Bouldering can be considered the purest form of rock climbing. This activity takes away the theatrics of the ropes, clips, and harnesses and simply lets the climber climb. Because all the typical rock climbing accessories are taken away, it’s important that what you do have is top-notch.
Since bouldering involves two things, the climber and their shoes, the climber should take heed to choose the best shoes for their experience. Having strong and stable shoes makes a world of difference in performance and in safety during the activity.
So what is the best option for you? Well, we’ve compiled a list of eight of the top-ranked bouldering shoes on the market right now and judged them according to five criteria. The shoes are critiqued based on the following:
Continue reading to find out which shoes are the perfect fit!
1. Scarpa Booster
The Scarpa Booster shoe is a down-turned, asymmetrical, ultra-sensitive bouldering shoe.
The typical, average price for a bouldering shoe is around $120. But the Scarpa Booster sells for $209.
The sole is flexible which allows a more natural movement along thinner routes. The down-turned mold has a rubber sole which makes it sticky and able to conform to the terrain to which you climb. The sole only covers the front 1/3 of the shoe, so the flexibility is much higher compared to other shoes. (Source)
Unfortunately, due to its high flexibility and sensitivity to terrain, the Scarpa Booster does wear out relatively quickly if used on extreme terrains.
So, when ranking these shoes, price-wise they are on the more expensive side of the scale. Their down-turned shape allows for great toe power and drive. They have amazing flexibility which leads to great versatility, but in turn, that compromises their durability.
2. La Sportiva Solution
The La Sportiva Solution bouldering shoe is a down-turned, velcro-closure system shoe. This shoe has also been noted as the “benchmark” for bouldering performance shoes.
They are a firm and solid build, not allowing for much sensitivity. These shoes are considered to be tougher on the “softness” scale and even after wear do not let up much for lateral torsion. There are a lot of complaints about this shoe due to the hardness in the heel area. (Source)
Due to the firmness of the shoe, they lack flexibility and comfort. They don’t have the same sensitive feel for the terrain because they are built to provide strong support on small edges. A plus to their toughness is that they are very durable and can withstand extreme terrains.
La Sportiva Solution shoes are slightly less expensive than the Scarpa Booster’s and typically sell for around $180. They are pricier compared to the average price of typical bouldering shoes.
To submit a final judgment of these shoes, they are pricey but if you are looking for a firm shoe that is durable and will stick to its shape over many terrains, not super flexible but durable and allowing on all sorts of terrains, then the La Sportiva Solution will be a good choice.
3. Evolv Shaman
The Evolv Shaman bouldering shoe got its popularity from its interesting shape techniques and extremely comfortable fit. The Evolv Shaman has been claimed as arguably one of the most comfortable high-performing bouldering shoes out there.
One of the shape techniques used in the Evolv Shaman is the Love Bump. This is an indentation in the sole that is meant to fill any leftover space in the Knuckle Box. The Knuckle Box is another favorite feature of these shoes. It allows the toes to rest in a curled setting to maximize power.
The sole on this shoe is made of a type of rubber that is well-known in Shaman shoes. The rubber compound is known as Trax SAS. However, the sole is about 15% thicker than the La Sportiva Solution’s sole. The difference in thickness and excess rubber material takes away a good portion of the sensitivity and flexibility. The material is also not great for durability and can wear through pretty easily. (Source)
Overall, the Evolv Shaman is a great shoe if you are looking for one that provides comfort and power to your climbs. This shoe is priced at $180, which is the same as the La Sportiva Solution, on the pricey end. In response to its durability and flexibility, it would be recommended to find a different shoe. But, it has an incredible shape that users have loved for years which allows it to tolerate lots of terrains. A great versatile bouldering shoe.
4. Mad Rock Flash
The Mad Rock Flash is pretty different in shape compared to the previously mentioned shoes. It doesn’t have a significant down-turn and is relatively flat. Although it has a slight down-turn, it is pretty level compared to other high-performance bouldering shoes.
The Mad Rock Flash is built to satisfy customer demands for both flexibility and stability. This shoe isn’t categorized as soft, but rather has a medium-stiffness aspect that allows climbers the confidence in their ability to be sensitive to their terrain.
One of the most praised things about the Mad Rock Flash is its affordability. It sells for about $50, which is $70 lower than the average price of bouldering shoes. This is a surprising price considering most of the highly ranked shoes on the market are about $100 more expensive.
The Mad Rock Flash’s shape is different compared to high-performing shoes but it allows for good flexibility and durability. It is a very affordable bouldering shoe that has moderate versatility. The best performance from these shoes will probably be in an indoor setting and less from extreme terrains.
5. Five Ten Hiangle
These shoes must be great if they’re worn by Olympic Gold Medalist Janja Garnbret, right? There are so many fantastic things about these shoes.
This is a down-turned shoe with a specially designed toe box. These shoes have extended toe rands and rubber surrounding the toe area to provide support and grip. Because of the build of the front of the shoe, the Five Ten Hiangle’s versatility is fantastic.
The sole has an extension from the midsole to the top of the heel that aids in precision and stability. The rubber used on the sole is sticky and although it is a bit thicker, it has a great tune to sensitivity. Therefore, the shoe has moderate flexibility, but may not be the best choice for the types of climbs that require high sensitivity and soft-soled shoes. (Source)
These shoes have excellent quality and wear down very minimally and slowly. This is great for avid climbers who need a reliable shoe that will last for a while.
These shoes are selling for around $130, which is just above average.
In the end, the Five Ten Hiangle shoes are a fantastic buy at a reasonable price. Their shape offers stability and sensitivity, with lasting durability. Although they lack a bit in the category of flexibility, with their wide range of versatility they can carry you through many, many climbs.
6. Scarpa Instinct VS
Right up there with the Scarpa Boosters, the Scarpa Instinct VS are on the more expensive side of the price scale. They sell for around $200.
These shoes are also a down-turned shape with a stiff feel and exterior. Because of their stiffness, they are very durable and great for technical surfaced climbs. A downfall of their significant rigidness, these shoes lack sensitivity. Their mold doesn’t have much leeway to conform to the terrain you are climbing. If you’re needing to grasp into small crevices, these shoes will not help you out. Their exterior is hard and does not allow for flexibility.
Remarkably, these shoes are praised for their high comfort level. It is said that these shoes can be great for long days of climbing because they are easy on the foot. (Source)
The Scarpa Instinct VS shoes are pretty durable. If you accidentally fit your shoe too tight, they will wear out significantly fast in the toe.
To sum it up, these shoes are great if you want high stability and support for your more technical climbs. If you’re looking for an affordable, soft-soled shoe, these probably won’t suit your taste. But the Scarpa Instinct VS shoes are praised as some of the best high-performing bouldering shoes if you use them on the correct types of climbs.
7. La Sportiva Skwama
The La Sportiva Skwama could possibly be one of the best high-performing bouldering shoes on the market right now. They are the king of softly engineered bouldering shoes. The Skwama model is one of the most versatile shoes that is manufactured by the La Sportiva brand.
The Skwama model is tailored to bring the majority of your power into your toe area to create the best momentum during your climbing experience. The Skwama has a split sole and soft sole that increases sensitivity and precision. It is very grippy and allows the foot to conform to the terrain and cling to the surfaces no matter how tiny. It is noted that because of their extreme softness and sensitivity, they are often used as warm-up shoes. (Source)
The soles on the Skwama are thinner and made out of soft rubber. Due to the softness, the durability decreases significantly. This doesn’t decrease their efficiency, but it’s hard to get a good life span out of these shoes. While it is possible to re-sole bouldering shoes, the Skwamas have a hard time being recipients of a good sole replacement.
These shoes, due to the esteemed La Sportiva brand, are priced at $180 which makes them more expensive than the average climbing shoe. For those who are seeking a sensitive, flexible, and precise climbing shoe that has great versatility, these shoes are perfect for you. Be wary of their lifespan, you might end up needing a second pair sooner than expected.
8. Butora Acro
The Butora Acro can be acquired at prices ranging from $130 to $150 depending on the selling platform you shop on. They are a bit more pricey than the average shoe but lower in price compared to the La Sportiva and Scarpa brands.
These shoes have a rather aggressive down-turn shape. These shoes have more of a stiff feel to them compared to other brands. While providing support and stability, usually the toughness of bouldering shoes takes away from their flexibility and sensitiveness towards the climbing surface. However, the Butora Acro shoes are performance-oriented and are constructed to offset this unbalance by providing a golden ratio that gives both support and flexibility.
The comfort level of these shoes isn’t ranked the highest as its configuration takes some adjustment from regular bouldering shoes. The power in the toe box is solely produced from the center of the toe box instead of around the big toe area.
These shoes have excellent durability and stickiness. Although the shoes can grip well onto rocks and surfaces, they don’t break down easily and are very sustainable. (Source)
The Butora Acros are becoming more and more popular as they are based in South Korea and are just starting to be put out. They are pretty affordable compared to the more popular shoes and have fantastic attributes. Their shape balances flexibility and stability allowing you to climb on a range of different surfaces. They are formulated to give you the best performance out of your climbs without having to worry about your shoes giving out.
As you can see, there are so many options for bouldering shoes. Depending on the types of climbs you intend to take, you will want to lean more towards either a tougher or softer shoe. There are a variety of factors that contribute to the type of bouldering shoe that will suit you the best. Hopefully, this guide helped you to see the options you do have and gives you an idea of the type of shoe you would want. Your bouldering performance depends highly on the quality of your shoe! We advise you to take caution and effort when shopping for climbing shoes and best of luck on your future climbing experiences!