Bouldering Shoe Review 2021

Bouldering Shoe Review 2021

Every spring the latest bouldering shoes hit the shelves with claims of better performance, new technologies and amazing designs. We have hand selected six of the best new products to arrive in 2021 and have headed out bouldering to test these shoes. Our testers are all accomplished climbers and gear-heads who have provided honest opinions. Here are the top six shoes for bouldering compared in an easy-to-use format.

Climb On Squamish, selects products based on the expertise of our team. We comprise of climbers, athletes, guides, skiers and mountain rescue. We take the selected products and compare them in this independent review to help consumers make educated purchases! We are not paid for these reviews. This means that if we don't like a product feature we will tell you, if we love a product we will be out there using it next to you at the crag!

Bouldering at the highest level requires dedicated training, specific nutrition, perfect conditions and mistake-free-beta. The climbing shoes that an athlete selects plays a vital role in the chance of succeeding on their next project. Shoe technology has improved steadily since Boreal introduced the legendary "Fire" in 1979 launching a revolution in sticky rubber. Climbing shoes have gradually become more specialized for the different climbing disciplines, including steep bouldering, gym climbing and individual climbing styles. Boulderers often have numerous pairs to suit different terrain; steeper terrain suits a more aggressively downturned shoe that allows for better hooking. While a greater asymmetry (bending your foot over) of a shoe, will feel more powerful when you place your toes on edges. Take a few minutes to read our Climbing Shoe Fit Guide to help you decide what fit is best suited for you.

The hundreds of shoes available on the market today can be overwhelming so we have selected six of the best from across the major brands and tested them on the Squamish boulders. All of the shoes in this review are high performance tools that will not be suited to beginners and we have only chosen shoes that are suited to bouldering. We have indicated our staff favourites and tried to lay out the differences in an easy to use comparison table, however the fit of each shoe will be determined by your foot shape. We recommend trying on the shoes and seeing how each one feels on your foot. Drop by the store.

Bouldering Shoe Comparison

  Boreal Satori Scarpa Instinct WMN Lace La Sportiva Solution Comp Unparallel TN (Tamoa Narasaki) Pro Tenaya Mastia 5.10 Crawe
 

Price (↑)

$199.95 $199.95 $219.95 $219.95 $224.95 $229.95

Best at 

Power and control in one. Powerful edging machine. A benchmark shoe for many years. Excels inside and on steep terrain. Soft and precise. One shoe to take you almost anywhere.

Pros

A pure bouldering shoe, a tightly fitted powerhouse with extra rubber for toe hooking. A lower volume shoe combined with a lace up system. A precise shoe for the technicians out there, adapts to sport climbs well. Comfortable liner combined with a tight heel cup. Excels at inside bouldering. New single strap tension system. Extra toe rubber on top combined with a secure heel cup. Suitable across a variety of terrain. A higher volume shoe for those crushed by other shoes.

Cons

Difficult to put on due to sock tongue construction. Stiffness not suited to the steepest terrain. The aggressive fit may have your feet hurting after a while. Rounded toe not suited to pockets and the colour will leach onto your feet. Stiffer than other Tenayas and the tongue material not as breathable. Not suitable for long days out or trad. Thicker rubber can feel cumbersome.

Closure System

Lace and strap combo with velcro Laces Velcro Strap - Slipper Velcro Strap - Slipper Velcro Strap Velcro Stap - Slipper

Upper Material

Microfibre Microsuede & Leather Leather & Microfiber Synthetic Suede Microfiber Synthetic Microfiber

Stiffness

Moderately Stiff Stiff Soft Stiff Soft Moderately Stiff

Shape

Highly Asymmetric  Moderately Asymmetric Highly Asymmetric  Moderately Asymmetric Moderately Asymmetric  Moderately Asymmetric

Profile

Highly Downturned Moderately Downturned Highly Downturned Highly Downturned Highly Downturned Moderately Downturned

Rubber

ZENITH PRO Ultra (4-4.5mm) Vibram® XS Grip 2 (3.5mm) Vibram® XS Grip 2 (3.5mm) RH rubber sole (4.2 mm) Vibram XS Grip (3.5 mm) Stealth C4 (4.2mm)

Shoe Summaries

Boreal Satori

The Satori is a close competitor to the La Sportiva Solutions - so close that it probably just comes down to your own personal preference. Fit and quality is also comparable but overall the Satori being a bit stiffer and more rigid, both in the sole and in the overall feel of the shoe.  So if that's your preference for bouldering and sport climbing, this shoe could be for you.  The sock-like fit made the shoes a bit awkward at first to put on, so I snipped the small elastic holding the shoe closed, the shoe now opens wide for my foot and still fastens as tight as I want with the two velcro closures.  The velcro closure is able to get the shoe nice and tight on my foot for heel and toe hooks.  The fit is almost the same as the Solution, with the weight concentrated over the big toe. The Satori has a longer break in period compared to other, softer shoes due to the overall stiffness of the shoe.  Some of the best coloured shoes out there, especially the women's/low volume version. We would recommend sizing down only a half size or less from your street shoe size when fitting the Satori, depending on how tight you prefer the feel.

View Boreal Satori

Scarpa Instinct WMN Lace

The Instinct series by Scarpa has gained a following over the past few years and quite rightly so. The series includes the Instinct, the Instinct SR, the Instinct VS, the Instinct VS women’s, the Instinct VSR and the now they have added a women’s Instinct. The differences between the men’s and women’s Instinct shoe other than colour include a lower volume fit, a narrower heel shape, XS Grip 2 rubber and a toe piece made from a single rubber patch. We passed this new version along to our tester who immediately noticed the “dead space” was gone and was thrilled the shoe balanced performance and comfort. She noted this shoe would be suitable to hard crack climbing or sport climbing as well as bouldering the “The Instinct has an ever-so-asymmetrical, moderately downturned shape and I am excited to finally have a shoe in my arsenal again that balances performance with comfort.”

The new women’s Instinct is a supportive shoe that excels in edging; Scarpa have combined a lower volume fit with a lace up system to create a fantastic new addition to the Instinct family. Those with smaller heels and lower volume feet who want a precision tool should try these.

View Scarpa Instinct WMN Lace

La Sportiva Solution Comp

The Solution and now Solution Comp has been a benchmark for many years.

I've worn Solutions for a decade or more and along with most La Sportiva sport and boulder shoes they fit my gnarly climber feet comfortably. I have average width feet and nothing unusual for arches.  I used to fit Solutions very small, but in recent years I find fitting them just snugly produces the same results with less break in time and less pain.  These shoes concentrate my weight over the big toe, and if I don't fit them too tight I find they don't take long to break in.  I think the Solution Comp is a slight improvement to the regular solutions, I like that the heel is just as many other climbing shoes, so it is sleeker and not the large rubber bulb shape of the regular solutions - this worked fine on the many heel hooks on Clampdown, and the rubber on top of the foot has more coverage which is really good for toe hooking on problems like Tatonka.  I couldn't tell the difference in stiffness of the sole or softness of the shoe overall of the Comp vs the regular Solutions - I heard they might be slightly softer but I can't tell.  The velcro closure system is simple and effective and the best of any shoe I've tried, it just works for my foot when I need to crank the shoes tight.  This is as good as a shoe gets for me, and even better the yellow colour of the solution Comp sure is pretty.

View La Sportiva Solution Comp

Unparallel TN (Tamoa Narasaki) Pro

Designed by and named after two time bouldering world champion Tamoa Narasaki the TN Pro is perfect for steep terrain where toe hooks and heel hooks are required. The Tn Pro refines technologies rather than introducing new ones, they offer a sling shot heel and a single velcro closure. If your previous shoe of choice was the 5.10 Hiangles then try the TN Pro at the same size. The liner is surprisingly comfortable but maintains its shape through its extended life. This extended life comes from a 4.2mm thick RH (Real Honor) rubber sole. The TN Pro has an aggressively downturn profile which excels at standing on small feet in steep terrain. The most noticeable difference visually compared with most bouldering shoes is the rounded toe, which works great on gym volumes and steep smears but slotting your foot into pockets is cumbersome.

Our tester thought the TN Pro was an improved version of the Hiangles and “if you just want a great all round shoe that has a tight heel cup and rubber that stays stuck to the worst of crystals?  Then the TN Pro is a pretty good option.”

View Unparallel TN Pro

Tenaya Mastia

The Mastia’s have a very aggressive profile and are quickly becoming a go to shoe for most things bouldering. They excel on steep to moderately overhung climbs with small, but obvious footbolds, the Mastia is stiffer than the other shoes in the Tenaya lineup. When sizing the Mastia drop down 2 to 2.5 sizes from your street shoe size and expect them to stretch. They will fit a medium volume and medium width foot well. The heel box on the Mastia’s is a masterpiece. The heel cup is very defined and holds a lot of structure so when you slide your heel in it feels locked into place. This rigidity is achieved by having rubber cover the entire back and sides of the heel, something which is also much appreciated when performing awkward heel hooks.

View Tenaya Mastia

5.10 Crawe

This is a semi-aggressive shoe for Bouldering and Sport Climbing. Compared to other bouldering shoes it feels relatively stiff and relatively flat but that allows them to be used in more terrain types, not just steep lines. Designed by Fred Nicole, a legendary figure in the bouldering world, he has created a shoe that feels like a slipper when putting it on but the velcro closure locks in the fit for heel hooking. Added to that is a strip of extra sticky Stealth HF rubber on your heel to really make you trust those heel hooks. The fit will suit a wider foot with a slightly higher volume and higher arch.

View 5.10 Crawe

Happy Bouldering!
— From the Climb On Team

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