Rock Climbing Shoes are specifically designed for rock climbing. They feature special, sticky rubber on the sole and rand (a rubber strip that runs around the outside of the shoe just above the sole).
This provides superior friction and grip. A tight fit is essential. Even though rock shoes may be initially uncomfortable, the snug fit is important for standing on tiny edges and the sensitivity required to place the foot on microscopic rugosities.
A loose fit means your toot will be sloppy in the shoe, and that will make your shoe sloppy on the rock. Most people wear their climbing shoes one to two sizes smaller than their street shoes. Many models and styles are available; they can be broken into the two following categories based on construction and performance.
- Board-lasted: Rock shoes built around a stiff midsole are called board-lasted. This means that the edging power of the shoes is provided by the rigid last (the internal structure on the bottom of the shoe). Board-lasted shoes make good all-around shoes because they work well for edging, friction, and cracks. Because they do not require a toe-numbingly tight fit for performance, board-lasted shoes are recommended for climbers who have not developed the foot strength or tolerance for the tighter-fitting slip-lasted versions. Board-lasted shoes are available as high-tops that furnish ankle protection and a bit of support or are low cut to provide greater mobility. Board-lasted shoes are recommended as the first pair of rock shoes for a novice climber.
- Slip-lasted: Rock shoes built around a sock-like last that provides superior sensitivity and performance for steep face climbing are called slip-lasted. Edging power is determined by a tight fit that packs the foot onto the smallest of holds and the strength of the climber’s feet. Slip-lasted shoes are available as slippers or laced versions. They require a degree of foot strength to be used effectively because they do not provide much support. Conversely, as a training tool, slip-lasted shoes are a very effective tool to build foot strength.
Any type of rock shoe requires a proper fit for top performance. Use rock shoes with bare feet or, at most, a thin sock.
Board-lasted shoes ideally fit with the longest toe touching the front of the shoe and the toe box comfortably filled by the foot. “Toes do not have to be buckled over in the shoe. Slip-lasted shoes do require a degree of toe buckling. Some high-performance slip-lasted shoes require a severe, toe-down fit.
They can provide the highest degree of sensitivity and performance in certain situations. This type of shoe takes experience to appreciate and is not for everyone. Though a snug fit is important, remember that a pair of rock shoes are of no use at all if they are too painful to wear, so do not go overboard trying to downsize.