Best Bouldering Shoes For 2022 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Bouldering Shoes For 2022

Peak District climber Hannah Morris's picks for the best bouldering shoes on the market right now

In every discipline of climbing, shoes play a crucial part in performance. This is especially the case in bouldering, where the careful placement of each toe and heel and the execution of each smear or edge can make or break success.

As bouldering typically demands a more gymnastic, low-percentage style of climbing, it calls for some technically impressive footwear. The best shoes for bouldering are designed for climbing at your limit, so they have to fit and perform ‘just so’.

Related: How To Choose A Pair Of Climbing Shoes

OM tester Hannah with the Scarpa Mago.

Most climbers find that they cycle through the many different brands and models of climbing shoes over their climbing life. It seems par for the course for climbers to have a whole arsenal of shoes for varied terrain and styles of climbing and the best way to find out if a shoe is right for you is to give it a spin on the rocks and find out.

Of course, climbing shoes can be expensive additions to your climbing kit, so we can give some assurances that the models on this list are a great starting point. 

As each climbing shoe will have specific strengths and drawbacks, foot size and shape varies wildly from person to person and boulder problems demand different styles of shoe for maximum performance, it’s practically impossible to take a one-size fits all approach to picking the best shoe for bouldering, but this this article should have helped to clear up which climbing shoe might be a good starting point for you and your next addition.

We would always recommend trying before you buy. We’d suggest you test out a shortlist of pairs across a variety of brands to really get a feel for which features work best for you. Many climbing gyms have a shop where you can try on a couple of different models – you might even be able to take them for a test run on the wall.

SHOP CLIMBING SHOES  

 

The Best Bouldering Shoes | Our Favourites

In a competitive market, it can be tricky to figure out which model of bouldering shoe is the right one to go for. To help you find the best option for you, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite climbing shoe models on the market in 2022.

  • Scarpa Mago
  • Scarpa Drago
  • La Sportiva Skwama
  • EB Black Opium
  • 5:10 Moccasyms
  • Scarpa Instinct VS
  • Black Diamond Momentum
  • Ocun Bullit

 

Scarpa Mago

Price: £150
Best for: Precision

Newly updated for 2022, the Scarpa Mago has refined the technology of previous Mago models, combining Scarpa’s industry-leading eye for design with improved comfort features and a full lace-up closure. Designed for high performance on small footholds, the Mago offers a functional, yet surprisingly comfortable option for sessions where footwork is foremost. 

The Mago’s X-Tension rand construction packs a punch for those wishing to keep things versatile, offering impressive support without compromising flexibility and feedback through the midsole. The Mago’s asymmetrical, downturned profile and high-angled toe box force pressure through the toes for optimal edging and smearing capability, with Scarpa’s Toe Power Support technology doubling down on precision. 

The redesigned synthetic upper brings together elasticated microfibre panels and a laced closure, ensuring the best comfort rating of the Mago model yet. Scarpa has stuck with the well-trusted Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber for the Mago sole, known for its performance on steeper terrain so we opted to test the Magos out on the small, technical holds of the 40 degree training board.

The Mago felt precise and trustworthy on steep terrain, owing to their impressively flexible midsole. For such an aggressively shaped shoe, they did also display a surprising level of versatility on more vertical terrain. We’d just as happily break out the flexible toe of the Mago to teeter up slabs and along volumes as we would on the overhang.

Full Specifications

Closure: full lace-up / fit: performance fit / downturn: moderate / environment: indoor, outdoor / upper: synthetic, micro fibre and alcantara / rubber: Vibram XS Grip2 3.5mm.

BUY NOW: SCARPA.CO.UK

 

Scarpa Drago

Price: £140
Best for: New-school competition climbing

If you’re looking for a sensitive shoe that can put in some serious work on steep terrain and macro volumes, the ultra-soft Scarpa Drago might be the right fit for you. Designed with performance bouldering in mind, the Drago combines a soft and flexible midsole with a sturdy heel and a distribution of rubber just where you want it.

A generous spread of 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip 2 makes the Drago an incredibly tactile shoe, capable of finding every bump and edge below your feet and giving you the confidence to break out technically demanding toe and heel hooks when the occasion calls. Exceptional manoeuvrability makes the Drago a great pairing with the new-school style of bouldering gaining popularity in the mainstream. Indeed, the designer of the Drago, Heinz Mariacher, explains ‘together with the Furia, it represents the future of climbing shoes’. 

The Drago model is impressive for its pliability, but buyers should be mindful that this is certainly this model’s speciality – if you’re after an edging shoe, you might want to opt for something a little stiffer. 

Out of the box, the Drago seemed a little narrow, but on the first couple of wears they moulded nicely, breaking in quickly. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the unlined, microsuede upper design is prone to stretch, so we’d recommend downsizing from your usual shoe size. 

Full Specifications

Closure: velcro strap / fit: performance fit / downturn: moderate / environment: indoor, outdoor / upper: micro suede / rubber: Vibram XS Grip2. 

BUY NOW: SCARPA.CO.UK

 

La Sportiva Skwama

Price: €163.90
Best for: Versatility

A firm favourite amongst boulderers, you’ll have seen the La Sportiva Skwama worn by many climbers at your local gym. Well known for a snug fit and supremely sticky rubber, the Skwama makes an impressive bouldering shoe for feedback and flexibility across varied terrain. 

Featuring an unlined upper that’s built using a combination of micro-fibre and split leather, the Skwama is both sturdy and comfortable. The innovative S-heel design uses two different types of rubber to provide constant support and stability through the heel whilst a split Vibram rubber sole spreads weight evenly as you climb, helping this model to keep its shape over time. The slipper fit and fuss-free velcro strap closure make for a fantastic fit right out of the box. Though they did initially feel a little stiff through the arches on first wear, they soon softened up during testing.

The Skwama’s wide, asymmetrical shape manipulates the big toe towards a more down-turned position, making them ideal for precision moves and steeper climbing. The sole features the Vibram XS Grip2 with a split forefoot sole to improve traction on the rock. During testing, they did feel softer through the midsole than we were expecting – perhaps a saving grace on more vertical terrain though!

The Skwama model is known for its flexible midsole but sensitivity is where the model really shines. The Skwama feels comfortable and adjustable. A generous rubber toe box and heel make toe hooks and heel hooks a breeze. The microfibre and unlined leather upper felt a little rigid at first, but soon eased up, softening into a snug but comfy fit.

We tested on indoor resin holds and the well-traveled sandstone of Fontainebleau, putting the Skwama’s through their paces on all manner of terrain and even throwing ourselves around on some new school volumes. Their precision and sensitivity out of the box was impressive and we trusted the stiffer edge on smaller holds quickly – we’re pushed to think of an occasion they wouldn’t do nicely for.

Full Specifications

Closure: velcro closure / fit: performance fit / downturn: moderate / environment: indoor, outdoor / material: synthetic / rubber: Vibram XS Grip2. 

BUY NOW: LASPORTIVA.COM

 

EB Black Opium

Price: £85
Best for: Women

Designed specifically for female climbers, the EB Black Opium makes a brilliant option for all-round performance on boulders, indoors and outside. Marketed as a bouldering specialist shoe for women, the Black Opium combines classic EB innovation with a quirky design – have you ever seen sparkles on a climbing shoe before? We hadn’t either.  

Designed to fit smaller, narrower foot shapes, the last and upper materials used in this model give a supple but supportive fit. A soft EVO Microfiber upper, constructed using EB’s dynamic microfiber technology, gives the Black Opium a healthy mix of comfort and functionality.

Related: Best Walking Boots For Women

Double velcro straps ensure a tight, yet comfortable fit for long sessions at the bouldering gym or days at the crag. A Daytona 5mm Rubber sole gives this shoe the durability needed in a long-lasting shoe whilst providing plenty of grip and full-length foot support. An antibacterial lining also prevents any unwelcome odors sticking around, a feature our cars and climbing bags are very thankful for! 

The Black Opium is an incredibly versatile option, offering a comfortable shoe for beginners and veteran climbers alike. Newer climbers shouldn’t be discouraged by the aggressively downturned shape and pronounced asymmetry. The Black Opium’s are more comfortable than you might expect, and their sturdy construction drives power through the heels and toes, giving you an edge on demanding boulders. All that AND those all important style points for the sparkles.

Full Specifications

Closure: double velcro / fit: performance fit / downturn: moderate / environment: indoor / upper material: EVO microfibre / rubber: Daytona 5mm.

BUY NOW: EB-CLIMBING.COM

 

5:10 NIAD Moccasym

Price: £110
Best for: Comfort

The Five Ten Moccasym is a well-loved favourite in the climbing community. It’s perhaps one of the most iconic climbing shoes on the market and has undergone many revisions throughout the years. The most current model, the NIAD, sports some new and improved features that bump the Moccasym from a big wall, crack climbing shoe to a strong contender in the bouldering field.

Owing to the easy on and off slipper design, you’d be forgiven for expecting a roomy and slightly softer climbing shoe with the Moccasym. Whilst the fit is comfortable, the NIAD’s aren’t as soft as you might imagine, and certainly not as soft as previous models. The new NIAD Moccasym features the original low-profile fit, but the leather upper moulds closely to the foot for a really close, custom-fit feel. The addition of more toe rubber has increased the NIAD’s technical performance in toe-hooking and edging. Thanks to the Stealth C4 rubber sole, the Moccasym’s can be trusted across a wealth of terrain. 

Just as the earlier models, The NIAD’s excel as a crack climbing shoe due to their maneuverable low-profile toe and full, HT (high-tear strength) leather upper. A much tighter heel cup allows for greater torque and added toe rubber across the forefoot enhances performance on cracks and new-style problems alike. The improved stiffness of the Moccasym makes it a trusty model if edging performance is important to you, or you spend a lot of time bouldering. 

Owing to their comfortable fit and stretchiness, the Moccasym is easily taken on and off, though it should be noted that these shoes will give over time – sizing down might be wise.

Full Specifications

Closure: slipper / fit: comfort / downturn: flat / environment: indoor, outdoor / upper material: leather / rubber: Vibram XS Grip2. 

BUY NOW: ADIDAS.CO.UK

 

Scarpa Instinct VS

Price: £150
Best for: Edging on small holds

The Scarpa Instinct is a respected name in the world of bouldering shoes and we had high hopes for the VS model coming into the test. 

The Instinct VS is a single-velcro iteration of the wildly successful Scarpa Instinct line, The shoe combines world-leading design with performance feedback from the Scarpa Instinct Slipper and Lace models, resulting in a incredibly versatile shoe for bouldering and an unrivaled contender on small, precise holds and vertical terrain. 

The impressively adhesive Vibram XS Edge 2 features in the Scarpa Instinct VS, meaning this shoe can make light work of the smallest of chips and pebbles, whilst also sticking to the slippiest of volumes. A Lorica upper ensures flexibility and long lasting shape and durability, Bi-Tension technology connects the heel to the toe of the shoe, forcing power through the front of the foot for high performance on small holds and edges.

In contrast to the Drago’s, where the Instinct’s excel in supporting the foot on tiny holds, they have some making up to do in the sensitivity department. These shoes are at home on miniscule footholds, but their stiffer construction may not perform so well on slabby terrain, where toe jams are required, or for all day wear where comfort is key. 

That’s not to say the Instinct VS can’t be used on less than vertical terrain, or for longer stints. A half midsole prioritises rigidity in the toe box, whilst still allowing the midfoot to arch and compress. Additionally, a wider last does lend itself to greater comfort than many bouldering-specific models. This clever design means that the Instinct VS offers the best of both worlds and a solid option for a long-lasting, dependable workhorse that will perform consistently from first wear to last.

Full Specifications

Closure:  single velcro strap / fit: comfort  / downturn: aggressive / environment: indoor, outdoor / upper material: Lorica / rubber:  Vibram XS Edge 2.

BUY NOW: SCARPA.CO.UK

 

Black Diamond Momentum

Price: £85
Best for: Bouldering beginners

If you’re a newer climber looking to purchase your first pair of climbing shoes, Black Diamond’s Momentum shoes are designed with you in mind. The Momentum model provides an extremely comfortable and durable shoe option for an impressively affordable price. The ‘Engineered Knit’  synthetic upper offers unrivalled comfort, straight out of the box – so much so that we chose to test these out over a 7 day charity climbing challenge! 

Owing to the flat-last design, knitted upper and flexible midsole, they certainly ticked the comfort box and we appreciated the option to keep them on for long stints without painful bunching or rubbing. Another welcome feature was odour control in the upper upper. Whilst offering great comfort and odour control, the knitted upper material does compromise the tightness you can achieve in the fit, making the BD Momentum’s better tended towards low-level indoor climbing. Recent improvements to the shoes design have enhanced the overall quality, with the Momentum’s now sporting a softer lining and improved midsole.

It’s important to note that the Momentum is not a high-performance option. It certainly lends itself best to moderate indoor bouldering rather than demanding technical climbing or challenging rock climbing. With that in mind, Black Diamond has landed on a super comfortable and very affordable choice for beginner climbers looking to get to grips with indoor bouldering.

For a beginner shoe the very thick 4.3mm NeoFuse rubber feels durable and high-quality and offers great coverage in key areas, such as the toe box and heel, making the BD Momentums a great option if you haven’t quite got your footwork where you’d like it just yet! 

Full Specifications

Closure: velcro straps /  fit: comfort fit /  downturn:  flat / environment: indoor / upper material: synthetic knit / rubber: NeoFuse 4.3mm.

BUY FROM  

 

Ocun Bullit

Price: £103.95
Best for: Performance on a budget

When we say that the Ocun Bullit was engineered with bouldering in mind, we really mean it. Designed as a specialist indoor bouldering shoe, the Bullit boasts a uniquely modern construction and an impressive array of features. If indoor bouldering walls are your stomping ground, you need look no further. 

We put the Bullit through its paces on modern volumes, small edges, and steep, three-dimensional climbing to see how the shoe fared across a variety of angles and styles. 

Immediately, we noticed how this shoe’s aggressive profile compared to similar advanced bouldering shoes. An exaggerated downturn and pronounced asymmetry help to channel force and precision through a small point of contact on the wall, making this shoe a great option for powerful moves and fancy footwork. Though aggressive in stature, the Bullit is surprisingly supple through the midsole- soft enough to bend with your hands! With an elasticated tongue and pretensioned arch, the Bullit conforms to the shape of your foot, giving that custom-fit feel as you climb. It’s this balancing act between the soft midsole and downturned toe which seems to hold the secret to the Bullit’s performance. Ocun have employed their unique CAT 1.5 rubber formula on the shoe’s sole, a blend specially designed for friction on climbing surfaces. It’s sensitive enough to allow for small foot adjustments on smeary holds, but we still felt confident standing on edges and pockets.

In terms of fit and sizing, we could find no fault. Our Bullit’s were snug when they arrived, and have stayed snug ever since. They’re made from synthetic materials, which tend to stretch slightly less than leather, and make the shoe vegan-friendly! 

It was nearly impossible to set our expectations for a shoe that we’d heard little about, but we found a shoe packed full of features that could rival many better-known brands. A combination of performance-minded toe rubber, aggressive shape, and soft midsole help to propel the Bullit to the top of the class when it comes to performance bouldering.

Full Specifications

Closure: single velcro strap / fit: performance / downturn: aggressive /  environment: indoor / upper material: synthetic / CAT 1.5 4mm.

BUY NOW: BANANAFINGERS.CO.UK

All images and words: Hannah Morris.

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