how should rock climbing shoes fit/ featured image

How Should Rock Climbing Shoes Fit In 2023 (Video Guide)

Key Takeaways:

  • Choosing the right rock climbing shoes is crucial for comfort and performance.
  • Measurement: Account for foot swelling during climbs.
  • Fit: Ensure a snug fit, allowing for toe spread without overlap.
  • Adjustments: Balance heel and instep tension for edging and comfort.
  • Design: Prioritize snug heel cups and well-fitted tongues.
  • Closure: Choose laces for precision or velcro for ease.
  • Consider factors like foot shape, climbing style, expertise, and terrain when selecting tightness.
  • Always prioritize comfort, especially during extended sessions.

Are you an experienced or beginning climber in search of the perfect fit? With so many shapes, sizes, and styles of rock climbing shoes on the market today, how do you know what’s right for you?

Choosing the right pair of rock climbing shoes is essential to achieving success on your climbing projects.

You meticulously plan each move up the wall, so why not make sure that you’re outfitted with a pair of shoes that will help get you there?

Comfort, durability, friction, and performance all contribute to finding the ideal shoe.

With any purchase, it is important to consider your intended use and what features are important.

In this guide, it will be discussed how should rock climbing shoes fit, by keeping in mind the above-mentioned conditions.

Without further delay, let’s get started.

Tips for fitting climbing shoes

1. Proper Measurement:

Be sure to get your foot measured properly by someone experienced in climbing shoe fitting.

Knowing your size is critical for a proper fit.

If you are between sizes, opt for the larger size as feet swell when you climb and a tighter shoe can be uncomfortable.

For more precise shoe sizing use this simple and free shoe size converter tool.

Rock Climbing shoe size chart/ how should rock climbing shoes fit
Rock Climbing shoe size chart

2. Fit on the Larger Side:

When it comes to climbing shoes, it is always better to make sure you have room in the toe so that the toes do not overlap or rub against one another.

This will maximize your grip and power on small edges and holds on harder climbs since your toes can spread out for a better grip.

3. Heel Tension vs Instep Tension:

Generally speaking, when it comes to fit there are two main tensions you can adjust when tightening your shoes – heel tension or instep tension.

Most climbers typically prefer tight heels because they enable more precise edging than if we had looser-heeled shoes; the heel helps us pull ourselves onto holds carefully when our feet drop off on those difficult moves.

A slightly looser instep should allow some comfort while still providing enough power into every movement on steeper routes or overhanging surfaces as well as helping overall performance as far as fit is concerned (it doesn’t hurt either if long multi-pitches are on order).

4. Heel Cups:

Look for a snug but comfortable heel cup in the back of the shoe that cups the heel around its outline without causing any discomfort (check with staffing at stores too if you are unsure!).

The more snugly that cup fits into place, the less chance it has of slipping – which translates into improved footwork with minimal strain and less fatigue later down the route!

5. Tongue Design/Construction:

Additionally, pay attention to how well-shaped tongues conform all around to avoid any bunching up along sides or laces which could cause slippage.

This also depends on materials used from bootie construction, lacing style, etc, but make sure there’s nothing overly stiffening pressures anywhere causing frictional hotspots!

6. Laces vs Velcro Closures:

Consider whether velcro closures or laces would be best suited for your situation; velcro is generally faster when taking shoes off quickly between climbs or during longer outdoor sessions where natural elements might require an easier way to slip shoes off.

Laces however give more consistency and secure control over exact placement adjustments needed depending on the type of terrain encountered down route!

7. Comfort Factor:

Lastly, most climbers especially advanced climbers prioritize their comfort over other factors because let’s face it – before anything else, we want our feet warm & feeling good after extended hours spent clipping bolts, up steep faces, or even just long hikes out.

Always ensure to buy new soles/same quality replacements should they wear out prematurely due unexpected amount of mileage put through them each session!

How should climbing shoes fit

Properly fitted climbing shoes are integral for performance and avoiding discomfort. Generally speaking, you should expect your climbing shoe to fit like a glove—tight and snug on the heel and toes with just a little extra space in the toe box (the front end of the shoe).

They mustn’t feel too loose or tight anywhere else, as this will impact your performance and likely lead to an uncomfortable experience.

You also want to find a pair of shoes with sufficient support so you have enough control over all types of terrain.

Lastly, make sure that your feet are comfortable and free from any pain or unnecessary strain when wearing them.

Fitting guide

The factors that affect the tightness of climbing shoes

We already know that too big shoes are a no-no, but even snug and tight climbing shoes are not for every climbing situation, or every climber because there are different types of climbing styles, different types of foot shapes, genders, etc. Here are some factors that affect the tightness of your climbing shoes:

1. Foot Shape:

The shape of your foot will play a major role in determining how tight you need your climbing shoes to be.

For example, people with narrow feet should opt for slightly tighter shoes, as a snug fit helps to reduce dead space and give climbers better contact with the rock.

On the other hand, wider feet should opt for climbing shoes that are one size larger than their street shoe size so they can properly expand while climbing without losing performance.

2. Preferred Style of Climbing:

Different styles of climbing require different fits in terms of how tight your climbing shoes should be.

Stiffer bouldering models tend to have less flexibility and thus require a more tight/aggressive shoe compared to approach shoes or crack-climbing models that don’t need such extreme precision.

Furthermore, for overhanging routes or those requiring delicate foot placement, tighter shoes are often beneficial whereas, for slab climbs or multi-pitch routes where comfort is important, slightly looser shoes would be preferable.

3. Terrain

When it comes to climbing steep terrain versus slabby terrain, there needs to be a different combination of stiffness, tension, and fit to perform at an optimal level without compromising on comfort levels.

For steeper sections where more power is required, it can often be beneficial to make the shoes slightly tighter than usual as this will help with edging power by providing extra stability.

4. Level of Expertise

Your experience level will also affect how tight your climbing shoes should be as this will determine if you need maximum precision while placing your feet when navigating difficult subject matter or if a slightly looser fit would suffice due to the less intricate movement being required for easier routes/slabs etc.

An advanced climber familiar with their technique can afford to use tighter fitting shoes that provide better control through foot placement whereas a beginner climber may benefit from wearing looser fitting shoes to gain better sensitivity for developing good technique and learning proper footwork in the rock face environment.

5. Break-in Time

Climbing shoe materials such as leather used in high-performance models require “breaking-in time” to achieve the best fit possible which includes added comfort as well as better performance benefits overall depending upon the given activity involved with the climb (sport-climbing, bouldering, etc.).

Having an appropriate break in time prior before attempting more strenuous activities such as hard crimping handholds will allow the material of leather shoes to form itself around the shape of feet promoting even better precision for challenging projects that involve intricate foot placements on demanding terrain.

7. Comfort vs Performance

When it comes to performance versus comfort, there has long been a debate among climbers as to which factor should take precedence over the other when choosing climbing shoes; however, most will agree that if you want both optimal comfort and performance, then go for shoes with a snug yet comfortable fit.

 8. Gender

Climbing shoe manufacturers often design shoes specifically for men or women according to gender differences in the types of fit they prefer; women’s models are typically narrower across the ball area while those made for men tend to feature wider lasts throughout but particularly in this section around where most anchoring power is generated between your foot and wall contact surface area

9. Brand

Different brands have different standards for their fitting styles, so if you find yourself unsatisfied with one brand’s sizing guidelines then try another until you find your desired fit. Make sure to always do research before buying a new pair of climbing shoes!

10. Environment

Finally, when considering what type of rock or environment you plan on using your shoes in can also affect how tight they need to be fitted!

For instance, if you’re dealing with small crimps or cracks then having extra sensitivity between your body weight pressure points against even shallower edges requires ultra-precise grip control accurate foot precision accuracy.

Ultimately means much more aggressive shoe/ tighter fitted footwear will serve better here than too loose designs preventing any chance of slipping away from these minuscule features!


I hope you liked the above short guide on how should rock climbing shoes fit and the factors affecting the fit of different types of shoes. In Conclusion, for climbing shoes to be well-fitted it comes down to personal preference, comfort level, and design of the shoes.

So. don’t be afraid to try as many shoes as you can until you find the one because at the end of the day when you go on your next climbing adventure having that lucky pair of climbing shoes is more important and I can assure you it will be worth the time spent and the investment.


Should my toes be curled in climbing shoes?

Yes, your toes should be curled in climbing shoes for maximum grip and control on the rock face. This helps to distribute weight evenly and reduces the risk of slipping or losing balance. 
They Should never be overly curled.

Do climbing shoes hurt at first?

Climbing shoes can feel uncomfortable or tight at first, but this is normal as they are designed to fit snugly for better performance. The discomfort usually subsides with regular use as the shoes break in and mold to the shape of the feet.

Are you supposed to wear socks under climbing shoes?

No, it is not recommended to wear socks under climbing shoes. Climbing shoes are meant to fit snugly and wearing socks can affect the fit and cause slipping or discomfort. If additional cushioning is desired, some climbers opt for thin, tight-fitting socks or use a specialized climbing sock liner.

Do rock climbing shoes damage your feet?

Rock climbing shoes can cause temporary discomfort or blisters, but usually do not cause long-term damage to the feet. However, if the shoes do not fit properly, are too tight, or are worn for extended periods, they may cause more serious issues such as bruising, calluses, or foot injuries. Proper fit, use, and care of climbing shoes are crucial for preventing foot damage.

How many days a week should a beginner climb?

As a beginner, it is recommended to climb 2-3 times a week to avoid overuse injuries and allow time for recovery. This frequency also allows for gradual improvement and muscle building while preventing burnout. It is important to listen to your body and adjust your climbing schedule as needed.

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