Sizing Climbing Shoes: Tips and Tricks for a Perfect Fit


Finding the perfect fitting climbing shoe is like a Cinderella story. But, to make the Cinderella story even more complicated is the fact that climbers are notorious for downsizing and touting their ability to cram their feet into painful shoes. The wrap rock climbers receive is a story of shoes two sizes too small and that they have a masochistic streak. But, the reality is that it is possible, and expected, to choose a perfectly fitting climbing shoe. Even the climbers who make a big deal out of downsizing likely have their Cinderella slippers in their climbing bags that they wear for most climbing sessions, reserving the tight-fitting shoes for hard projecting sessions. So, to help you escape the painful shoe trap and find your glass slipper, here are some tips and tricks for sizing climbing shoes for the perfect fit.

Tips and Tricks for Finding the Perfect Climbing Shoe Fit

To best guide your decision, there is a list of potential fits you want to find in your climbing shoe. Since no one size fits all, feel free to pick which applies to you. Or, if you’re unsure what fit you’re looking for – read each and decide which you think will suit your needs.

climbing shoes
  1. Comfort Fit for Causal Climbing

Choose your street shoe size if you are less concerned with a performance fit and prefer a comfortable climbing shoe. Climbing shoes will never fit or feel as comfortable as UGG boots (they do have rubber soles), but going with your standard shoe size will keep your toes from being squished and curled over. Please note that this sizing strategy may not work if your street size, in certain brands, leaves extra room around your heel or toe box that causes your foot to slide in your shoe while climbing. That may be because brand sizing is not synonymous (much like clothing). And vice versa, you may need .5 a size bigger than your street shoe for a comfortable fit.

  1. For Long Training Sessions

While most climbing shoes (especially velcro) are easy to slip on and off, they can become time-consuming or annoying. If you have a 2-hour endurance session on deck, you’ll likely want to keep your climbing shoes on for most of the duration. However, you are also probably looking for a climbing shoe that performs well and helps you feel confident trying hard during your training. Therefore, we suggest sizing a ½ size down from your street shoe size. That should ensure a snug fit, but once you break them in, they should feel comfortable enough to wear for one-and-a-half to two hours.

  1. For Performance

There’s the age-old saying that “beauty is pain.” While that is an arguably toxic mantra, some climbers embrace this when fitting a climbing shoe for performance. That leads to downsizing up to 2 sizes smaller than their street shoe size. While you can certainly try this, finding a high-performing shoe that fits snugly and securely is also possible, sizing just ½ a size down. Thus, for this category, it is hard to pinpoint an ideal sizing guide and instead experiment with a range anywhere from a ½ size to two sizes smaller. Generally, for a performance fit, you want to find a shoe that hugs your foot as tight as possible so you can feel the micro-movements of your foot on the holds and perform moves like heel hooks without your foot slipping in your shoe. Also, remember that the design and brand of climbing shoes can impact which size fits your foot.

Moral of the story: there’s no perfect shoe guide, and it’s impossible to create one. However, these tips and tricks have provided a starting point for your rock climbing shoe selection. As advice, always check return and exchange policies on climbing shoes. Even experienced climbers find themselves ordering the incorrect size and having to exchange or return shoes. Trying them on in a store or climbing gym retail shop is always ideal but understandably unrealistic for everyone and every shoe option. And, if you’re going to ask for rock climbing shoes as a gift, definitely ask if they can include the return/exchange info! Be patient, and know your glass slipper awaits! Please feel free to ask any questions or share any comments you may have on this topic below!