Climbing Shoe Size Guide

Difficulty level
Climbing discipline

Recommendation: sizes than your street shoe size

This estimate is based on empirical values and is .

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What can the size calculator do?

When using our size calculator you should bear in mind that it is not intended to be consumer advice for helping you choose the right model of climbing shoe. You can find this in our buyer's guide for climbing shoes or you can also consult our customer service. Our size calculator can help you find the right size for you in the model that you want to buy.

Climbing shoes generally fit your foot quite snugly. This means that there is a very small margin of error in both the fit and the size. The fact that the sizes which climbing shoe manufacturers use differ from the standard street shoe sizes can make it is difficult to find the right size.

Luckily, you can take advantage of the experiences of others. That's why we asked our customers to share their experiences with different climbing shoes, analysed this data and finally compiled it to create our size calculator. So far we have collected 3300 useful customer experiences for 206 models from 18 brands (as of April 2017).

We not only asked our customers about the size of their shoes, we also asked for information about how they use them, as well as about their climbing abilities. These three components - usage, climbing ability, model/manufacturer - should help to make it much easier to choose your size.

The climbing shoe market is not static. Models are constantly being changed or redesigned and new models are coming out. This means we have to constantly update the data we use for our size calculator. Since (unfortunately) we don't personally have the time to be constantly testing and rating every climbing shoe model ourselves, we are even more dependent on the experiences of our climbing customers (and non-customers).

Steps for finding the perfect size climbing shoe

Brand and model

Every brand has it's own individual size chart. This can often differ from the conventional street shoe sizes. The fact that the sizes of street shoes also differ from one manufacturer to another makes this even more difficult.

Actual difference in climbing shoe sizes
Hard to believe: Both the pairs of shoes pictured are actually size 38

Thankfully the sizes from the same manufacturer are relatively similar and consistent. This means we can use our customers' experiences to determine which size deviations are common to which particular manufacturers. For example, the shoes from La Sportiva are usually two sizes smaller than street shoes, and the shoes from Scarpa are one size smaller. On the other hand, shoes from Evolv are pretty close to street shoe sizes.

But when your are trying to find the right size, you should also take into account the particular model of shoe, since the fit can actually effect which size you need. A shoe with strong heel tension, which is worn so that the toes are slightly curled up, needs to be worn in a smaller size than a straight "slipper", in which the toes sit flat in the toe box.

Climbing discipline

How you intend to use the shoes will also play a significant role in which model you choose, as well as in the size. Depending on the demands you are making on your shoes, the size you need can vary greatly.

If you often climb or boulder on vertical or overhanging walls with small footholds, you need the optimal energy transfer to the shoe tip on the big toe. Here you need climbing shoes and bouldering shoes with a strongly tensioned heel. These are worn very small, so that the toes are curled up in the toe box. This allows for maximum power concentration. This type of shoe should be chosen in a smaller size, so that the toes sit right at the front.

If you like bouldering on overhangs you have to use a lot of heel hooks. When the entire body weight is hanging from a heel hook, the shoe has to fit very tightly on the heel and not slip at all. In this case, very close fitting shoes with a high degree of heel tensioning are recommended, since the heel will be perfectly enclosed.

Board and friction fans on the other hand prefer supple shoes, which allow you bring as much of the sole as possible in the forefoot region in contact with the rock. In this case, curled-up toes are if anything an inconvenience. Wider cut shoes, which give you the option of bending your toes, and give you a good feel for the friction when you are climbing, are a better choice. They can also slightly more comfortable to wear.

In alpine climbing two factors come together: Firstly you would not normally be climbing at the technical limit of your ability (pros and specialists excepted), and secondly you will often be standing in the shoes for long periods of time. For this reason you shouldn't choose shoes with a very snug fit if you will be wearing them for longer routes.

Climbing level

Other important factors are the difficulty level of the climb and the ability level of the climber. Here the the difficulty of a route or a boulder plays a significant role, as does the size of the grips and the toeholds (and how good these are for holding onto or getting a good foothold).

While beginners can still use quite large treads, more experienced climbers must be satisfied with the tiniest toeholds, as well as inclined or overhanging walls. This means that climbing shoes for advanced climbers are often worn in smaller sizes than those for beginners. For example a pro-boulderer would choose their shoes in a cut up to one and a half sizes smaller than bouldering beginners. In Alpine climbing there can be one whole shoe size between beginners and pros.

Empirical Data

When choosing the right size you should think about both how you will be using the shoes, and also realistically evaluate how strong a climber you are.

Deviation from street shoe size depending on climbing level and discipline

Beginners (< 7) Advanced (7 - 9) Pros (> 9)
Bouldering -0.6 -1.2 -1.8
Sport climbing -0.5 -1.0 -1.7
Alpine climbing -0.6 -0.9 -1.3

The relationship between climbing ability and climbing discipline with shoe size is illustrated in the following matrix, which we have produced using the information from our customers. Boulderers wear the narrowest shoes and Alpine climbers the widest. Sports climbers fall in between. However the differences between the disciplines are only apparent from the more highly advanced climbing levels. Beginners should wear their shoes half a size to one full size smaller than their street shoe size, more or less irrespective of their climbing discipline. On the other hand, pros would wear their shoes around two sizes smaller than their street shoe size, and boulderers should choose half a size smaller than Alpine climbers.

The matrix above should only help to clarify the difference between climbers in different disciplines and difficulty grades. The values in the table are average values between all brands and models! There are however large differences between the individual brands and models. Shoes from Evolv, for example, are only 0.2 sizes below street shoe sizes, whereas shoes from La Sportiva on the other hand are a full 1.4 sizes! In order to factor in all the important details (brand, model, climbing discipline, climbing level) and get a meaningful result, which is tailored to you, your best bet is to use our size calculator above.

The difference between buying and wearing

While difficulty grades and wall inclination are quite easy to capture in figures, there are still a few factors, which are more difficult to define, but are important when you are trying to choose the right size.

Climbing shoes widen and stretch
Bear in mind: Leather shoes stretch after purchase

Leather shoes stretch after the first use significantly more than shoes made from synthetic leather. A shoe that initially fits very snugly can fit your foot perfectly after two weeks. At La Sportiva they say that the shoes can widen by half a size to one whole size.

Those who like to wear their shoes very tight will quickly notice a difference as soon as the summertime ends and the temperature starts to drop. The warmth/heat in summer can cause the feet to swell. Then very close fitting shoes can become painful. In this case it can be good to have a second pair of shoes or to wear the same shoes half a size larger.

Most climbers wear their shoes without socks so that they have a better feel for the toe holds. On the other hand, some climbers prefer to wear socks in their shoes. This can either be because they prefer to, or because they have problems with smelly climbing shoes. The sizes given by the size calculator refer to the sizes without socks. If you wear socks, you should be aware of this and choose slightly larger shoes.

Fit for climbing shoes

Whether a climbing shoe will fit you right doesn't only depend on the size. There is a saying that applies to this: "Cobbler, stick to your lasts" The same also applies to climbing shoe wearers. In most cases the manufactures have a defined number on the lasts, which they stick to. It is often the case that the shoes from one manufacture will fit you perfectly, while shoes from another brand will fit terribly, even though you have chosen the correct size. And then your friend might find that the reverse is true for them.

How does the cut differ between brands?

We have asked some of our customers, whether they feel that the cut of their climbing shoes is more narrow, wide or normal. The database is still pretty limited for some brands. Nevertheless we could identify some initial trends, and of course we wouldn't keep these from you:

Cut of climbing shoes from selected brands.
Brand Cut (trend) Customer experiences tally
Andrea Boldrini normal 5
Boreal slightly wide 12
Edelrid - 0
Evolv normal 10
Five Ten rather narrow 20
La Sportiva rather narrow 127
LACD - 0
Lowa normal 4
Mad Rock rather narrow 4
Mammut normal 2
Millet normal 2
Ocun normal 13
Red Chili rather narrow 26
Rock Empire normal 1
Rock Pillars normal 5
Scarpa normal 76
So iLL - 0
Tenaya rather narrow 13
Wild Climb normal 1

Unfortunately we cannot any sweeping generalisations, and say that all the shoes from one manufacturer will fit perfectly, since there are also differences between individual models. Before you get completely confused: There are two things which will help to make your choice easier. Firstly the fit on the forefoot especially on the tip (foot shape), and secondly the fit on the heel.

Fit on the forefoot (foot shape)

For men's forefoot shapes, there are three general foot shapes to choose between:

  • Egyptian foot: The second toe is shorter than the big toe
  • Greek foot: The second toe is longer than the big toe
  • Roman foot The second toe and the big toe are the same length
Egyptian foot
Greek foot
Roman foot
Hallux Valgus

When it comes to climbing shoes, the fit of the toe box is a significant factor in whether or not the shoe will fit well, so it makes sense to categorise shoes according to how well suited they are for each foot shape.

If you have classified your foot, it will be easy for you to follow our current customer experiences:

  • Egyptian foot: La Sportiva, Scarpa
  • Greek foot: Five Ten, La Sportiva, preferably not Scarpa
  • Narrow forefoot: Evolv, Ocun

If you suffer from a Hallux Valgus or have a predisposition for this problem, you should take particular care when choosing climbing shoes. Contrary to what you might think, it is not true that the wide and flat shoes are the best. The exact opposite is actually the case. If you have problems with Hallux Valgus you should choose shoes in which your toes are slightly curled, but not bent inward too much.

Fit on the heel

Finding the right heel shape is somewhat simpler. Here you can choose broadly between narrower and wider heels. The current customer experience data shows that La Sportiva, Scarpa and Five Ten are suited for narrow heels. Boreal on the other hand offers some models for wider heels.

If you have a narrow heel, you can also keep in mind that pre-tensioned shoes normally sit very snugly on the heel. You can find everything you need on the topic of pre tension and downturn in our Base Camp Blog. In general it is also true that very aggressive climbing shoes (strong pre tension, strong down turn) are worn very tight and leave less room for movement, than simpler, wider fitting shoes. This means that beginners have a wider selection of possible models than more advanced climbers or pros.