Last update: May 17, 2022
If you’ve ever shopped for climbing shoes, you may find that brand new shoes come at a relatively high price. For new climbers, the $100+ markup on shoes can be surprising, but don’t worry! If you’re not up to spending that much on your climbing shoes, other options are available. Buying used or pre-worn climbing shoes is the solution you have been looking for.
Thankfully, numerous shops make it their business to sell gently used climbing shoes, so you don’t have to break the bank to get out on the crag. Here is the ultimate guide to finding and purchasing the perfect pair of used climbing shoes.
The Pros and Cons of Used Climbing Shoes
Wearing used climbing shoes may sound unsanitary, but don’t worry: retail shops clean them before they are sold. Most used climbing shoes come in good condition (i.e. gently used or barely worn). Let’s go over the basic pros and cons of used shoes.
Test Drive a New Brand
First and foremost, buying used shoes is an inexpensive way of finding the brand you like. Buying a pair of used shoes allows you to try out a name brand without committing to the price. If the shoes don’t work for you, you can always resell them, and you can buy another pair without it making too much of a dent in your wallet.
A brand new pair of climbing shoes will cost you around one hundred dollars. If you’re buying more than one pair or don’t have much room in your budget, the cost adds up quickly. That’s a lot to shell out for something you’re not sure will be comfortable or work for your feet. Choosing to buy used shoes will save you around 30-50% of the brand new price.
Ideal for Frequent Size Changes
If you’re a young climber and are purchasing for a child, you will go through more than one pair quickly to accommodate for growth. This makes it necessary to buy more frequently. Buying used shoes easily saves you money and allows you to change out shoes as needed. Other circumstances (e.g., pregnancy) can also cause you to need a different size of shoes. Used shoes are particularly great for these types of situations.
The EPA estimates that the US produces nearly 300 million tons of waste per year. Companies have already become more environmentally conscious and sustainable with their products to help reduce waste. Purchasing used climbing shoes helps contribute to this cause. A lot of outdoor companies offer trade-ins for used shoes and gear. This is a fantastic way to make sure the things you no longer use can go to others who will use them. You are now free to find a pair for yourself with less conscience about your purchase. Check out your local shop to see what kind of trade-in deals they offer.
Unlike a new pair of shoes, used shoes are likely already stretched and shaped from previous wear. Because of this, it is harder to find a pair that fits your feet perfectly. Locating the right pair and getting them to fit your own feet may require extra time and effort. Climbing shoes have flexible material, so although they may not fit too well initially, there are ways to remold the shoe to fit you better.
Quality Control and Fit
A used pair of shoes has already been worn, meaning that the sole, rand and upper may be stretched out or worn down. There is a chance that parts of the shoe will come ripped, torn, or with holes. Do a quality control check before deciding on purchasing, and do a thorough evaluation of the rubber sole. Take time to examine the entire shoe, press on the rand, and look at the rubber that wraps around the toes. Try the shoes on and make sure they fit relatively well.
Wear and Tear
Knowing that used shoes have already made contact with rock and other surfaces, take note of holes or damage you find on the shoes. Shops usually limit the amount of damage they will allow a used shoe to have. Determine what damage you are and aren’t willing to deal with, and keep that in mind while shopping around. You can always resole the shoes or repaired the rand for a small cost if you find that everything else is in excellent condition.
Please note: Other climbers have previously worn used shoes. There’s a risk you can get athlete’s foot or that they come with a slightly unpleasant smell. It’s always good to give your shoes a deep clean and then let them dry out completely before use. The better you take care of your shoes, the longer they last. This rule stays true whether climbing shoes are used or brand new.
Tips to Find the Right Used Climbing Shoes
Here are some helpful tips on finding the right used climbing shoes to meet your needs.
Find a Free Pair
If you’re a member of a climbing gym, they may provide options to use a pair of shoes for free if you have a membership or rent a pair for a small daily fee. These shoes are worn by other climbers often, so it’s unlikely you will get the same pair regularly. This can be a great temporary option, but if you climb more than once or twice a month, it will be in your best interest to find your own personal pair.
If you are interested in a completely free pair of climbing shoes, asking around at the gym might bring you luck if anyone has an older pair they no longer want. In this case, you may have to sacrifice the option of finding the perfect size and fit. Keep in mind that your choices will be very limited in this situation.
Like the Mountain Project’s: For Sale/For Free/Want to Buy forum, Climbing forums may offer up free or used climbing shoes at a deep discount. This can be an alternative to finding a shop that sells used if you don’t have access to one.
Resoling your used shoes is a great way to make them feel new while still saving you money. I advise that you resole your shoes if the rand rubber has begun to wear down, especially if you see holes or tears. Resole vendors often also sell new and used shoes and are an additional place to find pre-worn shoes at a reasonable price.
Check out How to Resole Climbing Shoes: The Definitive Guide to learn more about resoling, the cost of this service, and a list of trusted places to get your shoes resoled.
Top 6 Places to Find Used Climbing Shoes
Here are some credible places to check out if you’re interested in purchasing used climbing shoes:
- REI Used is REI’s used gear site. It lists all products, and you can filter by condition, size, brand, and price. You can also trade in a pair of your own used shoes in exchange for an REI gift card through this site. Shoes are only accepted if they are in good condition. If you need kids climbing shoes, REI has a variety of used shoes available on REI Kids. REI Used has a convenient 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Gear Trade is a great place to purchase used shoes directly from the previous owner. Here, you can buy used shoes, climbing gear, and kids climbing shoes. This site gives you the ability to ask the seller questions before you decide to purchase.
- MEC is a Canadian Outdoor company, similar to REI. They offer gear swaps and used climbing shoes purchased directly from the seller. You’ll have to email the seller directly to discuss the detail to purchase. Prices are in Canadian Dollars.
- Check out your local climbing gear and sports shops. They may sell used climbing shoes or have trade-in options.
- Forums like Mountain Project’s For Sale/For Free/Want to Buy has a variety of used climbing shoe options and excellent climbing advice from other climbers.
Poshmark, eBay, Offer Up, and even Craigslist are sites that sell pre-used or pre-worn products. It won’t hurt to see if there are any used climbing shoes here looking for a new owner.
Used climbing shoes are a great way to save money, reduce waste, and make you the happy owner of a great pair that you love to climb in. Purchasing used climbing shoes can be a little venturesome, but you can reap a great reward if you’re willing to put in a little extra time and work. Happy hunting!
A native of Indiana, Carolyn has been traveling and climbing around the US since 2012. She has worked at high ropes courses, climbing gyms and spent several seasons in Southeast Alaska working as a Tour Manager for a remote zipline. While traveling, she likes to climb at both indoor gyms and outdoor crags. She now runs her own business, Avanelle Co., and writes about her experiences.