Best Bouldering Shoes: The Top 5 of 2018

Click here for the best women’s bouldering shoes.

Bouldering ShoeRetail Price
Top Pick: La Sportiva Solution$$$
Best for Wide Feet: Evolv Shaman$$
Super Sensitive Slip-on: Five Ten Team 5.10$$
Most Versatile: La Sportiva Miura VS$$$
Classic Lace-up: Five Ten Dragon$$
Bouldering gyms, which were virtually nonexistent 20 years ago, are popping up all over the country. Ascents of V15s and V16s are among the most watched climbing videos on YouTube. Shoe companies are scrambling to come out with their versions of climbing shoes designed specifically for bouldering.

In other words, bouldering is growing in popularity, and boulderers are looking for shoes that can keep up with the demands of the sport.

For that reason, we have listed here the best bouldering shoes available today. These shoes crush the small stones and excel on the most overhung terrain.

Top Pick: La Sportiva Solution

The La Sportiva Solution climbing shoeFor proof that the La Sportiva Solution is the climbing shoe which will allow you to boulder at your absolute limit, just think about your local climbing or bouldering gym… what shoes are the best boulderers wearing? I’d venture to say that, as with my bouldering gym, the strongest climbers most frequently wear a pair of Solutions.

What’s more, not just gym rats but the top boulderers in the world — such as Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, Nalle Hukkataival — all wear Solutions. Even free soloist extraordinaire Alex Honnold wears them. They do so with good reason, too, because the shoes are designed to excel at bouldering. Or, as La Sportiva puts it on their website, the Solution is “purposely built to provide the solution for modern bouldering problems.”

The shoe edges and hooks incredibly well, and its downturn helps it retain this ability even on the steepest and most overhung terrain. There is a gob of rubber above the toes that makes the shoe good for toe hooking and the heel is well-designed for tough heel hooks.

As for specs, the Solution also comes with a top rubber, Vibram XS Grip2, which is soft and super sticky. The softness affords the wearer a high degree of sensitivity so you can feel exactly where your foot is on the wall or rock. The shoe’s P3 Midsole helps it maintain its downturn for its entire life so it will never flatten out no matter how many times you smear.

Best for Wide Feet: Evolv Shaman

The Evolv Shaman is a great climbing shoe for people with wide feet The Solution is our top pick, but keep in mind that the best shoe for you will be the one that fits your foot best. If you have a wide foot, La Sportiva shoes will probably not fit it since they tend to run narrow. However, it’s your lucky day, because, alternatively, some brands tend to run wider! One of those brands is Evolv, and there top bouldering shoe is the Evolv Shaman.

Have you ever heard of Chris Sharma? You know, one of the best climbers of the past decade or so? Well he worked with Evolv personally to design the Shaman from the ground up to be the top shoe for climbing steep and overhung terrain. The Shaman is so well-designed it even won Climbing magazine’s Editor’s Choice award in 2012.

But the Shaman isn’t a top bouldering shoe because Chris Sharma designed it. No, it’s a top bouldering shoe because it edges and hooks at a world-class level and contains some of the stickiest rubber found in climbing shoes. And, although it might look frighteningly downturned, the shoe is known for being surprisingly comfortable. For those reasons, the Shaman gets our pick as the best bouldering shoe for wide feet.

Super Sensitive Slip-on: Five Ten Team 5.10

The Five Ten Team 5.10 climbing shoeIf you prefer a shoe with the most glove-like fit possible, this slip-on shoe from Five Ten is for you. Don’t get the Team 5.10 for its comfort factor, because it only fits one way — tight. However, with the tightness you get some insane performance.

The Team 5.10, like other climbing shoes designed for bouldering, is aggressively downturned and great at hooking on overhung holds. The Team 5.10 is often thought to be the best climbing shoe for toe hooking on the market. It also edges, heel hooks, and fits into pockets as well as other high-performing shoes. Lastly, the Stealth HF rubber is soft and sticky compound which makes the shoe incredibly sensitive and, despite its downturn, good at smearing.

For sizing, the shoes fit tightly so many people get them either the same size as their street shoe size or half a size below it. The upper material is made out of a synthetic material so they won’t stretch lengthwise much.

Most Versatile: La Sportiva Miura VS

The La Sportiva Miura VS climbing shoeThe above shoes are designed mostly for bouldering, and have a difficult time performing at high levels in other types of climbing. If you’re looking for a shoe which will let you boulder insane problems and do other styles of climbing, the La Sportiva Miura VS could be your perfect match.

The Miura VS is another top climbing shoe with all the necessary features to be great at bouldering. The Velcro shoe is aggressively downturned, slightly less than the Solution, and also has the P3 Midsole to help it retain its downturn.

Its asymmetrical toe box and Vibram XS Edge rubber make it one of the best climbing shoes for edging. It heel hooks exceptionally and only really lacks performance when it comes to toe hooking. Besides that, it smears well for its aggressive build and also fits into pockets well.

The Miura VS is not without pro backing, either. Adam Ondra wore a Miura VS on his right foot when climbing Terranova, V16 (and was able to stick an incredibly hard heel hook with it). For those who are interested, he wore the La Sportiva Futura on his left foot, presumably because the problem demanded it or his feet are slightly different shapes and the Futura fits his left foot better.

Full review: La Sportiva Miura VS

Classic Lace-up: Five Ten Dragon

The Five Ten Dragon climbing shoeClimbing shoes designed for bouldering usually favor the quick on and off functionality of Velcro straps, but some people simply prefer laces. They allow for a much more customizable fit, after all.

If you are on team lace-ups, then check out the Five Ten Dragon. The shoe was designed by two bouldering greats, Dave Graham and Fred Nicole, and has acquired a legion of loyal fans over the years. Nowadays, professional climbers like Alex Puccio wear the shoe when bouldering (see the picture linked below).

The shoes aggressive downturn and Stealth HF (high friction) rubber make it ideal for bouldering and steep and overhung sport climbing. The shoes edges, hooks, and fits into pockets exceptionally well. It also has incredible sensitivity

Five Ten shoes usually run a little wide, but the Dragon is better suited for normal-width feet. Also, the upper material is a synthetic leather which means the shoe won’t stretch much, if at all, lengthwise.

Best Women’s Bouldering Shoes

All of the above shoes are men’s or unisex shoes, but what if you’re a female boulderer? You can go for one of the above options, though know that sizing might be a little tricky. Or, you can pick one off this list of top women’s bouldering shoes:

How to Choose the Best Bouldering Shoes for You

Hooking & Edging Ability

These are two performance features the top bouldering shoes need to excel at. Bouldering at your limit requires you to edge on dime-sized holds and hook on angled rock. Without these abilities… you’ll be struggling to boulder at your limit.

Downturn

In order for a shoe to be good at hooking on overhung terrain, it needs to be downturned. A downturned climbing shoe has a sole that is concave, making the shoe have a curved, hook- or talon-like appearance. In essence, that’s what the downturn is meant to do — act as a hook that lets you snag holds on an overhanging face. So, that’s why all the shoes above have a downturn… they must in order to perform well on bouldering terrain.

Velcro Straps (Recommended)

This is an optional feature to look for. Climbing shoes with Velcro straps work well for bouldering because they are easy to get in and out, and that’s exactly what you’ll want to be doing with your tight, aggressive shoes. In the gym or at the crag, you’ll want to try your project a couple times and then take your shoes off to let your feet breathe and toes relax.

Uncomfortable Fit 😉

I’m just kidding… this isn’t a requirement of your high-performance bouldering shoes, but it is quite common. Don’t be surprised when they are painful at first and break-in to be mildly uncomfortable. There’s a reason “climber’s feet” is a thing.

Questions & Answers

Climbing shoes vs bouldering shoes… what’s the difference? Well, let’s get one thing straight — bouldering shoes ARE climbing shoes. There are technically no such things as bouldering shoes, there are simply climbing shoes which are designed to excel at bouldering. Climbing shoes that are designed to be good at bouldering have the above features plus some other technical bells and whistles that make them perform highly on steep and overhung terrain.

What are the best bouldering shoes for beginners? There are no bouldering-specific beginner shoes because beginner shoes aren’t specialized. A beginner shoe, instead, needs to be comfortable, well-rounded, and cheap. If you’re looking for your first pair of climbing/bouldering shoes, here are the best options.

What makes the above options the best bouldering shoes? For starters, they have all the features that a climbing shoes needs to make it great at bouldering: a downturned sole and hooking and edging ability. Also, most of them have Velcro closure styles. Besides that, they all contain some of the top rubbers on the market, are sensitive and durable, and can climb on some of the steepest terrain in the world.


Photo Credit: Amazon

About the Author:

Alex is the owner and editor of 99Boulders and has been testing and reviewing outdoor gear since 2015. He just got back into climbing after wrist surgery, so when he's not working on the site he can be found at the climbing gym training hard to regain all the strength he lost while injured.