There are almost as many opinions about climbing shoes as there are actual models of climbing shoe. In order to navigate through the convoluted mess of knowledge and determine the best shoe for you, I’ve come up with a check list that should point you in the right direction. Your climbing shoe will end up being like your high school BF or GF, you want to be with them… But sometimes you just want to try out another one just to make sure that’s the one you actually like; and if they really loved you they wouldn’t have lost the mix tape you made them freshman year that had Duncan Sheik “barely breathing” on it (which totally describes your relationship)… I digress. Here’s the list:
1) Is this your first shoe? Most climbers take pride (though they won’t admit it) in how much pain they were in while breaking in their super tight climbing shoes that make them climb way hard. For your first shoe, make sure they are snug with your toes in a bit of a fist (no “foot farts” when walking around in them) but also make sure you can stand being in them. If you don’t want to wear your shoes you won’t want to climb. Now if this is your second set, you are probably ready for step two on the checklist.
2) WHAT do you want to climb? Do you think you are more of a sport climber or a boulderer? Slabby face climbs or overhanging? Answering these questions will help you to determine if you need a comfy flat shoe, a hook toed aggressive shoe, or something in between.
3) Gym or Outside? The harsh reality is that the gym wears your shoes down. Now if you are hitting the gym once or twice a week and going outside every couple of months, one “perfect” pair of shoes should work for a while. It’s tough to adequately train in a gym when you are constantly taking your shoes on and off because they are too aggressive or just uncomfortable, and you don’t want to be walking around the dirt with the shoes you are about to get on the rock with. Two pairs may be the answer for you. Your gym shoe should be more durable, comfy and usually is the last pair you had for outside climbing that has been “put out to pasture”. If you are only climbing in a gym… Then the above point is a cow’s opinion… MOO.
4) Try on a bunch. Do not buy one pair until you’ve tried on at least 3. This will make a huge difference later on. I strongly suggest against buying pairs online unless you have already tried them on or you just always get the same shoe. BTW there are some amazing deals online for climbing shoes in all experience levels.
So there is my easy list of important things to consider prior to your climbing shoe purchase. Hope it helps!