Choosing The Perfect Climbing Shoe

choosing climbing shoeFirst, let’s talk features because that affects the fit of the shoe so much.  Shoes can be divided up into three categories:

Specialized Performance Shoes: These shoes tend to be more for extreme sport climbing.

Performance Shoes: These tend to be for sport climbing as well as technical face climbing.
All-Day Performance Shoes: These are for multi-pitch climbs as well as for crack climbing.

The major features you need to think about are:

  • Rand
  • Stiffness
  • Symmetry
  • Heel-to-toe Profile
The rand is the tensioning system in a shoe, so in a high-performing shoe, like an extreme sport shoe, the rand is going to pull from the forefoot to the heel in such a way that it distributes the power throughout the entire foot.  In a performance shoe, its going to tend to focus the power over the big toe. In the all-day performance shoe, there is little active randing.The stiffness  varies according to personal preference, though you tend to choose a stiffer shoe for technical face climbing.Symmetry has to do with how curved the shoe is.  It is either asymmetrical, symmetric or somewhere in between. So the more asymmetrical it is, the more that shoe is an extreme sport climbing shoe verses the symmetrical shoe, which is the all-day performance shoe and crack climbing shoe.Heel-to-toe profile generally comes in hooked, curved, or flat.  So again the hooked shoe is the most aggressive sport climbing shoe; the flat is the all day performance and crack climbing shoe.

Now let’s talk fit.  A lot of these shoes have a toe box and that is so you can fit the shoe really tight and your toes are crammed up in there.  For crack climbing, you want a thin toe profile so that your toes aren’t jammed up in there.  You can’t always just look at a shoe and tell if it has a thin toe profile or not.  A lot of times you have to try it on ad see if there is a toe box with extra material up there where your toes would be bunched up.The thinner the toe profile the thinner the crack you can jam your foot in to.  This allows you to climb a wider variety of cracks – what you would do is turn your pinky toe down, dig your foot at deep in the crack as you can, and bring your knee up over the toe so that it cams your foot in the crack.
Happy shoe hunting!
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