Rock climbing shoe sizes can be a bit confusing, since they fit completely differently than a street shoe. Additionally, each climbing shoe company has different sizing systems. So, what size rock climbing shoe do you need?
In short, it’s almost impossible to guess your rock climbing shoe size based on your street shoe size alone. The best way to find your size is to go to an outdoor outfitter and try on several different pairs of rock climbing shoes, or order several pairs and return the ones that don’t fit.
In this article, we’ll look at how different rock climbing shoe companies size their shoes and how climbing shoes are supposed to fit.
Rock Climbing Shoe Sizes
Just like street shoes, each rock climbing shoe company has their own size scale. However, climbing shoes fit differently than street shoes, many of the companies that make climbing shoes are based in other countries and therefore have different shoe size scales altogether, and sometimes their climbing-shoe-to-regular-shoe size conversions are wildly inaccurate.
For example, I wear a women’s 7 in Vans shoes, but a women’s 9 in Evolv climbing shoes is perfectly snug – if I had sized down two sizes to a 5 as many online sources recommend, I’d have ended up with absurdly small shoes!
Some climbing shoe companies size their shoes in “normal” street sizes, while others are in UK or EU sizes. UK sizes are typically only about a half size different from US sizes, but a US 7 in EU sizing would be a 40.
Additionally, some climbing shoe companies size all of their shoes according to men’s sizes, so women will need to convert the men’s size to the women’s equivalent. Some companies offer both women’s and men’s size ratings.
So, you can consult the climbing shoe size conversion chart that’s usually provided by the manufacturer, but it may not do much good.
As you can see, this becomes quite complex, and especially when you add the variety of different climbing shoe styles and types into the mix, the easiest thing to do is to physically try on the shoes rather than guess what size you need. Then, when you do find a shoe that you like, be sure to write down the shoe brand, model, and size so you can re-order later without having to go through the whole process again!
Climbing Shoe Fit
Climbing shoes should fit much more snugly than your street shoes – there should be no dead space between your toes and the end of the shoes, and your heel should completely fill the heel cup. Beginners should look for a neutral or moderate shoe that is comfortable but rigid and supportive to help their feet get stronger and acclimate to the demands of climbing. More advanced climbers might opt for a tighter fitting but softer shoe as their feet will need less support and they’ll benefit from a more versatile, technical shoe.
For more information about how climbing shoes should fit, check out this article.
FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)
Should you size up or down for climbing shoes?
It depends on the sizing of your regular shoes as well as which size scale the climbing shoe company uses – sometimes your climbing shoe will be a larger numerical size than your street shoes but they will still fit much more tightly, and sometimes the opposite is true – you might have size down 1-2 numbers to get a good fit. Again, the best way to figure out your climbing shoe size is to try on several different pairs to find shoes that fit well and are comfortable.
Are climbing shoes true to size?
Generally, no. There are some climbing shoe companies whose shoes are sized similar to street shoes, but even street shoe sizes can vary dramatically between brands. And, many climbing shoes are sized on completely different scales than street shoes.
Are climbing shoes meant to be small?
Climbing shoes are meant to be smaller than your street shoes, but not so small as to be painful – especially if you are just getting started with rock climbing. There should be no dead space in the climbing shoe, and it should fit more like a stiff sock than a street shoe.
It’s also important to note that most climbing shoes will stretch anywhere from a little bit to a full size, depending on the material. So, climbing shoes should feel pretty snug when you first purchase them, especially if you buy unlined leather shoes. Even synthetic shoes (which stretch the least) will relax and mold to your feet somewhat, becoming more comfortable over time.