The 9 Best Climbing Shoes for Women (2023 Buying Guide)
Published on: 04/26/2023
Your climbing shoes can make or break your performance on any given route. Over the years, climbing slippers have gone from simple footwear to sophisticated pieces of kit that enable us to do far more at the crags than we ever could before.
And, as rock climbing becomes increasingly popular worldwide, more and more female climbers are taking up the sport. This has led a growing number of manufacturers to produce a range of different climbing shoes for women.
But what are the differences between men’s and women’s shoes? And, how can you find the best women’s climbing shoes in an increasingly saturated market? This article goes into depth on both of these questions, as well as covering nine of the best climbing shoes for women out there today.
Our Method – How We’ve Compiled This List
To construct a list of the best women’s climbing shoes, we’ve considered the performance of a wide range of both classic and lesser-known models. We’ve also looked at factors like build quality, value for money, versatility, and comfort.
Finally, we’ve combined personal experience using all the shoes on this list with testimonials from both other expert reviewers and climbers. This allows us to have the most comprehensive, balanced perspective on the models we’re reviewing, and, in turn, helps us recommend the right one for you.
Our Selection of the Best Climbing Shoes for Women in 2023
|Shoe Model||Weight||Type||Vegan||Best For||Best Offer|
|Scarpa Force V Women’s||8.5 oz/240 g||Performance||❌||Beginners||Check prices|
|La Sportiva Miura VS Women’s||7.7 oz/220g (size 37)||Performance||❌||Trad Climbing||Check prices|
|La Sportiva Theory Women’s||6.3 oz/180 g||Performance||❌||Sport Climbing||Check prices|
|Scarpa Instinct VS Women’s||7.1 oz/201 g (size 40)||Performance||❌||Bouldering||Check prices|
|La Sportiva Otaki Women’s||8.3 oz/235 g||Performance||❌||Overall||Check prices|
|La Sportiva Solution Comp Women’s||7.4 oz/210 g||Performance||❌||Sensitive||Check prices|
|La Sportiva Katana Laces Women’s||7.6 oz/215 g||Performance||❌||Laced||Check prices|
|Butora Acro Comp Tight Fit||8.8 oz/249 g||Performance||❌||Gym Climbing||Check prices|
|Five Ten Kirigami Women’s||7 oz/200 g||Comfort||✔||Budget||Check prices|
1. Scarpa Force V Women’s: Best Beginner Shoes for Women
Sole rubber: Vibram XS Edge
Profile: Neutral, medium volume
The Scarpa Force V is beloved by entry-level climbers around the globe, and it’s not hard to see why. With its quality leather upper and Vibram XS Edge sole, the Force V fits like a glove and provides plenty of support to the whole foot. Its two velcro straps make pulling the shoe on or off a breeze, and its handy, moisture-wicking tongue keeps the shoe cool in warmer weather.
All in all, the Force V is a fantastic model for beginner climbers. Its shape and profile make it especially suitable for the majority of female athletes. And, while you probably won’t be sending sports routes in the Force VS, it handles a number of different climbing disciplines easily. Its only real drawback is that it’s too neutral to really be viable for more technical maneuvers.
2. La Sportiva Miura VS Women’s: Best Trad Climbing Shoe for Women
Sole rubber: Vibram XS Grip 2
Profile: Downturned, lower volume
La Sportiva is an absolute powerhouse in the climbing shoe world, and for good reason. The brand produces easily some of the best rock climbing shoes on the market today, with the Miura VS being just one example of this.
While the Miura VS is our top pick for trad climbing shoes for women, it more than holds its own on vertical rock, sports routes, and boulder problems, too. The shoe’s P3 System allows it to deliver insane power while providing extra arch support, perfect for those longer sessions. Getting a tight fit with the Miura VS is easy, too, thanks to the shoe’s extra velcro strap.
This slipper eats up multi-pitch routes with ease and, thanks to its profile, is especially well suited to female climbers. With that being said, note that the toe box on the Miura VS is particularly narrow, which may make it unsuitable for some.
3. La Sportiva Theory Women’s: Best Sport Climbing Shoe for Women
Vegan: No, but vegan version available
Sole rubber: Vibram XS Grip 2
Profile: Aggressive, low-volume
One of La Sportiva’s most popular shoes, the Theory is a bonafide classic. Combining its XS Grip 2 rubber, D-Tech construction, and La Sportiva’s No Edge Technology, the Theory clings to even the tiniest of edges and footholds like a dream.
Sport climbers in particular will find plenty to like with the Theory. Thanks to its extreme suppleness and lack of midsole, this is a great shoe for smearing and for steeper routes more generally. Plus, due to the shoe’s aggressive shape, toe and heel hooks feel absolutely effortless.
With a low-volume construction and smaller heel cup, most female climbers should find that the Theory offers a snug fit. Having said all of this, it’s important to point out that the Theory is a fairly specialized, somewhat niche shoe. Climbers on the hunt for something more versatile will likely find it wanting.
4. Scarpa Instinct VS Women’s: Best Bouldering Shoe for Women
Sole rubber: Vibram XS Grip 3.5 mm
Profile: Fairly neutral, moderate downturn
Female climbers on the hunt for a new bouldering shoe need look no further than the Instinct VS Women’s by Scarpa. These incredibly comfortable shoes deliver plenty of power thanks to their bi-tension rand, which can be a lifesaver on overhanging boulders in particular.
The shoe’s ability to blend sensitivity and support is remarkable, and makes it an asset on vertical routes. Vertical edging is a real strength of the Instinct VS, and the slipper does a great job of really clinging to those small edges thanks to its sticky Vibram XS Grip rubber sole. Combine this with its low-volume profile, and this is a fantastic offering for female bouldering enthusiasts.
5. La Sportiva Otaki Women’s: Best Overall Climbing Shoe for Women
Sole rubber: Vibram XS Grip 2
Profile: Downturned, low volume
The La Sportiva Otaki Woman is our favorite shoe for female climbers right now. Thanks to its S-Heel technology, climbers can easily maintain torsion on technical maneuvers with the Otaki. This makes it especially useful on steep terrain and on boulder problems.
Offering fantastic all-around performance, this is a classic shoe that can handle just about any type of climbing with ease. Be it long limestone sport routes, boulder problems, or something in between, the Otaki might just be, pound-for-pound, the best climbing shoe out there.
All in all, the Otaki is an incredibly versatile shoe that most experienced female climbers will find plenty to love about. Not only does it lend itself effortlessly to just about any climbing style, but the shoe’s hook and loop closure make it possible to get a very custom fit, regardless of foot profile. Perhaps this model’s only real downside is its price.
6. La Sportiva Solution Comp Women’s: Best Sensitive Shoe for Women
Sole rubber: XS Grip 2
Profile: Aggressive, low volume
The Solution Comp Woman by La Sportiva is an aggressive shoe that really lends itself to sport and gym climbing. Its Fast-Lacing System makes locking in the ideal fit a breeze, and its incredible responsiveness is a massive help for steep sport climbing in particular.
Sensitive shoes like the Solution Comp Woman are great for slab climbing, too. Heel and toe hooks are effortless with this shoe, which, thanks to its narrower profile and low-volume build, will be a great fit for many female climbers. Its main downside is that, due to its highly aggressive profile, the Solution Comp Woman will be too specialized for some.
7. La Sportiva Katana Laces Women’s: Best Laced Shoe for Women
Sole rubber: Vibram XS Grip 2 4mm
Profile: Downturned, medium volume
La Sportiva’s Katana Lace is one of the few climbing shoes for women that differs dramatically from the men’s or unisex version. This shoe features a half sole, rather than a full sole, and uses softer, thinner materials, making it especially suited to lighter climbers.
And, thanks to the Katana Laces’ build quality and materials, it’s also a very durable shoe. It blends this seamlessly with its lace system, which makes the slipper highly adjustable. While this is certainly a pricey shoe, for experienced climbers with the budget for it, it’s almost guaranteed to be worth it.
8. Butora Acro Comp Tight Fit: Best Shoe for Gym Climbing
Sole rubber: 4mm NEO Fuse Sticky Rubber
Profile: Aggressive, low-volume
Butora specializes somewhat in indoor climbing slippers, and this is where the Acro Comp is at its best, too. The shoe is highly adjustable, thanks to its triple fork closure system. Its sticky NEO rubber helps it smear and stick to holds like a dream.
And, while crack climbing isn’t a strength of the Acro Comp, it shines in plenty of other areas. Its sensitivity is nothing short of impressive, making it a powerhouse on steep climbing routes in the gym. The shoe conforms to the tiniest holds and edges and allows you to truly feel every move you make.
This is a unisex shoe, but the Narrow fit version of the Acro Comp is likely to fit most female climbers nicely. Those with a larger foot profile will want to opt for the Wide fit iteration of the Acro Comp.
9. Five Ten Kirigami Women’s: Best Budget-Friendly Women’s Shoe
Sole rubber: Stealth C4
Profile: Neutral, medium volume
Female climbers on the hunt for a budget-friendly offering need look no further than Five Ten’s Kirigami Women’s shoe. This highly comfortable rock climbing shoe boasts a medium volume, neutral profile that should fit the majority of female climbers snugly.
Beginner shoes often have a cheap feel to them. However, this isn’t the case for the Kirigami Women’s at all. Featuring hardy, Stealth C4 rubber and quality synthetic uppers, this is clearly a shoe that’s built to last.
One thing that detracts from the Kirigami Women’s is its neutral shape, which makes it clunky and difficult to use for more technical maneuvers. However, to make up for this somewhat, the shoe does feature extra toe rubber for support when heel hooking.
How to Find the Perfect Climbing Shoes for Women
There is a number of factors to consider when looking for the ideal pair of women’s climbing shoes. In this section, we’ll break down the differences between men’s and women’s models, as well as some general criteria to consider when evaluating a new set of climbing kicks.
Major Differences Between Men’s, Unisex, and Women’s Climbing Shoes
It’s true that women’s, men’s, and unisex climbing shoes have more in common than what sets them apart. However, there are often key differences in the build and make of women’s models compared to their unisex or men’s counterparts.
In this section, we’ll break these differences down, as well as discussing what to look for in a new women’s climbing shoe more generally.
Naturally, climbing shoes fit pretty differently to, say, street shoes. The shape and fit of a climbing slipper play a major role in how it performs and which climbing styles it’s best suited to.
For example, a more aggressive shoe with a downturned shape can be a massive asset for especially technical climbing maneuvers like heel hooks. On the other hand, more neutral shoes are usually more comfortable for longer climbing sessions. This makes them a better choice for trad climbing, where routes can often take one or even several days to send.
Typically, women’s climbing shoes will feature a higher arch than men’s models will. They tend to be lower-cut than your average men’s shoe, to help them fit a narrower foot profile. And, they’ll often also have a smaller heel cup and longer toe box to better fit most women’s feet.
Also worth noting is the fact that many brands produce unisex climbing shoes, rather than dedicated women’s models. These will typically hit a sweet spot between the profile you’d expect from men’s and women’s climbing shoes.
In fact, depending on the shape of your foot, you might find that a unisex shoe is a better fit than a women’s model. Or, if you have a wider foot or lower arch in particular, a men’s shoe might actually be more comfortable for you. Ultimately, the most important thing here is that the shoe fits you as well as possible. You should invest in whichever model feels best for your feet.
One of the main differences between men’s and women’s climbing shoes is in the volume that they have.
Women’s climbing shoes will usually be lower-volume than men’s and unisex models. This is to help them fit narrow feet, making them a better choice for most female climbers. However, if you have wider or larger feet, you might find a low-volume shoe to be too tight.
Again, the best way to know how well a particular shoe will fit you is to try it out for yourself.
Types of Shoes
Velcro vs. Lace Closure
Modern climbing shoes use either lace or velcro straps for their closure systems. Both lace-ups and straps have their own strengths and weaknesses, most of which often come down to personal preference on the part of the climber.
One major advantage of lace-up models is that they typically offer a far more ‘custom’ feel, especially if you have an atypical foot profile. This is due to the fact that laces can be tightened or adjusted individually until you get a true, slipper-like fit with them. And, once they’re done up, you won’t have to worry about lace-ups coming loose on the wall, which can occasionally happen with velcro straps.
With that being said, there’s a reason many of the most elite climbing shoes today favor velcro over lace closure. Part of this is due to the fact that laces have a tendency to fray and wear more easily. This is especially true if you prefer types of climbing that expose the shoe’s upper to extensive wear and tear – through, say, crack climbing or toe hooking.
Shoes with velcro straps are also far quicker to put on and take off. This makes them a great choice for bouldering and other climbing styles where you’ll be taking frequent breaks; you can easily throw on your approach shoes between routes when wearing velcro.
Conversely, because shoes with lace closures often take much longer to do up, it can frankly become a hassle to swap them out for another pair. This might sound like a minor thing, but it genuinely makes a difference when you’re doing a full day of climbing.
Ultimately, the question of laces vs. velcro comes down to personal preference and has little to no bearing on whether a particular shoe is better for female climbers or not.
Stiff vs. Soft
One advantage of a stiffer shoe is that it will be much more supportive on the wall. More support means less fatigue, usually, which makes them a great choice for trad climbing or day-long sessions.
The support that a stiff shoe offers means it’s generally the better choice for beginner climbers, too. Climbing puts an incredible amount of tension and strain on the body, and, while your body is adapting to the load the sport subjects it to, injuries are common. Wearing a slipper that offers more support underfoot in particular takes a lot of the burden off the soft tissues, muscles, and ligaments of the legs and feet.
A softer shoe, on the other hand, affords the climber much more sensitivity. This is especially helpful on trickier routes that require standing on tiny edges, for instance, or pulling off sketchy toe hooks. Wearing a more flexible shoe usually makes technical footwork far easier than it otherwise would be.
It’s not only sensitivity that makes softer shoes a better choice for many climbers. Having a soft midsole in particular is a massive help for maneuvers like smearing and dynos. And, softer shoes generally fit a variety of foot shapes more easily than a stiffer shoe would.
Note that both soft shoes and stiff shoes are available in women’s versions. Female climbers should primarily think about the kind of climbing they’ll be doing when considering whether to buy a softer or stiffer model.
Performance (Downturned, Asymmetrical) vs. Comfort (Neutral, Low Asymmetry)
The profile of a shoe has a major influence on both how it performs and how it feels to wear. A more high-performance shoe will typically have a downturned, asymmetrical shape to it. Such models are best suited to shorter, technical routes with more advanced maneuvers.
By contrast, shoes with a more neutral profile are usually more appropriate for longer climbing sessions. They’re usually also far more supportive and comfortable to wear, which makes them ideal for beginners, whose feet often lack the conditioning needed for long spates of technical climbing.
However, more neutral shoes can leave something to be desired as far as sheer performance goes. While they might be great for long gym sessions, a comfortable pair of neutral climbing slippers will make it far harder to tackle routes with, say, tiny footholds or lots of overhanging terrain. In prioritizing comfort and support, more neutral shoes usually sacrifice the kinds of features that aid climbers in precision footwork and more dynamic maneuvers.
Keep in mind that women’s specific models of climbing shoes don’t generally differ from men’s or unisex offerings in terms of their profile. Your best bet will usually be the type of shoe that is, first and foremost, most appropriate for your climbing style.
Important Criteria to Consider
Easily the most important thing to look for in a new pair of climbing shoes is comfort (or relative comfort, at least). You’ll want to make sure the shoe isn’t pinching anywhere, and that it doesn’t feel excessively tight. While an aggressively downturned shoe isn’t going to be as comfortable as a pair of fluffy slippers, you should still be able to wear it for a climbing session without being in excessive amounts of pain.
Naturally, some shoes will be more comfortable for female climbers than others. While women’s models generally offer a better fit and feel, this isn’t always the case. The only real way to determine how a particular climbing slipper feels for you is to try it out.
Another thing to look at is how well the shoe holds up to various climbing maneuvers and moves. Trad climbers will want to be mindful of how suitable a slipper is for crack climbing and smearing, for instance. Bouldering fanatics should look at how well the shoe performs when edging and heel hooking.
Note that women’s specific shoes should perform just as well as men’s and unisex models. With that being said, the profile of certain women’s models, featuring a smaller heel cup and toe box, can have something of an impact on heel and toe hooking. And, certain models of slipper, like the La Sportiva Katana Laces Woman, are more tailored towards female climbers in their build.
Value for Money
Naturally, you’ll want to consider whether or not the shoes you’re considering buying represent good value for money. Chiefly important here are the model’s durability and build quality. Climbing slippers are subjected to plenty of wear and tear, so ensure whichever shoe you end up choosing can take a beating.
Whether or not a shoe is resoleable arguably comes into play here, too. Being able to replace the sole on a climbing slipper costs a fraction of buying a brand new pair. It’s also something that isn’t possible with every climbing shoe, so this is definitely worth keeping in mind, especially if you’re aiming to purchase a set of climbing shoes that will last you as long as possible.
We’d also like to point out that what constitutes good value for money is partly a subjective judgment, too; while a durable bouldering slipper will make for a great investment for one climber, someone who prefers big wall climbing won’t be able to get much use out of it.
Women’s climbing shoes shouldn’t differ in any way in terms of the value for money that they offer. In some cases, the women’s version of a particular shoe may actually use different materials, which might counteract its build quality. So, while this isn’t the norm, it is worth keeping in mind when considering which model to buy.
Use (Sport, Trad etc)
Finally, one of the most important criteria to include when you’re looking at investing in a new climbing shoe is how well it lends itself to the types of rock climbing you do. Some shoes are made for certain climbing styles, like indoor climbing, bouldering, trad climbing, or competitions.
Others, on the other hand, aim to be more versatile, jack-of-all-trade-type offerings. Your average beginner shoe, for example, will usually be less specialized than a more high-performance model. Ultimately, the question here is how suitable the shoe is for your style of climbing.
Some climbing shoes are also more geared towards indoor or outdoor applications, which is also worth keeping in mind. Indoor climbing shoes are often intended more for sport climbing and competitions and are generally far softer and more flexible than other models.
Because of this, shoes for indoor climbing are often less hardy than those intended for outdoor use. This is usually only problematic when using indoor shoes outside, but it’s worth keeping in mind; investing in an indoor shoe to use in a variety of climbing venues is not the best idea.
Note that women’s climbing shoes are just as capable of handling different styles of climbing as men’s and unisex offerings.
Tips and Things to Avoid
Easily the best tip we can give any female climber looking for a new pair of shoes is to try them before buying them. Achieving the best possible fit in a climbing slipper is crucial for injury prevention, performance, and comfort overall.
We’d also recommend that you don’t get too hung up on looking for dedicated climbing shoes for women. While they’ll typically provide a much better fit than men’s or unisex shoes, this isn’t always the case. For example, women’s models almost always boast a higher arch profile than men’s shoes. Naturally, though, not all women have high arches.
Finally, it’s important to consider how well the climbing shoe you’re considering can meet your climbing needs. Beginner to intermediate climbers won’t necessarily benefit from wearing a very high-performance, stiff shoe, for example. In fact, less experienced climbers often lack the sufficient technique to make the most of a higher-end model and will get much more mileage out of a more neutral, accessible offering.
As the market for women’s climbing shoes continues to grow, so does the number of offerings female climbers will need to sort through to find the ideal new slipper for them. We hope that the advice in this article helps to demystify the process, so you can find the perfect climbing shoe.
Are you looking for the best overall shoes? Check out this 2023 selection.