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Fitness, Sports

5 best bouldering shoes (Updated 2023)

Bouldering shoes come in all shapes and sizes. Here's a list of the best bouldering shoes that you should try and buy in 2023!

Source: Viarprodesign on Freepik

Hey there, climbers and bouldering buffs! We're about to dive into the best bouldering shoes in 2023. Bouldering isn't just a sport; it's a dance on the rocks, a game of strategy played with gravity. And in this game, your shoes are your secret weapon.

They're the silent partner that helps you grip, balance, and maneuver on those tricky holds. With the right pair, you'll feel like Spider-Man scaling the cityscape - or in our case, conquering those challenging boulder problems.

But let's face it, with so many options out there, picking the right shoes can feel as daunting as a vertical overhang. That's why we're here. Whether you're a seasoned pro with calluses that tell stories of epic ascents, or a newbie whose enthusiasm is as fresh as the rubber on a new pair of shoes, we've got you covered.

In 2023, the bouldering shoe scene has seen some exciting advancements. Think innovative materials that hug your feet like a second skin, soles engineered to give you that extra bit of grip when it seems impossible, and designs so sleek they could win fashion awards. But it's not just about looking good; it's about performance, comfort, and that sweet spot where both meet.

So, lace up (or Velcro up, if that's your style), as we dive into the world of bouldering shoes. We're going to look at what makes a great shoe, break down the best of the best for 2023, and give you the insider scoop on what to pick based on your climbing style and needs.

Ready to find your perfect climbing companion? Let's get started!

What to look for in bouldering shoes

Stepping into the world of bouldering shoes can feel like navigating a maze with all its twists and turns. But fear not! Let's break down the key features to look for, making your choice as smooth as a well-executed heel hook.

Fit and comfort: The foundation of your climb

First things first, let's talk fit. Imagine your shoe as the interface between you and the rock. You want a snug fit, but not so tight that you're dreaming of taking them off with every step. A good rule of thumb? Look for shoes that contour to the shape of your foot, leaving minimal dead space. 

Remember, bouldering involves dynamic movements, so a shoe that feels like a natural extension of your foot can make all the difference. And materials? Leather stretches and molds to your feet, while synthetic holds its shape longer. Choose based on what feels right and aligns with your climbing goals.

Grip and sole: Your secret to sticking those moves

The sole of your bouldering shoe is where the rubber meets the rock – literally. Soles range from thick and durable for beginners to thin and sensitive for those intricate foot placements experienced climbers crave.

The stickier the rubber, the better your grip, but beware, it might wear down faster. It's a balancing act between durability and sensitivity.

Thicker soles offer support and last longer, while thinner ones give you a better feel of the rock but may wear out quicker. Consider your climbing style and frequency when deciding.

Closure systems: A matter of preference

Velcro, laces, or slippers – the choice is yours. Velcro offers ease of slipping on and off between climbs, perfect for those quick bouldering sessions.

Laces, on the other hand, provide a more customizable fit, hugging your foot just right for longer climbs. And slippers? They're all about simplicity and comfort, with a snug fit that's ideal for training sessions or a relaxed day at the crag.

Durability: A long-term climbing companion 

Durability matters. After all, you want your trusty shoes to stick around for many climbs to come. Look for reinforced toe boxes, robust stitching, and quality rubber soles.

These features might add a bit to the price tag, but they're investments in your climbing future. Durable shoes mean fewer replacements, more climbs, and a happier wallet in the long run.

Sensitivity: Feeling the rock beneath you

Last but not least, sensitivity. This is about how well you can feel the rock under your toes. High sensitivity can boost your technique, helping you feel more connected to every nuance of the climb.

It's particularly crucial for advanced climbers tackling complex problems. But remember, more sensitivity often means less cushioning, so consider what your feet can handle.

Source: Instagram @tenayaclimbing

Top 5 bouldering shoes of 2023

Navigating the vast sea of bouldering shoes can be overwhelming, but 2023 has brought some standout models that cater to various needs and preferences. Let's dive into some of the top picks that have been making waves in the climbing community.

1. La Sportiva Theory

Ideal for gym climbers, the La Sportiva Theory has been a popular choice since its introduction. Designed with competition bouldering in mind, it offers a dynamic and fluid climbing experience, particularly for friction slabs or steep overhangs. The shoe's soft forefoot conforms effortlessly to gym volumes, although it may struggle with smaller edges​.

2. Scarpa Drago 

Known for its amazing sensitivity and comfort, the Scarpa Drago is a top pick for indoor bouldering. It features a PCB-tension system that maintains the shoe’s aggressive profile and distributes power throughout your foot. The soft construction makes it ideal for large volumes and friction-dependent moves.

3. La Sportiva Skwama

Versatile and sensitive, the Skwama is excellent for a range of footwork, from edging to smear and friction footwork. It adapts well to both indoor and outdoor bouldering challenges, making it a great "quiver of one" shoe.

4. Scarpa Instinct VS Women’s

Scarpa Instinct VS Women’s is tailored for women, with features like Vibram XS Grip 2 sole and a narrow, lower volume heel. It's excellent for edging and technical footwork, making it a solid choice for bouldering.

5. Tenaya Oasi

Ideal for beginners, the Tenaya Oasi offers a moderate downturn with high asymmetry, suitable for both indoor and outdoor bouldering. It's a vegan-friendly option that provides a supportive and comfortable fit for newcomers to the sport​.

Source: Pexels

Maintenance and care of bouldering shoes

Taking care of your bouldering shoes is crucial for extending their life and maintaining their performance. Here's a practical guide to keeping your trusty climbing partners in tip-top shape:

1. Cleaning and storage

After a climbing session, dirt and sweat can take a toll on your shoes. For cleaning, avoid harsh detergents. A gentle brush and some lukewarm water are usually enough.

Focus on the inside and the rubber soles, where grit and grime accumulate. After cleaning, let them air dry naturally. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources, as they can warp the rubber and the shape of the shoes.

2. Storage and odor control

Proper storage is key. Store your shoes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. A breathable shoe bag can prevent dust accumulation while allowing any residual moisture to evaporate.

For odor control, consider using a shoe deodorizer or simply stuffing them with newspaper to absorb moisture and smell. Avoid using heat or freezing methods for odor control, as these can damage the shoes.

3. Resoling and repairs

Keep an eye on the sole’s wear and tear. Thin spots or holes mean it’s time to consider resoling.

Resoling can significantly extend the life of your shoes and is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than buying a new pair. Also, pay attention to the stitching and velcro straps. Early repairs can prevent more significant damage down the line.


And there we have it, a comprehensive journey through the dynamic world of bouldering shoes in 2023. From the importance of finding the right fit to exploring the latest and greatest models, we've covered a lot of ground. But the crux of the matter? It's all about finding that perfect pair that feels just right for you.

Remember, bouldering shoes are more than just gear; they're your companions on the vertical challenges you choose to tackle. Whether you're scaling indoor walls or exploring the ruggedness of outdoor bouldering, the right shoes can elevate your experience and performance.

As you move forward, keep in mind the tips on maintenance and care. A well-cared-for pair of shoes not only lasts longer but also keeps you climbing confidently. And when the time comes to retire them, do so knowing they've served you well on your climbing adventures.

In conclusion, whether you're a seasoned climber or just starting, the journey to finding the perfect bouldering shoes is a unique and personal one. Trust your instincts, consider the technical aspects, and most importantly, enjoy the process. After all, every great climb begins with a single step, and in this case, that step is in a pair of well-chosen bouldering shoes. Happy climbing!

Read next: Bouldering: How it differs from rock climbing and the top 6 bouldering gyms in Singapore


Friska 🐨

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How should bouldering shoes fit?

Bouldering shoes should fit snugly without causing pain. Your toes should be flat or slightly curled, and there should be minimal dead space. The fit can vary based on the shoe's material, as leather tends to stretch more than synthetic materials.

2. How long do bouldering shoes typically last?

The lifespan of bouldering shoes varies depending on usage frequency, climbing style, and shoe quality. On average, with regular use, shoes may last between 6 months to a year before needing resoling or replacement.

3. What’s the difference between bouldering shoes and regular climbing shoes?

Bouldering shoes often have more aggressive designs with a downturned toe and heel tension for precise movements. Regular climbing shoes might be flatter and more comfortable for longer climbs.

4. Are there specific shoes for indoor vs. outdoor bouldering?

Some shoes are better suited for indoor or outdoor bouldering based on the rubber type and sole thickness. Indoor shoes often focus on grip and sensitivity, while outdoor shoes prioritize durability and support.


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