How To Size Climbing Shoes?

hi Steph, quick question:
i am a rookie climber – started end of december. but lets just say it was love at first boulder problem…

i tried out the la sportivas at first, but they weren’t quite right. plus they were men’s shoes and i am female so that wasn’t quite right either… but climbed with them for about a month and a half.. then read your blog about evolvs. i purchased the evolv elektra VTR shoes (womens 🙂 which is also better because i am switching from veggie to vegan currently, so the friendlier the better!) and while i have been climbing for almost 3 months, i can not quite get a grip on exactly how they are supposed to fit. at REI the guy told me “get as small as you can get your foot into while still being able to walk around.” well, i am not sure if i went too small because my toe was REALLY messed up after my first climb. i definitely had a better climb but my foot was REALLY hurting. now, i know they are supposed to be mega tight, but i am a beginner. i am worried to go a size up and risk them being a little too roomy… maybe i am just one of those people that is an in between size and will forever be haunted… so my main question is… is it better to go a size up or a size down when you are in the middle of the two?

I don’t want it to be too big, but it HURTS!!!! and i am still a rookie… don’t know if i need all that pain just yet 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read — i appreciate any help i can get! because the people at REI didn’t seem to relate to the fact that i am a rook…


Hi Jessica,
Fitting shoes is so hard. I still mess up all the time, even with hiking boots 🙂 Based on what you said, I think you should try a half size bigger than the pair you have. I called my friends at Evolv when I read your email, and they want to help you out and get you fixed up (they feel bad you didn’t get good sizing help as a customer!). So the very best thing will be to talk with them and get it all figured out. You might want to consider the Rockstars also, but they will help you, so I’ll email you on that.

But as a rule, there are a few things with fitting climbing shoes. First of all, people tend to have two types of feet: either with your big toe being the longest, or your second toe being longer than your big toe. Most climbing shoes are designed for one or the other type of foot, and it’s really important to try on shoes to figure it out. If your big toe is longest, you will most likely prefer shoes that have a point near the big toe. If your second toe is longest, you will like shoes that appear to have a more rounded front. Basically, you always want to feel like you have the most pressure directly under your big toe when you have the shoe on, and so you need to choose from styles that are going to fit your foot shape to start with.

The next most important thing is sizing. Climbing is very much about using your feet. If your feet hurt so much you can’t put full weight on them, you’re not going to be able to use your feet to your full advantage. So while you do want your toes slightly squinched inside the shoes (for normal gym or face climbing use, not crack climbing!), you don’t want them smashed to the point of pain. Leather shoes will stretch, and synthetic shoes will re-form and loosen slightly, but I would go for the shoes that make your toes feel squinched but not jammed, if that makes sense. If your toes are really curled and smashed together inside the shoe, they are going to hurt more and more and make you use your feet less and less. Over time if the shoes stretch out or loosen up, you may choose to downsize in the future. But comfort is key, and especially when you are a newer climber who hasn’t yet developed shoe-specific calluses on your toes and killed all your nerve endings 😉

When in doubt, you always want to error on the side of slightly too big. And it’s always good to have a pair of big, comfy shoes around even if the next pair you get is smaller–they can be good for crack climbing, for days when your feet are swollen, or for long, easy multi-pitch routes.

Some people have two different sized feet or are missing some toes, which can be a real pain especially when dealing with climbing shoes. Evolv actually offers the option of buying two different sized shoes if you order shoes off their website, which seems brilliant to me.

Thanks for writing to me: we will get you fixed up!
🙂 Steph

  • Elevation29035

    Awesome article. I definitely don’t hear or read enough sound advice about this subject. And sadly, I still hear well intentioned employees at outdoor shops giving inaccurate advice to newbies. For years I believed that tight, painful shoes were just part of the climbing experience- that is, until I found out what tight and comfortable shoes could be like. I had tried many different shoes over the years and then I ran into a pair that was my perfect fit (so perfect I bought three pairs). Ya, they’re tight but they’re an excellent fit too.  Best part was, they were not the most expensive shoes in the store. Ha!

  • Graham

    Don’t despair Jessica, many of us have had this problem. 

    I desperately wanted either 5.10 Anasazi VCSs or Sportiva Muiras to fit me but the Muiras were too sloppy if I sized them to fit my foot length and the 5.10s that I eventually bought just killed by big toe and even after 40 pitches they didn’t let up. I tried all sorts of other shoes and brands but eventually found out that the WOMENS Muira just 1 full euro size below my street shoe were the perfect shoe for me (and I’m a guy).

    You may have to try a load of shoes and sometimes you just won’t know until you’ve really used them for a while. This may just mean bitting the bullet and having to buy and sell a few pairs. If you’re lucky, they’ll fit someone you know and it won’t cost much as an exercise. Once done, you’ll be happy for a long while know you have exactly the right shoe. 

  • Anonymous

    i am beyond grateful for the advice, seriously.  i didn’t quite realize i would get this much feedback and it is pretty amazing; i am actually blown away!  everything you are saying makes too much sense… being that i climb with mostly guys who muscle through everything, i should have known they wouldn’t be as sensitive to my needs, haha.  plus, they are at about a v9 and i am at about a v1….! They are super supportive but i think they forget sometimes how new i really am…
    The rockstars look seriously badass.  Plus, i favor the laceups. 
    Thank you SO VERY much for your advice – i will take it to heart.  I will let you know how the new shoes work out… i have realized it is a process and i am in it for the long haul!! 🙂
    Also – i am very sorry about Fletch; but congrats on your new doggie — she is so cute!! 🙂

  • Jessica-

    Isn’t it awesome how cool climbers can be?  I’ve been climbing 20 years and still find myself surprised at how helpful people are.

    Anywho, a few months ago I wrote a fairly detailed Climbing Shoe Buyer’s Guide and FAQ; since you’re thinking of getting new shoes I hope you’ll find some good information that will be useful!

  • Jessica Sosna

    the rock gym is my new favorite place to be 🙂 (i live in new jersey… haha its pretty flat here…) the people there have been beyond helpful and awesome…

    and THANK YOU for the information! 

  • 🙂

  • Thanks Graham!

  • Glad we can help!!

  • nice!

  • yan wang

    B U Y  F R O M   –  ALIEXPRESS . C O M  —  DHGATE . COM

  • Morgan

    I had exactly the same experience trying to fit the Anasazi and Muria yesterday! (along with just about every other shoe Go Outdoors had in stock…) but I came away empty-handed. Maybe I should give the women’s shoe a try!

  • Try some women’s shoes, and keep trying on different pairs. Remember, they are never going to feel truly comfortable at first–it usually takes climbing 1-5 pitches for shoes to break in and feel nice. But if they are incredibly painful, then they are definitely not the right size or fit.


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