Best Intermediate Climbing Shoes: Level-Up Time!
|Top Pick: La Sportiva Miura|
|Comfort & Performance: Scarpa Vapor V|
|Sport Climbing Powerhouse: Five Ten Anasazi VCS|
|Best for Steep Terrain & Bouldering: Five Ten Hiangle|
They were a beginner’s pair, and — although they were darn comfortable — you don’t want to get them again. They couldn’t keep up with your crushing.
However, you also don’t want aggressive shoes which feel like you’re undergoing a form of modern-day foot binding when wearing them. You want to upgrade to something with higher performance that still has a high level of versatility and comfort.
Here we have compiled a list of shoes which offer the perfect solution to your quandary. These are, in our opinion, the best intermediate climbing shoes on the market today. They are the perfect combination of comfort, versatility, and performance that intermediate-level climbers need.
These shoes will allow you to edge and hook your way to the next level without the intense pain of the highest-performing climbing shoes. They’re also a little easier on the wallet :).
Top Pick: La Sportiva Miura
Most people would not consider the La Sportiva Miura to be a climbing shoe for intermediate climbers. That’s because some of the world’s top climbers have climbed in this shoe (whether bouldering or sport climbing) Indeed, the strongest woman at my local bouldering gym climbs in these shoes, and she projects V10s.
However, the Miura also makes a great intermediate climbing shoe because it is a potent combination of performance and comfort. In our review of the La Sportiva Miura we found it to be incredibly versatile and high-performing. No wonder the Miura has been on the market for over a decade.
The Miura is slightly downturned, but not so much as to be highly uncomfortable. Our reviewer is able to walk around at the climbing gym or crag in these shoes, and she can keep them on for an hour before wanting to take them off. The only con we found in the Miura is that its laces wear quickly and will fray or, in extreme cases, break.
The Miura won’t be as comfortable as a beginner’s shoe, but you’ll get some gnarly performance out of them. You’ll also be able to do every type of climbing in them — bouldering, crack climbing, face climbing, off-width stuff, or whatever rocks your rocks (puns…).
For sizing, we recommend you get your pair 1-1.5 sizes below your street shoe size (in US sizes) since it will stretch lengthwise as you break it in.
Comfort & Performance: Scarpa Vapor V
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The Vapor V is one of Scarpa’s bestsellers for good reason — it’s one heck of a shoe. Much like the Miura, the Vapor V combines performance and comfort into a single package. This is a great ‘gateway shoe’ for climbers or boulderers looking to explore the world of high-performance climbing footwear.
The Vapor V is, at heart, an all-around shoe. It performs well when used for bouldering, crack climbing, face climbing, or gym climbing. It has a flatter sole which will let you wear it for long periods of time without feeling the need to take it off. For that reason, it could also be a good multi-pitch shoe.
The shoe is slightly downturned which gives it good edging and hooking abilities, but at the same time it has the sensitivity and softness of a more comfortable shoe. The Vapor V delivers power to your toes without being painful, and its design works well on the steeper terrain you’ll no doubt be climbing more often.
For sizing, you’ll want to downsize half a size to a full size from your street shoe size (in US sizes). The shoes won’t stretch lengthwise much but will conform better to the shape of your foot over time. Also, know that Scarpa shoes tend to run a little wide so if you have narrow feet then these won’t be the best option for you.
Sport Climbing Powerhouse: Five Ten Anasazi VCS
Our review of the Five Ten Anasazi VCS concluded that this flat-soled shoe is a great combination of comfort and “smedging” (smearing and edging) performance. If you’re an intermediate sport climber, you will love this shoe.
It excels at face climbing, holds its own at crack climbing, and is designed to rock the vertical realm. It’s comfort level also makes it good for multi-pitch routes. Although this shoe isn’t the best for bouldering, you can still boulder in it with success.
The Anasazi VCS’s are also a durable pair of shoes that will hold up for a long time. Our reviewer has climbed in his current pair for over a year and has had no durability issues yet. The rubber is still thick and sticky and the Velcro straps have yet to malfunction.
Unlike the two shoes mentioned above, the Five Ten Anasazi VCS comes with Stealth Onyxx™ rubber which is known for being durable and great at edging. This shoe follows that trend perfectly. Usually, the harder a rubber is the less sticky it is, but this rubber is both hard and sticky, making it one of the top rubbers on the market.
The Anasazi VCS is made of synthetic leather which means it won’t stretch lengthwise. We recommend you get your pair either the same size as your street shoe size or half a size smaller (in US sizes).
Best for Steep Terrain & Bouldering: Five Ten Hiangle
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While the Anasazi VCS is designed more for the vertical realm, the Hiangle is Five Ten’s shoe designed for steeper, more overhung terrain. If you boulder a lot or prefer overhung routes, the Hiangle is a great intermediate shoe for you. It will help you transition to more aggressive, downturned shoes without sacrificing much comfort.
The Hiangle is moderately stiff and has a sole that will allow you to stand on some teeny tiny footholds. Its Stealth C4™ rubber is soft and great for smearing and edging. What’s more, these shoes aren’t just for beginners. Sachi Amma crushed Biographie (AKA Realization), the world’s first 9a+, with the Five Ten Hiangle.
For sizing, you’ll want to get your pair of Hiangle’s 1-1.5 sizes below your street shoe size (in US sizes). The shoes are made out of split-grain leather so they will stretch a bit lengthwise.
Best Women’s Intermediate Climbing Shoes
The above shoes are all men’s shoes. Women tend to have narrower feet than men, so if that’s true for you your feet might not fit well in the above models. Here are the women’s models of the above shoes for those women climbers who need a narrower shoe:
- La Sportiva Miura Women’s
- Scarpa Vapor V Women’s
- Five Ten Anasazi LV (low-volume)
- Five Ten Hiangle Women’s
However, if women’s climbing shoes have fit too narrow on your feet in the past, then try the men’s versions listed above. Men’s climbing shoes are wider and higher volume than women’s shoes with a larger toe box, so if a women’s pair is too snug, the men’s version will probably fit you fine.
How to Choose the Best Intermediate Climbing Shoe for You
If you’re perceptive, you might have picked up on the commonalities between these shoes. They are all both high-performing and relatively comfortable. As an intermediate climber, that is exactly what you want to look for in your next pair of climbing shoes.
In addition, if you think you’ll eventually work your way up to a highly aggressive shoe, then you should look for an intermediate shoe that is slightly downturned. A downturned shoe will help you precisely maneuver your big toe to those microholds and the sticky rubber will help keep you there.
To recap, here is what you should look for when considering an intermediate climbing shoe:
- Slight downturn
Besides the Anasazi VCS’ flat sole, the above shoes match all of these criteria.