Known as the simplest form of rock climbing, bouldering is steadily gaining popularity in the sports world. But don’t be fooled; it’s not as easy as it looks. It requires a mix of physical (like strength, endurance, coordination, balance) and mental (such as focus, problem-solving, determination) capacities.
Stripped down to the essentials, bouldering does not require a lot of equipment to get started. For starters, you only need a pair of climbing shoes, the proper attire of a tight-fitting shirt and stretchy pants or shorts, and you are good to go.
Do I Need Special Climbing Shoes for Bouldering?
For first-timers, you do not need to wear climbing shoes. You can wear your own trainers.
However, bouldering beginners can benefit from a pair of proper climbing shoes. They are ergonomically designed to help you feel comfortable and make the most of your experience.
Are Climbing and Bouldering Shoes the Same?
Both sports share the same kind of climbing shoes. Nowadays, there are climbing shoes designed and made specifically for bouldering. They will help you get more control and traction, especially with small footholds when bouldering outside.
What Makes a Good Bouldering Shoe?
Consider the following factors when choosing your bouldering shoes:
- Shoe fit: Contrary to the popular rule of bouldering, “the tighter, the better,” you should find shoes that fit your feet correctly. Your feet should feel snug in the shoes, but not too tight that it’s painful and uncomfortable.
- Downturn type: The type varies depending on the sort of climbing you are interested in. Shoes can be neutral (beginner-friendly, all-day comfort), moderate (suitable for technical climbing), or aggressive (for challenging climbs that need power focused on the toes).
- Closure type: Like the shoe type, closure preference varies on the climbing you like. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Lace-up shoes are most-preferred as you can adjust the fit and can accommodate different foot shapes. Velcro is also a good choice as it can be easily put on and take off. They are also great for technical climbing. Lastly, slippers are the favored choice for indoor and steep climbing.
- Rubber type: Consider getting stickier and softer rubber compounds if you are into steep climbing. Stiffer and more durable rubber types are best for a slab, edging, and gym use.
- Material: Choose between leather or a synthetic substitute. The former takes longer to wear and easier to take on a glove-like fit because it stretches. The latter tends to retain its shape for an extended period compared to leather.
Do You Wear Socks With Bouldering Shoes?
You won’t need socks when wearing bouldering shoes. However, if it’s your first time and you are renting a pair, you need to put on socks for hygienic purposes.
Climbing shoes are designed to fit snugly and help you feel the holds through the shoes. Wearing socks will not only dull this sensation but also cause your feet to slide around.
How Do You Break in Bouldering Shoes?
If you find yourself with climbing shoes with a few hotspots that give you painful blisters, try one of the following:
- Wear your new pair for short periods, only a few minutes around the house. Doing this allows your shoes to stretch to the shape of your feet gradually.
- Stuff your shoe with water bags and freeze them overnight. Bags of water, when frozen, extends and stretches your shoes. Doing this makes them ready for use without you sacrificing your feet’s comfort to expand them. You might need to do this a few times to get the exact stretch you want.
- Use the shower method. Lace up your shoes and bring them in the shower, soaking the whole shoes. Wiggle your feet to allow the wet shoes to take the natural mold of your feet. Next, walk around in them to further take the mold and do this as they are drying. Then stuff newspaper or socks in the shoes and let them completely dry. Repeat as needed.
What Are the Best Shoes for Bouldering?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the vast array of shoe choices on the market. Here’s a shortlist of the three top-rated climbing shoes for you:
- La Sportive Solutions: Characterized by a mixed leather and synthetic upper material, 1-strap Velcro closure, and 4 mm Vibram XS Grip2 rubber, it is the best all-around high-performance shoe in the game right now.
- Five Ten HiAngle: A sub-brand of Adidas Outdoor, the HiAngle is more comfortable than the La Sportive Solutions and equals it in performance, all without breaking the bank. Its specifications include an unlined upper leather material, 1-strap Velcro closure, and 4.2mm Stealth C4 rubber.
- Evolv Shaman: For those who value comfort above all, this well-designed shoe is for you. Made of synthetic upper material, 3-strap Velcro closure, and .2 mm Trax SAS rubber puts the Shaman on top as the most comfortable, affordable, and high-performing shoe in bouldering.
What Pants Do You Wear for Bouldering?
The best option for bouldering is sports leggings. They are thicker in material compared to the yoga pants yet provides the same good range of movement.
Generally, bouldering pants are stretchy cotton material, loose around the hips and thigh, and taper towards the ankle. This design helps to see footholds and position feet correctly.
In the summer, it may be too warm to wear pants. Shorts can be an alternative. Consider the looseness of material and opt for shorts with built-in spandex liners.
Why Do Boulderers Wear Jeans?
Perhaps the most curious thing about bouldering is the jean-wearing. There’s a range of bouldering-friendly jeans available in the market. Many boulderers prefer to wear jeans as they are more durable than running shorts or sports leggings.
Can You Wear Gloves for Bouldering?
Similar to wearing socks, wearing gloves prevent you from feeling the friction and holds while climbing. Feeling the holds is essential to climbing as it helps you get a better grip and stick to them.
Do You Need Chalk for Bouldering?
The body emits moisture through the skin’s pores, so chalk is essential to dry sweat and moisture off and increase grip strength on the rocks. Gymnastic chalk, made of magnesium carbonate, is used for bouldering.
What Equipment is Needed for Bouldering?
One of bouldering’s appeals is that it doesn’t require a lot of gear to get started. For indoor bouldering, you only need your proper attire, a good pair of climbing shoes, and some chalk, and you’re good to go.
What Do You Wear to a Bouldering Gym?
Besides bouldering shoes, sports pants and jeans discussed above, you also need to wear a comfortable sports shirt.
Female boulderers can opt to wear a tight-fitting sport shirt with a sports bra, and for men, a tight-fitting, sweat-wicking sport shirt will do the trick.
Make sure that whatever you wear, you feel comfortable, and your movements are not restricted.
What Do You Wear for Outdoor Bouldering?
When climbing outdoors, weather conditions must be taken into account.
For example, summer climbing requires fewer layers so that you can don just a tank top with shorts.
Winter climbing is trickier, and you might need to put on layers. Depending on the weather, choose waterproof and windproof jackets and another insulating layer.
What Else Do I Need for Outdoor Bouldering?
A few extra items you need for bouldering outdoors are:
- Chalk bag to wear through the climb
- Crash pad suitable for the climb and the problem in case of a fall
- Climbing helmet to cushion our head from debris or a fall
- Mat for cleaning your shoes before climbing
- Brush for removing excess chalk
- Skincare kit with sandpaper or emery board, and zinc oxide tape to keep your skin in top condition