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Last updated: May 29, 2021
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Rock climbing is a physically demanding exercise that requires the right set of techniques and proper gear for the safe completion of routes. One such special equipment is a decent pair of climbing shoes. These come in different designs and they are capable of performing a varied range of climbing maneuvers. Some are great for walking on edges, while others are very good at getting into rock pockets. That means understanding the kind of climbing you want your shoes for is critical for deciding the right shoes to buy. However, finding the best shoes for wide feet is even harder especially because most shoes already fit pretty darn snug. Don’t fret! We’ve got you covered in this post.
But, why do people climb anyway and why should you? Well, for some it’s a sport, others do it as a hobby, and then there are those who want to adventure. Whichever category you fall under, rock climbing has serious health benefits. The fact that climbing engages almost every muscle of your body is in itself a full body workout. Your upper body requires the strength to pull yourself up and your legs and feet play a huge role in finding balance. Additionally, your heart rate increases and this helps reduce the risks of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. The complexity of climbing itself enhances hand-eye coordination, problem-solving and judgement skills. It also gives you the ability to build confidence and conquer fears. We simply can’t overemphasize the importance of climbing.
After spending about 36 hours researching and comparing different climbing shoes, we narrowed down to the best 5 climbing shoes for wide feet. You’ll find our ratings table below before in-depth reviews of each pair. There’s also a buying guide with information on the features we considered in our selection including the shoe’s upper material, sole thickness, midsole material, and more.
The Butora Acro Wide Feet Climbing Shoe boasts high-quality construction and it’s a popular choice for sports climbing and bouldering. This shoe especially excels in edging due to its high tension heel rand which keeps the front toe snug and taut at the power point. Combine that with its stiff midsole and you have a shoe that can take the limestone cliffs of Wild Iris like a boss.
The uppers feature a combination of natural leather and soft synthetic material, making it hardwearing and comfortable at the same time. Additionally, the toe box with a synthetic liner together with the foam in the tongue make this shoe more breathable.
According to Butora, the Acro is one of the down-cambered shoes on the market with the largest rubber surface. Their innovative Neo Fuse rubber went through a heat molding process to ensure the rubber is fully bonded to the shoe, which also helps reduce delamination. The outsole may only be 5mm but it creates a major barrier between your feet and the rocks.
Another unique feature of the Acro is its triple fork hook and loop strap. This design provides the convenience of a slipper with the additional custom fit and security of a regular lace-up shoe. The slipper is surprisingly a breeze to put on and take off. Most importantly, this shoe comes in blue and orange versions, with the former having a narrower fit for women and the latter being for men. With sizes ranging from 5.5 to 14 and available at a killer price, the Butora Acro is our ultimate best pick.
The Scarpa Instinct VS is designed for boulderers and sports climbers who demand sensitivity and power. It has a precise fit that won’t stretch out over time. The shoe is really aggressive with a downturned shape that allows your toes to bend at the first knuckle and curls your foot in a way that enables you to cling to insanely steep rocks.
The technology behind this shoe’s design is incredible. The forefoot features Vibram® XS Edge which offers superior grip and durability, while the proprietary Vibram® XS Grip2 makes heel hooking so easy. Its Lorica® synthetic leather uppers break in and feel comfortable after a few uses but will not lose form at all. This gives a long-lasting performance fit for years. The upper fabric is microsuede, which is very easy to clean after a day out.
These shoes have loops at the heels for easy entry. Bi-tensioning randing provides the ideal level of tension for the perfect fit that increases sensitivity and support when performing tricky maneuvers. Its floating power strap design offers more shoe space if needed in order to accommodate foot swelling and, in turn, allow you to climb with greater comfort. Furthermore, the Vibram XS Edge rubber is sure to perform consistently on the hardest edges, whether in hot or cold weather. If you are looking for a shoe that can transition between hard sports climbing, bouldering, and steep and overhang terrain, the Instinct VS is the perfect all-rounder. They are expensive, though.
The La Sportiva Performance is an unlined leather climbing shoe with an asymmetric profile that’s meant to offer the support and performance needed for difficult climbs. The unlined leather has two major benefits. First, it allows breathability to keep your feet comfortable throughout the day. Second, it makes the shoe mold perfect to your feet as if they are a second skin.
Speaking of the uppers, they feature a combination of leather and synthetics that ensures the fit is precise and secure. The tongue of this shoe is lined to add an extra layer of protection as well as help manage moisture. The outsole is made of 5mm FriXion® RS rubber, which provides unbeatable friction and grip that you can rely on when climbing slippery limestone cliffs. This kind of rubber is also known for its durability, thus you’ll never worry about running out of grip before your mission is complete.
The heel rand of these shoes has been aggressively designed so that you can find purchase on micro edges with great sensitivity and without cramping or pain. Equipped with a quick-pull lacing harness, this pair is guaranteed to wrap your feet snugly for maximum support and comfort.
Many previous buyers have found this shoe ideal for both outdoor and indoor climbing activities and you can trust its performance too. Sizes are available from 34 – 48, so surely you can’t miss one. This La Sportiva shoe is especially ideal for complex situations that require a variety of techniques and maneuvers. Its price is also a huge bargain when compared to other models.
The Butora Narsha is the newest thing on the market and an upgrade of the Butora Acro. This shoe is well-engineered for relatively overhanging climbs where detailed edges define the route. The Narsha scores high marks in edging. Its stiff 3mm Neo Friction rubber outsole coupled with a full, stiff, injection molded midsole, and accurate fit will enable you to load micro edges with confidence. The outsole has a concave design that forces the toes down slightly to help in edging on rocks with up to 20 degrees gradient.
Another standout feature of this shoe is its heel and rand system that is specially designed to reduce slippage. The high-quality German leather uppers provide great protection all around the feet. One thing you will notice is that these shoes are pointy at the big toe, which makes it easy to poke into pockets. The edging prowess of these climbing shoes especially come in handy in shallow pockets that have an edge. The downturned profile of the Narsha also works great in cracks, while its brilliantly designed toe cover is perfect for toe hooking.
Butora offers these shoes in both wide and narrow versions. The wide version is a great option for those with typical “duck feet”; narrow heels and wide forefeet. The tongue of this shoe is stretchy and slightly padded to ease entry and protect the top of the foot from the internal NFS closure strap pressure. In fact, the NFS closure is a huge feature, allowing maximum adjustability from super tight to snug. Be sure to get your normal street shoe size for all-day comfort.
The Evolv Elektra are primarily designed for women with wide feet, particularly beginners. It’s a sensitive shoe with a relatively soft rubber that makes it easy to feel the rock, unlike stiffer, more aggressive climbing shoes.
The Elektra also shoves well into cracks and it has a thick rubber that provides the cushion you need when wedging between rocks. When it comes to precision, this performs well indoors, precisely navigating to virtually any foothold, but it struggles to place your foot on small holds outdoors. Heel and toe hooking is no problem, however, and this shoe is thick enough around the right areas for maximum protection. Since it has a narrow fit, the Elektra will be good for pocket climbing. It also underwhelms in edging due to its flat sole and round toe box, which makes it challenging to get a foot on pencil-thin edges.
Moving on to the sizing, these shoes fit great. We recommend selecting a pair of the same size as your street shoe since the synthetic uppers will not stretch over time. A split tongue allows easy on and off, while full-length midsole and outsole provide great support and comfort. The outsole features TRAX® SAS rubber that’s designed to offer the best friction and maximum durability.
These shoes have two opposing Velcro straps that will allow you to tighten or loosen the fit as needed. The straps will retain their stickiness for long, so you don’t expect them to come off accidentally during crucial times. Generally, these shoes can offer several months of consistent climbing after which the rubber sole will start losing its grip. Their look is a bit bland, with solid colours and lacking in patterns that you see in other shoes. But if purple is your favorite and looking for something on a budget, then you will love the Elektra shoes.
Climbing shoes have a significant impact on your performance and comfort. The primary considerations for climbing shoes include the type, shoe features, and the fit. This guide will help you choose the right shoe and save time browsing the internet and sending ill-fitting shoes back to the vendor.
Climbing shoe type – know your style
There are three types: neutral, moderate, and aggressive.
Neutral climbing shoes
These are the most comfortable climbing shoes for all-day activity due to their flat profile. As such, they tend to be the best choice for beginners, but also good for experienced climbers who want all-day comfort. Their outsoles are extra thick and often have medium-to-stiff midsoles for maximum support. On the downside, their relaxed fit performs poorly on overhanging routes and their stiffer soles are less sensitive. The Evolv Elektra is a good example of a neutral shoe.
Moderate climbing shoes
These have a slightly downturned profile that makes them great for technical climbing. They can take on cracks, slab routes, and slightly overhung routes. Their downturned shape puts your feet in a powerful position that enables you to climb difficult routes. Their outsoles are thin with stickier rubber for better grip, but the rubber tends to wear faster than that in neutral shoes.
Aggressive climbing shoes
This type is characterized by extremely downturned toes and plenty of heel tension that puts your feet in a very strong and powerful position to pull complex moves on overhanging climbs. They often have an asymmetric shape that bends toward the big toe, concentrating power on the toe for precise placements on micro-holds. On the negative side, their shape is not comfortable for long, multi-pitch climbs, but rather single-pitch climbs. The Butora Narsha is one such aggressive shoe.
Tips on fitting a climbing shoe
The fit is an important factor when looking for a pair of climbing shoes. The only sure way to get the right fit is by trying them on, though buying online denies you the chance to do so. Nevertheless, climbing shoes feel a bit different from normal street shoes and the following video will explain how to use them:
How to climb – best techniques
Rock climbing or even indoor gym climbing is a complicated skill that requires several hours of practice. The best way to learn is via practical experience. The following tips can give you a head start before getting onto the field:
Use your feet for edging, hooking and smearing. Edging requires you to use the inside or outside of your shoe to step on a hold. Hooking is exactly what it sounds like and you can either heel-hook on a hold or toe-hook on a corner. Smearing is using your shoe’s rubber for friction against a rock, especially useful when you can’t find a foothold.
Use your hands for hauling yourself up and finding stability. You should grip holds gently and with slightly bent arms. You can conserve energy by not over-gripping holds. And by keeping your arms straight, you allow your skeleton to take the most weight and not your muscles.
Use an open–hand grip most of the time as it reduces stress on your fingers, builds finger strength and reduces the risk of injuries.
Focus on your hips and always try to keep one hip pushed up against the wall. This allows you to keep your weight closer to the wall and not on your muscles and helps you maintain straight arms.
Climb with your eyes. Focus on the wall and look out for holds that can allow you a quick rest. Make sure to make use of a good rest whenever you find it. Look out for footholds more than handholds.
These tips are just footwork and handwork basics really. You can learn more at your local climbing gym.
Consider following features to choose the best climbing shoes for wide feet
When it comes to the fine details, every shoe has its own distinctive features that set it apart from the other. At the very basic, pay attention to the following features:
Climbing shoes are either made of leather or synthetic and sometimes a combination of the two. Leather material is often deodorized, easy to maintain and stretchy. Synthetic provides exceptional breathability to help reduce sweating and it’s not that much flexible.
Some leather shoes feature a lining to help reduce stretching and increase comfort. Unlined leather, on the other hand, may stretch up to its full size, meaning you should buy this a size smaller than normal.
Shoe closure types include lace-up, Velcro strap, and slip on. The lace up is more versatile in that you tighten or loosen the laces as needed. The Velcro strap is easy to put on and take off, but some may lose their stickiness with time. These are good for bouldering and gym climbing.
Lastly, the slip on type features elastic closures that simply let your fit to slip into them with ease. With no straps or laces, they are perfect for slotting into thinner cracks. They also offer superior sensitivity than their counterparts.
This is the part that comes into contact with the rock. Usually made from rubber, the outsole may be sticky or thin/thick. Sticky rubbers are ideal for smearing and climbing on slabs, while firm rubbers are good for edging. Generally, the thickness of the outsole impacts climbing performance.
Shoe last refers to the mold upon which a shoe is made. The last includes heel width, instep height, forefoot width, and toe box depth; features that determine the overall fit of a shoe. The last also figures the shape of a shoe, which can be straight, downturned or asymmetric.
Slip lasted shoes are meant for rock climbing because they are less stiff and more sensitive. They usually lack an insole and so their stiffness originates from the midsole. Board lasted shoes are stiffer and less sensitive, but they are very comfortable for all-day climbs.
Shoes for women
As much as climbing shoes for wide feet have wider fits, those designed for women are a bit narrower. Most companies have found the thin line between the needs of men and women with wide feet and now offer their shoes in gender assignments. For instance, the Butora Acro has the blue version intended for women and an orange version for women.
A shoe’s flexibility is determined by the stiffness of its midsole. A soft midsole will allow you to flex your feet easily around holds, making them ideal for bouldering and gym climbing. This kind of shoe offers greater sensitivity between foot and rock. Stiffer shoes, however, will perform best on long climbs outdoors where edging, stability, and support are top priorities. As a general rule of thumb, beginners are better off with a shoe that has a relatively stiff midsole to help their foot muscles and ligaments as they find their strength.
Weight is not really a major factor when choosing the best climbing shoe. In general, the shoe material and profile determines how much it weighs. A shoe with a thicker sole, bulkier uppers and with a reinforced heel cup will certainly weigh more than a slip-on shoe with a thin sole. Therefore, the weight of the shoe will depend on its construction among other factors, and it’s better to focus on the purpose than weight.
It should always fit
Now, this is an essential factor for safety, comfort, power, and control. Your fit can fluctuate depending on time and activity levels. If you don’t want to gamble on your fit, get a shoe that you can customize its fit and tightness.
Totally up to you. Many climbers and especially those who wear shoes with thin soles prefer not to wear socks for increased sensitivity that’s needed to distinguish the surface and the rock. Keep in mind that if you choose to wear heavy socks, then your shoe size should be a little larger to accommodate your feet comfortably, and thin socks should go with a smaller size.
Yes, you need to. Rock climbing shoes are designed differently from regular street shoes. The aggressive downturned shoes, for instance, can squeeze into tiny holes on the wall and give a better foothold than any other shoe can do.
We have provided a list of 5 climbing shoes, but this is by no means a comprehensive list of all top-rated shoes. That’s why we have a buying guide to help you choose your best climbing shoes for wide feet should you choose to look elsewhere.
For the ones we’ve reviewed, the Butora Acro is the best overall. Not only does it come in both men and women versions, but this down-cambered shoe has a 5mm sole that provides great support and stability. Its high tension heel rand also makes it a great edging shoe.
The La Sportiva Performance is another shoe that we really liked. It features unlined leather uppers so it’s a great choice for anyone looking for stretchy shoes. Most importantly, these are really versatile shoes for both indoor and outdoor climbs.
Our final recommendation is the Evolv Elektra, which is not only a budget shoe but also the best for women with wide feet. These are flat, supportive and with precise fits.