The Best Bouldering Shoes for 2020

Whether you are in the gym or outside on the rock, you want the best bouldering shoes with you. There are hundreds on the market, so sometimes the choice can be overwhelming. We have done the testing for you and without further ado, we bring you our top five picks for 2020:

Climbing ShoeStrapWeightScore
Scarpa Instinct VSSingle Velcro430 g92
La Sportiva SolutionSingle Velcro510 g90
Evolv ShamanTriple Velcro Strap540 g88
La Sportiva SkwamaSingle Velcro510 g87
Five Ten HiangleSingle Velcro 225 g85


As you can see, our top bouldering shoe was the Scarpa Instinct VS, yet all of the featured shoes did well in our tests. In the following paragraphs, we’ll go into further detail on how we gave our ratings and will also describe the processing of shoes the best fit for you. Read on now!

The Five Best Bouldering Shoes in Detail

1. Scarpa Instinct VS

Essential Info

  • Downturn: Aggressive
  • Material: Synthetic Leather
  • Strap: Velcro
  • Weight: 430g
  • Sole / Thickness: Vibram XS Edge / 3mm
  • Testing Size: -1 (UK)

Our Verdict

Our favourite shoe is the Scarpa Instinct VS. It’s aggressive fit and stiff supportive sole allows you to uses edges with ease. Toe hooks are also not a problem, with a rubber toe-patch for extra grip. We found the sole to offer great grip and the innovative bi-tension system pushes your toe to the point where you can generate maximum power.

It is made with no stretch Lorica synthetic leather so it won’t stretch. So, make sure it fits right the first time you try. We used a fit 1 below our street size and it was pretty tight. Overall, it is a wonderful shoe for bouldering, yet it is also suitable for sport climbing too.

2. La Sportiva Solution

Essential Info

  • Downturn: Slight/Medium
  • Material: Leather
  • Strap: Velcro
  • Weight: 510g
  • Sole / Thickness: Vibram XS Grip 2 / 3.5mm
  • Testing Size: -1 (UK)

Our Verdict

One of the best all-round shoes on the market and the first of the La Sportiva in our ranking list is the Solution. It was designed specifically for bouldering and you can tell. The integrated P3 system maintains the shoe’s shape for a long time and means you can always use the heel with good tension.

It is a high performing shoe, the toe, which is beautifully pointy, allows full precision on small edges. What’s more, wearing this bouldering shoe you can generate lots of power and is perfect for the gym or the rock. Outside, the heel offers you the protection that others don’t, and you’ll be thankful you’ll be wearing this one!

3. Evolv Shaman

Essential Info

  • Downturn: Aggressive
  • Material: Synthetic
  • Strap: Velcro
  • Weight: 540g
  • Sole / Thickness: Trax / 4.2mm
  • Testing Size: Street Size

Our Verdict

If you know who Chris Sharma is, then you should know he designed these bad boys himself. The ladies version called Evolv Shakra are also very well-rated.

This is a top shoe for newer and more experienced climbers or boulderers. It performs well in the gym and the rock. It utilises a tension power system, great heal tension, and an aggressive downturn. When wearing it, we felt the so-called “love bump” (an arch under the toes) and “knuckle box” (space for the big toe) – this translated to keeping your toes in a bent position, but without any strain or pain.

Worn at street size, it was a comfortable fit. Overall, it is great for grip and we think it performs well whilst bouldering.

4. La Sportiva Skwama

Essential Info

  • Downturn: Slight/Medium
  • Material: Leather/Synthetic
  • Strap: Velcro
  • Weight: 480g
  • Sole / Thickness: Vibram XS Grip 2 / 3.5mm
  • Testing Size: -1 (UK)

Our Verdict

Ok, we know there is already one La Sportiva higher up on this list, but they truly know how to produce some of the best bouldering shoes around. They share some similarities with the Solution, namely the P3 system, yet they are definitely softer. We found edging, smearing, toe, and heel hooks were all performed well.

They offer great grip too. For the one time we used the shoes we were very happy with their performance. The main knock with these shoes comes with their durability, with many climbers reporting they only last a few months. That’s ok, but it’s why they are not top of the list!

5. Five Ten Hiangle

Essential Info

  • Downturn: Aggressive
  • Material: Leather
  • Strap: Velcro
  • Weight: 225g
  • Sole / Thickness: Stealth / 4.2mm
  • Testing Size: -0.5 (UK)

Our Verdict

This is a super easy bouldering shoe to wear. Although it has an aggressive downturn, it is not to the point where it is unbearable and offers a good fit. The Stealth C4 Rubber sole gives you a grip hardly found elsewhere. This could be dangerous the next time you try another shoe!

If you are into tiny edges, overhangs, or vertical terrain then this shoe will perform excellently for you. It fits like a slipper and can be worn between problems. It is said that this stretches, so make sure you size appropriately. We tested .5 below our street size.

How to Choose the Best Bouldering Shoes?

Bouldering in Bishop
There are a number of factors you need to consider when it comes to choosing the best bouldering shoes. Unlike other forms of climbing, bouldering is heavily reliant on power, and an aggressive downturn is generally seen as a positive. This is so you can perform heel hooks and perform well on edges.

In general, this means your shoes will be uncomfortable to wear. Many times, boulderers will loosen or take off their shoes completely between attempts. Whenever we look at shoes, the following factors weigh heavily in how we choose them for ourselves:

The Cost of the Shoe

For many of you, this is one of the most important factors. You want the best performance, for the lowest cost. The reality is all the best bouldering shoes will be above £100. Most will cost even a bit more. A good way to counter this is to either choose last years spec or wait for the sales to come round, which they do often. Check out our other bouldering gear reviews regularly for updates.

The Fit

This is a personal taste. Many boulderers will say for the best performance, your shoes should be as tight as possible. This means by the end of an attempt you’ll be ripping off your shoes as your toes pang in agony. That’s for you to decide. A slightly looser fit can also offer good performance.

Even so, depending on your feet different brands may fit uniquely. What’s more, one size with La Sportiva could feel different from Five Ten’s, so it is always good to try before you buy. Many sites offer free returns within X amount of days, so you should definitely utilise this option. As you don’t want to be stuck with a pair of shoes that don’t really fit the way you want!

Strap or Closing System

Dirty bouldering shoes
As you may or may not know, bouldering shoes come in three ways. With a velcro strap, laces, or a slipper. For bouldering, you will most likely want to utilise a velcro system for a tight enough fit, but also to have the opportunity to take them on and off quickly. This is especially pertinent when you are projecting all day, but don’t want to keep your shoes on between attempts.

Rubber of the Shoe

Unless you are an elite athlete, you probably won’t be able to tell much difference between shoes. Of course, different types of rubber will offer certain advantages. Yet, the most important thing you will need to consider is whether they can be resoled or not. You want one that can to save you money in the long run.

Pick the Bouldering Shoe That Fits You!

All feet are unique. What works for someone else might not for you. Of course, we can offer general advice and say which bouldering shoes perform the best, but at the end of the day, it is up to you to choose which ones you like. We say take them for a test drive and see. Over the years you will develop an affinity with certain brands or shoes and stick with them forever. Check out our bouldering hub for more general information on the sport!