Buying Climbing Shoes

Although we rent shoes, harnesses, and chalk, if you are a frequent gym climber (or even an infrequent one) you will want to strongly consider purchasing your own. Especially shoes.

Climbing shoes are imperative for the climbing experience, allowing you to feel safe and secure on the rock and multiply your abilities 10 fold.

Getting your own pair of climbing shoes that fits you like a glove will enhance your experience, and allow you to bypass smelly and potentially ill-fitting rental shoes. It will also speed up your check in process and get you climbing faster.

So here’s what you do:

Try scouring Swap N Shop or the Gear Attic downstairs in the market. Or next time you head to the city, you can stop at MEC or a small outdoor/climbing store and pick up a pair.

Failing those as options, the best thing to do is order a whole variety of shoes from MEC online, then try them on and ship back the ones that don’t work.

Yeah it’s kind of a sucky way to do it, but you really need to find the right fit for you. Just ordering one pair and expecting them to be perfect will probably not work out.

How do you find the right fit?

Climbing shoes come in all different shapes and sizes (and technical specs), just like feet do.

If you’re a beginner, you want to buy a less-expensive shoe with more of a neutral shaped sole. Like this:

This shoe has a nice neutral disposition. You’ll get along great.

As your ability and stoke for climbing grows, you may want to move to an “aggressive” shoe that curves down. But don’t start with that.

Don’t get in a fight with this shoe. It’s aggressive.

The main key with climbing shoes is that you want them to feel SNUG. Like really snug. Like at the point where it’s almost unpleasant… like you would not walk around in your normal life with these, for sure. If it feels like you could just go about your business in them with no problem, they’re not tight enough.

It’s important that they be really snug, because they’ll stretch a little once they’re broken in, and then they will still be tight but not upsettingly so.

Note that you don’t want it to actually be painful or stabbing around the toe or heel area at all. Just very, very snug on your foot and toes.

Typically you wear climbing shoes that are a 1/2 to one full size less than your normal shoe. If you are ordering online, order a few different sizes of the same shoe around and smaller than your normal shoe size.

Here’s a link to all of MEC’s neutral soled shoes for you to choose from. Read the reviews and order a variety from different brands and see which ones feel right.

From HPCW we recommend the neutral shaped Butora shoes (because they are hemp lined and don’t get stinky, although they are Korean so they fit very different and this may be the only brand that you actually need to order a size larger than your street shoe).

Butora’s also come in the Endeavour model which is a great beginner/intermediate shoe, and they offer a wider range of sizing options such as a wide profile and narrow profile for those people with wider or more narrow feet.


Harnesses are less finicky. Any basic men’s, women’s or child’s harness in the correct size will do the job and can easily be ordered online.

Here are MEC’s harnesses

Here are HPCW’s harnesses


Chalk is very important to keep your hands dry in order to grip the holds better. We require you to use a chalk block/brick, chalk ball, or liquid chalk, rather than loose chalk in order to keep the air quality better. We will be selling chalk blocks and chalk bags at the reception during drop in hours. Otherwise you also can also get them at MEC or HPCW

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