Best Rock Climbing Shoes of 2020: From Bouldering and Sport to Multi-Pitch Trad

We love rock climbing shoes, and we bet you do too. The good news for climbers is that there are more styles and quality products to choose from than ever before. Time-tested classics like the La Sportiva Miura VS, impressive new models such as the Skwama, and up-and-coming brands like Unparallel all are represented on this list of the top climbing shoes of 2020. From long alpine routes to overhanging sport climbs and bouldering, we’ve got you covered. In addition to the men’s or unisex version, we’ve linked to the women’s-specific model when available. For more background information, see our climbing shoe comparison table and buying advice below the picks. 

Best All-Around Climbing Shoe

1. La Sportiva Miura VS ($185)

  • Downturn: Aggressive 
  • Upper: Leather
  • Closure: Velcro 
  • What we like: The climbing shoe that, quite simply, does it all.
  • What we don’t: The shape and fit won’t work for everyone.

The Velcro model of the Miura has become far more ubiquitous than the lace-up in recent years, and for good reason. The VS is a stiffer, more aggressive shoe, and unlike the Lace is constructed with the P3 midsole. Whereas the Miura Lace can become a floppy comfort shoe in no time, the VS will hold its aggressive shape throughout the years. That said, with a leather upper, expect the Miura to stretch a bit over time (if this is a concern, take a look at the partially synthetic Otaki below). Further, many climbers agree that the toe box puts undue pressure on the big toe. But, as the saying goes, if the shoe fits, it doesn’t get much better than the Miura VS… Read in-depth review

Best Bouldering Shoe

2. Scarpa Instinct VS ($185)

  • Downturn: Moderate
  • Upper: Synthetic
  • Closure: Slipper/Velcro 
  • What we like: A bouldering slipper that provides amazing support.
  • What we don’t: Some will want a softer shoe.

The Instinct VS is a relatively new shoe from Scarpa that quickly has grown in popularity. It established itself as a versatile choice for sport climbing and bouldering, but it’s also a common pick for indoor and competition climbing (most notably, 11-time American Bouldering Series champion Alex Puccio cites the Instinct VS as her favorite shoe). The rubber-shrouded toe and heel are excellent on steep rock, and the medium-stiff rand offers more edging power than we’re used to seeing in a bouldering shoe.

Made with synthetic microsuede, the Scarpa will stretch less than a leather shoe, but an elastic patch on the top of the foot gives it a close fit. The stiff feel and moderate downturn set it apart from most shoes made for high-performance sport climbing and bouldering, but a thinner 3.5mm sole adds sensitivity and flex (note that the XS Edge rubber on the men’s version is replaced with XS Grip 2 on the women’s model for an even softer, grippier shoe). Scarpa also offers the same design in a softer version with a 2mm sole (the VSR), which is ideal for lighter climbers or those who prefer a more sensitive feel. And the impressive Instinct family is rounded out by a high-performance lace model and a slipper (SR), each of which are quality, standout shoes in their own right…

Best Budget Climbing Shoe for Beginners

3. Butora Endeavor ($100)

Butora Endeavor climbing shoe_0

  • Downturn: Flat
  • Upper: Leather/synthetic
  • Closure: Velcro
  • What we like: Great price for such quality construction and design.
  • What we don’t: Not a high-performance shoe.

Butora might not be a household name like La Sportiva or Scarpa, but the Korean company quickly is gaining traction in the U.S. Before launching Butora in 2014, shoe designer Nam Hee Do had been in the business for over 30 years (most notably, he worked with Chris Sharma to design the Shaman). He came out of the gate swinging with an impressive attention to detail and use of top-notch materials, and their Endeavor quickly became our top pick for a beginner shoe. With its $100 price tag, we recommend it to anyone new to the sport, and even to guides or gym rats looking for a super comfortable all-day shoe. 

The flat Endeavor won’t help you push into high-level climbing, but if you want a cozy rig that climbs up to 5.10 or V4, it won’t disappoint. The zig-zagging Velcro straps provide a snug, customized fit, and a unique mix of leather and synthetic in the upper offers comfort and breathability in the areas where you need them most. Further, the inner layer of the tongue is made of memory foam, and the shoe is fully lined with 100-percent-organic hemp to minimize stretch and odor. Plus, both the men’s and women’s Endeavor come in two versions—wide and tight—so you can tailor your fit. All in all, there’s simply no other entry-level shoe in the game with such thoughtful, quality design. And for a more comprehensive list of recommendations, check out our article on the ,,,

Best Shoe for Crack Climbing

4. La Sportiva TC Pro ($190)

  • Downturn: Flat
  • Upper: Leather
  • Closure: Lace
  • What we like: The best crack climbing shoe on the market, hands down.
  • What we don’t: Expensive and very specific

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you know who Tommy Caldwell is. He climbed this little thing called the Dawn Wall in Yosemite a few years ago, which became some of the biggest climbing news ever—and this is the shoe that TC designed for the job. The TC Pro is an absolute climbing machine for vertical to less-than-vertical terrain, and specifically granite. While we often correlate a flat shoe with a beginner shoe, the TC Pro is a notable exception: the stiff make-up and sticky XS Edge rubber make it an ultra-high-performance edger and slabber. And the upper that extends over the ankles is a game-changer for protection—we actually cringe now when faced with climbing a wide crack in any other shoe.

Take note that the TC Pro is not at all an all-rounder. On anything steeper than vertical, this shoe will feel clunky and flat, akin to having bricks on your feet. Even on thin finger cracks, we’d rather be wearing a shoe like the Anasazi Pink or Otaki below. Boulderers, sport climbers, and gym climbers: this is not your shoe. And as far as fit goes, we’ve found that sizing the TC Pro comfortably does not compromise much in the way of performance. For an all-day shoe that you might take to the mountains and wear with a sock, this is great news… Read in-depth review
See the La Sportiva TC Pro

Best Shoe for Face Climbing

5. Five Ten Anasazi Lace ($150)

Downturn: Moderate
Upper: Synthetic
Closure: Lace 
What we like: Our favorite shoe for technical face climbing.
What we don’t: Painful in wide cracks.

The Anasazi Lace (aka the “Pink”) is sort of like living in Colorado—you know who wears this shoe because they tell you they wear the shoe, all the time. Pink fans are true devotees. This shoe excels on vertical face—trad, sport, or bouldering—with excellent edging power that comes from a unique heel and high-tensioned rand. The lace closure allows for a closer, more precise fit than any of the Velcro options above, and the synthetic Cowdura upper minimizes stretch throughout the life of the shoe.

The fit of the Pink doesn’t work for every foot, but when it does, it seems to work extremely well. In other words, you’ll probably love the Pink or hate it, and therefore we heartily recommend trying this shoe on before you buy. And everyone is bound to like the price: at $150, the Pink is one of the most affordable high-performance shoes on this list. To add to that, Five Ten’s popular Anasazi collection is available in a number of different versions: recent iterations include a Velcro model (VCS) and the Pro, a bouldering-specific version of the VCS with a rubber toe patch… Read in-depth review
See the Five Ten Anasazi Lace

Best of the Rest

6. Butora Acro ($160)

Downturn: Aggressive
Upper: Leather/synthetic
Closure: Slipper/Velcro
What we like: Fantastic quality; comes in both narrow and wide sizes.
What we don’t: Unique toe shape might take some getting used to.

We took the tried-and-true La Sportiva Solution off of our list and replaced it with the Acro, which is Butora’s solution to… the Solution. In just a few years, these shoes quickly have proved their performance chops, gaining a devoted following amongst boulderers and sport climbers alike. If you’re a La Sportiva diehard and the Solutions fit you well, by all means stick with them. However, if you’ve struggled with their fit and are looking for something slightly more comfortable, less bulky, and super form-fitting, it might be time to try out the Acro. And it doesn’t hurt that the quality of this shoe is absolutely outstanding. Despite heavy use, our pair shows no signs of frayed stitching or delamination.

The truth is that we have few gripes about the Acro, although we don’t recommend it for less-than-vertical terrain. The shoe is almost completely covered with rubber, making it a toe- and heel-hooking machine, perfect for boulders and steep sport climbing. It also has a full-length 3D ABS midsole, which means that it retains the downturned shape over time. Climbers in general have been very impressed with the fit, too: the Acro comes in both narrow and wide options and fits a wide spectrum of foot sizes. And the most recent addition to the lineup is a “Comp” version, which is a softer variation of the original slipper… 

7. Evolv Shaman ($160)

Downturn: Aggressive
Upper: Synthetic
Closure: Velcro
What we like: It’s tough to argue with Chris Sharma.
What we don’t: The “Knuckle Box” and “Love Bump” are features you’ll either love or hate.

Designed in part by Chris Sharma, the Shaman is best suited to the kind of climbing Sharma enjoys most: steep, endurance limestone sport routes. They perform incredibly well on this terrain, dominating small pockets, toeing in on positive crimps, toe hooking on tufa-like features, and heeling on small edges. The Trax rubber is not our favorite, but it is super sticky and performs well once you get used to it. Meanwhile, the synthetic upper maintains a tight fit over time, and the Velcro straps are thin enough to give ample room for toe rubber.

All in all, the Shaman is a really good shoe at a very competitive price. That said, Evolv’s unique “Knuckle Box” and “Love Bump” technologies certainly offer a unique experience. The Knuckle Box creates space on top of the foot, making room for toes to sit comfortably, even when curled. The Love Bump, meanwhile, is a physical bump that sits under the ball of the foot, filling the dead space under the toes and pushing them toward the knuckle box. The intention is to create a comfortable space for a downturned foot, and if the fit is right, it accomplishes this goal. But if the fit is not right, it’s really wrong. We definitely recommend trying on the Shaman before buying or choosing an online retailer with a good return policy… 

8. La Sportiva Genius ($195)

Downturn: Aggressive
Upper: Leather/synthetic
Closure: Lace
What we like: The No-Edge technology is, as the name implies, genius.
What we don’t: About as expensive as climbing shoes get.

The La Sportiva Genius is a high-performance climbing shoe, perhaps best known for its role in popularizing No-Edge technology. It’s a highly aggressive model that features a toe box rounded around the natural shape of the toes, rather than the standard beveled edge we’re used to seeing. The result? It can conform to a large surface area better than shoes with edges, resulting in more sensitivity, stickiness, and security on rock. No-Edge technology has been embraced by many, and now is available on a few more Sportiva models, including the men’s and women’s Futura and the Maverink slipper.

The Genius received rave reviews—including from us—upon its release, but now that the fanfare has settled, it’s uncertain as to whether No-Edge technology truly is a game-changer. On the right terrain (think overhung with large footholds, or especially slabby), it allows you to have the messiest of footwork and still stick to the wall. But for vertical face climbing with small edges, you’ll be left with very little to stand on. Overall, the tradeoffs are similar to that of many shoes: you get high performance on one kind of rock, but not on another. Furthermore, when it comes time for a new sole, you’ll have to send your shoes to one of just a few specialized resolers to get the job done…

9. Unparallel Up Mocc ($110)

Downturn: Flat
Upper: Leather
Closure: Slipper
What we like: A durable, comfortable slipper made in the U.S.A.
What we don’t: An unlined slipper isn’t for everyone.

If you haven’t yet heard of Unparallel, here’s your introduction. After Five Ten was bought out by Adidas in 2011, their production was moved overseas, leaving their SoCal factories and many former employees idle. Before long, Unparallel was born, taking over Five Ten’s abandoned spaces with a resolve to carry the U.S.-made torch. Now, this grassroots company makes a full line-up of climbing, mountain biking, and commuter shoes, with a dedication to high-quality materials and construction.

Unparallel’s Up Mocc is a classic, unlined leather slipper, great for all-day comfort on everything from long trad climbs to boulder problems. It differs from the popular Five Ten Moccasym in a few ways: for one, it’s cheaper at $110 (compared to the Moccasym at $125). Second, the Up Mocc has a rubber toe patch, which gives the shoe more durability, protection, and performance in cracks. Last, it’s simply a better-made shoe. In the past few years, the quality of the Five Ten Moccasym has diminished—most notably, many have experienced issues with the leather tearing—leaving many former devotees on the lookout for a replacement. And if slippers aren’t your jam (let’s be honest, they’re not for everyone), we recommend taking a look at Unparallel’s complete collection of bouldering, sport, and trad climbing shoes.
See the Unparallel Up Mocc

10. La Sportiva Otaki ($180)

Downturn: Moderate
Upper: Leather/synthetic
Closure: Velcro 
What we like: Downturn plus stiffness allows for great edging on vertical face.
What we don’t: The wide toe box is good for some, but sloppy for others.

The Otaki is a relatively recent innovation from La Sportiva, along with its sister shoe, the lace-up Kataki. Built on the same last as the Skwama below and with the same P3 technology and S-Heel design, you’d think the Otaki was a bouldering shoe. And it can be—but it’s also so much more. We’ve worn this shoe both on vertical sport climbs and hard finger cracks and have been super impressed with its performance in both environments. In short, you get both the edging capabilities of the Miura VS and the crack-climbing versatility of the Katana Lace. That’s one impressive recipe.

The Otaki (and Kataki) is often touted as the successor to the Katana Lace, but a few major features set it apart. For starters, the Otaki is constructed with a synthetic lining around the toe, reducing the pesky stretch that occurs in the toe box of the Katana. Additionally, the Otaki has a more aggressive downturn (PD 75 vs. the Katana’s PD 55 last), a Velcro closure, and S-Heel technology that make it a superb crossover shoe between technical face climbing and steep bouldering. And wide-footed climbers rejoice: the Otaki is just as comfortable as the Katana. If you’ve struggled to fit into the Miura VS, the Otaki could be a viable solution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *