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This past weekend, my wife and I made our first attempt at indoor rock climbing at our local gym. We both loved it and want to get into the sport. It became immediately apparent that we need to invest in climbing shoes. That’s where the dilemma lies. My shoe size is 16 and the gym only offered 15. I tried it on and it was so small on me that I feel like I may need a 17 or possibly even an 18. I’ve done a bit of searching online and can’t find any website or company that offers anything larger than a 15. Can you help direct me to the best resource for finding climbing shoes that will fit me?
Thanks for the question, Aaron. As the wearer of size 13 shoes (sometimes 14, depending on the brand), I’m familiar with the struggles of finding shoes to fit my flippers.
However, finding size 16 shoes is in a league of difficulty of its own. And climbing shoes tend to run small which doesn’t help. When I first read your question I wasn’t too sure there were any climbing shoes out there that’d fit you.
I did some digging though, and found that in fact there are climbing shoes available for size 16 feet.
I go in more depth about each option below, but here is the quick answer. At the time of publishing, these are the five available options that I’d recommend you — and other beginner climbers — consider, ranked from most to least recommended:
- Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym — available up to size 15, stretches a full size after break-in
- Scarpa Helix — available up to size 50 Euro (16-17 US)
- Scarpa Origin — available up to size 50 Euro (16-17 US)
- Mad Rock Agama — available up to size 16
- Mad Rock Agama Yellow — available up to size 16
To come up with this list, I visited the sites of popular climbing shoe brands as well as three popular sites that sell outdoor gear — Amazon, Backcountry, and REI — to see which sizes were available.
The Anasazi VCS is a great shoe, but it’s pricey. I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners based on price alone, but it is a viable option. You can find accounts online of climbers downsizing a full shoe size (or more) in them, so they theoretically could fit your feet. However, in our review of the Anasazi VCS our tester recommended downsizing a half size at most.
For the Rogue Lace and Rogue VCS, Five Ten states on their product pages that both versions “will stretch about a half-size.” Sounds like they won’t stretch enough for your purposes.
As for the the Anasazi Moccasym, Five Ten notes, “[t]he unlined leather upper will stretch up to a full size over time, molding to your foot as it becomes soft and supple.” Many online accounts corroborate this statement. They’ll be uncomfortable at first, but once you’ve broken them in (it generally takes 2-3 weeks of consistent climbing) they’ll be, as Gear Institute noted, “one of the most comfortable slippers on the market.”
Bottom line: A pair of size 15 Anasazi Moccasyms is relatively affordable by climbing shoe standards, and after a break-in period of 2-3 weeks they should have stretched around a full size and be comfortable enough for you to wear for extended periods of time.
On Backcountry as well as on Scarpa’s site, I found Scarpa climbing shoes available at sizes up to 50 Euro (16-17 US). Some of the options — the Instinct VS, for instance — are in my opinion too advanced, uncomfortable, and expensive for your purposes. I generally recommend beginner climbers start with shoes that are affordable and uncomfortable but not painful.
There were two options available in size 50 that are worth considering for beginners — the Helix (a popular beginner’s shoe) and the Origin. I haven’t worn either of these shoes myself but they are cheaper than the Moccasym so if you’d like cheaper alternatives, consider these.
Two shoes from Mad Rock, the Agama and Agama Yellow, are also worth a look. They’re available from Mad Rock’s site at sizes up to 16 and retail at the time of publishing for a price that’s hard to beat.
These shoes were recently released so we haven’t tested either of them out yet and online reviews are currently few and far between, making it difficult to know whether to upsize or downsize. If you decide on one of these options, buy from somewhere that offers free returns.