If you are interested in climbing, you should note that a lot of different gear is needed to ensure the safety of your trips. However, one of the most important items you will need during your climbs are quality shoes. This is your closest link to the rocks themselves, providing you with stability and comfort during your climb.
After looking at these shoes, you may ask, do climbing shoes have insoles? In essence, you will not find climbing shoes that come manufactured with insoles. It is also not recommended for climbers to add insoles, as the ability to feel the rock beneath your foot is key.
You will find three types of climbing shoes on the market today; neutral, moderate, and aggressive. They are made differently to be worn by different climbers – and are supported through outsoles. The key to all climbing shoes is the proper fit on your foot, which should be snug but not painful. How to get the right fit? We’ll help out with that part.
Choosing Your Climbing Shoes
As mentioned, climbing shoes come in three styles, and choosing the wrong type or fit can change your climb entirely. When choosing your climbing shoes, you will need to decide between neutral, moderate, and aggressive styles. These will differ depending on the type of climbing you intend to do.
Climbing shoes feature laces, straps, linings, and rubber, which can also affect their performance. These features are designed to better improve the fit of the shoe and guarantee your foot is snugly held. You do not want the shoes ever to be painful, but you do want them to fit properly.
Neutral Climbing Shoes
Neutral style climbing shoes are the most comfortable and usually what newer climbers opt for. However, even experienced climbers love this style if they are hoping to be more comfortable or are going on a longer climb. If you are doing more multi-pitch climbs, this is a great option.
The biggest pro of neutral shoes is their all-day comfort. They have medium to stiff midsoles and thick rubber soles for quality support. These tend to be relatively flat, which is beneficial when climbing.
However, some cons of neutral shoes are that the thicker soles are less sensitive. You will not be able to feel the rock under your foot as well as other option. They are not the best choice if you are climbing more difficult overhanging routes.
Moderate Climbing Shoes
These shoes differ from neutral options because they have a downturned shape that is better for technical climbing. These are very all-purpose shoes because they can handle a variety of terrain. Climbers who are taking on slab routes, crack climbs, long multi-pitch climbs, or overhung sport routes often choose these.
The downturned shape of these moderate shoes put your feet into a stronger position than the neutral options. They also have a sticker rubber and thinner soles, which can give you a better grip and feel on the rock. While less comfortable than neutral options, they are more comfortable than aggressive shoes.
While these are great for performance, they are not as performance-focused as aggressive shoes. The soles can wear down quicker than neutral options as well, due to their thinner materials.
Aggressive Climbing Shoes
Aggressive shoes are designed for those who are more experienced when it comes to climbing and are very performance-oriented. They have very downturned toes and lots of heel tension, which puts your feet in the most powerful position. These are great for overhanging climbs, and the curve puts power over the toe for precise placement on small holds.
Most climbers only wear these aggressive shoes for a single-pitch sport climb. They are very snug and downturned in shape, making them the least comfortable of the group. They can also be great for gym use and are not great for all-day multi-pitch climbs.
As mentioned, these shoes are the most performance-based due to their shape and powerful position. They do have a sticker rubber and thinner sole than the other shoe styles. With these aggressive shoes, you can get the best grip and feel of the rock.
These shoes do wear down much quicker than others and may need to be replaced more often. The downturn shape is not recommended for cracks or smears as well as the other options.
Do You Wear Socks with Climbing Shoes?
Since climbing shoes do not have insoles, you may be questioning if you should wear socks with these shoes. On average, most climbers do not add socks to their climbing shoes because they do not like the added layer between their foot and the rock. While your personal preference may differ, this is the most recommended way of wearing your climbing shoes.
However, if you are borrowing or renting climbing shoes from a local gym, you may want to wear socks for hygienic purposes. Many locations require you to wear socks for rental shoes just to keep them as clean as possible for each guest. If you are renting, you should bring a thing pair of socks that fit snugly to your foot as well.
Caring for Your Shoes
This probably leads you to think about the smell that may result from not wearing socks. While climbing shoes do tend to get stinky over time, you want to care for them properly to avoid this. There are some steps that you can take to ensure that your shoes stay as fresh as possible. Some options you have are:
- Always remove your shoes in between climbs to let your shoes and feet dry properly
- Wipe out the inner lining of the shoe with a damp cloth after climbing. Let your shoes dry fully between climbs by letting them air-dry. Avoid keeping your shoes in direct sunlight, which may cause damage over time.
- Do not leave your shoes in the pack after a climb; it can cause a buildup of odor or even mildew
- Spot clean the outside of your shoes with diluted water and an old toothbrush. You want to use minimal water when doing this to avoid damage.
- Wipe down the soles with rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt or dust from the climb. This can also restore the stickiness of the sole, which is great for future climbing.
- To keep your shoes as fresh as possible, you can lightly spray a deodorizing powder in your shoes before a climb. There are also powders you can dust your feet with lightly before each climb to lower sweat buildup and smells.
- Some climbers store their shoes with dryer sheets inside to keep them fresher in between climbs and avoid unwanted smells.
- Of course, you should always start your climb with clean, dry feet. Putting dirty feet into clean shoes is completely pointless.
Things to Avoid with Your Climbing Shoes
To extend the life of your climbing shoes, you should avoid washing them in the washing machine. Though this seems like the quickest way to stop the stink, many climbing shoes are made from leather and cannot be washed. Also, even those that are not made of leather can lose their shape in the washer.
To lower the smell, only wear your shoes while climbing. In fact, many avid climbers bring a tarp to step on before starting their climb and never put their shoes on beforehand. This can interfere with the shoes and the stickiness of the soles, which makes you have to replace them quickly.
As mentioned, do not leave your shoes in your bag and always let them air out. Also, avoid keeping them in hot cars as they can lose their shape when the rubber heats up.