Tackle your next route with the best women’s rock climbing shoes. From slab-charging to soft, sensitive, or crack-conducive, these picks will help secure your feet as you top out.
Climbing shoes are incredibly nuanced and diverse in shape and feel. Finding the right shoe depends a lot on your climbing style and location. Add in the fact that sizes vary wildly from brand to brand, and it’s no wonder finding the right shoe can be a challenge.
That’s why we’ve spent months seeking out and testing the best climbing shoes.
Our testers included an American Mountain Guides Association-certified rock guide, an intro to outdoor rock climbing guide, a rock climbing coach, and a skilled recreational climber.
These shoes smeared up multipitch slab, jammed into a range of crack widths, withstood drizzle, and hit the crag during 90-degree Fahrenheit summer heat. The routes were scattered from Canada to Colorado, on various North American granite, and ranged between trad climbing, sport climbing, and top rope.
And while there isn’t a single pair of shoes that works for every person’s feet and climbing style, we’ve highlighted a variety of options. These are the shoes we wear and love, the best climbing shoes that will make roping-up on the rock that much more rad.
For even more help finding the best fit, refer to our buyer’s guide at the end of this article.
Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Women in 2019
Best Overall Climbing Shoe: evolv Kira ($130)
Multiple testers said the Kira is super-comfortable out of the box. It has thin rubber in certain spots to reduce pressure points, and thicker rubber in high-wear zones to increase lifeline. The shoes smeared well on vertical granite and thin holds. And they worked great for crack climbing too, as the Velcro buckles are on the inside of the shoe.
One guide, who has now added this pair to her work quiver, does 100 percent of her Indian Creek climbs in Velcro shoes. The straps are more durable than laces, and they slide off and on easily during multipitch climbs. “This unique closure system provided the efficiency of Velcro but a more enhanced, customized fit, like laces,” said one tester who has narrow feet.
Weight: 13.6 oz. (pair)
Upper material: Synthetic
Pros: The unique closure system is fast and customizable
Cons: Not for climbers seeking an aggressive, rigid shape
Best Budget Climbing Shoe: Black Diamond Momentum ($95)
Due to the flat last and nonaggressive character, one tester — who used this shoe on 5.9- to 5.11-rated multipitch granite in Yosemite, South Lake Tahoe, and Colorado’s Taylor Canyon — had this to say: “The Momentum is not my go-to gym shoe, but it’s a great cragging shoe and is good for beginner climbers.”
The Momentum gets a thumbs-up for breathability. Its synthetic knit upper provides great air flow. And the shoe’s ability to flex and mold to the foot makes for a comfortable fit. One drawback: The rubber isn’t all-time quality, so it slips at times, especially on indoor holds. But the tester said it works best outside.
Weight: 13.2 oz. (pair)
Upper material: Synthetic knit
Pros: Competitive price for high quality
Cons: Missing top-notch rubber, so indoor climbing gets slick
Best for Beginners: SCARPA Force V ($139)
Ready to start climbing? The Force V is a solid beginner option that will grow with you. It’s an awesome all-around shoe with great padding, support, quality rubber, and a roomier toe box. Plus, foot entry and exit are easy.
“The moderate profile and flex of the midsole provide enough support for endurance or longer days of climbing but not for routes that are too extreme,” said one tester.
Weight: 17 oz. (pair)
Upper material: 1.8mm suede
Pros: Less aggressive last for long days on rock
Cons: Lacks stiffness for climbers desiring rigid support
Best for All-Day Comfort: Tenaya Ra Woman ($131)
The Ra Woman gets a gold-star for foot-width response, meaning the shoe adapts well to a wider foot. One tester said, “The shape is flexible and stretches nicely around an expanding foot on a hot day or back-to-back pitches. These are one of the most comfortable shoes I’ve tested for box-to-wall use.”
The curve of the shoe is moderate and flexible, but the toe box has supportive rubber reinforcement for hooking, difficult footholds, and abrasion resistance. This comfortable, all-around shoe excels at routes that have a mix of low-angle face and steep sections with sharp, small holds.
Weight: 12 oz. (pair)
Upper material: Microfiber
Pros: Excellent foot-width response for hot or big-wall days
Cons: Closure’s Velcro straps are a bit long for narrow feet
Best for Narrow Feet: La Sportiva Solution ($180)
The Solution is drastically downturned in the toe box, provides excellent support for high arches, and has a narrow heel cup. The Fast Lacing System allows for quick closure. But the straps are a tad long for super-narrow feet, our testers found.
“I love the support and hug that these shoes give my feet on vertical climbs. In contrast, I might not choose these shoes for a long, multipitch day or lower-angle routes,” said one tester.
Weight: 17 oz. (pair)
Upper material: Leather
Pros: Awesome high-arch support
Cons: Velcro closure is long for narrow feet
Best for Edging: Five Ten Gambit VCS ($120)
The Gambit VCS gets an 8-out-of-10 grade for being comfortable on day one. “The toe box is spacious and supportive, plus there’s a soft, suede interior liner, which doesn’t negate rigidity,” highlighted one tester.
The rubber edge is really nice for pushing off of specific points and smearing. The Gambit VCS has a stiff midsole and less tension on the heel for comfort. We found this one runs a bit small, so consider sizing up.
Weight: 13 oz. (pair)
Upper material: Lined leather
Pros: Comfortable out of the box
Cons: Not a downturned shape for overhanging rock
Best Grabber: So iLL Street LV ($139)
The Street LV offers a fit for narrower feet, but “there’s also quite a bit more volume in the forefoot compared to other narrow designs,” said one tester with a wide forefoot and narrow heel. She typically climbs in men’s shoes given that women’s-specific lasts are generally more slender.
The pair’s aggressive parrot-bill shape powerfully dominated overhanging bouldering problems. And more experienced climbers (with stronger feet) will appreciate the Street’s ability to conquer all types of terrain and climbs.
Weight: 16 oz. (pair)
Upper material: Synthetic
Pros: Energy-saving for angled, overhanging problems and routes
Cons: A mismatch for wide feet
Most Breathable Climbing Shoe: SCARPA Vapor V ($175)
“This is a great all-around shoe for experienced climbers that need a step up from a beginner shoe, and the breathability is excellent,” said one tester who climbed in 80-degree Fahrenheit weather while avoiding sweat-soaked feet.
The heel cup is comfortable, and the upper is very supportive. And we like that the rubber is high-quality and sticky for repeated use. “The edging and precision were tricky for small pockets because of the toe box shape, but the flexibility is amazing,” added the tester.
Weight: 14.8 oz. (pair)
Upper material: 1.8mm microsuede
Pros: Nice intermediary choice for progressing climbers
Cons: Squarish, slimmer toe box is not super-conducive for edging power
Most Sensitive Climbing Shoe: Five Ten Anasazi LV Pro ($170)
The Anasazi LV Pro proved to be a great all-around shoe that’s a match for thin holds, slabs, hard face climbing, and cracks: pretty much anything that’s not overhanging. “They flex nice, smear great, and edge well. Plus, they’re comfy the first time you put them on,” said one tester.
The Anasazi LV Pro has a regular, or symmetrical, fit — meaning the toes are not pulled in an asymmetrical direction. It has a synthetic upper and a medium-stiff midsole. The heel has tension for a flush fit, and a rubber toe patch increases friction.
Our testers reported that the toe felt narrow while the heel and arch were spacious.
Weight: 15.8 oz. (pair)
Upper material: Synthetic
Pros: Excels on difficult face climbs
Cons: Narrow in heel, baggy in toe; not for hourglass feet
How to Choose the Best Women’s Climbing Shoes
Identify Your Climbing Style
“To choose a rock climbing shoe, analyze the terrain where you’ll take the shoes and determine where you’ll be doing 70-80 percent of your climbing. Then dial in the right fit,” said Stefanie Kamm, athlete manager and digital marketing coordinator for SCARPA North America.
Kamm started climbing in 2012 and goes weekly in Boulder Canyon, Colorado. So she knows a thing or two.
Shoe Shape & Fit
The shape, or last, of a climbing shoe greatly determines the purpose. In general, bouldering, overhanging, or vertical single-pitch routes need shoes with a tight, performance-type fit, also known as aggressive, downcambered, downturned, or slightly downturned.
A flatter last might be more comfortable for multipitch and low-angle, subvertical climbs. Commonly, rock climbing guides and new climbers choose a flatter shoe for comfort.
Shoe softness refers to the pliability of the rubber in the outsole, which increases sensitivity, or a climber’s ability to feel the rock features. Comparatively, harder rubber provides more foot support.
A good fit is greatly determined by foot compatibility with that last shape and the shoe size. Make sure there are no air pockets around the foot or heel. Toes will curl under in a downturned shoe compared to a flat shoe. Whether you choose a Velcro or lace closure system will alter the feel and fit, so try out both. And a shoe’s materials affect the fit over time.
Leather vs. Synthetic
“Microsuede or leather uppers are less durable than synthetic uppers, but they are comfortable and stretch out. Synthetic uppers are more abrasion-resistant and have a tight fit for performance or competition,” said Kamm.
Vegan footwear addresses leather uppers and footbeds.
Overall, women’s-specific models have a lower-volume heel, narrower last, and softer or thinner rubber for easier flex. Try on a ton of shoes to find the foot mold that fits best.
Kamm explained, “Not all companies use two different lasts for men’s and women’s versions. Some use the same foot mold as the men’s shoe, make it smaller, change the color, and call it women’s.”
Also, be open to wearing any shoe regardless of gender. “A lot of men with a lower-volume heel prefer the women’s version,” said Kamm.
Have a favorite pair of climbing shoes? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.