The Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Men Review

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Edges and the Katana Lace in Smith Rocks, OR.
Credit: Thomas Greene
What are the best rock shoes on the market? To find out, we tested, and reviewed a mix of over 20 top rated shoes, and compared them using our trademark comparison metrics. We comprehensively evaluated these shoes to determine how they edge, how comfortable and sensitive they are, and how they perform in cracks and pockets. These tests were performed on crags from Washington to California, with additional information coming from reliable resources such as professional guides, veteran climbers, and experienced outdoor retailers. In this review we detail how the best shoe performed in each test.

You may also be interested in our related review of Best Climbing Shoes For Women.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Climbing Shoes - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 21 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
La Sportiva Katana Lace
La Sportiva Katana Lace
Read the Review
La Sportiva Futura
La Sportiva Futura
Read the Review
La Sportiva TC Pro
La Sportiva TC Pro
Read the Review
Five Ten Anasazi VCS
Five Ten Anasazi VCS
Read the Review
La Sportiva Miura
La Sportiva Miura
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award     
Street Price Varies $140 - $165
Compare at 8 sellers
Varies $170 - $180
Compare at 7 sellers
Varies $170 - $180
Compare at 8 sellers
$160
Compare at 6 sellers
$160
Compare at 8 sellers
Overall Score 
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86
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86
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76
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76
Editors' Rating
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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100% recommend it (2/2)
Pros Versatile, Durable, ComfortableIncredible sensitivity, Great edging, DurabilityGreat edging, Solid crack climbing, Good all-around shoeVery sensitive, Very sticky rubber, Aolid all-arounderGreat edging, Versatility, Durable
Cons Expensive, Can be hard to findSpecalized use, Expensive, Might be hard to resoleExpensive, Limited sport/bouldering useNot the best edging shoe, Velcro can hurt in cracksNot the best at anything, Laces not durable
Best Uses Use it for nearly anything, great all round shoeHigh-end sport and boulderingGeneral climbingGranite sport or trad, Beginner shoefantastic all rounder, Hard sport, Trad climbing
Date Reviewed Sep 19, 2014Sep 18, 2014Sep 18, 2014Sep 19, 2014Sep 19, 2014
Weighted Scores La Sportiva Katana Lace La Sportiva Futura La Sportiva TC Pro Five Ten Anasazi VCS La Sportiva Miura
Edging - 20%
10
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9
10
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9
10
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9
10
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8
10
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9
Cracks - 20%
10
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9
10
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7
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9
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8
10
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8
Comfort - 20%
10
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9
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8
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9
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7
10
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6
Pockets - 20%
10
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8
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9
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6
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8
Sensitivity - 20%
10
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8
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10
10
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7
10
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8
10
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7
Product Specs La Sportiva Katana Lace La Sportiva Futura La Sportiva TC Pro Five Ten Anasazi VCS La Sportiva Miura
Style lace velcro lace velcro lace
Upper Leather/Lorica Leather/Synthetic Leather Leather leather Leather
Lining Pacific (forefoot and back) Unlined Sentex/PU Foam synthetic dentex
Rubber Type Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge Stealth Onyxx Rubber Vibram XS Edge
Rubber Thickness 4mm 3mm 4mm
Midsole Thickness 1.1 mm full-length LaspoFlex with P3® 1.1mm LaspFlex (toe only) with P3® 1.1mm LaspoFlex 1.1mm LaspoFlex (forefoot only)

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • All Reviewed Products
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Mad Rock Flash 2.0
$83
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La Sportiva Futura
$180
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86
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La Sportiva TC Pro
$180
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Five Ten Dragon
$165
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72
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Five Ten Anasazi Verde
$140
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La Sportiva Solution
$155
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74
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Five Ten Moccasym
$115
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70
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Scarpa Instinct
$145
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70
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La Sportiva Miura
$160
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76
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Sportiva Miura VS
$170
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Five Ten Anasazi VCS
$139
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76
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Five Ten Galileo
$135.00
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La Sportiva Mythos
$130
100
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72
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Five Ten Arrowhead
$155
100
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76
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Evolv Pontas 2
$125
100
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74
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Scarpa Booster
$139
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Evolv Shaman
$145
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Mad Rock M5
$105
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La Sportiva Katana
$150
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62
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La Sportiva Speedster
$132
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Five Ten Rogue
$95
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Evolv Predator
$115
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Evolv Prime SC
$145
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60
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Evolv Ponta
$125
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Evolv Defy
$85
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58
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Five Ten Coyote VCS
$86
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Mad Rock Phoenix
$75
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La Sportiva Scorpion
$75
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Five Ten Team
$160
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70
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La Sportiva Nago - Men's
$99
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La Sportiva Tarantula
$88
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66
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La Sportiva Mantis
$80
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Selecting the Right Product
As climbers and guides, the single most important thing we wear goes on our feet (OK mom, it's the helmet and harness). But it's hard to place too much emphasis on having the right shoes. They are very often the difference between sending and whipping, and the harder the climbing gets, the narrower those margins become. The manic devotion climbers develop toward a brand or model of shoe is very often warranted –once you find a shoe that fits and functions for you it feels very much like the skies open up and you can step off the plateau you've been stranded on. The longer you climb the more seldom it is to have one of these epiphanic moments. Really progressing takes a lot of devotion, rigorous training, and time spent on the rock. Doing all that in shoes that make you miserable, or that under perform, will drain your psyche faster than any climbing porn can restore. The critical goal is to find shoes that fit you and what you'll be using them for.

Even if you're a veteran climber, we recommend taking a minute or two to read our Buying Advice article to help you make the best choice in climbing shoes.

Types of Climbing Shoes
There is a broader spectrum of climbing shoes on the market these days than ever before, and there are more options all the time. Some shoes are easily categorized, such as the La Sportiva Miura VS, because of their highly specialized function. Others that are intended to perform decently on a variety of terrain, such as the La Sportiva Katana Lace or Five Ten Anasazi VCS, are a little harder to place in a specific category. Below we provide a basic break down of features commonly associated with each type of shoe.

Sport Climbing and Bouldering Shoes
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For starters, high-end specialized sport and bouldering shoes are typically gun-and-done shoes that you take off immediately after you finish climbing. While they shouldn't be excruciating, they will likely be sufficiently uncomfortable that you won't wear them while belaying. These shoes will typically have an aggressively downturned toe and be asymmetrical in shape. For a sport shoe you can wear all day, look for a flatter toe and more symmetrical design that is more naturally comfortable instead of just wearing a loosely fitting, aggressively shaped shoe.

Traditional and Crack Climbing Shoes
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Shoe for crack climbing will typically have a flatter toe and a symmetrical design. This makes them more comfortable for wedging into cracks and wearing for longer durations. These shoes can also be worn larger for comfort, or to allow room for socks if you're going really high, or climbing with your grandpa. A slight downturn can still be comfortable on the really big days, and will give you an edge in performance when it matters.

Shoes for the Gym and Beginners
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Depending on how hard you go in the gym, your choice of shoes will vary widely. Again, a flatter toe and larger sizing will prove to be more comfortable (which is highly recommended for those just starting out), but for pushing your limits indoors, a tightly fitted aggressive shoe will go a long way.


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Lyra on Airy Interlude in the La Sportiva Katana Lace, Needles, CA.
Credit: Bernd Zeugswetter

Criteria For Evaluation

Edging
We tested several shoes reputed to have excellent edging capabilities. Among the models tested, the La Sportiva Futura, Katana Lace, La Sportiva Miura, Miura VS, and TC Pro ranked the highest in this category. In terms of pure edging ability, the Miura VS has a marginal advantage over the others.

The La Sportiva Futura's lower edging score is solely due to the No Edge concept, which defies being assessed in the traditional manner. Before we began testing the Futura, we anticipated the sensation of climbing in it to be similar to climbing in a very worn-in shoe. We even joked that we had been manufacturing Futuras for years–we should just paint them blue and try to sell them! Instead of feeling old and familiar, the No Edge concept feels radically different from any shoe we've ever tried. It required us to adapt our climbing to fit the shoe, forcing us to be a better climbers. The No Edge concept not only brings your toe closer to the rock, it allows the climber to generate more homogenous pressure while edging. The No Edge concept takes some getting used to, and there will be detractors. After all, getting climbers to agree on the efficacy of a shoe is like getting hipsters to agree on who listens to the most obscure music. Perhaps you should just let the Futura convince you.

Let that rant take nothing away from the Sportiva Miura VS: it is an edging machine. La Sportiva has nailed it with this shoe. It is a fusion of the original Miura, a velcro system, and the pick of an ice climbing tool. The Miura VS stands on anything, and since it has a more traditional design, it will feel familiar, ready to go out of the box. For the Miura VS to really perform for you, you'll have to size it tight. Expect it to be painful, this is a gun-and-done shoe that you take off as soon as you've sent your project. Hold it in reserve for the days when you're really pushing your grade.

For only a marginal sacrifice in edging performance, and a significant increase in comfort and versatility, we recommend the TC Pro, Katana Lace, or Miura, but not necessarily in that order. These three shoes are solid all-arounders that perform well on a variety of terrain. Of the three, the Katana Lace ranks highest in overall versatility, performing well in all our evaluation criteria.

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Shoe testing on granite in the Alabama Hills, CA.
Credit: Thomas Greene

Crack Climbing
We tested several shoes generally used for all around climbing, and one specialized trad climbing shoe, the La Sportiva TC Pro. Our favorite crack climbing shoes were the TC Pro and Katana lace, both from La Sportiva. They are both comfortable out of the box and keep your foot in a relatively flat position, ideal for crack climbing. They have their individual strengths, and excel at different styles of crack climbing. The TC Pro does well in all but the thinnest cracks. It feels precise, and the padding above the toe makes a noticeable difference when jamming. The TC Pro really thrives on the wide stuff, where the thin padding above the ankle offers excellent protection. The Katana Lace's tech fit and medium asymmetry give it an advantage when cracks get thin and technical. In anything thinner than the ankle-chewing wide cracks, where the TC Pro thrives, the shoes ranked very similarly. Other shoes that ranked well in testing were the La Sportiva Miura and the Anasazi VCS – great alternatives if the Katana Lace or TC pro isn't the right fit for your foot. If you plan to climb sandstone splitters at Indian Creek for a month every spring and fall, you can't do any better than the classic and comfy Five Ten Moccasym.

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The down turned toe of the Katana lace gives it an advantage over the TC Pro in thinner cracks. Overall these shoes perform very similarly.

Pockets
The La Sportiva Miura VS and Futura go head-to-head again for the title of best shoe in pockets. This time they ranked very similarly, both performing exceptionally, and getting it done in spectacularly different style. Both shoes feature aggressively down turned toes, and a P3 ("Power, Performance, Platform") midsole that helps them hold their shape. The significant difference in the performance of these two shoes is their comfort. We were able to keep the Futura on between attempts at bouldering problems, and they let us hang out on sport climbing projects in comfort. While the Miura VS did provide incentive (in the form of pain) to get through a climb, we'd opt for the comfort of the Futura any day. That being said, neither of these shoes are wear-all-day comfortable. For a shoe that you can wear on both long sport and traditionally protected routes, but that will still get it done on steep pocketed terrain, check out the La Sportiva Katana Lace. The Katana lace has a tech fit, meaning that it has a slightly down turned toe, but your foot remains fairly flat with a medium asymmetry. This compromise between a neutrally shaped climbing shoe and one with a much more aggressive shape creates a remarkably balanced shoe.
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Lyra and Lindsay testing rubber in Index, WA.
Credit: Thomas Greene

Sensitivity
The Futura ran away with the title as the most sensitive shoe we've ever tested. The most immediately recognizable benefit of the No Edge concept is how well you can feel the rock in the Futura. This shoe pastes itself onto blank faces better than many of the best edging shoes stuck to their edges. Sensitivity plays an enormous role in smearing. The Futura was able to move through low angle terrain as easily as the steep stuff. As a down turned shoe, this is a testament to the function of having a more sensitive shoe. An honorable mention goes to the Five Ten Team. While it didn't rank very highly overall, it is impressively sensitive and sticky.
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Lyra testing of the Katana Lace on the Mammoth Boulders, California
Credit: Thomas Greene

Comfort
The comfort of your climbing shoe typically depends on a few things: how you size the shoe, your foot position, and the shoe's upper material. Generally speaking, the tighter your shoe, the better it will perform. The contrary is also true: the looser the shoe the worse it performs. Typically, tight equals painful and loose equals comfortable. However, if your shoes are so tight you can't put pressure on your toes, you may have reached the point of down-sizing where it is counterproductive.

The La Sportiva Tarantula is a decent compromise between performance and comfort. This is a shoe designed with comfort in mind. Though not suitable for high-end climbing, the rounded shape, flat foot position, and higher volume fit of the shoe allows you to size the Tarantula tightly for performance without sacrificing comfort. The TC Pro and the Mad Rock Flash are flat shoes that have a much higher level of performance, but are still quite comfortable.

The TC Pro is an excellent choice for an all day shoe, particularly for long routes. The Mad Rock Flash is not the best performing shoe, but ranks higher than the La Sportiva Tarantula, and is very comfortable.
A down-turned toe and asymmetrical shape typically mean a shoe is less comfortable, but a more aggressive shape also enhances performance in many aspects of climbing. With modern technology and design, climbing performance and comfort are no longer mutually exclusive concepts. The Katana Lace and Futura both offer comfort and performance at a very high level: The Katana is a very solid all-around performer, and the Futura is a high-end sport shoe.

Accessories
Having a durable and versatile climbing rope is important to the safety of all climbers. Two of our favorites are the Mammut Infinity and the Mammut Tusk. Check out The Best Rock Climbing Rope Review for a more in-depth look at all the ropes we reviewed.

Every climber needs a good chalk bag. We recommend the Prana Geo Chalk Bag and the Metolius Competition Chalk Bag.

The Bottom Line
The announcement of our award winners should be proceeded by a disclaimer: reviews are inherently subjective (for example, some people think Vertical Limit is a good movie), and rock shoe reviews seem particularly so. Our individual assessment of a particular shoe is largely contingent on the shape of our testers' feet, what type of rock we climbed, and how tight we sized them. However, we have meticulously researched these shoes (primarily by climbing in them a lot), and talked to a lot of industry professionals that use and sell these shoes routinely. There are a bunch of great shoes out there, and in an expanding market, there are more all the time. Please let us know what you'd like to see reviewed. Thanks!

The History of Climbing Shoes
Today, it's hard to imagine rock climbing without cranking down a tight pair of high performance sticky rubber-soled climbing shoes. Rarely do we think of the incredible technological improvements that have gone into climbing footwear over the last one hundred years. The different shapes, the different fits, and most of all, the different rubbers all have long histories in and of themselves. Lets take a look back at the first iterations of the climbing shoe in Europe.

In the late 19th century, rock climbing began to develop as a form of practice for the climbing required to arrive on the summits of mountains. The terrain being tackled in these early years was relatively easy by today's standards. However, to fully understand the difficulty we must examine the context in which these climbs were being done and it is most important to look to the footwear and gear being used by these early climbers. As these men (and a few women) became more serious in their pursuit to summit great mountains, they took to their local boulders and cliffs to practice their skills. These early climbers began scrambling on the local cliffs in the same footwear they would use in the mountains. Often this was a form of hob-nailed boot, a leather-soled, ankle high boot with metal studs pounded through the soles.

Well into the early 20th century, these hob-nail boots were the standard for many European climbers. In some regions, climbers began to explore a softer soled canvas shoe for climbing, but the major improvements came out of Europe in the 1930s. During the 20s and 30s, the French mountaineering club were meeting to 'practice climb' on the boulders outside of Paris in order to prepare for their trips to the mountains. By 1935 one particular Frenchman, Pierre Allain, was becoming more and more interested in not just climbing on these boulders as practice, but to climb for the pure challenge of it.

Allain was at the forefront of the early climbing development taking place in the famous Fontainebleau forest near Paris. Allain recognized that a new style of shoe was needed to improve ones footwork while on the rock, so he began developing a smooth-rubber soled shoe intended specifically for climbing on rocks. This was perhaps the first climbing specific piece of footwear created. The shoe looks very similar to a modern climbing shoe but lacks the 'sticky rubber' and instead has a traditional hard rubber sole that simply lacks any lug pattern.

In 1935 another mountaineer and climber, the Italian Vitale Bramani, found a need for better mountain footwear after six of his friends lost their lives in the Italian Alps. Bramani teamed with Leopoldo Pirelli of Pirelli Tires to create Vibram soles, the first rubber lug soled boots commercially available. These were game changing. Vibram soled boots became the standard for climbing and mountain endeavors for the next 25 years or more and carried climbers for the first time to the summits of many impressive high altitude peaks, including K2.

As climbers continued to push the limits in the mountains and at their local climbing areas, many people experimented with different shoe styles. In the 1940's, Joe Brown, an Englishman, began to experiment with climbing in plimsolls, a canvas topped, rubber soled shoe, similar to todays Keds. In these shoes he established many famous routes across the Peak district of England.

By 1948, Pierre Allain had improved his original smooth-rubber soled shoe design and in 1950 he marketed them commercially as PA's. These shoes were the first climbing specific shoes on the market, a shoe specifically for rock climbing and not intended as a mountaineering boot that would climb well. These shoes were used on many legendary climbs in the Alps, including the first ascent of the north face of the Dru. Still in his quest to push the limits of difficulty, Allain was limited by his footwear until he met Eduard Bourdenneau.

Eduard Bourdenneau was an expert shoe maker who teamed with Pierre Allain in 1950 to create the iconic climbing shoe, The EB. EB's utilized a softer rubber than it's predecessor, the PA. By the late 60s, the flagship shoe, The Super Gratton, was the climbing shoe of choice around the world. It was in this climbing shoe that free climbing began to press into substantially more difficult terrain; 5.11, 5.12 and even 5.13 grades were established across the globe as a direct result of this legendary shoe.

Meanwhile, in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, climbers were using various different shoes to establish impressive rock climbs and huge big walls in Yosemite Valley. Royal Robbins pioneered and marketed a boot-like climbing shoe that was worn and loved by many in the US during the pre-EB era (the EBs were not yet available in the US). However, once EBs began surfacing in the states, they quickly became a mandatory item for free climbing.

So through the 70s, EBs reigned supreme. And amazingly, it wasn't until 1980 that a new shoe hit the markets and took the climbing world by storm. Spanish climbers Jesus Garcia Lopez and Miguel Angel Garcia Gallego, The Gallego Brothers, were the first to work with manufacturers to develop a rubber specifically for rock climbing. These soles were used on a shoe marketed by Boreal, The Fire, and is considered to be the birth of 'sticky rubber,' a rubber that would stick to the rock yet maintain durability and abrasion resistance like nothing used before. Together in 1981 the Gallego Brothers arrived in Yosemite Valley and established the first non-American route on El Capitan, "Medeterraneo," a difficult route even by todays standards and one that is seldom repeated.

On this trip they met and shared the Boreal Fire, with valley locals, John Bachar tested them on the classic Midnight Lightening and was amazed that a shoe could be that much better than the current gold standard, The EB. By spring of 1983, Bachar had teamed with Boreal and the Gallegos to import 265 pairs, according to Bachar, to be sold at the Yosemite Mountain Shop; within the first two hours of the store opening, and on the first day of sales, they had sold every pair.

With the introduction of the Fire in the early 1980s, climbing instantly progressed leaps and bounds. Many active climbers recall their climbing instantly jumping a full grade just by changing shoes. From that moment forward climbers everywhere required their shoes to have the new sticky rubber. Over the next several years many climbing shoe companies pushed shoe design to new levels of performance. Boreal, La Sportiva, and Five Ten were some of the big names designing new and cutting edge shoes. But it's thanks to the Boreal Fires that climbing shoes moved in a whole new direction and athletes could continue to challenge new and impossible routes around the world.


Editors' Choice: La Spotiva Katana Lace
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Wearing the all-around awesome performing La Sportiva Katana Lace at the Looking Glass Wall, Glass Mountains, CA.
Credit: Thomas Greene

The La Sportiva Katana Lace was our favorite shoe from the field tested. It ranked near the top in all assessed categories. The Katana Lace came closer to doing everything well than any shoe we have ever used. We used it on welded tuff and other volcanic rock, on granite sport and trad climbs, on limestone, and on sandstone. This shoe performed solidly everywhere we took it. As a true all arounder, it didn't rank at the top of any category; instead, the Katana Lace wins this award for its incredible versatility.


Best Buy: Mad Rock Flash
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Mad Rock Flash 2.0 testing at Lake Tahoe CA.
Credit: Valentine Cullen

The folks at Mad Rock have accomplished their goal by creating an affordable, durable shoe that climbs well. The Mad Rock Flash has the second lowest price of any shoe we reviewed, and is by far the superior performer of the two. Of the budget shoes we reviewed, this is the one we would consider when climbing at or near our grade. It has great versatility of use, being equally appropriate for gym and general outdoor climbing. The Flash is comfortable, and both easy to put on and take off.

Top Pick for Steep Sport Climbing: La Sportiva Futura
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Crimping on the Iron Man Traverse in the La Sportiva Futura, Buttermilks, CA.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

The La Sportiva Futura is a highly specialized, ultra high-end performance shoe for sport climbing and bouldering. The unique No Edge concept of the Futura allows you to climb more naturally, bringing your toe closer to the rock and creating a feeling of unparalleled sensitivity. The Futura's performance fit is remarkably comfortable, allowing prolonged use of this shoe on hard, steep climbs. The No Edge concept will require you to adapt your climbing style to suit this shoe. We found it actually made us become better climbers by highlighting our poor footwork. If you have reached a plateau in your climbing, or if you're just looking for the ultimate sending shoe, you need to try the Futura.

Top Pick for Multi-Pitch and Crack Climbing: La Sportiva TC Pro
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Dave in the TC Pro on Cathedral Peak, Toulomne, YNP, CA.
Credit: Thomas Greene

The La Sportiva TC Pro deserves attention for being a solid all arounder that still excels as a multi-pitch trad climbing shoe. This shoe edges extremely well, letting you leave the crack systems behind and tackle some serious face climbing with confidence. When the climb brings you back to the cracks, the TC Pro handles them better than most.

Thomas Greene
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