How to Choose the Best Intermediate Rock Climbing Shoes

Most people know that their rock climbing shoes are important.

Many of them just don’t know why—or that they should be shopping for different shoes depending on their climbing level.

Today, I want to talk about finding the right shoes for intermediate climbers. Even if you’re just starting out, however, you may want to keep this in mind for after you’ve gained some skills.

Below, we’ll walk through the vital information that you need to know in order to buy the shoes right for your climb.

If you’re an intermediate climber looking for a pair of great new shoes, I’ve got you covered. Not only will I tell you what you need to know to find the right pair of shoes on your own, but I’ll also go over my pick of the top five best intermediate climbing shoes.

Jump to Review:

  1. La Sportiva Maverink Climbing Shoe
  2. La Sportiva Kataki
  3. Tenaya Lati
  4. La Sportiva Unisex Skwama
  5. Scarpa Men’s Vapor V

Let’s get started.

Why Should You Upgrade?

I know what some of you are probably thinking right now:

“Won’t my old shoes work?”

It’s a question that doesn’t have a set answer. Because your old shoes probably will work as long as they’re still in good condition, the technical answer might be yes.

However, as you’ve undoubtedly come to realize by now, the type of shoe that you wear is important to the climbs that you’re making.

And if you’re ready to start making more challenging climbs, it’s likely that the shoes that you’ve been wearing just won’t cut it anymore.

Your older shoes probably aren’t designed to perform more intermediate-level techniques. So while you may be able to pull the climb off in them, doing so is riskier and more difficult.

You can cut this hassle and have added peace of mind by investing in a pair of quality intermediate shoes.

These climbing shoes will help remove doubt and will allow you to perform necessary climbing techniques with a much lower risk.

In this way, making the upgrade to intermediate shoes can help protect your safety—the most important consideration you should make when rock climbing.

Additionally, because it can make your climbs easier, you’ll be able to have more fun as you take on new challenges.

Trust me: don’t allow yourself to be limited in what you can do because of the shoes you’re wearing.

With this in mind, I want to go over just what intermediate climbing shoes are and what qualities you should be looking for in them.

What Are Intermediate Climbing Shoes?

Intermediate climbing shoes are designed specifically for more-experienced climbers.

Currently, shoes are made for beginner, intermediate, and advanced rock climbers. Each of these shoes will have its own specific design that better suits it to the task at hand.

If you’re now looking to graduate from a beginning climber to an intermediate one, congratulations! This is a big deal for you, as you’re certain to progress to even more thrilling climbs as you continue.

Now it’s time that you make sure that you’re wearing climbing shoes that fit your level.

Chances are, you’re still wearing your beginner-level shoes. Trade them in for an intermediate level to enjoy greater functionality from your shoes.

You can tell intermediate shoes apart by noticing their unique design. These shoes are easily recognizable by the distinct pointed design at the end of the shoes.

This helps make sure that all your shoes are pointed in the right direction, giving you more flexibility as you climb.

Be Aware of the Following

Remember that once you start getting to intermediate shoes, their purpose changes.

Unlike beginner-level shoes that are designed with your comfort in mind, intermediate shoes differ in that their top priority is performance.

Because of this, you may find that your new intermediate shoes just aren’t that comfortable. It’s likely that you’re going to have to take time to get used to wearing them. If you’re going to be doing any long climbs, this can really start to wear on you, as your toes will remain pointed throughout the day.

Make sure that you can comfortably wear your new shoes, as this is important to your safety while climbing. If you find yourself in any type of discomfort while climbing, you can lose critical focus—potentially risking your life.

What Qualities Should You Look For?

There are several qualities that you should look for in your intermediate-level shoes to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your purchase.

They are:

  • Performance—It’s really important that you’re getting the right performance out of your shoes. Remember: that’s what these were made for to begin with.

This can mean that you only choose shoes that you’re going to be comfortable in and ones that allow you to do the range of motions that you need while on your climb. If you find that your shoes aren’t doing the trick, you may want to consider getting a better-quality pair.

For those upgrading their shoes from those at the beginner level, you should feel a distinct difference in the climbing flexibility you have.

  • Comfort—Remember when I said that intermediate shoes are made more for performance than for comfort?

Yeah, that’s still true, and you’re going to find that the comfort of these shoes is going to be lacking when compared to your regular climbing shoes.

That being said, that doesn’t mean that you should expect your feet to be in pain all day long. Make sure that you’re choosing a brand that strikes the right balance between comfort and performance. Take time to break your shoes in before going on your climb, as this can help you ensure that you’re able to wear them for significant amounts of time.

  • Grip—Make sure that you’re choosing a pair of shoes that has a good grip. You’ll notice that your intermediate shoes are stickier than beginner ones, giving you a better grip and added security as you climb. By choosing a pair with a better grip, you can have a safer and more-effective climb.

My Pick for the Top 5 Intermediate Climbing Shoes

Now it’s time to take a look at my pick for the top five intermediate rock climbing shoes.

These are shoes that excel in virtually all categories and ones that boast all the great features that you need to look for in climbing shoes.

Let’s take a look.

1. La Sportiva Maverink Climbing Shoe

This great climbing shoe comes from one of the most-trusted brands in the business.

What really makes the La Sportiva Maverink Climbing Shoe special is that it doesn’t have any edges.

That’s right—you slip it on, and it will take the form of your foot. Sound too good to be true?

It’s not.

But trust me, these shoes are as comfortable as they sound.

Even better, because they are like a natural glove for your feet, they give you the extra precision you need while climbing. Their all-natural feel will leave you climbing difficult rock faces better than you ever thought possible.

Additionally, they boast great adhesion that can help make sure that you don’t lose your footing.

If you’re looking for top-quality shoes, put these at the top of your list.

By making the most of La Sportiva’s patented No-Edge Technology, you can revolutionize your rock climbing experience and start tackling difficult climbs like you never before thought possible.

Pros

  • One of the most comfortable intermediate shoes
  • Great adhesion
  • Can add a natural feel to your climb

Cons

  • The size isn’t adjustable

2. La Sportiva Kataki

Another great pair of climbing shoes from La Sportiva, the Kataki are perfect for intermediate climbers.

Unlike the Maverink, these shoes feature incredible edging and a lace design.

What really sets these apart from other intermediate climbing shoes is their ability to help you secure a foothold.

Great for finding even the toughest of cracks, the Kataki are some of the best intermediate climbing shoes on the market.

If you’re looking for a great shoe that’s a little more traditional than the Maverink, the Kataki just may be for you.

Pros

  • Because they’re lace-ups, you can easily adjust them
  • Great edging and design for maximum performance

Cons

  • Laces can get in the way while climbing
  • Harder to take on and off than other shoes
  • Not as comfortable as the Maverink

3. Tenaya Lati Climbing Shoe

Tenaya Lati Climbing Shoes are third on my list of the best intermediate climbing shoes for one simple reason: they get the job done.

No matter what you’re looking to do, you can expect these Velcro-Slipper hybrids to have you covered.

With a unique hybrid design, the Tenaya Lati have set themselves apart from others in the market. They’re thin rubber design allows for more comfortable and natural wear, giving climbers a greater experience, especially while bouldering.

While the Tenaya brand remains comparatively unknown when stacked against giants like La Sportiva, the brand has produced one of the best shoes on the market with Lati.

I personally feel like you can’t go wrong with this selection—but with so many other great options to choose from, make sure you think carefully before making your decision.

Pros

  • Thin rubber and great adhesive to keep you safe
  • Velcro-Slipper design makes for a comfortable wear
  • Boasts very high performance when compared to other shoes in the market

Cons

  • Thinner rubber allows for faster weakening of the shoes
  • Velcro will naturally start wearing out over time
  • Straps can get in the way if they come undone while climbing

4. La Sportiva Unisex Skwama

This is the perfect couple’s shoe.

No matter if you’re a man or a woman, this unisex shoe from La Sportiva has you covered. The Skwama continues La Sportiva’s legacy of innovative climbing shoe designs.

These unisex shoes make use of La Sportiva’s patented S-Heel shell, allowing for wearers to better perform heel hooks.

They also feature a redesigned sole that is designed to maximize the climber’s ability to uniformly use their shoe spread on the rock.

Because it’s another Velcro-Slipper hybrid, the Skwama boasts superior comfort when compared to most other intermediate shoes on the market. As soon as you put this on, you’ll be able to tell a difference in quality between the Skwama and intermediate shoes from less-reputable brands.

As you take to the gym or outside to rock climb, you’ll also feel a difference. With a design made to boost your performance, the Skwama excel at providing a great climb for those at the intermediate level.

Pros

  • Innovative S-Heel design allows for greater stability
  • Velcro-Slipper design makes it comparatively comfortable
  • Offers extreme precision while climbing

Cons

  • Velcro laces can get in the way
  • Shoes can begin to wear out rather quickly
  • Not great for those looking to take long climbs

5. Scarpa Men’s Vapor V

The Scarpa Men’s Vapor V are first-and-foremost performance-oriented shoes.

While still generally comfortable, the Vapor V have your performance at the top of their priority list. You can read about that in my in depth review of the Scarpa Vapor V. That’s right, I like this shoe so much that I own a pair.

Scarpa Vapor V Review

This is indicated by the fact that the camber (the pointed downturn of the shoe) is more exaggerated than in other shoes. This will force your toes to come to an even bigger point, making your climbing more precise.

Of course, the tradeoff to this will be your comfort, but don’t worry. It’s not all bad.

Compared to other shoes of its make, the Vapor V still provide a relatively-comfortable experience.

However, I would personally like to emphasize that these shoes aren’t made for those who have comfort as their top priority.

If you’re looking for more comfortable intermediate shoes, you can find them. In fact, the Vapor V are probably the least comfortable shoes on my list.

With great adhesion and precision, however, they just might be one of the strongest in terms of performance.

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Good for challenging routes
  • Good rubber grip

Cons

  • Not as comfortable
  • Velcro has been known to get in the way of the climber

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the intermediate climbing shoe you choose is up to you.

As you make your decision, carefully review the information above and consider one of the great shoes listed in my top-five list.

By doing so, you can get the most out of your next climb.

Climbing Blogger

Zealous boulderer, gear geek and editor. Typically has more flappers than fingers on his hands. Occasionally enjoys the feeling of being scared of heights. Mostly prevents looking down too much, though, and cheers at the invention of climbing chalk.

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