Best Women's Climbing Shoes
From Canada to Colorado, we tested rock climbing shoes on a variety of terrains; photo credit: Eric Phillips

The Best Women’s Climbing Shoes of 2021

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 that finding the right shoe can be a challenge.

That’s why we’ve spent months seeking out and testing the best climbing shoes.

rock climbing shoes
A few of the shoes we tested and recommend; photo credit: Eric Phillips

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 toprope.

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 and FAQ at the end of this article. And if you’re looking for a specific type of climbing shoe, feel free to jump to it here:

The Best Women’s Climbing Shoes of 2021

Best Overall Climbing Shoe: Evolv Kira

evolv Kira
Multiple testers said the Evolv Kira ($130) 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% 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.

  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 13.6 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Synthetic
  • The unique closure system is fast and customizable
  • Not for climbers seeking an aggressive, rigid shape

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Best Budget Climbing Shoe: Black Diamond Momentum

Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoe

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 Black Diamond Momentum ($95) gets a thumbs-up for breathability. Its synthetic knit upper provides great airflow. 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.

  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 13.2 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Synthetic knit
  • Competitive price for high quality
  • Missing top-notch rubber, so indoor climbing gets slick

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Best for Beginners: SCARPA Force V

Scarpa Force rock climbing shoe

Ready to start climbing? The SCARPA Force V ($139) 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 toebox. 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.

  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 17 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: 1.8mm suede
  • Less aggressive last for long days on rock
  • Lacks stiffness for climbers desiring rigid support

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Best for All-Day Comfort: Tenaya Ra Woman

Tenaya Ra

The Tenaya Ra Woman ($154) 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 toebox 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.

  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 12 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Microfiber
  • Excellent foot-width response for hot or big-wall days
  • Closure’s Velcro straps are a bit long for narrow feet

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Best for Narrow Feet: La Sportiva Solution

La Sportiva Solution
The La Sportiva Solution ($180) is drastically downturned in the toebox, 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.

  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 17 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Leather
  • Awesome high-arch support
  • Velcro closure is long for narrow feet

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Best Grabber: So iLL Street LV

So iLL Street LV climbing shoe

The So iLL Street LV ($139) 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.

  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 16 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Synthetic
  • Energy-saving for angled, overhanging problems and routes
  • A mismatch for wide feet

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Most Breathable Climbing Shoe: SCARPA Vapor V

SCARPA Vapor V women's rock climbing shoe

“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 of the SCARPA Vapor V ($175) 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 toebox shape, but the flexibility is amazing,” added the tester.

  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 14.8 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: 1.8mm microsuede
  • Nice intermediary choice for progressing climbers
  • Squarish
  • Slimmer toebox is not super-conducive for edging power

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Most Sensitive Climbing Shoe: Five Ten Anasazi LV Pro

Five Ten Anasazi LV Pro

The Five Ten Anasazi LV Pro ($99 on sale) 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.

  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 15.8 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Synthetic
  • Excels on difficult face climbs
  • Narrow in heel
  • Baggy in toe
  • Not for hourglass feet

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Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Women’s Climbing Shoes

rock climbing shoes
Testing climbing shoes in Colorado; photo credit: Eric Phillips

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% 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, down-cambered, downturned, or slightly downturned.

A flatter last might be more comfortable for multipitch and low-angle, sub-vertical 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.

rock climbing shoes
The Tenaya Ra provides all-day comfort; photo credit: Eric Phillips

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.

Women’s-Specific Shoes

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.


What Is the Best Brand of Climbing Shoes?

The best climbing shoe is the one that fits well and supports your climbing style and goals. Some of the leading climbing shoe brands — like Five Ten, La Sportiva, and SCARPA — are generally well regarded, but personal preference is the most important factor.

What Are the Best Climbing Shoes for Beginners?

On this list, we have named the SCARPA Force V as our favorite beginner climbing shoe. The Force V is comfortable, durable, and adaptable to a wide variety of foot shapes and climbing styles.

For new climbers, comfort is more important than advanced features like a downturned last or a massive patch of toe rubber. The Force V is precise enough to progress in the gym or at the crag but, ultimately, it was designed for comfort. With the Force V, new climbers can focus on learning the sport, improving, and having a good time.

scarpa force v
Photo Credit: SCARPA

Should You Wear Socks With Climbing Shoes?

Most climbers prefer not to wear socks with their climbing shoes. It is generally accepted that wearing socks decreases sensitivity and reduces the effectiveness of your climbing shoes.

These days, climbing shoe companies are working hard to make thinner, more sensitive shoes, and wearing socks is often seen as a step backward.

However, when climbing in cold conditions, some climbers find that a pair of socks can be an essential way to maintain warm feet. In the end, it’s all personal preference. If you like to wear socks, wear socks!

Should Your Toes Be Curled in Climbing Shoes?

That depends. Many advanced shoes are designed to be worn with the toes curled to maximize precision and toe power.

When the toes are slightly curled, many climbers find that it is easier to transfer power to the point of the shoe and stand comfortably on tiny footholds. This is especially important in shoes that are both stiff and aggressive, like the SCARPA Boostic.

However, curled toes are not comfortable, and such an aggressive fit is unnecessary for many climbers. For all-day comfort in the gym or on multipitch routes, a roomier fit is probably the way to go. Beginning climbers should prioritize comfort above all else.

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