I Wanna Be A Climber

Sizing Climbing Shoes for Perfect Climbing Shoe Fit

sizing climbing shoes, climbing shoe fit

Sizing climbing shoes can be tricky! We’re all trying to find the perfect climbing shoe fit. The issue is that many climbing shoe brands don’t size their shoes similarly. Ensuring that you properly size your climbing shoes can be the difference between enjoying climbing or not. A big misconception in the climbing world that I think is being challenged as of late is that you need to downsize your climbing shoes so much that they hurt your feet. This isn’t true!

Especially as a beginner climber, the last thing you want to focus on is how much your feet hurt. You’re learning how to climb! That’s what your focus should be on.

Should You Size Up or Down on Climbing Shoes?


Plenty of online forums and articles will leave you questioning, “Should climbing shoes be one size smaller?” or “Should I size up on climbing shoes?”

I’m here to tell you that there isn’t a general rule for how you should size your climbing shoes, only that you should find a pair that fits! There are many different climbing shoe brands out there; in my experience, they all fit slightly differently. (It’s a little overwhelming, I know).

Properly sizing your climbing shoes will depend on a few factors:

  • Your foot shape – Do you have a narrow/wide foot? Do you have a low/high arch?
  • What you’re looking for – Are you looking for something you can comfortably wear all day or only want to slip on to try your projects?

The pros of downsizing your climbing shoes, i.e., wearing them super tight, is that you can drive more force into your big toe, helping you stand on smaller footholds.

The cons of downsizing your climbing shoes are plentiful. You can experience discomfort and pain in the form of blisters, deformation of your toes, and your mind will be focused on your foot pain rather than where you want to place it on the wall.

sizing climbing shoes, climbing shoe fit
Take your time to choose the perfect pair of climbing shoes and you will wear then to death and love them forever!

How to Know if a Climbing Shoe Fits Properly


I’ve helped hundreds of people size their climbing shoes, and I always hear the same thing when I ask what size they’re looking for. “I wear this size in this shoe, but I wear this size in this shoe, and I wear-” This is part of why it’s so hard to find new climbing shoes. They’re all different! I recommend to every person I try to help to start with their street shoe size and go from there.

However, only knowing your street shoe size isn’t a recipe for success. I also must know if a person has a narrow or wider foot. If you don’t know your own foot shape, many shoe brands offer a narrow and wide version of a shoe model to cater to more climbers.

So, how do you know if a climbing shoe is the right size? When trying on and choosing climbing shoes, look for these aspects.

  • Toe Box: You want your toes to touch the front of the climbing shoe for the best use, but you don’t want your toes curled so much that it’s painful when sitting. Also, if your toes push into each other too much, you likely need a shoe with a wider toe box.
  • Heel: You want to look for any areas of space between your heel and the shoe. The best fit grips your heel on all sides. If your Achilles tendon is experiencing discomfort, then the shoes may be too stiff for you.
  • Stretch: Talk with the representative you’re buying shoes from to learn how much a pair of shoes will stretch. Most climbing shoes will slightly stretch as they mold to your foot. It may be worth it to experience a small amount of pain during the break-in period to have a perfect fit.

My biggest recommendation is to try shoes on in person rather than ordering online. This way, you can find the right fit without having to wait or pay to exchange the shoes. If you only have the option to order climbing shoes online, then my biggest tip is to buy multiple pairs. You can find the right fit by ordering multiple pairs of different sizes without wasting time waiting for shipping. Then, once you find the pair that fits, return the others!


Sizing Tips for Bouldering Shoes


sizing climbing shoes, climbing shoe fit
iwannabeaclimber’s Pat King bouldering at Merchant Rock, Western Australia, in his trust 5.10 climbing shoes


“Do you size up for bouldering shoes?”

Bouldering is the only discipline I can argue about downsizing your climbing shoes. I’m not saying it is necessary to have overly tight shoes, but bouldering is the discipline if you’re going to. Because of the relatively short time spent on the wall, you can remove your shoes after each go to let your feet rest.

Many bouldering-specific shoes have a downturned shape like a banana. This design helps focus the power on the toes, which is crucial for overhanging holds. How aggressive the downturn you decide to use depends on your experience level. The more experienced, the more downturned you’re comfortable with.

Your bouldering shoes should fit snugly to provide maximum precision and sensitivity on footholds. A slight curl in your toes to focus the power, yet not painfully scrunched. Toe hooking is more common in bouldering than any other climbing discipline, so look for shoes with more rubber coverage over the toe area.

The best way to find an excellent bouldering shoe is to try on multiple pairs in multiple sizes. If you can, try the shoes on different holds to see how you feel. If you don’t have the option, try standing on your toes to feel for any dead space on your foot.


Common Climbing Shoe Sizing Mistakes to Avoid


Like many other climbers, I have made many mistakes when sizing my climbing shoes. I want to help you avoid the foot and bank account pain I’ve experienced because I thought I knew more than I did.

  • Sizing too tightly: Sizing your climbing shoes too tightly is a common mistake that only leaves you in pain. Sure, you may be able to stand on tiny footholds, but you can deform your toes if you wear shoes that are too small too often.
  • Not understanding stretch: Synthetic climbing shoes will not stretch as much as leather shoes. If you find a pair of leather shoes that fit well, you may find they’re a bit baggy once you break them in. If you can handle the short amount of discomfort, you can have shoes that will mold your foot shape.
  • Not considering your foot shape: The width of your foot and the size of your arch are essential factors to consider when buying a pair of climbing shoes. If you ignore these aspects and go with the first pair you try on, you could miss out on a shoe that fits your foot better.
  • The type of climbing you’ll be doing: If you’re not planning to climb long overhanging roofs, you don’t need a super aggressive downturned shoe. Many shoe companies have helped climbers avoid this mistake by making an all-around shoe. An all-around shoe that works well on slab, vertical, and slightly overhung routes is somewhat downturned.

The only focus you want on your foot when climbing is where you’re moving it to on the wall. Incorrectly sizing your climbing shoes will draw your focus here rather than moving your body. Remember that not all feet are made equal. This is why there are so many different climbing shoes out there! Considering your foot shape, the type of climbing you plan to do, and how much a shoe will stretch before you buy. You will find exactly what you need by taking the time to properly size your climbing shoes.

sizing climbing shoes, climbing shoe fit

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