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Last updated: January 21, 2021
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Trad climbing is a type of climbing were trained climbers are armed with different gears to reduce the odds of them having an accident, this may be falling while climbing a rock. Unlike other extreme outdoor activities that require no-special shoes, Trad climbing requires a special type of shoe. Trad shoes are designed to provide support to the feet of climbers while taking their climbing experience to a new stratosphere. Trad shoes can also help to prevent climber’s toes from getting beaten up by the coarse and jagged surface of rocks. The focus of this article is going to be on some of the best trad climbing shoes on the market
To ensure that this review is helpful, we took a close look at some features that you are definitely going to be interested in. Like the materials trad shoes are made from, to help you narrow down trad shoes that are made with sturdy and comfortable materials. We also looked at the main types of trad soles, to help you zero in on the one that suits your best.
To gather our research, we took a close look at some of the best trad shoes on the market along with hundreds of reviews from actual users and experts. Our guide starts with a comprehensive comparison table that contains the ratings of each product. Then, we move right to an in-depth review of each product. After that comes, our buying guide that contains the intricate information you need to narrow down a good trad shoe that will suit your unique needs.
The Katana Lace is a rugged, versatile and lightweight trad shoe that is perfect for climbing boulders and rocks. Its ultra-cool design and notable features are definitely going to impress you. The show was specifically designed to keep the foot in a flat position, which is perfect for cracks.
The heel of the Katana Lace is snug and is combined with premium quality P3 mid soles, that will make you feel like your entire body is being focused through the toe.
Unlike other trad shoes on the market that cannot be used to climb cracks, the Katana Lace can be used to climb cracks effortlessly. Its aggressive shape makes it perfect for jamming into tiny cracks where other Trad shoes aren’t able to enter.
The Katana Lace also features a Vibram’s XS Edge soles that can hold on to anything they touch. Many have described the Katana Lace as a workhorse because of its versatility and durability. So, you won’t have to worry about it getting worn out or beat up after using it for a while.
The exceptional design of the Katana Lace enables it to tackle steeper and jagged terrain. The Katana Lace will be perfect for you if you are looking for a way to put more power under your feet.
Truth be told, the Katana Lace is a top-notch trad shoe that every climber should own. However, its only downside is that it is expensive especially when compared to other trad shoes on the market.
The Blackwings is a top-notch trad shoe made from premium quality materials and is perfect for climbing very steep rocks. This trad shoe can turn the toes of any climber into fingers. Unlike the original black wings that were stiff and slightly uncomfortable, the Five Ten Men’s Blackwing is super-soft. Even more, it has a lined cowdura upper that makes it even more comfortable. Since it is an all-purpose trad shoe, you can take it with you to the gym, cliff or boulder.
Since the Five Ten Men’s Blackwing is made from Stealth HF rubber that is ultra sticky, you can be sure that it will last for a very long time.
While the Five Ten Men’s Blackwing is one of the most comfortable trad shoes on the market, it has a few downsides. For starters, it is very soft and may fold in half. Also, its sizing is inconsistent. This means that you may have a hard time finding the one that fits you like a glove.
Of course, this takes nothing from the shoe; you just have to pay attention to its sizing before buying it online.
So, if you are looking for a versatile trad shoe that is super comfortable and durable, the Five Ten Men’s Blackwing will be perfect for you.
The La Sportiva Mythos is one of the oldest and popular climbing shoes on the market. The obvious reason why most people prefer it to others is that it is soft and super comfortable. Wearing it is definitely going to give you a cozy sensation.
The La Sportiva Mythos features a 4mm Vibram XS Grip 2 sole and a 1.1mm LaspoFlex midsole which makes it stable and durable.
One notable feature of this trad shoe is its unique lacing system that is going to keep the shoe glued to your feet as you climb.
Since the La Sportiva Mythos is versatile, you have the freedom to use it for indoor and outdoor climbing.
Make no mistake, the La Sportiva Mythos is not a high performance edging shoe, rather it is a super comfortable all-day cragging shoe. It is perfect for those who values comfort over micro-edging. Also, it is suitable for people with foot issues like bone injuries.
This super-comfortable trad shoe also excels at cracks as the narrow toe and flat foot position help you move your toes effortlessly.
Of course, the La Sportiva Mythos is an amazing trad shoe. But it has a few downsides. For starters, it isn’t good for edging. Irregular sizing is another issue with this shoe because they have different toe position and they stretch so much. Re-lacing them if you happen to break a lace is a pain.
Favoured by professional climbers, Masai is one of the Tanaya’s most popular and preferred trad shoe. Its modern, clean and sleek design, as well as its balanced features, is the major reasons why it stands out from others out there.
More seasoned climbers know that on challenging routes, movements change constantly between rounded, interlinear, sharp, microscopic and sloping rock surfaces. For that reason, they need to prefer a trad shoe that can take loads of pressure on its tip while responding to sensitivity and precision to grip and friction. The Tenaya Masai is a high-performance trad shoe that is suited for rough, rugged and unforgiving terrains.
This rugged trad shoe has a non-aggressive fit featuring a low volume heel and an asymmetric toe box. Its upper part is made from first-grade microfiber outer and a premium TXT treated cotton lining, which keeps you from sweating down and reduces the stretch.
The Tenaya Masai is 4mm Vibram XS Grip, a grade A rubber displaying excellent frictional properties. Unlike other trad shoes that are difficult to lace, the Tenaya Masai is relatively easy to lace. Even more, its enclosure system is of top-quality.
Granted, the Tenaya Masai is a top-notch trad shoe that is perfect for rough terrain but it has a few downsides. For example, its thin sole wears out a little more quickly than other trad shoes. Of course, this takes nothing from the performance of this excellent trad shoe.
What we liked:
Great grip and edging on slabs
It is comfortable
It looks great
What could be better:
It has a thin sole that wears quicker than most trad shoes
The Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS is a high-performance all-rounder member of the prolific instinct family. The ultra-precise and sensitive designs of the Instinct VS are next to the type found on top-notch bouldering shoes.
Unlike other trad shoes that have elaborate lacing that is difficult to put on, The Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS is like a fast slippers, you can put on with ease. This rugged trad shoe also offers 100% support, especially when climbing rough, craggy and unforgiving terrain.
The Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS is also armed with premium Vibram XS Edge rubber that will help you make the most of nubbins and chips, a non-leather heel for extra support, and a non-stretch Lorica upper that is definitely going to give an edge when bouldering or sports climbing.
If you prefer edging over comfort, this shoe will be perfect of you, as it has been described by many as an edging monster.
After softening and breaking in, they will effortlessly go on steep limestone where you may need to pull into the wall and flex your toes.
Granted, The Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS is a high performance, comfortable and durable trad shoe. But it has a few downsides. For example, its wide toe profile and stiffness don’t perform well in small cracks, where you will need to push in as much rubber as possible.
So, if you are looking for a high-performance trad shoe, but on a tight budget, this trad shoe will be perfect for you.
What we liked:
It is easy to put on
It is perfect for bouldering
It is made from durable materials
What could be better:
It is not suitable for small climbing rocks with small cracks
Things to Consider
Now that you are abreast with some of the best trad shoes on the market, you are likely going to need some help in choosing the right one that will suit your climbing needs. Below is a comprehensive buying guide, which highlights the essential features we considered to be the most important when choosing a trad shoe.
Trad climbing shoes at work
Trad climbing is a thrilling, challenging, and fun outdoor activity. But it has its fair share of risks. To mitigate these risks, you have to be prepared. One of the best ways to prepare is by buying a trad shoe.
Unlike regular shoes, trad shoes are designed to handle the rugged terrain of most climbing routes. To ensure that you have excellent climbing experience, it is important that you choose a trad shoe that is comfortable enough for extensive and extended wear and is your right size. Ignore this and your feet will take a beating.
Since all trad shoes aren’t made the same, you have to consider your route before buying one.
For example, if you are going to be climbing a steep and technical trad route, then you should go for a shoe with an aggressive or moderate downturn, like the Ten Men’s Blackwing or the La Sportiva Katana Lace. Also, if you are going to be climbing vertical and thin cracks, a model like the Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS will be perfect for you.
Tips for beginner climbers
If you are new to trad climbing, you are likely going to be pumped up and ready to take on your first boulder. Before you do that, it is important that you practice a lot at a climbing gym. Yes, doing this may be difficult, but it will put you in a better position to handle the rigors and challenges you are inevitably going to encounter when climbing in the outdoors.
As a greenhorn climber, it is wise that you wear a good and comfortable trad shoe like the La Sportiva Mythos and other climbing gear you may need.
Study in advance
Before climbing a rock, it is wise that you seek advice from pros and experts who have climbed it in the past. Also, you have to do some research to learn more about the right gear to bring and some possible challenges you may encounter.
Features to consider while buying the best trad climbing shoes
Before heading to a local climbing gear store in your area to buy a trad shoe or the one first one that held your attention online, there are some important features you must consider. Let’s take a look at some of these features.
Feel the fit
The single most important thing you should be on the lookout for when buying a trad shoe is its fit. You don’t want a shoe that will be wiggling or slipping as you climb. Whether you are a beginner who is preparing for his first climb or a seasoned pro climber that has climbed many rocks, it is wise that choose a shoe that is comfortable and fits you well. Never should you sacrifice features for comfort. Wearing an overly tight trad shoe is going to crush your toes and foot. You don’t want that.
Below are some general fitting rules you need to know;
High-performance shoes usually have a tight fit
Ensure that your toes are comfortably curved or flat
Make sure the back of the shoe doesn’t exert pressure on your Achilles tendon
Since everyone’s feet bend differently, make sure you test it to see if it will comfortably fit into your feet. If you have to struggle to put it on, it is probably too light for you.
Does the gender matter?
Trad shoes are available for both men and women. The Tenaya Masai is a popular women climbing shoe, while the Five Ten Men’s Blackwing is high-performance men climbing shoe. The major difference between male and female trad shoe is that female trad shoes are narrower.
Don’t give too much attention to the gender a trad shoe is made for, rather give your focus to the fits and comforts it offers. There is absolutely nothing with a guy wearing a comfortable female trad shoe. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with a lady wearing a guy’s trad shoe that fits her well.
Laces or velcro
Choosing between climbing shoes with laces and those without laces or slip-on comes down to personal preference. Lace trad shoes come in different forms. There are some that go from the fore sole, all the way down to the ankle. The good thing about trad shoes with lace is that they have a firm and secured fit and they allow for micro adjustment. However, they are difficult to put on and get off.
Velcro closures on the other hand, are easy to put on. But they may not fit as well as lace trad shoes.
There are also some trad shoes that don’t have laces or Velcro. These types rely on a close fit and may become sloppy with time.
Climbing shoes are made with different durable and comfortable upper material. Below are a few of them.
Synthetic upper is perfect for those looking for a trad shoe that won’t stretch. Of course, there is a possibility that it will stretch a little bit, but not obvious enough for you to notice. The Five Ten Men’s Blackwing and the Tenaya Masai are synthetic trad shoes.
Trad shoes with leather upper are very popular and comfortable. They may be a little rigid at first but would stretch with time. The La Sportiva Mythos is a perfect example of a leather trad shoe
Climbing shoes whose upper are made with both leather and synthetic materials are known as the hybrid. The advantage of buying a shoe with a hybrid upper is that it will stretch in certain areas and not in others. The La Sportiva Katana Lace is a hybrid trad shoe, as it is made from two materials.
The entire front section of the trad shoe is known as the toe box. It is usually made with comfortable materials to support the toes. The toe box of the La Sportiva Mythos and the Tenaya Masai Climbing Shoe are super comfortable and durable.
Stiff or flexible
Stiff trad shoes are perfect for crack climbing. They offer the extra support you need to stand on those edges a little longer while giving you a little time to rest and to plan your next move. The bottom line is that stiff shoes offer more support and are durable especially when compared to flexible trad shoes.
Soft and flexible trad shoes let you know exactly what is under your foot. With them, you can easily do footholds. Since their soles are thinner, you will be able to grip smaller holds as you climb. They are perfect for bouldering and for smearing.
Irrespective of the type of trad shoe you want to buy, it is important that you pay close attention to the nature of its sole.
The following are some things you need to look out for before making a final decision.
The stickiness of the rubber in a trad shoe is going to determine the amount of traction it will offer. All rubbers are not made the same, some are stickier than others. A very sticky trad shoe is great on sports routes but may wear out faster, as it is very soft. A hard rubber, on the other hand, isn’t very sticky, but it is perfect for edging and for steep routes.
The thickness of rubber is often provided in mm (millimeters). Thicker soles are durable but rigid. Thinner soles are flexible but prone to wear and tear.
The price of trad shoes varies from brand to brand. If you on a tight budget then you should go for Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS. On the other hand, if you are on a budget can accommodate a fairly expensive trad shoe then you should go for La Sportiva Katana Lace or the Five Ten Men’s Blackwing.
It is wise you invest in a cheap trad shoe if you are new to climbing, as you get better and become more experienced, you can go for the expensive and durable ones. Note that you can get a good trad shoe below a hundred dollars.
Feel free to add something you think is important and relevant, and please mention some of the products reviewed as examples in the buying guide, where appropriate.
Keep it clean by giving it a quick scrub after climbing and don’t use it for any other thing than climbing
Our top pick with a rating of 9.8 La Sportiva Katana Lace is an all-around, lightweight trad shoe with durable Vibram’s XS Edge soles that will stand the test of time and is also perfect for bouldering and sports climbing. The versatility of this excellent trad shoe and the comfort it offers is what makes it stand out from others out there.
Next, with a rating of 9.5 is the Five Ten Men’s Blackwing. This top-notch trad shoe is perfect for pros and beginners alike. It features a Stealth HF rubber that is ultra sticky and has a dually adjustable velcro closure.
Finally, the Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS, is a budget-friendly trad shoe with a rating of 8.8. Although it isn’t the best trad shoe on the market, its features are definitely going to impress you.
We hope that this review helps you choose among the best climbing shoes on the market that will suit your climbing needs.