Your first pair is wearing out, but your skill level has increased. Now, you’re searching for the best intermediate climbing shoes. We’re here to help you find them.
We researched the best climbing shoes for intermediate climbers. As a rule, we looked for shoes suitable for climbing moderates from v4 to v7 and 5.8 to 5.10. These include styles for bouldering, trad, and sport climbing. We included shoes that pro climbers wear.
What specifically did we look for? We assessed performance, comfort, and downturn. Let’s talk a little bit more about how to select the right intermediate climbing shoes.
- 1 Tips for choosing climbing shoes
- 2 How to get the best fit for your climbing shoes
- 3 Best Intermediate Climbing Shoes in 2023
- 3.1 SCARPA Mens Arpia Climbing Shoes
- 3.2 Scarpa Men’s Vapor V Climbing Shoe
- 3.3 Five Ten Men’s Anasazi VCS Rock Climbing Shoes
- 3.4 Five Ten Hiangle Men’s Climbing Shoes
- 3.5 SCARPA Veloce Climbing Shoe – Women’s
- 3.6 Evolv Kronos Climbing Shoe
- 3.7 La Sportiva Men’s Miura Climbing Shoe
- 3.8 SCARPA Instinct VS Climbing Shoe – Women’s
- 3.9 La Sportiva Otaki
- 4 Conclusion
Tips for choosing climbing shoes
You may have considered these points before, but just in case it’s been a while, here’s a refresher.
- Type of sport
What type of climbing will you be doing with the shoes?
If it’s bouldering, it’s smart to have an aggressive downturn with high sensitivity. But you’ll still want a good amount of rubber around the toes and heels. Moreover, you’ll be looking for narrow shoes, not wide ones like those used for alpine.
If it’s trad, look for climbing shoes with a relaxed fit, a stiff midsole, and laces. You won’t need much rubber or a steep downturn unless you’ll be doing steep climbs. Be sure to double-check that there’s enough ankle protection, however.
For sport climbing, make sure the shoes fit tightly in the heel and lace-up snug. They need to be stiff with a moderate downturn.
By the time you’re an intermediate climber, you already know that you need shoes that fit your foot exactly. If you’ll be bouldering or rock climbing indoors, it helps to have a snug fit so that your toes will touch the front and will be slightly curled.
Do you know what else will affect the fit? The material, whether it’s leather, synthetic, or a mixture. Leather will stretch up to a full-size, but lined leather will not stretch as much.
Also, there’s the rubber. The thickness determines how well you can feel the rock, but it also affects how fast the shoes were out. Plus, is it sticky enough?
It’s also time to consider how aggressive a downturn you need. Get advice from other climbers about the routes you intend to conquer. That curved sole will give you an advantage when perching.
Finally, it’s crucial to think about the type of closure, whether laces, Velcro, or slip-on. Obviously, slippers are the easiest. Although Velcro is more convenient, laces ensure a better fit. Fortunately, many climbing shoes offer more than one type of closure.
In the reviews below, we’ve included both men’s and women’s intermediate climbing shoes. In most cases, the same model shoe is available for both genders. Focus on the fit and the features, and don’t worry about the gender designation.
How to get the best fit for your climbing shoes
Did you know that your feet are likely to be bigger in the afternoon? Shop for shoes later in the day, and you’ll likely get a better fit. Consider going sockless with your new climbing shoes to prevent slippage. If you must wear socks, you might settle on a shoe that’s a half-size larger.
If it’s a lace-up shoe, loosen the lace completely. Once your foot is inside, then tighten the laces from the beginning to the top. Check that your toes are slightly bent at the knuckles. You don’t need the shoe to be painfully tight, just snug.
Of course, your best bet is to try on the shoes in person. But if you are patient enough to wait for shipping, choose a shop online that accepts returns. Then you can try them and return what doesn’t fit. To save time, purchase multiple pairs and return the ones you don’t need.
Lastly, different brands are known to be wider or narrower. They also cater to different toe shapes. If your big toe is the longest, consider going with Scarpa or La Sportiva. These brands are also good for narrow heels. If your second toe is the longest, try Five Ten.
Best Intermediate Climbing Shoes in 2023
Now, let’s get started with reviews of the best intermediate climbing shoes.
SCARPA Mens Arpia Climbing Shoes
Competition climbers love the Scarpa Arpia. It’s sensitive with good support on small holds, making it ideal for sport climbing overhangs and bouldering.
It’s only got a slight downturn, but that keeps pressure off the foot. Therefore, it’s surprisingly comfortable yet still boosts performance. The stiff front and soft midsole are perfect. The midsole is only 1.5mm thick, allowing you to feel everything.
The 3.5mm-thick sole is sticky, with a rearfoot that smears well. Watch out because the rubber wears out fast even though it’s Vibram. On the other hand, the toe rand protects the front part of the foot very well.
The microsuede uppers have a 3-point Velcro closure for easy on and off. They won’t stretch much because the suede is designed to keep its shape longer than leather. Consider getting a pair that’s one to one and a half sizes smaller than your street shoes.
How does the Arpia compare to other climbing shoes from Scarpa? Well, it’s a little less durable but quite similar to the Veloce. It’s more aggressive than the Force V and softer than the Vapor V.
Scarpa Men’s Vapor V Climbing Shoe
The Vapor V is surprisingly comfortable and sensitive, sporting a moderate downturn. It’s often worn by boulderers and climbers who are upgrading from their beginner climbing shoes.
These shoes will allow you to trust your toes on small holds, but they won’t smear quite as well as the Arpia. In any case, they’re great for crack climbing, face climbing, and gym climbing.
They have a slight downturn for hooking and edging, but they aren’t hard on the toes. They’re especially nice for those with wide feet. Be sure to choose at least a half size smaller and up to a full-size from your street shoes.
They have a 3.5mm Vibram sole and a microsuede upper like the Arpia. The midsole is 1.5mm.
Five Ten Men’s Anasazi VCS Rock Climbing Shoes
If you’re a sport climber that loves going vertical, check out the Anasazi VCS. They are versatile, with excellent edging performance. They smear well and have a superior grip on slab, too.
Moreover, these are vegan shoes made in the USA. The uppers are Cowdura with a hook and loop (Velcro) closure. They have a wide toe box that’s not ideal for bouldering, but you can still use them for that purpose.
Users say they are very comfortable for multi-pitch routes and better at heal hooking than Five Ten’s Rogues. They are also very durable, with the rubber remaining sticky long-term. That’s not surprising as it’s proprietary Stealth Onyx rubber.
If you’re not familiar with the Five Ten brand, get to know them. They design shoes for, as they put it, “the world’s most dangerous sports”.
Five Ten Hiangle Men’s Climbing Shoes
Bouldering on overhung terrain? Then you need a climbing shoe with a tight fit and aggressive toe. The Hiangle fit the bill as they shine on small footholds and overhangs. Yes, you’ll feel the difference as they won’t be as comfortable as your beginner shoes.
But on the bright side, the stiff toebox and sole will let you stand on tiny footholds. Plus, the Stealth C4 rubber is just what you need for edging and smearing.
Look at Sachi Amma who conquered the world’s first 9a+ while wearing them.
The uppers are 100% split-grain leather. They are unlined and will stretch up to half a size, so get a pair at least one to one and a half sizes smaller than your regular shoes. There is a Velcro closure system to keep them secure yet easy to take on and off.
SCARPA Veloce Climbing Shoe – Women’s
We love the Veloce for gym climbing. These shoes have a 1.0mm Flexan midsole with microsuede uppers. But what’s unique about them is the new S-72 rubber. The stiff rubber front is 4mm thick.
The S-72 is extra-durable but sticky enough to adhere to small footholds. Users say it also smears well.
The 3-point closure system is secure yet convenient for taking them on and off. It’s a perfect match for the roomier toe box when you want a comfortable shoe to wear for long periods of time.
Choose shoes that are at least one size smaller, or one and a half if you don’t wear socks. Keep in mind that the lined suede uppers won’t stretch much, if at all.
Evolv Kronos Climbing Shoe
We’ve seen the Evolv Kronos described as the best all-around indoor climbing shoes. They go head-to-head with the Scarpa Veloce. Still, if you prefer bouldering, stick with the Veloce.
The Kronos have a slight downturn with a supportive midsole, making them a suitable upgrade for climbing steeper walls.
They feature the highly textured Trax SAS rubber made for indoor use. It’s 4.25mm thick, super sticky, and durable. It wraps around the front and back, improving toe and heel hooks alike.
Also, take a look at the closure on them. It’s a single buckle with a cinch-pull strap.
La Sportiva Men’s Miura Climbing Shoe
The Miura has been worn by some of the world’s top boulderers and sport climbers over the past decade. So why would we recommend it for intermediate climbers? It’s because it’s the ideal blend of comfort, performance, and versatility.
It has a slight downturn with an obvious asymptomatic shape for pocket climbing. Still, it’s shockingly comfortable for walking around. You can use them for just about everything, from crack climbing to face climbing to bouldering.
Like just about every other climbing shoe, select the size that’s at least one to one and a half sizes below your street shoe. The Miura will stretch even though it has moisture-wicking Dentex lining as it’s 100% leather. (What’s nice is that the shoe can be resoled, saving you money in the long run).
The original sole is 4mm Vibram with a grippy texture for smearing, edging, and hooking. Inside is a Slingshot Rand with plenty of tension. Meanwhile, the midsole is 1.1mm LaspoFlex, rigid to stand up to torsion. We also like the fast lacing system as it provides for an excellent fit with plenty of support.
SCARPA Instinct VS Climbing Shoe – Women’s
This climbing shoe is made on a curved last that gives it an asymmetrical shape for precision pocket climbing. It has a flexible thin sole with a downturn aggressive enough for steep overhung rock. This is a great shoe for both bouldering and sport climbing.
The rubber is 3.5mm Vibram XS Edge in the front for toe hooking and XS Grip 2mm on the heel. The midsole is 1.0mm Flexan. What’s interesting about the structure of the shoe is that it offers maximum power in the toes without as much pain.
Furthermore, the floating power strap closure lets you customize the fit.
La Sportiva Otaki
What you’ll notice at first is that the Otaki have microfiber and leather uppers with a Velcro closure and a moderate downturn. Take a look inside and you’ll see the sweat-wicking lining that keeps them from stretching too much.
Flip them over in your hands and check out the 4.00mm Vibram XS Grip 2a rubber. There’s also a 1.1mm LaspoFlex midsole. In summary, these are shoes that aren’t going to make you suffer for long as you break them in. They’re practically ready to go right out of the box.
Use them for technical climbs. Don’t worry about those overhangs and tiny holds; these shoes are up to the task. When you take a break, the Velcro straps let you take them off in a flash.
Keep in mind that La Sportiva shoes are known for fitting like a glove, clinging to narrow heels without digging into the Achilles tendon.
We’re glad you stopped by today to check out the top intermediate climbing shoes. We hope the reviews helped you make a decision.
If climbing is your passion, we understand. It’s worth it to invest in the right pair of shoes to follow your dreams.
We’d love to hear how the new shoes are working out for you. Feel free to leave us a comment below.