To find the best rock climbing shoe for your kids, we researched over 30 options before buying the top 9 to compare head-to-head. Our test team is a rock-obsessed family that travels the country fulltime, searching for the perfect climb. The girls rotated through these shoes on gym walls, multi-pitch trad climbs, and sport laps. We know just how important it is to help your kids stay comfortable during long days on the rock, but also appreciate how performance-oriented young climbers often are. We took notes on each shoe's edging prowess, crack climbing execution, and sensitivity.
The Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Kids
Best Overall Kids Climbing Model
Wowza! We did not see anticipate the Evolv Venga being such a heavy hitter! Evolv really put together a great shoe for the everyday kid climber. The VTR3D rand does a fantastic job of adding durability where needed (toes!) and keeps the toes flat making for a shoe that is not only soft and sensitive but also edges well. At first glance, the thin, almost useless looking heel strap seemed like such a poor design, but boy were we wrong. It's the only one that does its job well and still leaves the heel wrapped in a good rubber pocket for heel hooking.
Whether it's their first run up the birthday party wall at the gym or they've been following mom and dad up multi-pitch for years, these shoes should do the trick. But when the times comes, and the kids need something more technical to send their projects, our recommendation goes to the La Sportiva Maverink or Evolv Ashima.
Read review: Evolv Venga
Best for Steep Terrain
Developed in part by Ashima Shiraishi, one of the world's top young climbers, the Evolv Ashima is a downturned lace-up that has it all. The semi-symmetric profile offers great performance while keeping the foot in a more natural position than many other aggressive downturned shoes. The Arch Wing midsole has great performance on any angle terrain, and the VTR (Variable Thickness Rand) rand provides excellent protection and durability to the shoes. We love that it has 4.2mm of Trax SAS rubber for longer life but still maintains great sensitivity for feeling their way up technical routes. The rubber has excellent friction but is also durable and holds up well to extensive edging, which it does with style due to the chiseled downturned toe box!
While this shoe has good performance on all terrain, it excels on the steeps. With more and more young climbers climbing (and competing) at an elite level, a more competitive shoe for youth was inevitable. If hard climbing and progress is the goal, these shoes are hard to beat.
Read review: Evolv Ashima
Best Kids Shoe for Beginners on Tight Budgets
Butora has found the perfect combination of comfort, performance, and price for their all-around kid's shoe, the Brava. It's true, this shoe isn't going to be a Top Pick for those serious kid crushers out there, but for the casual climber or beginner who is out to have fun and be comfortable, this shoe rocks. The soft synthetic upper, with its wide hook and loop enclosure, has an excellent feel and hugs the foot better than the other shoes in our test, keeping the foot nice and secure. The heel strap helps to fine tune the fit even more, and the EVA cushioned mid-sole also helps to keep them comfortable for when they won't take shoes off between climbs.
These shoes are a welcome addition to the budget kids shoe market. For all those parents not looking to shell out big bucks, but still want to support their kids' passions with quality gear, the Butora Brava is an excellent pick.
Read review: Butora Brava
Best for Advanced Kid Climbers
La Sportiva Maverink
The La Sportiva Maverink is a performance-driven slipper made for kids with growing feet. While most adult performance shoes have a dramatic downturn and a super tight, constricting toe box, the Maverink purposefully kept things more comfortable to offer kids (and small-footed women) a more healthy option. The P3 platform keeps the down-turn shape but is under less tension than its grown-up counterparts, and the front of the shoe remains mostly flat. No-Edge technology adds sensitivity and, ironically, edging performance, allowing the toes to get close and feel those tiny holds.
The leather and rubber wrapped heel pocket does an excellent job heel hooking but will take some getting used to for kids new to the concept. Because the P3 rand wraps over the heel pocket in a high place, it can bother the Achilles tendon. Overall, this shoe is not only comfortable and forgiving but also a secret weapon of choice for kids looking to send their projects.
Read review: La Sportiva Maverink
Best for Young Beginners
La Sportiva Gripit
The La Sportiva Gripit is an innovative shoe made in Italy that is specifically designed for comfort and foot health. While most shoes have a somewhat constricting toe box, the Gripit has a super wide rounded shape that allows the foot to spread. The No-Edge technology and the thin Frixion RS outsole positions the toes right up against the end of the toe box for incredible sensitivity and the soft upper with the easy to use hook and loop strap make getting in and out a breeze.
This shoe isn't a top performer for technical routes but for the young beginners, this shoe will be the most comfortable by far, allowing the kids to focus on the fun of climbing without the discomfort that comes from ill-fitting climbing shoes.
Read review: La Sportiva Gripit
Why You Should Trust Us
Who would be the ideal Review Editor for kid's climbing shoes? How about somebody who, first of all, has kids; second, leads a life focused on family climbing; and third, is a teacher of climbing by training. This person is Adam Paashaus, the author of this review and certified AMGA SPI instructor. Adam does all these things, climbing with his wife and five and eight-year-old girls at destinations around the country, full-time, out of their converted house-bus, Skoolie. Prior to this arrangement, Adam developed a love for long amounts of time spent in wild places that dates back to the nineties, and took up activities like backpacking, ultrarunning, and canyoneering in the process. He's also worked in the outdoor industry for some time and in several capacities, so he's well-versed when it comes to gear--he even makes some of his own.
We wanted to start with a leg up on finding the best pair of kid's shoes, so we put considerable energy into the initial phase of deciding which ones to buy and test. The initial selection up for consideration included over 40 models. Through whatever research we were able to do, we down-selected the most promising 9 from this group. Adam and the extended test group then proceeded to take these shoes on an extended road trip that began in North Carolina and wound up in what seemed to be the ideal family climbing zone--Saint George, Utah. The shoes were rated on a handful of characteristics that make or break a kid's climbing shoe. These included comfort and durability, but also ones like edging abilities and sensistivity, as performance is important for kids as well as adults. We are confident you will find this review to be a useful resource while outfitting your little ones for the crag or gym.
Analysis and Test Results
There has never been a better time to get the kids out on the wall. Just think, what if Ondra never fell in love with climbing because he hated the way the shoes felt or performed? Today manufacturers offer a vast range of options in climbing footwear for kids, and we highlight the differences so you can spend less time researching and more time getting out there. We break down how well each shoe performed on granite slab, quartzite edges, sandstone, and basalt cracks, and limestone pockets as well as how they feel on long days, both up on the wall as well as down in the dirt at the base of the crag.
Kid climbers tend to be even more varied in their skill levels and preferences than ever before. There are all types nowadays; some kids may never step a climbing shoe outside the gym, while others follow mom and dad around multi-pitch wilderness climbing destinations on any given weekend. Some kids will be crack climbing prodigies while others can crank V8 at world class boulder fields.
There is a wide range of pricing for modern climbing shoes for kids. We get into the weeds with these shoes to detail the price versus the performance. It may surprise you to find out that new climbing shoes we tested range in price; but don't fear, we break down the value of each to make sure you can find a shoe that is right for your kid crusher. We awarded the Butora Brava the Best Buy Award for having a good performance for a great price, but if your kid is more advanced, the more aggressive Evolv Ashima or the La Sportiva Maverink may hold more value for your child.
Edging is when you use, you guessed it, the edge of your climbing shoe to step onto a small rock edge, normally using the inside of the big toe for the most power and stability. Edges are the most common type of foothold.
Both the hardest boulderers and the most dedicated crack climbers will need a shoe that can edge well. A shoe that edges well will be paramount to helping reduce the amount of work your arms are needing to do. If you can easily stand on small edges, you can then relax your arms and focus on the next move. Some shoes we tested are exceptional edging shoes while others frankly… aren't. A shoe that edges well will normally be a relatively stiff shoe to help give support to the foot like the Black Diamond Momentum. Some great edging shoes like the La Sportiva Maverink use the ironically named No-Edge technology where the rounded tip of the shoe lacks a proper edge, allowing the toes to get up close and personal with the minuscule holds for the most sensitivity on the small edges. While the Butora Brava is a good value for the price, it does not edge very well. The platform lacks the stiffness needed to be able to comfortably stand on the smaller edges, requiring the climber to maintain more tension to stay on.
More and more kids are venturing outdoors to climb. If they climb outside long enough, they will eventually encounter cracks.
We found ourselves climbing cracks on North Carolina and Oklahoma granite, as well as cracks in the basalt of southern Utah, and sandstone near Flagstaff at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook. We focused on how well the shoes fit in the cracks as well as how well the shoes protected our feet. With such a wide variety of kids shoes available, some crushed in the cracks and did a good job of keeping their feet comfortable, such as the Evolv Venga, the Evolv Ashima and the La Sportiva Maverink, while others were incredibly painful and have no business trying to climb cracks, such as the La Sportiva Gripit.
The upper construction also plays a role in how well a shoe will hold up to repeated use in cracks. The breathable knit of the Black Diamond Momentum is great for breathability but can start to wear out with repeated use in cracks. The leather uppers combined with a more traditional lace of the La Sportiva Ashima will tend to withstand more abuse. The lace on the La Sportiva Gripit showed wear after the first climb, and since the Stickit has the same lace closure, it isn't ideal for a lot of crack climbing for that same reason, though performs better due to the more rigid sole and better rand.
A shoe that performs well in pockets will be a good edging shoe that has a tapered toe to get more rubber in the pockets, and when the routes get steep, the shoes should also be downturned. We tested the shoes in the vertical basalt pockets in southern Utah as well as the Limestone sport crags in the Utah Hills outside of Mesquite, NV.
The Evolv Ashima barely edged out the La Sportiva Maverink for our top spot though it was close. The "No-Edged" Maverink had more sensitivity, allowing for better feel on tiny pockets, but the Ashima, with its pointy, lower profile toe box was able to get a little more rubber in for more of an "edging" feel. Both shoes have a nice downturned platform to assist with using the pockets to pull into the rock.
For the more slabby to dead vertical pocketed routes, the Five Ten Mini Mocc and the Evolv Venga both performed really well. Armed with a high degree of sensitivity and a more flexible platform, the Mini Mocc had the more narrow toe box for a bit better purchase on the smaller pockets.
The La Sportiva Gripit scored very poorly in pockets due to the super soft platform but more notably the extremely wide rounded toe box. Our lead tester found herself trying to smear the outside of the pockets, mostly to no avail.
A shoe that offers good sensitivity is one that has a thin or soft outsole allowing the climber to feel the rock beneath their feet. This will help them to find the "sweet spot" of the holds more easily and have more confidence in their purchase on the rock.
Generally, the climbs that will benefit from a more sensitive shoe will be a technical face climb or a slab with smaller footholds.
We tested the shoes for sensitivity on the blank granite slabs in North Carolina as well as gritty sandstone slopers and textured limestone faces in southern Utah.
The most sensitive shoe tested is the new La Sportiva Gripit, with its thin Frixion Rs outsole. However, since the wide toe box doesn't hold the foot as securely as the others, the forefoot tends to slip around, and our testers had less confidence on the more technical, balancy moves. The more traditional Evolv Venga also has excellent sensitivity and gave our testers more confidence to step up onto those small dicey holds.
The La Sportiva Maverink scores well in the sensitivity department due to its No-Edge technology, used when a more aggressive shoe is warranted. The No-Edge toe puts less rubber between their toes and the rock so they can really feel the rock they are trying to step up on. However, if they are new to this style of sole, it will take some getting used to.
Shoe comfort depends on a few things such as materials used, how small they are sized, and the shape or geometry. For kids, comfort should be of utmost importance. If a climber crams his feet in tight shoes for too long, he/she can develop painful foot issues like bunions. That's why it's so important to find the right pair and size them appropriately. While it is true, the tighter the shoes are, the better they will perform, it is important for kids to resist that urge and to instead find a shoe that fits their foot shape better. You'll want to size them accordingly or even slightly big for growing room (socks can help). Regardless of how comfortable they are, we recommend taking them off between burns or on belay ledges.
Given the right sized shoe, and the right shape, they should perform well even if they aren't super tight, especially the downturned models like the Evolv Ashima and the La Sportiva Maverink because they keep the big toe pointed down giving more control without cramming the toe in an unnatural position.
The La Sportiva Gripit is the most comfortable shoe we tested by a long shot, but the performance on technical terrain is severely lacking. So while we recommend a shoe that is comfortable, we also think it's essential to find the best-shaped shoe that will accomplish the performance desired and size it so their toes lay flat but reach the end of the shoe. As the kids grow and the shoes get tighter, it becomes that much more crucial to take them off when not on route.
The Black Diamond Momentum is another shoe that has a wide toe-box but has a low volume, keeping it from feeling sloppy on most kids feet and the Butora Brava, while too tight for those with wide feet, felt super comfy for those with narrow feet with its super soft synthetic uppers. The Evolv Venga had a nice balance with a roomy toe box but good performance.
With such a variety now in the kid's shoe market, chances are good that there is a perfect shoe for your kid crusher. We recommend doing your homework, and we believe that this review will help simplify your shopping experience. A good performing and excellent fitting pair of shoes will take the attention away from foot discomfort and put the focus on progressing through the grades and having fun.
— Adam Paashaus