Those who love bouldering know that it is a small but powerful segment of the rock climbing world that demands special gear. The best bouldering shoes are made for the short, demanding, difficult problems that bouldering often presents.
I have a special place in my heart for bouldering, I started doing it when I was sixteen in the local climbing gym and have never looked back.
After testing out what seems like a hundred different shoes, I’ve found a handful that I feel comfortable recommending to you as the top picks for bouldering shoes available on the market today!
The Best Bouldering Shoes
For quick access to any of the shoes listed above just click on the button. Our favorite bouldering shoes (and the ones I currently wear!) are the La Sportiva Solution, but there are three others that are worth your consideration!
For a more in-depth look at each of these shoes continue to read below!
Our top pick for the best bouldering shoe is the La Sportiva Solution Climbing Shoe which has been solving climbing’s most complicated problems for over a decade. The shoe also has an aggressive profile and is designed for competition climbing with softer Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber shoes for the best traction possible.
The La Sportiva Solution Climbing Shoe has an ergonomic design, featuring a fast lacing system using quick pulls that are a game changer. Why more climbing companies haven’t adopted this is beyond me!
The original P3 power platform has always just felt right on my foot. It performs just as well on a toe smear as it does being wedged in a crack. As you’d expect, it’s not super supportive, but most aggressive shoes aren’t.
I’m not the only one who loves this shoe… Climbing Magazine has given the Solution it’s Editor’s choice award. If you are looking for a performance rock climbing or bouldering shoe, this is where we’d start.
- Quick Lace system for fast adjustment
- Climbing Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award
- Super sticky Vibram XS grip 2 rubber
- Updated model has more toe rubber for better smears
- Quick break in period.
- Not a beginner shoe by any means
The Mad Rock Flash is the latest in a line of high performance shoes at budget prices. If you liked their first-generation model, then have I got news for you! The new shoe features a great balance between performance and comfort.
The Flash is perfect for the all-around climber and boulderer who will be doing a lot of crack climbing in addition to their usual gym sessions. The Flash has a slightly asymmetrical curve that makes it perfect for rounding corners and handling overhung rock.
While we don’t like the double hook-and-loop closure as much as we do the quick draw that the La Sportiva Solution has, it’s pretty standard for climbing and bouldering shoes alike. The Science Friction R2 rubber held up well in our testing, but wasn’t quite as sticky as we’d normally like for bouldering.
Both the design of this shoe and the rubber is a more moderate design than the Solution, so it’s a much better option if you are a newer climber or on a budget!
- Best Value Option on the list!
- The Flash is slightly asymmetrical for better foot positions in sharp crimps.
- The toe box isn’t as roomy as other models – tight fit if it’s comfortable
- A performance shoe at a moderate price
- Much more beginner friendly than the La Sportiva Solution
- Rubber not as sticky as other bouldering shoes tested
The Five Ten HiAngle Climbing Shoe is our first runner up. It’s the perfect shoe for the advanced climber who likes to practices a little bit of everything. As soon as I put these on, I knew they were going to give the Solutions a run for their money as my go-to bouldering shoe for a long time.
The HiAngle has an aggressive profile that is best used for steep terrain. With that being said, it’s perfect for a lot of the problems I see in my local gym. The unlined portion of the shoe makes it extra comfortable and easy to break in, regardless of your foot width (which is always a concern with climbing shoes).
The Stealth C4 rubber is also a great compound for the job as it grips well and won’t wear out on you. I can usually go through a pair of these every year or two. For those who are looking for something more durable, there’s the Five Ten Men’s Rogue VCS Climbing Shoe.
While these are more comfortable than the Solutions, they lost in that category to the Evolve Shaman’s. I also didn’t think the single Velcro strap was enough as I could see it wearing out and loosening over time.
- Low heel to toe drop makes this shoe perfect for bouldering or gym climbing on smaller problems.
- Stealth C4 rubber was better for edging than expected
- Versatile shoe, good on both rock and in the gym.
- Really nice grippy heel surface design
- Single loop-and-hook strap feels lacking
If comfort is just as important to you as performance, the Evolv Shaman is your shoe. I didn’t find it as durable as the rest of my list, but it’s definitely one of the comfiest shoes I’ve ever worn. That was a pretty big surprise for me!
The Shaman has a more minimalistic design than the rest of the list and frankly there isn’t much to be said about it. While it does have an aggressive shape, it’s not quite as extreme as the Solution which lends to it’s comfort.
The combination of the three-strap velcro closure and the “Love Bump” that Evolv adds to the midsole of the shoe give it a custom fit that just isn’t normal in bouldering shoes.
If performance is what you’re after, go with the La Sportiva Solution. If you want a shoe that will still perform well while bouldering all day and leave you able to walk the next day, the Evolv Shaman would be my recommendation!
- The most comfortable shoe tested!
- 3 Strap hook-and-loop closure for customized fit
- Trax SAS rubber did the job
- Great shoe for the price
- Not quite as aggressive as Solution for difficult problems
Bouldering Shoes Buying Guide
Now that you’ve seen some of our top picks for the best bouldering shoe, we want to talk a bit about what we look for in a bouldering shoe! At the end of the day, it comes down mostly to performance and comfort.
Bouldering shoes tend to have an aggressive shape with sticky rubber for optimal grip. While comfort is important, the only way to tackle the most challenging problems and protect you from falling is with the right rubber.
The rubber used in most bouldering shoes falls into two categories: Soft or Super Soft. Both of these rubbers are more soft and sticky than durable and as a result they both wear out faster. If you’re doing most of your climbing in a gym this doesn’t tend to be a problem, but it can be if you’re bouldering outdoors in weather and varying conditions.
Bouldering shoes are normally either moderate or aggressively fit, very rarely will you find a neutral shoe made for bouldering. Because the problems tend to be shorter but more difficult, a lot of performance is asked from bouldering shoes.
This does mean that these shoes tend to be less comfortable than options from our best beginner climbing shoe list, but something like the Mad Rock Flash is a good compromise for beginners who still want to boulder.
Climbing in shoes that pinch or create pain points can really limit a day of climbing. You need to be able to feel the holds consistently and comfortably – and that’s just not possible in a shoe that hates your feet.
The best bouldering shoes have some sort of padding in the midsole, which then interacts with the rubber beneath to create a comfortable depression and protect your toe.
You want a depression that’s low enough to keep your foot secure, but also high enough to avoid pinching or squeezing your toes. The Evolv Shaman meets this criteria very well and most of the shoes tested do as well, to differing extents.
If you can try on climbing shoes before buying we always recommend it. In fact, we regularly try on in person and then order online (better prices). Speaking of price…
No one wants to spend a ton of extra money if they don’t have too. We wanted to make sure the shoes on our list were a good value for the price.
While some of the shoes above are a bit more expensive, they have a higher performance level and improved durability or performance. We included the Mad Rock specifically so budget sensitive shopper still had a good option for a bouldering shoe that would perform!
The Final Pitch
Do you need a shoe that will perform well? Go with the La Sportiva Solution. If you’re looking for a more comfortable, durable, and less aggressive shoe, our top pick is the Evolv Shaman.
The most important thing is you find the best bouldering shoe for you. Find the factors that are most vital for your style and preferences in climbing, as well as which fit your particular foot the best!