Can You Really Rock Climb Without Climbing Shoes?

best rock climbing shoes women's
best rock climbing shoes women's

You’ve just taken up rock climbing and you’re hooked. The only problem? You don’t have climbing shoes yet.

Is it safe to climb without proper footwear, or should you hold off until your new shoes arrive? As an avid climber myself, I’ll give you the lowdown on climbing shoeless.

As someone who’s been climbing for over a decade, I totally get the itch to get on the wall at any opportunity.

However, attempting to rock climb without proper footwear comes with risks. Rock climbing shoes womens have sticky rubber soles and tight construction to help your feet stick to the smallest holds and edges.

Climbing in regular athletic shoes just doesn’t provide the same level of precision and control.

That said, in a pinch, it is possible to climb sans shoes, especially if you’re on an easy route. Here’s what I recommend if you want to give it a try:

Inspect the Route Thoroughly

  • Carefully check the route for any razor-sharp crimps or tiny foot chips that could dig into unprotected feet. Avoid overhangs.
  • Feel for slick spots on the holds that may be hard to grip with regular shoes. Chalk up if needed.
  • Consider wearing thin socks for a bit of protection and friction.
best rock climbing shoes women's
best rock climbing shoes women’s

Climb Well Below Your Limit

  • Stick to juggy, vertical climbs rated 5.6 or below.
  • Skip tricky footwork like toe hooks and heel hooks which require stiff shoes.
  • Take it slow and controlled – no dynamic moves.

Pay Special Attention to Foot Placement

  • Rock climbing shoes women’s models have a curved, downturned shape ideal for edging. You’ll need to be more precise without this advantage.
  • Place feet carefully on the center of holds, not the edges.
  • Keep weight centered over feet to maximize friction. Forget about smearing.
  • Rest feet frequently by placing them flat instead of edging.

Stop at the First Sign of Foot Pain

  • Unprotected feet are vulnerable to cuts, abrasions and flappers.
  • Don’t push through discomfort or try to “tough it out.” Stop immediately if it hurts.
  • Bandage cuts and flappers before attempting to climb again.

When to Wait for Shoes

While climbing without shoes is possible in the right circumstances, I only recommend it in a pinch.

You’ll have a much better (and safer) experience if you wait until you have a pair of purpose-built climbing shoes like the Scarpa Instinct VS, La Sportiva Tarantulas, or Five Ten Rogue VCS.

Their sticky rubber and precision fit allow you to climb more confidently on smaller holds. Your technique will improve much faster as well.