Soft Vs Hard Climbing Shoes – A Guide For Climbers 2023

Authored By Trekking Expert
Soft Vs Hard Climbing Shoes – A Guide For Climbers 2023

When you begin climbing, it’s hard to know which type of shoe is best for you.

Do you need a soft or hard-sole climbing shoe?

Climbing shoes are essential for indoor and outdoor climbing because they help you stand on small ledges and pockets, preventing your feet from slipping when making your way up the wall. Soft vs hard-soled climbing shoes have different pros and cons.

The main difference between the two types of shoes is the amount of support they give you. More complicated climbing shoes offer more support, with a stiffer sole that helps you gain a better foothold when standing on small ledges or pockets on a climbable surface.

This increases stability and performance, but softer climbing shoes are better if you’re starting.

They provide more comfort and flexibility, making it easier to get into a stance and find the correct position for your next move.

What is a soft-sole climbing shoe?

A soft-soled climbing shoe is the most common type of climbing shoe.

It is made from fabric, synthetic leather, or a combination of both, and its soles are typically thinner and more flexible than a hard-soled shoe, which makes it great for beginners who want to progress more quickly.

What is a soft-sole climbing shoe?

When standing on small ledges or pockets, a softer sole allows your foot to bend and conform to the shape of the surface beneath you, which helps you get your foot into the correct position and find the best fit on the hold.

The softness of the shoe’s sole also gives you more sensitivity and feel when climbing, which is great if you’re starting or want to improve your footwork and technique when bouldering indoors.

A soft-soled climbing shoe is generally easier to break in than a hard-soled pair, which is great if you’re just getting started and want a shoe that is more comfortable and easier to fit.

What is a hard-sole climbing shoe?

A hard-soled climbing shoe has a stiffer sole than a soft-soled shoe, making it ideal for more experienced climbers looking for something to help them progress and improve their technique further.

What is a hard-sole climbing shoe?

Harder soles are typically thicker and sturdier, which provides more support and stability when standing on small ledges or pockets on a climbable surface.

This results in increased precision when placing your foot and better overall performance.

Soft-soled climbing shoes are better if you’re starting, as they provide more comfort and flexibility, making it easier to get into a stance and find the correct position for your next move.

A hard-soled climbing shoe is usually more precise and precise, to begin with, so it is generally better if you’re trying to push your climbing grade, have a slightly wider foot, or have some experience already.

Hard Sole & Soft Climbing Shoe Features

Soft Sole Climbing Shoe Features
Hard Sole Climbing Shoe Features
Durability – A soft climbing shoe will typically last longer than a stiff climbing shoe, which is not as durable.
Stiffer sole – A soft climbing shoe has a smoother and more flexible sole, making it more comfortable to wear.
More sensitive – A softer sole is more sensitive, which makes it great for beginners who want to progress more quickly.
Best for beginners – Soft-soled shoes are best for beginners as they are more comfortable and easier to break in.
More precise – A more rigid sole is more accurate and helps you advance your climbing grade.
More support – A stiffer sole provides more support and stability when standing on small ledges or pockets on a climbable surface.
Differences Between Soft Vs Hard Climbing Shoes

There are many major differences between soft and hard climbing shoes, but here are some of the most notable:

Durability: Soft climbing shoes are not as durable as hard climbing shoes and typically require replacing more frequently.
Comfort: While soft and hard climbing shoes can be uncomfortable, many people find soft climbing shoes to be more comfortable than hard climbing shoes.
Weight: Soft climbing shoes tend to be lighter than hard ones since they have fewer internal reinforcements.
Design: Harder climbing shoes are often designed with a tighter fit, while softer climbing shoes offer a looser fit.

Which type of climbing shoe is best for you?

Which type of climbing shoe is best for you?

There are a points you can look for in a climbing shoe that will help you find the best fit for your needs:

Fit – The fit of a climbing shoe is one of the most important aspects to consider when shopping for shoes. A shoe that is too loose will likely result in blisters and other injuries, while a shoe that is too tight may cause discomfort and affect your climbing abilities. In general, shoes that are too small tend to be more comfortable, but they may not last as long.
Feel – The feel of a climbing shoe refers to the way the shoe fits on your foot and how it feels while you’re climbing. A comfortable shoe fits well and provides plenty of support during your climb. Finding shoes that give you enough room in the toe box while still fitting snugly on your heel and ankle is necessary.
Durability – Durability is another crucial factor when shopping for climbing shoes. Climbing can be hard on shoes, so choosing ones that will last through multiple uses without wearing them out quickly is essential. You may want to opt for more expensive shoes that are more durable if you know you’ll be using them often (i.e., if you’re a professional athlete or someone who boulders often)

Different Types of Rubber for Soft and Hard Climbing Shoes

Natural Rubber – This classic rubber is soft and malleable, making it great for soft-soled climbing shoes.
SBR – SBR (styrene butadiene rubber) is a synthetic rubber that is used in hard-soled climbing shoes.
Grip – This rubber is very sticky and soft, making it perfect for soft-soled climbing shoes.
Cut – This is a hard rubber that is great for hard-soled climbing shoes, as it is very durable.
Different oils – Climbing shoes are made from different types of rubber, which is then infused with oils or synthetic materials to create different types of rubber.

Soft sole shoes for indoor climbing

Soft sole shoes for indoor climbing

With indoor climbing, you need shoes that are comfortable and flexible enough to do footwork on.

Moreover, indoor climbing shoes also require a sticky rubber to allow you to stick to the wall.

With that said, I would recommend the La Sportiva Taurus Mountain Shoes.

These shoes fit well and are can be worn for any type of climbing. They’re extremely comfortable with a toe box that allows your toes to move around freely.

The rubber on the bottom of these shoes is extremely sticky and will help you stay on the wall.

I highly recommend this shoe if you want a pair to climb indoors and outdoors.

Hard sole shoes for outdoor climbing

Hard sole shoes for outdoor climbing

Hard-sole shoes for outdoor climbing can be challenging to find and purchase. Because everyone’s experience is different, no shoe is the best for everyone.

My personal experience is that I am a size 11, and it cannot be easy to find outdoor shoes that are this size.

When I was climbing in Alaska, the company I was working with recommended buying an extra large pair of shoes and then cutting the toes myself. This allows you to fit your foot into the shoe better so you can get a better fit.

Another option that I have used is to purchase women’s shoes because they typically run one size smaller than men’s shoes.

This can allow you to find a shoe with a trimmer fit, so your foot doesn’t slip around in the shoe while you’re climbing.

The last piece of advice that I have is to try on different shoes before buying them.

When trying on shoes, it is vital to ensure your toes aren’t being squeezed at all and that your heel feels secure inside the shoe without being too tight or loose.

If your heel keeps slipping out of the shoe while climbing, it will become hazardous for you and others around you and make it impossible for you to climb well.

Do climbing shoes make a difference?

Climbing shoes make a difference as they are designed to fit precisely to each foot shape and size. The boots provide better traction on the wall and will help you reach new heights.

Do climbing shoes make a difference?

While there are many different climbing shoes, they all share certain qualities, such as a Velcro closure, reinforced toes, and flexible soles.

Climbing shoes come in many different styles and sizes, so it’s best to try on several pairs before making your purchase.

The best climbing shoes will fit snugly but not too tight. The shoes should not be so loose that they slide around on your feet while climbing or training.

When trying different pairs of climbing shoes, pay attention to how well the toe box fits and whether the shoe is too tight in the heel.

When shopping for climbing shoes, it’s also a good idea to try them on with your climbing gym’s signature maple syrup-scented toe-shaped stickers plastered everywhere throughout the hallowed walls that add a bit of cushion when you’re bouldering outdoors (probably).

Make sure you fit the shoe with the smellier ones before trying the nicer ones!


Are stiff climbing shoes better?

All things being equal, stiffer climbing shoes will always be better. Climbing shoes are designed to conform to the shape of your foot, but they will never be as pliable or comfortable as regular shoes.
The advantage of stiffer shoes is that they are more durable and provide better support. They are also more damage-resistant and will last longer than softer shoes.
Stiffer shoes, however, can also be more uncomfortable to wear, so there is a trade-off between durability and comfort. It all depends on your personal preference.

Are aggressive shoes better for bouldering?

No, aggressive shoes are not better for bouldering. They may provide more support and allow you to get onto smaller holds, but they generally have low friction, making it harder to stay on the wall. In addition, they are often more expensive than classic shoes. A better option is to buy a pair of both types of shoes so that you can choose the best one depending on the problem.

Why do climbers wear tight shoes?

One thing that makes sport climbing, so fun is its freedom of movement. But this also means that your feet are more likely to slip off holds. To prevent this from happening, many climbers lace their shoes incredibly tight. This minimizes the chance of your foot slipping off a grip and falling. Additionally, it can help you stay grounded on small footholds.
You are stretching before climbing is also essential to ensure a safe climb. While tight shoes may feel uncomfortable, they are much safer when climbing. You will likely have to take your shoes off the mid-climb to adjust them. So it may be best to go smaller than what you usually wear.

Uttam Kapri
Uttam Kapri is a highly experienced trekking guide with over 10 years of experience in the tourism industry. He holds a Master's degree in Sociology and a Bachelor's degree in various fields, including English Literature and Travel and Tourism Development. Uttam is passionate about welcoming people from all over the world for trekking trips in Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.