The Best Bouldering Shoes In 2018 [For Beginners & Intermediates]

Check out out 3-minute buyer’s guide to the best bouldering shoes for men and women. The best shoes for every type of boulderer.

If you’ve already read our beginner’s guide to bouldering, you’ll know that buying a good pair of bouldering shoes is key to progressing as a climber.

Sure, you need comfort. But, the key is to find a shoe that doesn’t just fit correctly, but offers the right amount of sensitivity.

In our 3-minute guide we’ve covered the best bouldering shoes for:

  • Beginners
  • Intermediate Climbers
  • Climbers With Wide Feet
  • Women
  • Climbers On A Tight Budget

Best Bouldering Shoes For Beginners

Scarpa Origin

If you’re a fan of Velcro straps, the Scarpa Origin is an excellent choice. The dual straps here offer a snug fit and plenty of support throughout a climb.

And, more importantly, there’s a great deal of sensitivity. So, you’ll know exactly what level of grip you have before moving to your next hold.

A great bouldering shoe for beginners, but they’ll see you good right through to the intermediate level too.

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La Sportiva Nago

Another option for beginners are the La Sportiva Nago bouldering shoes. They are slightly more expensive, weighing in at over $100.

But for that, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Many climbers consider the Nago from La Sportiva to be a contender for the top spot in the climbing shoe category. And not just for bouldering or for beginners.

It’s got a flat sole, so bear that in mind if that’s not really your thing. But, this does offer additional support in comparison to an arched sole when stretching for a difficult hold.

The rubber isn’t just more sensitive than the Scarpa Origin, it’s more durable. That’s thanks to the Vibram XS Edge.

But, don’t think you’ll feel the impact when you jump off the wall due to increased sensitivity. The Vibram XS Edge sole is designed to absorb exactly that type of impact.

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Scarpa Origin Or La Sportiva Nago?

We don’t see a compromise as a feasible option here.

Sure, you can save a few dollars with the Scarpa Origin, but the reduced support, comfort, grip and the lack of a Vibram sole means you’ll be much better off with the La Sportiva Nago.

The perfect bouldering shoes for beginners.

Best Bouldering Shoes For Intermediate Climbers

Scarpa Helix

Another entry for Scarpa here, and a worthy one, with their Helix bouldering shoes. They do a Helix shoe designed specifically for women too.

They are reasonably priced, at under $100, and that even includes a Vibram XS Edge like the more expensive La Sportiva’s mentioned above.

And, that’s going to take most of the impact when you jump from a difficult problem.

The biggest downside here is going to be for those that don’t like lace-ups.

Although lace ups offer a snug fit, the pressure from the laces on the Helix shoe isn’t evenly distributed, and it’s noticeable after an hour or two.

Sensitivity wise though, they’re all business.

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La Sportiva Tarantula

Prefer a Velcro strap? No problem. You’re covered with the La Sportiva Tarantula bouldering shoes.

The Tarantulas use a La Sportiva FriXion rubber sole. It’s comparable to the Vibram XS Edge, but we wouldn’t say it’s as sensitive.

So, the La Sportiva Tarantula is labelled as an intermediate shoe, but we’d put it better suited to beginners.

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Scarpa Helix Or La Sportiva Tarantula?

Both shoes are similar in quality and feel, and even price. But, the increased sensitivity from the Scarpa Helix makes those our number one pick.

Best Bouldering Shoes For Wide Feet

Scarpa Boostic

Got wide feet? Bad news…

Most bouldering shoe brands charge a much higher price for their wide-feet orientated products.

And, that’s evident here, with the Scarpa Boostic. At just under $200, they’re a much more expensive than comparative products in their line-up.

Comfort comes at a price, but you’ll have it here.

And, they are great for the technical climber too. The Velcro strap evenly distributes pressure throughout your foot. It’s also a useful tool to be using for edging.

It’s priced in the high-end, but the Boostic is really a high-end shoe, suitable for experienced and technical climbers.

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Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym

If your budget isn’t going to stretch to nearly $200, you’ve got another option; the Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym.

It’s a slip-on shoe with plenty of flex, so it allows for a snug fit. That said, it’s not going to be a perfect fit as it stretches into position, rather than you velcroing it into position.

So, you get the comfort for your wide-feet, but not the fit. And, that means you’re going to struggle with sensitivity on technical climbs.

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Scarpa Boostic Or Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym?

If you’re game is all comfort and budget; the Five Ten’s are a great pick.

However, if you really want to progress as a climber, have wide-feet and the budget, we’d be heading straight for the Scarpa Boostic.

Best Bouldering Shoes For Women

La Sportiva Solution

There’s not a tonne of shoes out there that are specifically designed for women, but there is the La Sportiva Solution.

At just under $200, they are by no means cheap. But, they are a true all-rounder. Suitable for bouldering both indoors and outdoors.

Looking for support on technical climbs? Prefer a shoe with high-levels of sensitivity, but not compromising on sole durability?

The La Sportiva Solution has it all. And, thanks to the lock harness strap, it’s also going to give you the comfort you need to be wearing them all day long.

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Five Ten Blackwing

Now, we’ve got a budget option for you; the Five Ten Black Wing.

At under $100, they’re half the price of the La Sportiva Solution. And, that’s not to say that they’re lacking in all areas.

The Five Ten Blackwing women’s bouldering shoes are leaning more towards the technical climber. These shoes focus on a combination of support and sensitivity.

They’ve achieved both, but there’s a slight compromise, and that’s with comfort.

If you climb indoors for 1-2 hours at a time. No problem. But, if you’re climbing outdoors for more than 2 hours, they might start to feel uncomfortable.

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Evolv Shaman LV

So, here’s the option in the mid-range of the budget spectrum; the Evolv Shaman LV bouldering shoes.

They’re focused on high performance, but the additional price over the Five Ten’s means that the comfort is still there. And, this is helped by the 3 straps that help to evenly distribute pressure across your foot.

The straps aren’t just there for comfort. By evenly distributing pressure, they also increase support.

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La Sportiva Solution, Five Ten Blackwing Or Evolv Shaman LV?

So, which are the best bouldering shoes for women?

We’d pick the mid-range Evolv Shaman LV taking all things into consideration.

For the extra few dollars, they outstrip the Five Ten’s in almost every area.

And, at a big chunk less than the La Sportiva, they offer excellent value for money.

We’d only recommend shooting for the La Sportiva Solution if you’re a highly experienced and technical climber – this is exactly who they are designed for.

Best Cheap Bouldering Shoes

Evolv Defy

We’ve been throwing some big numbers around. So, let’s talk about some cheap bouldering shoes.

The first contender for the cheap bouldering shoe title is the Evolv Defy.

At under $50, there are few shoes out there that are going to compete on price.

The rubber is their own Evolv TRAX. And, it’s not going to offer anywhere near the support or sensitivity of something like a Vibram. But, that means you’ll be Saving $50-100.

They are Velcro strapped, so there’s plenty of support.

So, it’s really a bouldering shoe designed for beginners or the recreational “every now and again” climber.

You’ll really struggle as you progress to more technical climbs.

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Mad Rock Flash 2.0

Like the Defy, the Mad Rock Flash 2.0 uses a Velcro strap and their own rubber, Mad Rock Science Friction.

For a lower end shoe, you’ll get reasonable comfort and support for a low price. But that’s about it, everything is just reasonable.

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Evolv Defy Or Mad Rock Flash 2.0?

In this case, we’d be heading straight for the Evolv Defy. Purely down to the fact that their own brand rubber offers slightly more sensitivity.

And, that means you’ll be able to hang onto them for a little longer than the Mad Rock Flash 2.0, before you progress to a more sensitive and technical pair of bouldering shoes.

What’s Next?

Thanks for reading our Buyer’s Guide To The Best Bouldering Shoes.

If you’ve not already, skip over to our guide to bouldering gear.

And, don’t forget to jump onto our email list.

Written by
Grant Draper

Grant's a motorcycle geek, outdoor enthusiast & confirmed racing nut. He road tests all the gear he buys, and then gives his feedback here on NoobNorm.

He also details any quick fixes he stumbles upon, whether that's to stop brakes on motorcycles sticking, or unusual noises coming from gaming wheels.

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Written by Grant Draper