Wow! What a subject. Yes, it’s a long and broad and deep one! Then there are laces vs. slippers vs. velcro… Flat lasted or aggressive? How aggressive? Beginner, intermediate, or advanced? Which brand fits you best? For what purpose – trad and big wall or sport climbing or bouldering? Indoor or outdoor? With what kind of rubber? Leather, synthetic, or both for the upper? Lined or unlined? Low volume shoe or high? What size in what brand? How much are they going to stretch when they break in? These are all considerations for the buyer of a new pair of climbing shoes… Sounds a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it? Well, it is. I can confirm that!!!
It’s all based on your individual pair of feet. Most of the time, you can find knowledgeable staff at a climbing gym that can help you fit your shoes if you can tell them what kind of climbing you want to do and what your climbing experience level is. They can measure your foot and, if they have your size, you can even try them out on the wall at most places to make sure they feel right. You can try on different pairs of shoes, of course, and it’s always – ALWAYS – a good idea to see how they feel on the wall if possible. Another good strategy, if you’re a complete beginner, is to climb in some rental shoes and get your size dialed in a bit. By climbing in the rental shoes, which are already broken in in a lot of cases, you can get a better idea of what size you need in the brand of climbing shoe that the rentals are. That gives you a starting point. Your climbing shoes are going to be tight on your feet. Very snug, at the very least. You need to be able to stand on small holds with your toes, so your big toes are likely going to be a bit curled in the ends of the shoes if they’re in the ballpark of being the right size. Now, there’s a lot of trial and error in finding the right pair of shoes for you. The reason is that all of the variables in the introductory paragraph of this post exist and are very real. Each question must be answered to get a proper fit and a great experience on the rock! You may find more than one pair that you like, and climbers often have different shoes for different types of climbing. That’s all determined by trying the shoes out and getting some experience with what you like as far as climbing shoes and fit go. Function is important, too, but if you don’t have the right fit, function is NOT going to follow! Climbing shoes can’t be sloppy and loose on your feet. They are likely going to be at least a half to a full size smaller than your street shoes in order to fit properly. Again, a more experienced climber or a competent climbing gym staff member can help you find a brand, a model, and a good fit for you.