It has often been said that men and women originate from entirely different planets (i.e. women from Venus, men from Mars). This is not just a sweeping statement that came about due to the disparity of male and female temperaments, attitudes, characters and disposition, but this is supported by the fact that the male and female humans are not made equal in terms of physique, form, figure and physiology. The female body is not just a miniaturized or scaled down version of the male body. There are nuances and idiosyncrasies that are only applicable to the female form and all these should be taken into consideration when picking out apparel, garb, gear and more specially, shoes.
Why is it that shoes bear a particular importance in considering the differences of males and females?
Because contrary to popular belief, unisex shoes does not exist. The adage of one size can fit everyone just does not apply. Simply put, women’s shoes are principally made for women’s feet.
There are many factors to be considered in choosing the perfect pair for the particular purpose. The ball of the foot, the first toe, the arch as well as the lateral side of the foot are all to be checked, patterned, and adapted in fitting a shoe.
For bouldering, a women’s shoes are designed to have a lower volume to appropriately suit the smaller feet of women. Bouldering, which is a very strenuous and physical activity, the important factors would be: the shoe type, shoe features and shoe fit.
There are three types of a shoes’ downturn to take in or contemplate upon depending on the climbing being intended to undertake. These are neutral, moderate and aggressive. A downturn is the way the shoes curve downward. It is important to know the downturn of a shoe you are choosing because a more aggressive or more downturned shoes are better suited for intermediate and advanced climbers since it can offer better performance particularly on climbs of a steeper nature. For those who are just being introduced to the sport, it is advised to avail of the neutral to moderate downturn.
The downturn of the shoes plays a vital role in bouldering. It allows you to maneuver properly, have more control over the hooking and crimping and operation necessary to complete the bouldering exercises and training.
Shoe features, such as closure, upper material, outsole, midsole and last will affect the performance of the shoes.
Closure would refer to the manner in which the shoes are to be worn on and taken off. The options include laces, elastic slip-on or Velcro or a combination of these.
The material with which the shoes are made of or commonly referred to as upper can be a variety of leather, synthetic, microsuede or a combination material, among others. Also, if the shoes are lined, unlined or padded is of huge importance when picking the shoes that suits the climber. A lined upper can allow for less stretch. While an unlined upper can give up to half the original size. So, consider these when trying on bouldering shoes before purchasing one.
The outsole or the bottom of the climbing shoes is always made of rubber. However, each manufacturer uses their own particular kind of rubber. Their features may differ from the grip designs, thickness, rigidity of material and stickiness.
When speaking of last, this pertains to the model with which the shoe design is based upon. Those that are board-lasted are made to be stiffer and more rigid, while slip-lasted design can provide greater responsiveness, sensitivity and reactiveness.
As for the fit of the shoes, when used for the purpose of bouldering or rock climbing, the shoes should have a snugger fit but it should not be painful nor uncomfortable to the wearer. This will enhance the climber performance and allow for a harder and longer climb and therefore, a more fulfilling experience.
Here are the best bouldering shoes for women in 2020:
- Scarpa Helix
These shoes are made for comfort and are not very aggressive and are perfect for those that are bouldering at a beginner level or those being introduced to the activity and wants to have a great pair of climbing shoes. Comfortable shoes make for a more enjoyable bouldering experience and thus, makes you want to keep going with the bouldering activities.
As for the features, these shoes are laced up all the way to the top so that it can fit comfortably and can match the contours of the feet, even the narrow ones. This ensures a fit that will not come off mid-climb or even while using the smaller footholds. It is as if the shoes are molded onto your feet.
The cushioned heel cup is a feature, as well as the adjustable laces are all for the comfort of the climber. With a neutral downturn, this model comes in a suede leather upper design which will allow for a little stretch during the practice.
The rubber for these shoes is made to stand the test of time in order for longer use and lesser shoe turn around. It is sticky and durable known as Vibram XS Edge is great for practicing footwork. It also has a padded mesh tongue to support the top parts of the foot. This allows for longer time to practice and to acclimate to climbing.
This shoe model can be re-soled.
It is of a board-lasted model which adds to the comfort of the climber.
- La Sportiva Finale
This is a neutral downturned shoe which is great for beginners.
It is with lace up closure for a more personalized fit depending on the narrowness or broadness of the feet of the wearer.
Its upper material is made of leather and microfiber and is unlined which will allow to stretch and further mold onto the contours of the climber’s feet.
The La Sportiva boasts an exclusive and patented Powerhinge design that is elastic enough so that the back of the shoe can adjust when the weight is put upon it. Its midsoles have medium stiffness for support and protection.
This product is best known for its value. It has thick rubber soles for durability. Its tensioned heel is great to enhance the climber’s performance. It gives a more secure bouldering experience.
- Evolve Shakra
This product is best known for its comfort and has an aggressive downturn design. This is important in considering the would-be performance of the bouldering shoes. The roomy toe box design is specifically made for the female feet which are narrower than that of the male counterpart design. It has a special side pressure-relief rand which means that there is a rubber layer that extends from the sole around the toe. This feature provides the wearer with a fitted yet non-constricting experience. A comfortable conformity into the form of the wearer.
It comes with Velcro straps and the upper material made of synthetic and is unlined. It is slip-lasted and can be re-soled. The Evolve Shakra boasts of its patented extra rubber between the dead space under the toes which is called the Love Bump. This, coupled with the soft midsole provides extra sensitivity and delivers a better edging experience.
The side pressure-relief is provided for more comfort. It also has a roomy toe box that provides additional comfort, power and control especially during particularly difficult courses. The top part of the toe is padded with a good amount of rubber which makes it amazing for hooking along those tight spots whether it may be for indoor or outdoor bouldering.
The outsole features a high-friction rubber that can offers a more resolute grip or hold on the rocks.
This is suited best for intermediate level climbers.
- La Sportiva Kataki
This bouldering shoes has an aggressive downturn with a moderate asymmetrical curvature. It features an S-Heel Construction System that lets you perform all the twists and turns necessary for bouldering without distorting the construction and design of the heel. This thereby gives the wearer a sense of security and efficiency during the climb. This is even through steep terrains that require accurate and decisive footwork. This level of comfort that the shoes provides makes the wearer more confident and will help the climber in her practice and bouldering activities.
The Kataki has an adaptable laced-up closure that provides for a more customized fit. It also features a low-profile toebox that fits well into the tight tracks.
Its upper material is made of suede leather/microfiber that can stretch to at least a half a size. This is known to be a high performing bouldering shoes that puts great emphasis on the comfort of the wearer thus making it best for intermediate level climbers.
It is made of rigid material and durable rubber. The snug heel cup is great for heel hooking, while the differentiated front and rear lacing provides for a more precise fit.
The Kataki is best known for its all-around performance.
- Five Ten Hiangle
These bouldering shoes have an aggressive downturn. It is slip-lasted and has an elastic and Velcro strap as a closure system which makes for easier access of wearing and removing it. Its upper material is made of leather and is unlined so a stretch of about half the size could be expected after the shoes have been broken in.
The shoes have a thick rubber that provides for stiffness and rigidity and makes it durable even through many bouldering activities. The thick midsoles give the climber the support needed for those steep and overhanging climbs. All these features and still the shoes are comfortable enough for an all-day climb. The soles can be changed and the shoes can be made to last.
It is best for intermediate level climbers.
- Scarpa Vapor V
A model with moderate downturned makes these shoes perfect for intermediate level climbers.
This comes with a rand tension system which means that this model tends to pull the toes back towards the heel. This tension provides great comfort to the toes while at the same time supports the whole foot.
The Velcro strap closure makes for easy wear and removal. Its upper material is made of microsuede and is lined with microfiber. It has a bi-tension rand built for power and toe comfort and mesh tongue for breathability. These features make the shoes comfortable to wear it even through whole day activity whether it be for indoor or outdoor bouldering.
It also has a toe box design for comfort. Also, the shoe tension lowers the heaviness that can be felt when weight is being placed on the heel.
The precision necessary for the bouldering is provided by the downturned toe, Bi-Tension randing (snug fitting from both front and back) and elasticity of the split-sole construction.
- So ill Street LV
This two-tone rubber designed shoes makes for a stand out style for narrower feet.
These shoes feature a moderate downturn and midsoles that are quite flexible that allows for sensitivity and grip which is important when digging into the small jibs and pockets. It is slip-lasted and has Velcro straps as closure. The upper material is made of synthetic leather that gives a softer fit and minimal stretching especially during bouldering activities. Also, it has flexible midsoles for sensitivity and has padded tongue for comfort. The rubber soles are super sticky on the wall which makes it great for hooking.
Even if most describe it as having an aggressive fit, these do not hurt the feet. It permits for whole day use which is necessary during training.
This is best for intermediate level climbers.
- La Sportiva Miura VS
Known best for granting precision footwork for the climber, these shoes have an aggressive downturn. The design makes steep climbs easier even if the jibs and pockets are quite small or tricky footholds. It is slip-lasted and has Velcro straps as closure. It is three-strapped that makes for a more precise fit for your feet. Its upper material is made of leather and is lined with moisture wicking material that allows the shoes to retain its size and shape even after prolonged use and exposure to the elements.
The midsole support is perfect for edging and reduces the fatigue usually experienced by the wearer allowing her to keep going and keep pushing. The sole is a great source of resistance and friction in all terrains and in any temperature, which spells great control and confidence during climbs.
Noted for giving a very cozy squeeze which is perfect for bouldering. It does not hurt the feet but keeps it secured and stable throughout the bouldering activity.
It is best suited for more advanced climbers. And it can be re-soled.
- Scarpa Instinct VS
These shoes are aggressive in downturn. It is slip lasted and can ensure a more excellent fit to the wearer. It also features a highly charged V-Tension active randing system. This will give an optimal and determined toe power which is perfect when doing those overhangs.
The sole and rubber toe patch has boosted flexibility and sensibility that can offer better gripping and hoking abilities. The last is women specific or is geared towards a more fitted women’s mold. These shoes are very responsive and lets the wearer feel every nuance of the terrain. It makes for a safer and more secured bouldering experience.
It has Velcro straps as closure and its upper material is made of synthetic microsuede. The Scarpa Instinct is suitable to the more advanced level climbers and for steeper terrain.
It has thinner soles to provide more flexibility and sensitivity, it is tensioned for more toe power and it has a rubber toe patch for better toe hooking. Can be re-soled.
- La Sportiva Solution
These bouldering shoes have an aggressive downturn that gives its wearer to opportunity to experience a very powerful bouldering by giving precision placement. Harboring a balance between comfort and performance. It has a patented P3 Power Platforms which holds its shape and form even when the wearer subjects the shoes through extraneous situations or terrain. The Solution boasts of Fast Lacing System making it easy to put it on and taking it off and gives the wearer a more adapted fit. Also, there is a feature called Lock Harness system that pulls the upper and the sole together. This keeps the feet supported and makes the climb more focused. The wearer can concentrate on the next moves she has to take and can make a wider range of wiggle and movement.
It has a slip-lasted design and the upper material is made of a combination of leather and synthetic leather which is unlined for that soft and comfortable fit. It is easy to keep the shoes on for a prolonged period of time. It is best suited for advanced level climbers.
It has an asymmetrical shape for toe power provides great friction. It has molded heel cups for a snugger fit and is highly adjustable closure system. The outsoles are sticky enough. And the shoes itself takes little time to break in. the shoes can be resoled, as well.
Tips to choose the right pair of climbing shoes for women
Ultimately, anyone looking for the best bouldering shoes for women should consider the following, in order to make a more informed choice:
Fit – unlike the fit of the common sneaker or other rubber shoes, bouldering shoes should have a more contoured and snug fit. This is so that the wearer can be allowed to concentrate on the groves and dips and pockets of the terrain. It might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but the wearer must give the shoes sometime to adjust and to break in.
Remember that the unlined and leather variety gives more of a stretch over time. The synthetic or lined variety, on the other hand, provides a closer fit and will not be stretching much despite prolonged use.
Comfort – while all bouldering shoes are built specifically to provide comfort and security during a climb, whether it be for indoor or outdoor. There are varieties that feature padded tongue, cushioned heel cup and a more defined midsoles and arches. The pads on the soles may be great for comfort but on the downside, it may cause a little insensitivity and less stiffness or rigidity.
The closure type and the mold of the rubber are vital considerations in choosing your bouldering shoes which will make a noticeable impact when you are in the midst of a climb. The upper materials of the shoes may stretch and shift depending on the type of material, but the rubber soles will not have that much give. So, keep in mind that the sole you pick will be the same throughout the bouldering activities.
Trying out the shoes and taking it for a few climbs will allow you to assess if the soles are right for you and the activities you undertake. Make sure that none of the rubber bits dig into your feet. The wearer should not have to suffer any painful blisters or prodding because it can prove to be very detrimental to the climber and might cause damage to the feet and to the physiology of the climber, in the long run.
A moisture wicking material is also a great feature to take note of since bouldering is a very physical activity and sweating is very prevalent. You wouldn’t want to start emitting a pungent smell while you are on an important bouldering practice.
Durability – bouldering can be a very taxing activity especially for the gears being used. Its important to get worthwhile items that can withstand the test of even the roughest terrain, smallest crevice and prolonged period of use. Remember, that the safety, health and life of the climber depends a lot on the quality of the bouldering gears she chooses to utilize. These are all investments that will give a valuable return as the climber progresses.
A good rule of thumb would be to pick ones with thicker soles so that it can last longer and of good quality so that it does not crack even in the most extreme of weathers. It is imperative to look for models that can be resoled. This will prove to be a very cost-efficient practice that will save money in the long run.
Also, should you prefer to get an aggressive downturn be sure to find one that tend to maintain its shape and not loose its flexibility over the course of time.
At any rate, it would do wonders to familiarize yourself with proper shoe care and maintenance.
Make sure to take the changes of male and female physique into account when buying a new pair of shoes! With this list it should be easy for women to pick a pair of climbing or bouldering shoes that fit them well.
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