The Best Women’s Climbing Shoes of 2022

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Increase your performance in the gym or at the crag with the best rock climbing shoes for women. Whether edging on vertical granite, heel hooking steep boulders, or smearing on gym volumes, these picks will help you feel confident on your next climbing day.

Climbing shoes are incredibly nuanced and diverse in shape and feel. Finding the right shoe depends a lot on what type of climbing you’re doing and what type of rock you’re doing it on. Add in the fact that sizes, rubber type, and fit 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 top 10 best climbing shoes to meet your climbing needs and goals, examining factors like the shoe’s profile, closure system, fit and feel, comfort, performance, and sensitivity.

This article delves specifically into the subject of women’s climbing shoes, but we also have gear guides for the best climbing shoes and rock climbing shoes of the 2021 Olympic Games. And if you’re a little lost in the world of climbing vernacular, we have a definitive guide to climbing jargon to help you through.

six pairs of rock climbing shoes lined up on a rock
A few of the shoes we tested and recommend; (photo/Eric Phillips)

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. It can be useful to have different shoes for different climbing disciplines if you dabble in more than one, as many often do.

These are the shoes we wear and love — the best climbing shoes that will make you hit the boulders or the crag with more confidence than ever.

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 2022

Best Overall Women’s Climbing Shoe: Evolv Kira

evolv Kira
Multiple testers said the Evolv Kira ($130) is super-comfortable out of the box, performs well, and has the convenience of Velcro straps, making them our top pick shoe. The Kira has thin rubber in certain spots to reduce pressure points and thicker rubber in high-wear zones to increase durability.

The rubber is Evolv’s proprietary TRAX SAS, which is durable while remaining sensitive. The upper is also made with vegan-friendly synthetics, a feature consistent with all Evolv shoes.

The shoes smeared well on vertical granite and thin holds, as they are not too down-turned or aggressive. They worked great for crack climbing too, as the Velcro straps are on the inside of the shoe instead of the outside, where they risk more abrasion.

One guide, who has now added this pair to her work quiver, does 100% of her Indian Creek climbs — a place known for its splitter cracks — in Velcro shoes. The straps are more durable than laces, and they slide off and on easily during multipitch climbs when you want to give your feet a break.

“This unique closure system provided the efficiency of Velcro but a more enhanced, customized fit, like laces,” said one tester who has narrow feet.

This is a great all-around shoe, which is why it claims our top spot. But if you’re looking for a stiff, aggressive shoe for hard bouldering or steep sport climbing, we would look elsewhere to meet those more specific needs.

Specs:
  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 13.6 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Synthetic
  • Rubber type: 4.2mm TRAX SAS
Pros:
  • The unique closure system is fast and customizable
  • Great shoe for all-day comfort and all-around performance
  • Works well on slabs, face, and in cracks
  • Velcro straps are on the inside of the shoe, making them more abrasion-resistant
Cons:
  • Not for climbers seeking an aggressive, stiffer shape
  • Not a top choice for bouldering or steep sport climbing

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Best Budget Women’s 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.”

It also comes with a price tag that’s hard to beat, making it a great budget pick for someone just getting into the sport.

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. Its flat profile makes it great for all-day climbing, as more downturned shoes tend to be uncomfortable for long periods.

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.

Specs:
  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 13.2 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Synthetic knit
  • Rubber type: 4.3mm rubber
Pros:
  • Competitive price
  • Great shoe for beginners
  • Flat and comfortable
Cons:
  • Missing top-notch rubber, so indoor climbing gets slick
  • Climbers may want a higher-performing shoe after some time

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Best Women’s Climbing Shoe for Beginners: SCARPA Force V

Scarpa Force rock climbing shoe

Ready to start climbing? The SCARPA Force V ($159) 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 with large pull tabs, a soft tongue, and easy Velcro straps.

“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.

This is another shoe with a flat last that makes climbing all day a comfortable affair, but it’s not the best option for steeper climbing.

Specs:
  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 17 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: 1.8mm suede
  • Rubber type: 4mm Vibram XS Edge
Pros:
  • Less aggressive last for long days on rock
  • Great padding
  • Easy to take on and off
Cons:
  • Lacks stiffness for climbers desiring rigid support

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Best Women’s Climbing Shoe for All-Day Comfort: Tenaya Ra Woman

Tenaya Ra

The Tenaya Ra Woman ($155) 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 straight out of the box, as most other climbing shoes take a while to break in.”

The curve of the shoe is moderate and flexible, but the toebox has supportive rubber reinforcement for toe-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.

Our only real gripe with this shoe is when cinched tight on narrow feet, the Velcro straps can be a bit too long and prone to snagging.

Specs:
  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 12 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Microfiber
  • Rubber type: 4mm Vibram XS Grip
Pros:
  • Excellent foot-width response
  • Flexible shape
  • Comfortable out of the box
Cons:
  • Closure’s Velcro straps are a bit long for narrow feet

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Best Women’s Climbing Shoe 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, making it a great choice for those with slim feet. The Fast Lacing System, which is an integrated single-strap Velcro attachment, 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.

The Solutions shine in the arenas of bouldering and steep sport climbing, as their downturned nature makes toeing in on small footholds much easier than with a flatter shoe. The heel cup allows you to employ heel hooks for powerful bouldering moves, and the rubber on top of the shoe allows for purchase on those finicky toe hooks.

Because of their aggressive nature, these shoes are not our pick for multipitch routes or all-day comfort. But if you want a high-performance shoe for those hard boulders or your latest overhung sport climbing project, look no further.

Specs:
  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 17 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Leather/Lorica
  • Rubber type: 4mm Vibram XS Grip
Pros:
  • Awesome high-arch support
  • Aggressive shoe for bouldering and steep sport climbing
  • High-performance shoe
Cons:
  • Velcro closure is long for narrow feet
  • Not comfortable for all-day use

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Best Grabber Women’s Climbing Shoe: So iLL Street LV

So iLL Street LV climbing shoe

The So iLL Street LV ($139) offers a fit for narrower feet, with the “LV” standing for “low volume,” 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.

If you’ve shied away from other women’s-specific climbing shoes because you’re afraid they’ll be too narrow, the Street LV might strike the balance between having a well-fitting heel and a forefoot that isn’t as tight as a corset.

This pair’s aggressive parrot-bill shape powerfully dominated overhanging bouldering problems. More experienced climbers will appreciate the Street’s ability to perform well on steeper, more difficult terrain.

This shoe may prove to be too narrow for those with wider feet, but for those looking for a tight-fitting shoe to send their next project in, the Street LV is a good choice.

Specs:
  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 16 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Synthetic
  • Rubber type: Dark Matter rubber
Pros:
  • High-performing for angled, overhanging problems and routes
  • Women’s-specific, low volume build
Cons:
  • May be a tight fit for wider feet

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Most Breathable Women’s 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 F weather while avoiding sweat-soaked feet.

The heel cup of the SCARPA Vapor V ($195) is comfortable, and the upper is very supportive. And we like that the rubber is sensitive and high-quality, allowing for precise footwork when needed.

“The edging and precision were tricky for small pockets because of the toebox shape, but the flexibility is amazing,” added the tester.

This is a great step up from the flatter profiled shoes at the beginning of this review, as the Vapor V is moderately downturned but not aggressively so. This allows for more versatility on varying rock types and terrain.

Specs:
  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 14.8 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Microsuede and leather
  • Rubber type: Vibram XS Grip2
Pros:
  • Nice intermediary choice for progressing climbers
  • Excellent breathability
  • Moderately downturned for versatility
Cons:
  • Squarish
  • Slimmer toebox is not super-conducive for edging power

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Best Aggressive Women’s Climbing Shoe: La Sportiva Women’s Skwama

La Sportiva Women’s Skwama

The La Sportiva Women’s Skwama ($180) pairs the sensitivity and flexibility of a slipper with the downturned action of a much more aggressive shoe. “These excellent shoes are high performers on boulders and sport routes, and work just as well in cracks with their low-profile build,” one of our testers said.

Their sensitivity makes these shoes shine, as they flex and press on the smallest footholds in overhung terrain. Their patented S-heel construction ensures secure heel hooking action, and their Velcro enclosure allows for easy on-and-off at the boulders or crag.

While these shoes excel at climbing pockets, toeing into finger cracks, and smearing on granite slabs, they fall short when real vertical edging comes into play. The softness that makes these slippers so comfortable and shine in other ways doesn’t make for the best shoe for serious face climbing — you’d want to opt for a stiffer shoe with better edging capabilities if that’s your primary type of climbing.

Specs:
  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 12 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Leather/microfiber/rubber toe cap
  • Rubber type: 4mm Vibram XS Grip2
Pros:
  • Sensitive and aggressive for harder climbing
  • Very comfortable slipper design
  • S-Heel construction for superior heel hooking
Cons:
  • Not good for vertical edging
  • Leather upper stretches over time

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Best Stiff Women’s Climbing Shoe: La Sportiva Women’s Miura VS

La Sportiva Women’s Miura VS

The La Sportiva Women’s Miura VS ($185) are pocket climbing, vertical edging machines. “The stiffness of this shoe allows for precision on technical granite face climbs in California, to the long limestone sport routes of Mexico,” said one of our testers.

Built for pushing on micro edges and small pockets, your confidence on thin routes will surely improve with the Miura VS.

The downturned shape of this shoe makes it excel in steep climbing as well. This is a highly asymmetrical model, which combined with its downturn, provides tension throughout the shoe and places the toebox directly over your big toe for top-notch pulling and pushing power.

“These shoes are workhorses for vertical faces as well as steep boulders and routes,” said our lead tester.

To perform their best, you will want to downsize the Miuras, which can make them painful. These are also not our top choice for slab climbing or crack climbing, as they are too stiff and aggressive for those types of terrain.

Specs:
  • Closure: Velcro
  • Weight: 16.5 oz. (pair)
  • Upper material: Leather
  • Rubber type: 4mm Vibram XS Grip2
Pros:
  • Edging and pocket pulling machines
  • Stiff shoe
  • Asymmetric build
Cons:
  • Not good for slab or crack climbing
  • Can be a slightly painful shoe

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Why You Should Trust Us

Miya Tsudome is a former rock climbing guide for the Yosemite Mountaineering School, has been climbing outdoors for the past 8 years, and is a fan of climbing sport, trad, and alpine routes across the country as well as trying hard on boulders.

She has climbed all over the granite cliffs of Yosemite and the east side of the Sierra Nevada, has spent months shoving her hands and feet into the sandstone cracks in southeastern Utah, and has traveled to Spain and Mexico to sample international limestone.

Years of climbing on different terrain and in different disciplines have guided her to know what she is looking for in her climbing shoes, and she hopes to bring an objective view to the strengths and weaknesses of popular shoes for women today.

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

rock climbing shoes
Testing climbing shoes in Colorado; (photo/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 climbs weekly in Boulder Canyon, Colorado. So she knows a thing or two.

One of our testers, Miya Tsudome, a former rock climbing guide in Yosemite National Park who has been climbing for 8 years, also has some advice to give:

“It’s nice to have a shoe that can do it all, but more often than not us rock climbers will have many different types in our quiver. If you like to boulder and climb overhanging sport routes sometimes, it will benefit you greatly to have a more aggressive shoe.

“If at other times you like to do long multipitches or go crack climbing, you’ll want a more comfortable pair. If you’re serious about climbing, don’t be afraid to buy a few to round out your arsenal.”

We spent months testing these 10 pairs of climbing shoes and can provide you with all the information you need to choose your next pair.

Shoe Shape & Fit

The shape, or last, of a climbing shoe greatly determines its 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. The So iLL Street LV and La Sportiva Solutions are good examples of aggressive shoes.

A flatter last, like in the Scarpa Force V or Black Diamond Momentum, might be more comfortable for multipitch and low-angle, sub-vertical climbs. Commonly, rock climbing guides and new climbers choose a flatter shoe for all-day comfort. As you progress or are drawn to harder styles of climbing, you may look to upgrade to a more aggressive model.

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. The slipper-like La Sportiva Skwamas is a good example of a sensitive shoe.

Comparatively, harder rubber provides more foot support and can be better when you need to stand on very small footholds on vertical terrain. The stiff La Sportiva Miura VS shoes are the wizards of this style of climbing.

A good fit is greatly determined by foot compatibility with that last shape and the shoe size. This is also a subjective measure, as everyone has a different foot shape. 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.

Most people also size down from their street shoe size. If you haven’t done so before, try sizing down in half-size increments and see how that feels.

Your toes should always curl slightly, and shoes should always feel tight for best performance. If you prioritize all-day comfort, find a flat shoe where your toes barely curl.

Whether you choose a Velcro or lace closure system will alter the feel and fit, so try out both. Lace closure systems are typically more adjustable, while Velcro systems make it easier to take your shoes on and off. Also, a shoe’s materials affect the fit over time, as shoes with a leather upper will stretch while synthetic uppers will not.

rock climbing shoes
The Tenaya Ra provides all-day comfort; (photo/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. Some brands, like Evolv, are known for their vegan products.

When trying on shoes with leather uppers, they can stretch over time, sometimes up to a half-size larger. This is important when considering what size to buy, and sometimes it will benefit you to buy a size that feels a bit too tight knowing they will stretch in the future.

Women’s-Specific Shoes

Overall, women’s-specific models have a lower-volume heel, narrower last, and softer or thinner rubber for easier flex and more sensitivity. We encourage you to try on a ton of shoes to find the foot mold that fits your foot the 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.

Velcro vs. Lace-Ups

Climbing shoes with Velcro straps are easy to take on and off, making them a good choice for bouldering, gym climbing, and single-pitch climbing. Some models, like the La Sportiva Solution, have one integrated Velcro strap that zig-zags over the tongue of the shoe and can be easily pulled tight and attached via its Velcro tab. This ensures a nice, snug fit.

Other models, like our top pick, the Evolv Kira, have two Velcro straps across the top so you can dial in the fit over two parts of your foot.

Shoes with laces, on the other hand, can be cinched tight, and those who are very concerned with having their shoes fit as perfectly as possible for high-performance will opt for models with laces.

While either type can be and is used in all different styles of climbing, each will still have certain limitations. Velcro straps can work fine for many types of cracks, but may make it harder to fit into hand cracks and larger. Modern shoes with Velcro straps allow room for rubber on top of the toebox, which will greatly aid in toe hook maneuvers.

Lace-ups will have a slimmer profile overall and may be more appropriate for crack climbing. While lace-ups ensure you’re able to fine-tune your fit, they may not be the best for steep bouldering where the laces can get in the way of toe-hooking.

Soft vs. Stiff

Soft versus stiff shoes come into play when you’re getting serious about finding a shoe to match the terrain you’ll be climbing on — and pushing yourself to try harder grades, making this more applicable to intermediate climbers.

Our best recommendation for beginners is the Scarpa Force V for its comfortable, flat profile and softer feel. Having a softer shoe is good if you’re just starting out because it’ll allow you to feel footholds more and learn better technique.

If you’re graduating from your beginner shoes, you’ll wonder what direction you need to go in for your next pair. The La Sportiva Skwama is a good example of a soft shoe. Its slipper design sports a super soft midsole, allowing it to flex and smear with ease.

Soft shoes like this one are great for steep or off-vertical terrain because paired with their aggressive downturn, they allow you to pull in on small footholds and smear on bad feet and small cracks.

Stiff shoes, like the La Sportiva Miura VS, are made more so for edging and climbing on small pockets. With so much stiffness throughout the shoe, you are able to more easily stand on dime-size edges than with a flexible shoe like the Skwama. This is because your whole foot is supported.

In summary, if you find yourself climbing on steeper routes or, conversely, slabby routes and cracks, a softer shoe like the Skwama would be a good match. If you’re more into vertical routes with pockets or tiny edges, a stiffer model like the Miura VS would be the shoe for you.

FAQ

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’ve 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 and climbing rope

Should You Wear Socks With Climbing Shoes?

Most climbers prefer not to wear socks with their climbing shoes. It’s 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 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 it 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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