should My Toes Be Bent In Climbing Shoes

How should my rock climbing shoes fit? How tight should my climbing shoes be? How are my toes supposed to be in climbing shoes? Are climbing shoes supposed to hurt? These are some of the most commonly asked questions by climbing novices. 

Indeed, finding the right climbing shoes that fit well, is comfortable and meets your requirements is not so easy a task. There are different shoes to be found that differ in sizes, shapes, construction, tighter or looser fit, heel hook and a number of other factors. 

In this article, we’ll try to answer some of the aforementioned questions regarding climbing shoes. 

Should my toes be bent in climbing shoes?

The short answer to this question is yes. Even in the basic, beginner-level climbing shoes, your toes will be bent a little so that they just touch the edge of the shoe, in contrast to normal street shoes. In many fit climbing shoes, you will experience slightly curled toes, especially the big toe. Initially, this can be a source of discomfort for novice climbers. The solution is to choose a soft shoe that is comfortable but has a fit snug. 

If we talk about intermediate-level or moderate shoes, the situation of the climbing shoe fit is that the toes are still bent, but a little more than beginner shoes. The main rule of the thumb is: all of your toes should be right in the end of the toe box with no dead space. This is what we call a snug fit. Any deviation from this in modern shoes and you’ll suffer in performance. Thus, you should choose climbing shoes that fit this profile.

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Advanced rock climbing shoe has an aggressively downturned profile. In these downturned shoes, your toes are curled to a significant degree and the foot shape is altered significantly. These shoes are not recommended for beginners, and for their much tighter fit. Because such a curl of the toes can prove to be really uncomfortable, which the beginners are not disposed to wearing climbing shoes of this type. 

For example, among the popular rock shoes in the sport climbing category, La Sportiva Miura is a “hammer toe” shoe. While wearing shoes of this type, your toes are curled abou 25-30 degree down angle. This turns the foot shapes into a claw. In most aggressive shoes, your toe knuckles can get bent over to almost 90 degrees at the toe knuckle. These shoes are strictly not recommended for beginners. 


Are climbing shoes supposed to hurt your toes?

The simple answer to this is: no. Tight climbing shoes do tight enough to make you feel a little uncomfortable at first but they shouldn’t hurt. 

The main rule in this case is : climbing shoes should be snug but not painful, and should not be too much on the tight fit side. After all, climbing is supposed to be fun. If while climbing your feet constantly hurt and you are having a hard time climbing, then your shoes are too tight. A little discomfort is fine though, as seen in much tighter shoes. 

Are climbing shoes bad for your feet?

Not necessarily. If you have aggressive climbing shoe that is way too tight like leather shoes or leather lined shoes, then foot problems like bunions, corns etc. can arise. If your feet hit the wall or the ground in such shoes, especially during crack climbing, there is an increased risk of foot injury. 

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In summary, synthetic shoes pairs are not bad for your feet unless they are on the tighter shoe side. If you find the right fitting climbing shoes that are snug and comfortable, you can avoid a lot of problems and reduce the risk of foot injury. Neutral shoes generally fall into this category, and are fit for most users.


Hopefully by now, you have a good idea of how your climbing shoes are supposed to fit according to your different foot shapes. In the end, it all comes down to experience. You have to try out shoes for yourself and see what fits well, what feels sufficiently tight yet comfortable and what meets your requirements of climbing. You should also not ignore the comfort of your feet and try out comfy shoes or soft shoes for yourself.

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