Best Sport Climbing Shoes: The Top 5 of 2019
|Top Pick: La Sportiva Genius|
|Best Value: Evolv Shaman|
|Most Comfortable: Five Ten Anasazi VCS|
|Most Versatile: La Sportiva Katana Lace|
|Best for Big Walls: La Sportiva TC Pro|
Whatever your situation may be, we’ve put together a list of the best sport climbing shoes for both men and women (click here for women’s picks) to help you pick one that is right for you.
These climbing shoes are all designed to handle the demands of even the toughest sport climbing routes. Though we have, when appropriate, mentioned the situations in which a particular shoe excels, you couldn’t go wrong with any of these options.
- Top Pick: La Sportiva Genius
- Best Value: Evolv Shaman
- Most Comfortable: Five Ten Anasazi VCS
- Most Versatile: La Sportiva Katana Lace
- Best for Big Walls: La Sportiva TC Pro
- Best Women’s Sport Climbing Shoes
- How to Choose the Best Sport Climbing Shoes for You
Top Pick: La Sportiva Genius
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La Sportiva generated a lot of hoopla when they announced the arrival of their newest climbing shoe, the La Sportiva Genius. It was, they claimed, to be the highest performing shoe in their line-up with the most advanced technology.
Since being made available for purchase, the Genius has lived up to its expectations. It is already considered one of the best climbing shoes for sport climbing and bouldering, contending with and — in the minds of many — winning against other powerhouse La Sportiva climbing shoes such as the Futura.
The shoe’s No-Edge technology allows you a high degree of sensitivity. It also means that, rather than edging on holds, you essentially “smedge” your way up the wall. Surprisingly, you actually stick to holds doing this, in part thanks to Vibram XS Grip2 rubber, a compound that is soft and sticky.
The only downside of the Genius could well be its high price. Beyond that, this shoe excels at all styles and angles of climbing. Some of its features make us think it’s designed more for sport climbing than bouldering, but it can actually do both at the highest levels.
I personally also think La Sportiva nailed the design on this shoe. You’ll get some definite style points for it at the climbing gym, not to mention shoe envy from all the climbing gear heads.
Best Value: Evolv Shaman
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For those of you who want a lot of climbing performance for your dollars, the Evolv Shaman is a great sport climbing shoe at a great value.
The Shaman is usually thought of more as a high-level bouldering shoe, but this notion doesn’t tell the whole story. A better way to think of the Shaman is as a shoe that excels on steep and overhung terrain. Whether sport climbing or bouldering on an overhung route or problem, the Shaman will enable you to hook and edge on all the different shapes, sizes, and angles of footholds you encounter.
Chris Sharma designed the Shaman and now top climbers such as Kai Lightner are using it to send some of their hardest climbs. The shoe is relatively comfortable given its aggressive nature and fits climbers with normal-width to wide feet well.
Note that the Shaman is mostly made out of synthetic materials so it won’t stretch too much. Keep that in mind when picking a size.
Most Comfortable: Five Ten Anasazi VCS
The Anasazi VCS is a classic sport climbing shoe that has been in the Five Ten line up for a long time (a testament to its popularity). The shoe is flat-soled so it is surprisingly comfortable by climbing shoe standards and most at home on vertical terrain.
In performance terms, the Anasazi VCS is great at edging and smearing. It is best designed for face climbing but can also be used for crack climbing. The face climbing ability combined with the comfort factor make the Anasazi VCS arguably one of the best multi-pitch climbing shoes on the market today.
The only area we found lacking was the shoe’s toe hooking ability. However, toe hooking is a rare move to begin with and even rarer in vertical sport climbing, so you likely won’t experience much of an issue.
The shoe fits wider feet well, as do many shoes in the Five Ten lineup. While the shoe isn’t designed for the overhung realm you can use it with success (I know three people who boulder with it) but note that it doesn’t have the talon-like hooking ability of a more downturned shoe.
Most Versatile: La Sportiva Katana Lace
If you’re looking for one of the best sport climbing shoes that you can also use for bouldering and trad climbing, the Katana Lace is a top option. The shoe can keep up with the most diverse climbing appetites while all the time maintaining a high level of performance.
The Katana Lace’s edging, smearing, and hooking abilities are great for slab and vertical face climbing. The laces and rubber are well-suited for crack climbing. Lastly, the downturn (which is greater than the image leads you to believe) and asymmetrical toe box are key to high performance when bouldering or climbing overhung sport routes.
The only noticeable chink in the shoe’s well-rounded armor is its toe hooking ability, which is average. Otherwise, the Katana Lace excels.
To learn more about this shoe, read our full La Sportiva Katana Lace review.
Best for Big Walls: La Sportiva TC Pro
Might the TC Pro be one of the best big wall climbing shoes? We certainly think so, and its claim was heavily bolstered when Tommy Caldwell, the shoe’s designer and namesake, climbed the Dawn Wall in them earlier this year. In short, this shoe can tackle the biggest of the big.
The TC Pro also comes with features that make it great for trad climbing. It has laces and a nice coating of rubber that protects your feet while they’re inside cracks. The shoe also sports ankle flaps for even more protection. The rubber, Vibram XS Edge, is a nice semi-sturdy compound that is pliable without being too soft — ideal for cracks.
The TC Pro has a sole which lies mostly flat so you can wear the shoe for long periods of time before feeling much discomfort. As you could imagine, this feature is conducive to big wall climbing since you’ll be in your shoes for a good while.
If you’d like to know more, you can read our full review.
Best Women’s Sport Climbing Shoes
The above sport climbing shoes are all men’s or unisex versions. If you’re a woman looking for a top sport climbing shoe, here are our recommendations:
- Evolv Shaman LV (LV = low-volume)
- Five Ten Anasazi LV
- La Sportiva Miura Women’s (similar to the Katana Lace)
- La Sportiva Solution Women’s (designed for high-level bouldering but performs well on steep sport routes, too)
How to Choose the Best Sport Climbing Shoes for You
Appropriate Level of Downturn
Downturned (AKA “aggressive) climbing shoes help you use your foot like a talon to snag footholds on overhung routes and problems. If you do lots of sport climbing or bouldering on overhung routes or problems, then it’d be worth your time to consider a downturned shoe. The downside of a downturned climbing shoe is that it can be uncomfortable.
However, if you mostly climb on vertical or only slightly overhung faces, you could probably get away with a flatter, less aggressive climbing shoe. Consider the types of routes you climb or want to climb and then buy a climbing shoe with the appropriate level of downturn.
Sport routes often involve lots of face climbing. On faces you need to be able to place your toes on tiny edges and have them stick. For that reason, arguably the most important performance category to consider when buying a sport climbing shoe is its edging ability.
All of the above shoes are great at edging, which is partially what makes them some of the best shoes for sport climbing. The La Sportiva Genius is unique, though, since it comes with La Sportiva’s No-Edge technology. This means you don’t really edge in the Genius, rather you “smedge” (a combination of the words “smear” and “edge”). The end results of smedging, though, are similar to edging — your foot ends up sticking to the tiny nubs on the wall.
Your Preferred Fit & Closure Style
Beyond edging ability and an appropriate level of downturn, pick the shoe that fits your foot and suits your preferences. If you like velcro straps, pick a shoe with velcro straps (such as the Shaman or Anasazi VCS). If you like laces, go with a lace-up climbing shoe (such as the Genius, Katana Lace, or TC Pro).
Also, make sure the sport climbing shoe you decide upon will fit your foot well. Some brands fit wider feet well while others fit narrower feet well. Of the shoes above, the Shaman and Anasazi VCS fit wider feet better while all the La Sportiva options fit narrower feet better. If you have normal-width feet, you could probably fit your foot into any of them.