fingernails are long. We always having a set of nail clippers in your climbing bag in case you need them.
- Climbing salve – After climbing, it’s possible your hands will be chapped, cracked, or at best, really dry. If this is the case, a thick climbing salve can help restore hydration and elasticity to your hands. We love this one by Burt’s Bees, made with all natural ingredients.
- Outdoor climbing gear – If you’re heading outdoors, you may need specific equipment for outdoor climbing. Read our guides to outdoor bouldering gear and outdoor climbing gear for a complete packing list of things to bring for outdoor climbing.