Best Intermediate Climbing Shoes in 2021 (Guide & Reviews)

by Gaby Pilson
Last Updated: August 25, 2021
Close-up on intermediate climber tying her shoelace

Looking for a new pair of intermediate climbing shoes but don’t know where to start?

We’re here to help.

Finding the best intermediate climbing shoes to take your skills to the next level isn’t easy. With so many great options to choose from, selecting the right intermediate-level climbing shoes can be challenging, to say the least.

We want you to have the right gear for all your climbing pursuits, so we’ve put together this guide to do just that. In this article, we’ll review the top 5 intermediate climbing shoes on the market today and we’ll offer up some top tips to help you decide which pair is best for you.

The top 5 intermediate climbing shoes we recommend for 2021:

Buying guide: What you should look for when buying intermediate climbing shoes

The 5 Best Intermediate Climbing Shoes

Editor’s Choice: Scarpa Vapor V

Scarpa Vapor V on white background
Scarpa Vapor V
Editor’s Choice
Key Features:
  • Vibram XS Edge rubber
  • Medium-Charged Bi-Tension active rand
  • Microsuede synthetic uppers
  • Rubber toe patches
Pros
  • Moderate downturn for increased performance
  • Padded mesh tongues improve comfort
  • Velcro closure system for quicker on/off
  • Split outsole creates a more natural climbing experience
Cons
  • Fairly expensive
  • Thin rubber wears out quickly

An all-around solid choice for intermediate climbers looking to take their skills to the next level, the Scarpa Vapor V is a do-anything technical climbing shoe for indoor and outdoor escapades.

These shoes feature an all-microsuede upper that’s rugged and comfortable, all at the same time. They also have a set of padded mesh tongues and rubber toe patches that offer plenty of cushioning and protection throughout tough foot jams and toe hooks.

When it comes to friction, the Scarpa Vapor V doesn’t disappoint. It boasts 3.5mm of Vibram’s XS Edge compound, which is known for its precision on the rock. The rubber on the outsole is even split between the toe and the heel to provide increased flexibility underfoot for a more natural climbing experience.

Moreover, Scarpa built these shoes with their proprietary Medium-Charged Bi-Tension active rand system to help transfer power from your toes to footholds without squishing your feet.

Finally, these shoes are engineered to have a moderate downturn, which helps intermediate climbers elevate their footwork, especially on steep routes. The Scarpa Vapor V shoes also come with a set of velcro straps to make transitions to and front the rock as smooth as possible.

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Technical Specs:

  • Best Use: Sport & Gym Climbing
  • Profile: Moderate
  • Upper Fabric: Synthetic
  • Closure System: Velcro
  • Weight (Pair): 16.9oz (479g)
Scarpa Vapor V on white background
Scarpa Vapor V
Editor’s Choice

Upgrade Pick: La Sportiva TC Pro

La Sportiva TC Pro on white background
La Sportiva TC Pro
Upgrade Pick
Key Features:
  • P3 technology for improved edging
  • Padded ankles and toes
  • Laces made from recycled plastic
  • Vibram XS Edge rubber
Pros
  • Integrated ankle and toe protection for crack climbing
  • Well-ventilated for climbing on hot days
  • Neutral profile provides plenty of comfort
  • Great at edging on very technical climbs
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Not as great on very steep overhangs

Designed by a climbing legend, the La Sportiva TC Pros are the brainchild of world-renowned big wall climber Tommy Caldwell.

Perhaps the most distinct aspect of these shoes is their mid-top design. Unlike most other climbing shoes which feature low ankle constructions, the TC Pros have a thin layer of foam padding at the ankles and around the toes to protect you from cuts and scrapes while crack climbing.

Additionally, Caldwell designed his signature shoes to have a set of ventilated tongues and plenty of perforations around the midfoot to encourage airflow on hot days. The shoes are also made with La Sportiva’s lined leather upper fabric, which is durable enough to withstand years of use.

For added comfort and improved performance on slabs, cracks, and technical trad climbs, the TC Pros have a neutral profile with a wide toe box that allows your toes to lie flat at all times. Plus, these shoes have the company’s patented P3 technology and 4mm of Vibram’s XS Edge rubber, which both work together to improve edging on impossibly small footholds.

If all of that wasn't enough, these award-winning intermediate climbing shoes feature laces that are made from recycled plastic bottles to help reduce your impact on the environment.

Technical Specs:

  • Best Use: Trad Climbing
  • Profile: Neutral
  • Upper Fabric: Leather
  • Closure System: Lace
  • Weight (Pair): 17.4oz (493g)
La Sportiva TC Pro on white background
La Sportiva TC Pro
Upgrade Pick

Best Value: Mad Rock Remora

Mad Rock Remora on white background
Mad Rock Remora
Best Value
Key Features:
  • Science Friction 3.0 rubber
  • SynFlex fabric upper
  • Rubberized forefoot prevents stretching
  • R2 rand rubber improves edging
Pros
  • All vegan-friendly materials
  • Affordable price point
  • Moderately stiff construction for use on steep climbs
  • Slipper design makes for easy on/off
Cons
  • Not stiff enough for crack or slab climbing

For intermediate climbers on a budget, the Mad Rock Remora is a solid choice. These super comfy slippers are designed for maximum convenience while bouldering, gym climbing, or sending hard at the crag, all without breaking the bank.

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They’re made with a soft synthetic SynFlex fabric upper that’s designed to conform to the shape of your foot for maximum performance as you climb. This synthetic upper also has a rubberized forefoot around the toes to minimize any unwanted stretch for a precision fit throughout years of use.

Additionally, the Mad Rock Remora has a moderately stiff and ever so slightly downturned construction that helps it stay comfortably on your feet without the need for laces or velcro straps. The slight downturn on these shoes also aids performance on steeper climbs.

Meanwhile, the shoes boast a set of Science Friction 3.0 rubber outsoles with R2 rand rubber for improved traction on tiny foot holes. Mad Rock even gave the Remora a set of specially crafted edges to improve your edging ability on technical climbs.

Oh, and the Mad Rock Remora shoes are also completely vegan friendly, so they’re an excellent all-around choice for budget-conscious intermediate climbers everywhere.

Technical Specs:

  • Best Use: Bouldering, Gym and Sport Climbing
  • Profile: Moderate
  • Upper Fabric: Synthetic
  • Closure System: Slipper
  • Weight (Pair): 16.8oz (476g)
Mad Rock Remora on white background
Mad Rock Remora
Best Value

Best For Bouldering & Sport Climbing: Butora Acro

Butora Acro on white background
Butora Acro
Best For Bouldering & Sport Climbing
Key Features:
  • Butyl Butora F5 rubber outsole
  • Protective rubber toe cap
  • Padded tongue and synthetic fabric panels for comfort
  • Aggressive profile for steep climbs
Pros
  • Great for intermediate climbers with regular or wide feet
  • Tensioned heel for a precise fit
  • Down-cambered toe for increased power
  • Durable, long-lasting construction
Cons
  • Rubber isn’t super sticky
  • Aggressive fit takes time to get used to

One of the few performance-focused intermediate climbing shoes that also comes with an option for folks with wide feet, the Butora Acro is a fan-favorite among climbers that are looking to venture into steeper, more technical terrain while bouldering or sport climbing.

Crafted specifically with performance in mind, these shoes feature German split leather uppers with small sections of soft synthetic fabric and a padded tongue to create the best possible fit for intermediate climbers with regular or wider feet. They also have a unique trip hook fork velcro strap closure system which helps to create a snug, precise fit on every climb.

For added performance, Butora built these shoes with a down-cambered toe that helps to drive power from your feet into the rock. The Acro also has a high-tensioned heel that ensures a precise fit and improves your edging prowess.

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As far as traction goes, Butora gave the Acro a set of Butyl Butora F5 rubber outsoles, which are tough and durable throughout regular use. While this rubber isn’t famous for being extra sticky, it does provide a nice mix of sensitivity and underfoot support.

Plus, there’s also a protective rubber toe cap on these shoes that extends from the rand to help your feet stay comfortable and protected, even when sending on tough climbs.

Technical Specs:

  • Best Use: Bouldering, Sport Climbing
  • Profile: Aggressive
  • Upper Fabric: Leather
  • Closure System: Velcro
  • Weight (Pair): 17.5oz (498g)
Butora Acro on white background
Butora Acro
Best For Bouldering & Sport Climbing

Best For All-Around Climbing: Black Diamond Aspect

Black Diamond Aspect on white background
Black Diamond Aspect
Best For All-Around Climbing
Key Features:
  • Premium European leather uppers
  • Engineered Knit Technology
  • NeoFriction Force molded rubber outsoles
  • Integrated lateral stabilizer rangs
Pros
  • Lace closure system for a better fit
  • Thick rubber outsole is sensitive but stiff
  • Designed to limit ankle rolling while climbing
  • Well padded to protect your feet
Cons
  • 4.3mm rubber size is tricky to get resoled
  • Neutral profile isn’t great for very steep terrain

Crafted with a classic construction for superior cragging, the Black Diamond Aspect is a do-anything option for intermediate climbers that don’t want to settle for anything but the best in all-around performance.

Featuring high-grade European leather uppers, the Black Diamond Aspect shoes are decidedly comfortable, even after hours at the crag. Their full lace-up closure system allows you to get a perfect, customizable fit before every climb, while also ensuring that your shoes stay tight throughout each pitch.

Black Diamond built these shoes using their 4.3mm NeoFriction Force molded rubber, which offers a nice mix of stiffness and sensitivity without sacrificing your edging abilities. Meanwhile, these shoes also have integrated lateral stabilizer rands that help prevent your foot from rolling over and slipping while jamming or relying on precision footwork.

For extra comfort, the Black Diamond Aspect also comes with the company’s proprietary Engineered Knit Technology tongue. As a result, these shoes are crafted to provide ample breathability on hot summer days without sacrificing the padding your feet need on crack climbs or in rough terrain.

Technical Specs:

Solo Stove: More Flame Less Smoke
  • Best Use: All-Around Climbing
  • Profile: Neutral
  • Upper Fabric: Leather
  • Closure System: Lace
  • Weight (Pair): 18.2oz (515g)
Black Diamond Aspect on white background
Black Diamond Aspect
Best For All-Around Climbing

How To Choose The Best Intermediate Climbing Shoes

If you’re an intermediate-level climber that’s ready to move on from your beginner-friendly climbing shoes, then you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of your options. To help you out, we’ve created this quick buyers guide to help you choose the best intermediate climbing shoes for your needs.

Intended Use

When you bought your first pair of climbing shoes during the start of your career in the vertical world, your priorities probably revolved around comfort, durability, and functionality. However, as you progress with your skills and look to tackle harder climbs, you’ll likely find that opting for more specialized climbing shoes will serve you better in the long run.

Indeed, while your first few months or years on the rock were more about exploring which climbing disciplines you enjoyed most, the next part of your climbing progression will likely focus on improving your skills so you can start to push grade levels and fine-tune your technique. As a result, you’ll likely want to invest in a pair of shoes that will work best for your preferred type of climbing.

What exactly does this mean, you might ask?

Well, if you know that gym climbing, sport climbing, or bouldering are more your style, then a set of slightly more aggressive, downturned shoes (more on what that means in a bit) with velcro or slip-on closures might be what you need. These shoes will help you improve your performance on steep terrain while giving you the power you need to bust through acrobatic moves.

On the other hand, folks who’d prefer to go trad climbing will likely find that neutral or moderately down-turned lace-up shoes that are well-padded for use while crack climbing are the better option.

Ultimately, the ‘intermediate’ stage of climbing development is about really dialing down your skills and technique. As a result, it’s important to find a pair of climbing shoes that fits your preferred style of climbing.

Shoe Profile

A climbing shoe’s profile is essentially a measure of how flat or aggressive it is. Most climbing shoes can be categorized as either neutral, moderate, or aggressive, and the type that you choose will have a major impact on your climbing experience. Here’s what you need to know.

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Netural

Neutral climbing shoes have a fairly flat profile. This means that the heel and the toe of the shoe are designed to sit at nearly the same level as each other (i.e., parallel to each other) and your foot will have minimal arch when you’re standing on the ground.

Most shoes for new climbers are made with a neutral profile because they are comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time.

However, it’s a common misconception that neutral climbing shoes are only for beginners. In fact, intermediate climbers who prioritize comfort in their gear and those who’d like to spend more time on multi-pitch trad climbs often find that neutral profile shoes are the most functional choice.

Moderate

For intermediate climbers that are looking for a bit of a step up from a neutral shoe profile to something that can produce a little more power on steeper routes, a moderate shoe might be appropriate.

Moderate climbing shoes have an ever so slightly downturned toe that can help you achieve more precise foot placements in technical terrain. Of course, this extra precision comes at the expense of comfort, though moderate shoes tend to be much more enjoyable to wear for long periods of time than their aggressive counterparts.

Aggressive

Aggressive climbing shoes are particularly popular among sport climbers and boulderers because they employ a very steep downturned toe in order to create more power in your foot.

These shoes allow you to tackle steeper climbs and overhangs that require more acrobatic moves simply because they help centralize the power of your foot onto one small foothold. As you can imagine, this isn’t exactly overwhelmingly comfortable, so aggressive climbing shoes are a better choice for aspiring sport climbers and boulderers than for multi-pitch climbs.

Rubber Type & Construction

As you break into the world of more difficult climbing grades, little details in your gear, like the type of rubber you choose for your shoes, starts to make a big difference. When shopping for intermediate climbing shoes, keep the following rubber-related points in mind:

  • Rubber Thickness. Climbing shoe rubber thickness is a trade-off between sensitivity and durability. The thicker the rubber, the more durable, however, thicker rubber makes feeling for tiny footholds a bit of a challenge.
  • Rubber Compound. There are well over a dozen different climbing shoe rubber compounds on the market, each of which is designed to excel in a specific type of terrain. While we can’t go into detail on every type of rubber compound on the market, Vibram and Five Ten rubber is known to be some of the best available, even if they are a bit pricey. These compounds are super sticky, which means improved friction on the rock.
  • Rubber Sole Construction. The traditional climbing shoe has a single full sole of rubber that extends from the toe to the heel. These shoes are stiff and supportive, which make them ideal for longer climbs, but they are less sensitive, so they’re not as good for smearing on slabs. Meanwhile, split-sole shoes, where you have rubber just at the toe and the heel, are becoming more popular in highly technical terrain where flexible soles and precision footwork are key.

The Verdict

Finding a new pair of intermediate climbing shoes can certainly be a challenge. If we have to choose just 1 of the great shoes we reviewed here, we’d opt for the Scarpa Vapor V.

In particular, we like that the Scarpa Vapor Vs offer moderate aggressiveness, premium rubber soles, and a durable, rugged upper fabric. This mix of features provides the perfect blend of performance and com for intermediate climbers as they try to hone their craft.

Of course, what’s most important is that you find the climbing shoes that are best for your future adventures, but at this point, you’re prepared to select the right pair for your needs. Happy climbing!

Gaby Pilson
I am a mountaineering and climbing guide, as well as a professional outdoor educator. I split my time between working in the polar regions as an expedition guide, working as a climbing instructor, and pursuing my other passions of traveling, writing, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
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