The Best Climbing Shoes For Women Review
What are the best climbing shoes for women? Luckily, the women's selection is growing every year, providing a larger field for ladies to choose from. We took twelve top women's specific models and put them to a hands-on…err…feet-on test to find the very best. All around the world, from limestone sport climbing in Kalymnos, Greece to granite cracks in Tuolumne Meadows to overhanging volcanic boulders in the California Tablelands, we put each pair of shoes through a rigorous climbing investigation. We evaluated how each pair performed on pockets, edges, and in cracks, and we also noted the sensitivity, ease of use, and fit for each pair. Read on to find out how these women's climbing shoes stacked up when compared side-by-side, and which ones we selected as the very best.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
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Analysis and Test Results
Since the publication of our initial women's climbing shoe review in 2010, the climbing industry has produced a remarkable number of women's specific models of shoes. For the narrow-footed female, this is good news! It is also a sign that more women are getting out there to climb and are making up a larger part of the consumer market. It used to be that if you looked only at women's models, the selection was rather slim, and you had to consider unisex models along with women's models to find the perfect shoe. Now there are enough options that you can look exclusively at women's shoes and likely find something to suit you and your climbing style. All of the women's models in this review were designed with a women's last, which is narrower and lower volume than the corresponding men's model.
Styles of Climbing Shoes
There is a wide range of available shoes for climbing, and many climbers feel they need a quiver for different styles of climbing rather than just one shoe for everything. The women's market is bigger than ever, but don't forget to check out the unisex models included in our men's review. Often a unisex model will fit the best or be the perfect tool for the job. The main advantage to women's specific models is that they are narrower and lower volume to better accommodate smaller feet. Many women will find the best fit in a women's specific model.
We have divided the products in this review into four categories based on primary use to help you decipher which models will best suit your needs.
Aggressive Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering
La Sportiva Solution
Evlov Shaman LV
Five Ten Blackwing
La Sportiva Miura VS
Shoes for Trad Climbing and Cracks
La Sportiva Mythos - Women's and the Scarpa Techno X.
All-Around Shoes for Versatile Climbing Use
La Sportiva Muira
La Sportiva Katana
Five Ten Anazasi LV
Shoes for Beginners
La Sportiva Tarantulace
Five Ten Siren
Criteria for Evaluation
We have shoes for different disciplines combined in this one review. Obviously, different shoes excel at different things, and they may not compare well to each other. We have highlighted the differences between models and also highlighted which models are most comparable to one another so if you are looking for a specific style, you can find it.
Evaluating the comfort of a climbing shoe is very subjective, partly because shoes for climbing aren't the kind of footwear you put on to lounge around in and partly because everyone's feet are different. We based our evaluation on how closely the shoes hugged our feet, how crammed our toes felt, and on the extra features that make a shoe bearable to wear.
Obviously, all the shoes with a flatter shape, like the La Sportiva Mythos - Women's are more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time than models with an aggressive downturn. These shoes let your feet sit in their more natural shape. Downturned shoes push your toes into the front of the shoe to amplify their power and allow for more hooking ability. However, even among the aggressively downturned shoes, we noticed some big differences in comfort. The Five Ten Blackwing - Women's feels like the whole shoe is curved lengthwise, unnaturally bending the foot to the side from the toe to the ankle and not just downward at the toe. We could hardly stand to wear these shoes for long. By contrast, the La Sportiva Solution - Women's is the most downturned shoe we tested and also one of the most comfortable. It doesn't crush your toes, and it has a sock-like tongue that cradles the foot.
The Women's Miura has bonus comfort features like a padded heel and a padded tongue which tightens the fit for women and makes it very pleasant to wear. The Five Ten Siren is the most breathable with an upper is made of mostly mesh, which gives it a different kind of comfort.
We also noticed that some shoes hug the whole foot, leaving no air pockets or dead space inside. Both models of shoes from Evolv left pockets of space below the arch of the foot, and this resulted in a less comfortable fit overall. Shoes like the La Sportiva Tarantulace - Women's and La Sportiva Solution both hug the foot completely with no dead space, and we prefer this close fit.
The reason climbers wear climbing shoes versus sneakers or boots is that it gives your toes the ability to feel the rock and use slight features on the wall. We find that the more sensitive and precise the better, because then we can trust our feet as we make delicate moves. The most sensitive shoes are the La Sportiva Katana - Women's, Solution, Miura, and the Five Ten Anasazi LV - Women's. The Anasazi in particular lets your toes feel every little feature, especially if you size them tight, which they seem to be designed for. This sensitivity coupled with very soft sticky rubber lets you use your feet almost like hands.
The pair we found to be the least sensitive was the Five Siren which has a bulky toe box that prevents a good feel of the rock underfoot. We had a hard time using small features when wearing these shoes.
Another shoe worthy of note in the sensitivity department is the Evolv Shaman LV - Women's. Right out of the box we thought the toe felt bulky and clumsy just like on the Siren. However, we stuck with them and let them break-in a little. Eventually the shoes molded to our feet a bit and we adjusted our climbing to the unique shape, and we found ourselves loving the Shaman. They became more sensitive and also proved excellent at standing on ledgy edges. We ended up spending a whole season climbing in just these shoes and loved them the whole time.
Edging and sensitivity are similar but different features. Where sensitivity lets you feel the rock and smear on small features, edging, as we evaluate it, is the ability to stand on small edges of rock. We have found that shoes that do this well typically have a stiffer sole, giving your foot the support it needs to stand on small points while your toe is powering down.
When it comes to edging, the La Sportiva Miura - Women's is the definite winner. This shoe is an edging machine. With a stiff midsole, a slight downturn, and a sensitive toe, these shoes can stand on anything. This shoe uses a proprietary technology that Sportiva refers to as the "Powerhinge." This connects the rubber rand, which wraps around the whole foot, to a hole cut in the sole on the bottom of the shoe. When the toe is weighted on an edge, the weight of the climber stretches forward from the heel towards the front of the shoe. This hole in the sole only allows the shoe to stretch in the back half, leaving the toe where you placed it on the surface of the rock. This means you can stand on edges with your full weight, and still feel secure. We also think the La Sportiva Miura VS - Women's and the Scarpa Techno X do well in this category.
The shoe with the worst edging capability is the marshmallowy Mythos, which is a flat, soft shoe that tends to stretch and feel sloppy.
This metric evaluates how well a shoe will perform when foot-jamming in cracks. Sliding your toe into a crack and twisting to the side so that you can stand up on it is one of the more unique ways to use your feet while climbing. What makes a shoe good for cracks is a flatter shape so that it can fit inside the crack, a stiff platform to stand on, and enough rubber along the side of the shoe to find purchase along the edges of the crack. Often you want a shoe for cracks to be decent at edging and smearing as well, because you will usually need to do all of these things as well as foot-jam on a single pitch.
The shoes in this test that work the best in cracks are the Scarpa Techno X - Women's, the La Sportiva Mythos, and the Miura. Though the Miura has some downturn, there is not enough of a curve to be painful in cracks, and actually this bit of aggression helps work the toe in on difficult, finger-sized cracks. The Techno X and Miura are the best for long routes because while the flat shape fits into cracks well, they both edge and smear well on all the features in between the crack systems.
The laces on the Techno X diagonal across the top of the toe ever so slightly, which places them out of the way of crack edges, protecting them from getting torn as you shuffle your foot up a crack. This feature keeps the shoe performing longer on the terrain it was designed for.
For a super continuous cracks at a place like Indian Creek, Utah, the unisex Five Ten Moccasym reigns king. It is a slipper with very sticky rubber and a flat shape. When sized large it can be comfortable in cracks of any width and the lack of laces keeps the shoe from shredding.
Shoes with a significant amount of downturn are especially uncomfortable when crack climbing, so models like the Solution and Blackwing are painful when twisted in a crack, and best reserved for steep face moves.
This metric is almost the opposite of the crack climbing metric, the shoes that are the worst for cracks are the best for steep pockets, and vice versa. The pockets category is not only an evaluation of how well a shoe can sink into pockets, but also an evaluation of how well the shoes perform on steep terrain. A pointed, precise toe will let you step into pockets no matter the degree of steepness. Being able to hook into steep pockets and pull the body close to the wall is a feature common with downturned shoes.
Our favorite for pocket pulling is also our favorite for steep climbing, the Solution. This shoe is designed with Sportive's P3 Platform, which lets the shoes retain their downturn, so it doesn't flatten out over time either. Other downturned shoes such as the Evolv Shaman and the Five Ten Blackwing also do well in this category, but the Solution's shape combined with surprising comfort and sensitivity earns it the top score.
The flatter shoes in this review, such as the Mythos, Tarantulace, and Elektra, all do a little less well on pockets than shoes with a downward turn.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is a very minor category for climbing shoes, but still a noticeable difference between pairs. Shoes with Velcro straps are the easiest to get on and off, while lace-ups take a little longer to get in and out of. This may not matter to many women, because laces do allow for a more customizable level of tightness. For those with weirdly proportioned feet, a lace-up like the Scarpa Techno X or the La Sportiva Mythos will let you loosen the fit in key areas and crank them down in others.
One other minor detail is that we noticed (and got reports from many other users) that Evolv's synthetic shoes eventually began to stink way more than is normal. Climbing shoes never smell particularly sweet, but we had a lot of other shoes to compare them to. Leather definitely resists stench more. If you plan to wear your synthetic Evolv shoes on a regular basis, you will need to be dedicated to drying and cleaning them, otherwise you will be subjected to the poisonous cloud that wafts out of our well-loved pairs.
After trying, testing, researching, and compiling opinions from many climbers, we have granted awards to the shoes we feel are the best. However, a disclaimer: climbing shoe fit and performance is incredibly subjective. What fits one woman like a glove may cause extreme discomfort to another. So take our suggestions with a grain of salt, and make your own choices for what will fit you and work best for you. Also, don't be afraid to check out all the unisex models in our Men's Review. There are plenty of worthy shoes there that don't come in women's specific versions. Lastly, read our Buying Advice article for a detailed explanation of the different types of shoes available and help with finding the correct fit.
— McKenzie Long
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