The Importance of Proper Shoe Sizing for Climbing

If you’re passionate about climbing, you’re probably aware that having the right gear is crucial to your success and safety. Among all the equipment climbers need, shoes play a vital role in your overall performance on the wall or rock face. Choosing properly sized climbing shoes can make a significant difference in your comfort level, technique, and overall enjoyment while climbing.

Understanding Climbing Shoe Sizes

Unlike regular footwear where sizes generally follow standard measurements, climbing shoe sizing can be quite different. Climbing shoes are typically designed with a snug fit to provide better sensitivity and control when tackling difficult holds or cracks.

Climbers often find that they need to downsize their shoes compared to their regular street shoe size. This is because snug-fitting shoes allow for more precision and minimize any movement between foot and sole. However, downsizing too much can also cause discomfort during extended use or lead to unnecessary pain.

Finding the Perfect Fit

Finding the perfect fit may require some trial and error as each brand offers slightly different sizing options. Here are some guidelines:

1. Start by Measuring Your Feet

Before purchasing new climbing shoes online or visiting a store, measure both feet accurately using a ruler or measuring tape. Note that feet may not always be perfectly symmetrical; therefore, it’s essential to measure both individually.

2. Consider Your Intended Use

Climbing disciplines vary greatly – from bouldering to trad climbing – with specific techniques calling for different styles of footwear such as slip-lasted vs board-lasted construction or downturned vs neutral shape. Some types of climbs might benefit from tighter fitting shoes than others – take this into account when selecting your shoe size.

3. Try Different Sizes and Brands

Given the variation in climbing shoe sizes, it’s always recommended to try on different pairs before making a purchasing decision. Visit a local store or order multiple sizes online if you can’t find them locally.


  • The shape of your foot (narrow, wide, high arches)
  • The type of climbing you’ll be doing (overhangs vs slabs)

Determining the Right Fit

When trying on climbing shoes, keep the following tips in mind:

A Snug Heel Cup

Your heel should fit securely without any excessive movement that could affect performance or cause discomfort.

No Excessive Dead Space

Your toes should reach the end of the shoe but not be painfully bent. A small gap between your big toe and the front of the shoe is acceptable for better control and precision.

Giving Your Climbing Shoes a Test Run

Note: Avoid using brand new shoes on long climbs immediately as they may require some time to break-in comfortably. Wearing them around at home or during shorter sessions will help them mold to your feet better before embarking on longer climbs.

Caring for Your Climbing Shoes

Climbing shoes are subjected to rough conditions and constant wear, so proper care can significantly extend their lifespan:

Drying After Use

To prevent odor buildup and maintain freshness, ensure your shoes dry thoroughly after each session. Remove any dirt or debris stuck in crevices with a soft brush or damp cloth.


Avoid leaving your climbing shoes in hot or humid areas, as this can deteriorate the glue holding them together. Store them in a cool and dry place to maintain their quality over time.


If you have a favorite pair of climbing shoes that are showing signs of wear, consider getting them resoled rather than immediately purchasing new ones. Resoling can be more cost-effective and sustainable while still prolonging the life of your beloved climbing footwear.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right size for your climbing shoes is essential for both performance and comfort during your climbs. Take the time to measure your feet accurately, try on different sizes and brands, and pay attention to how they fit before making a purchase decision. Remember that each climber’s foot shape and preferences differ, so what works for someone else may not work for you. Don’t rush the process – finding those perfect-fitting shoes will greatly enhance your overall climbing experience!