We’ll cut straight to the chase. No.
But we know that’s not super helpful either (whoops), so bear with us as we explain and promise to provide a more straightforward answer to your pressing question: Do I need super tight rock climbing shoes?
Ultimately, the best answer is it depends. And what it depends on is a combination of your climbing goals, the type of climbing you’ll be doing, how long you’ll be wearing your climbing shoes without taking them off, who you talk to, and what shoes you wear. Now that we’ve outlined all the factors determining how tight you want your climbing shoe to be let’s break them down.
Are Super Tight Rock Climbing Shoes Necessary?
It depends on your climbing goals.
A super tight fit will only sometimes work for some climbers or climbing goals. While a snug climbing shoe will allow you the most precise control over foot placement, they are not practical for all-day use. So if you’re looking to boulder and send high grades, a reasonably tight shoe will help you utilize small footholds on overhanging walls or terrain. However, if you want to sport climb and do ten pitches in a single session, you may want a more comfortable shoe to keep on for a few hours without significant discomfort. However, if you can take off your shoes between climbs and are simply looking to send your project, then tighter shoes might be the way to go knowing you can take them off.
It depends on the type of climbing you’re doing.
This factor depends on your climbing goals and how long you’ll have to keep your shoes on for one stretch. For example, multi-pitch climbing outside will likely warrant a more comfortable shoe as you’ll wear them for a prolonged period. However, indoor climbing allows you to take off your shoes between climbs, as the floors are typically bare-foot friendly. Tight shoes also offer a slight advantage over looser-fitting shoes on overhanging terrain. A snug shoe can give you more control on the wall when you are hanging on by your tippy-toes.
It depends on who you talk to about climbing shoes.
Everyone is different. Everyone has different sensory tolerances, pain tolerances, and preferences. Some climbers swear by downsizing 2-3 sizes from their street shoes and letting their toes get crushed in their climbing shoes. Other climbers refuse to jam their foot into such a tight shoe and won’t downsize, opting to learn how to maximize the use of the looser-fitting climbing shoe. Only you know your comfort level, pain tolerance, and what you want from a shoe. So take others’ advice with a grain of salt and try on many different fits of climbing shoes until you find one that suits you and your foot.
It depends on what climbing shoes you wear.
Like regular shoes, every shoe and every brand is different. La Sportiva fit differently than Scarpas, and Scarpas fit differently than Evolves. What you consider a tight size in one shoe might feel huge in another, and vice versa. Some shoes, especially neutrals (flat shoes), are designed for prolonged wear and comfort, so it might be impossible to fit super tight. In contrast, aggressive shoes are designed for climbing on steeper terrain and will likely feel on the tighter side, no matter what.
Ultimately, we conclude that super tight rock climbing shoes are not required to rock climb or even to send hard. Sometimes, they may feel better and make it easier to stand on one or two holds here and there; however, if you have your technique down and put in the training, your shoes won’t make or break the climb.
Hopefully, this article highlights all the variables determining whether a super-tight shoe is necessary and doesn’t leave you without an urgent need to buy a new pair of super-tight climbing shoes. Do what you want, wear what shoes you want, and go crush!
We’d love to hear from you, so let us know in the comments below if you found this article helpful!