How do you know if you’ve found the right rock climbing shoes? It’s not about the size you think you need, but the size that fits. This crucial aspect of climbing shoe selection is often misunderstood, making it challenging to find the perfect fit.

Rest assured! After absorbing the knowledge from this article, you will be equipped to try on a rock climbing shoe and confidently determine if it will suit you.

Should I Downsize my Rock Climbing Shoes?

rock climbing shoes

The climbing world has evolved, and so have climbing shoes. The biggest misconception is that you must downsize your shoes to two or three sizes for a proper fit. This belief originated from the days of leather climbing shoes, which would stretch over time. However, today’s climbing shoes, mostly made with synthetic and rubber materials, may stretch a little, but not to the extent of three sizes!

The decision of whether to downsize your rock climbing shoes is a personal one, influenced by the brand and the shoe. Remember, not all rock climbing shoes are the same. Shoes primarily made of synthetic fabric will not stretch as much as those made with more rubber, catering to different preferences.

How Should a Climbing Shoe Fit?

Many new climbers aren’t used to how tight a climbing shoe feels, so they only opt for a bigger size to sacrifice their footwork. Other climbers have heard you must torture your feet in shoes that are too small to help you fit on smaller holds to achieve the proper size.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you when purchasing your next pair of climbing shoes:

  1. “Are my toes touching the end of the shoe without any pain?” (They can be slightly curled but shouldn’t be so scrunched that they hurt).
  2. “Do I have any gaps between my foot and the shoe?” (Check for gaps where your foot arches and near the heel. You may not know if you have a high or low arch and may need a different shoe version if offered).
  3. “Can I stand on my toes without the top pinching my foot?” (If you can stand on your toes without pain, you have a good size!)

How Do I Order Rock Climbing Shoes Online?

The best way to order rock climbing shoes online is to choose the size you think you need: a half-size down and a half-size up. If you can afford to order three pairs of shoe styles you’ve never tried, you will save time and money in the long run when trying to exchange for a new size.

Alternatively, if you’re adamant about ordering online but aren’t sure what size to pick, look for a local gear store, climbing gym, or REI that carries the identical shoe. You can try on as many sizes as you need before finding the pair that fits.

How to Break In Rock Climbing Shoes

Your climbing shoes, especially if they’re made mostly of rubber, will adapt to your feet over time. There are several methods to facilitate this process, making it easier for you to break in your climbing shoes.

  1. Climb in them – The most straightforward way to break in climbing shoes is to climb in them until they’re easier to put on. When performing this method, remove your shoes now and then (maybe after each climb) to rest your feet.
  2. Hairdryer/hot shower method—To make your shoes more malleable, heat them up with a hairdryer or wear them in a hot shower. After that, walk around a bit to help break them in.
  3. Use your hands – Some climbing shoes are super stiff right out of the box. Bend and twist them to help break the stiffness.
  4. Thick socks/plastic bags – You can wear your shoes with socks or plastic bags to help loosen them up quickly. (This may be more painful than just climbing in them).
  5. Stuff with stuff – When you’re done with a climbing session, stuff your shoes with socks or newspaper to help prevent them from shrinking back down before breaking in so you don’t lose any of your break-in progress.