What are the best climbing shoes for women? Luckily, the women’s selection is growing every year, providing a larger field for ladies to choose from. We took twelve top women’s specific models and put them to a hands-on…err…feet-on test to find the very best. All around the world, from limestone sport climbing in Kalymnos, Greece to granite cracks in Tuolumne Meadows to overhanging volcanic boulders in the California Tablelands, we put each pair of shoes through a rigorous climbing investigation. We evaluated how each pair performed on pockets, edges, and in cracks, and we also noted the sensitivity, ease of use, and fit for each pair. Read on to find out how these women’s climbing shoes stacked up when compared side-by-side, and which ones we selected as the very best.
Related: Best climbing shoes for men
Best Overall Women’s Climbing Shoes: La Sportiva Miura – Women’s
Without much contest, our best pick goes to the edging powerhouse, the La Sportiva Miura – Women’s. We love this shoe — it stands out above the rest in terms of performance and precision and is incredibly versatile. We have purchased this shoe in a variety of sizes: tight for steep technical climbing, and looser for all-day multi-pitch routes, which is a testament both to its incredible performance and its chameleon-like nature for different styles of climbing. It can dance up limestone pockets just as easily as granite cracks. We truly believe that if you are looking for the ultimate single-quiver shoe, this is the one to have.
Best Budget Shoes: La Sportiva Tarantulace – Women’s
If you are a beginner climber, or if you only climb on occasion, our recommendation to you is to choose a comfortable, inexpensive shoe. Climbers just starting out are usually turned off by uncomfortable aggressive shoes, and they will likely blow out the rubber fairly quickly with poor footwork. This makes a great case for a shoe that doesn’t cost too much and that has a flatter fit. Enter the La Sportiva Tarantulace. This is the least expensive shoe in our test, but far from the worst performer. It is comfortable, versatile, and has the tiniest bit of downturn in the toe to let you really push on edges and smears. We think this is the best value shoe, especially for those purchasing climbing shoes for the first time, and for that it earns our best budget pick.
Best for Steep Sport Climbing and Bouldering: La Sportiva Solution – Women’s
The La Sportiva Solution – Women’s is the ultimate aggressive shoe for females who like the steep hard stuff. This is the most dramatically downturned shoe in our test, yet it is comfortable and remarkably sensitive. The sole feels soft rather than stiff, and it molds and conforms to the foot as well as to the wall, allowing for maximum sensation and precision. With a soft tongue to hug the top of the foot, a locking harness that is quick to use and that allows for a snug fit, and a curved toe that positions your foot for power, this shoe is a pleasure to wear and a secret weapon to help take down projects. We like it for clipping bolts as well as for topping out highballs. We think these shoes are perfect for a specific purpose: for steep and difficult climbing.
Top Pick for Multi-Pitch and Crack Climbing: Scarpa Techno X – Women’s
For the ladies who prefer to rack up with cams, the Scarpa Techno X – Women’s is ideal for crack climbing and all-day wear on multi-pitch routes. It has a flatter shape and a stiffer midsole to better and more comfortably fit inside cracks, and the lack of downturn can keep you wearing them for longer periods of time. The famed shoe designer Heinz Mariacher has put his mind to work for Scarpa, and these shoes are the result. We think they are perfect for anything from the splitters at Indian Creek to long routes in Yosemite, which is what wins it our specialized Top Pick award for this discipline.
What type of climbing are you using your shoes for?
Consider what type of climbing you prefer. Do you mostly boulder or crack climb? Do you love sport climbing or would you rather multi-pitch? Each type of climbing is better done with a more specialized shoe and shoe size.
Bouldering and Sport Climbing
If you are more into bouldering and overhung sport climbs, then an aggressive, down-turned shoe is going to work best. This design puts more power into the toe. However, to get the most of these shoes you need a very precise and usually tight fit. So the tradeoff is that these shoes are rarely comfortable for more than a climb or two. They also tend to be expensive, not smear that well on slabs, and be painful.
Trad climbing and crack climbing
If you climb cracks or multi-pitch, you want a bigger, flatter, more comfortable shoe. Generally, you want a stiffer sole that can stand on edges even when the shoe is fitted more comfortably. An unlined upper may give you more comfort, but it might also stretch and have the shoe become sloppy. Take that into consideration when sizing.
Gym Climbing and Starting Out
If you are just starting out then you probably want a more comfortable, versatile, all-around shoe. Don’t go for the aggressive down-turned shoes. Go for something that is not too tight and does not cost much. Shoes that close with Velcro are great because you can get them on and off fast. But a comfortable pair of lace-up shoes can be great as well.
How We Chose
In the last years, the climbing industry has produced a remarkable number of women’s specific models of shoes. For the narrow-footed female, this is good news! It is also a sign that more women are getting out there to climb and are making up a larger part of the consumer market. It used to be that if you looked only at women’s models, the selection was rather slim, and you had to consider unisex models along with women’s models to find the perfect shoe. Now there are enough options that you can look exclusively at women’s shoes and likely find something to suit you and your climbing style. All of the women’s models in this review were designed with a women’s last, which is narrower and lower volume than the corresponding men’s model.
Evaluating the comfort of a climbing shoe is very subjective, partly because shoes for climbing aren’t the kind of footwear you put on to lounge around in and partly because everyone’s feet are different. We based our evaluation on how well the shoes hugged our feet, how long we could wear them, and on the extra features that make a climbing shoe bearable to wear.
Even among the aggressively downturned shoes, we noticed some big differences in comfort. The Five Ten Blackwing – Women’s feels like the whole shoe is curved lengthwise, unnaturally bending the foot to the side from the toe to the ankle and not just downward at the toe. We could hardly stand to wear these shoes for long. By contrast, the La Sportiva Solution – Women’s is the most downturned shoe we tested and also one of the most comfortable. It doesn’t crush your toes, and it has a sock-like tongue that cradles the foot.
The Women’s Miura has bonus comfort features like a padded heel and a padded tongue which tightens the fit for women and makes it very pleasant to wear. The Five Ten Siren is the most breathable with an upper is made of mostly mesh, which gives it a different kind of comfort.
After looking at comfort, it moves us right into looking at durability. After spending a good deal of money on some nice shoes, it is a bummer to have them wear out quickly. Rubber can usually last longer the better your footwork is, so if you climb pretty you might get more out of the soles of your shoes.
The whole point of wearing specific climbing footwear versus a sneaker or boot is that it gives your toes more sensitivity so that you can feel the rock with them. We find that the more sensitive and precise the better, because then we can trust our feet more as we make delicate moves.
The Anasazi, in particular, lets your toes feel every little feature, especially if you size them tight, which they seem to be designed for. This sensitivity coupled with very soft sticky rubber lets you use your feet almost like hands.
The pair we found to be the least sensitive was the Five Siren which has a bulky toe box that prevents a good feel of the rock underfoot.
Another shoe worthy of note in the sensitivity department is the Evolv Shaman LV – Women’s. Right out of the box we thought the toe felt bulky and clumsy just like on the Siren. However, we stuck with them and let them break-in a little. Eventually the shoes molded to our feet a bit and we adjusted our climbing to the unique shape, and we found ourselves loving the Shaman. They became more sensitive and also proved excellent at standing on ledgy edges. We ended up spending a whole season climbing in just these shoes and loved them the whole time.
It took us a little while to get used to the unique shape of the toe of this shoe, but once we adjusted to it, we loved the Evolv Shaman for bouldering and steep climbing, and felt that it helped our footwork.
Where sensitivity lets you feel the rock and smear on small features, edging, as we evaluate it, is the ability to stand on small edges of rock. We have found that shoes that do this well typically have a stiffer sole, giving your foot the support it needs to stand on small points while your toe is powering down.
When it comes to edging, the La Sportiva Miura – Women’s is the definite winner. This shoe is an edging machine.
The flat shape and stiff midsole make the Techno X a crack climbing machine. It can twist into cracks and gain purchase comfortably and easily.
The laces on the Techno X diagonal across the top of the toe ever so slightly, which places them out of the way of crack edges, protecting them from getting torn as you shuffle your foot up a crack. This feature keeps the shoe performing longer on the terrain it was designed for.
Toeing in on tufa blobs in Kalymnos Greece is similar to toeing in on steep pockets. Here you can see that the curved toe of the Women’s Solution helps the climber keep herself pulled into the wall.
The flatter shoes in this review, such as the Mythos, Tarantulace, and Elektra, all do a little less well on pockets than shoes with a downward turn.