Rock shoes should really be the first piece of equipment that you purchase. The shoes have a special rubber sole which helps the climber to apply maximum friction when climbing. The sole of the shoe also has a definate edge cut into it and to some degree a pointed toe. This allows the climber to stand on very small ledges (known as “edging”) or use tiny features for foot holds. Rock shoes are usually worn tighter than normal shoes, with your toes fitting close to the end. This again helps to use small features, whilst giving your feet an excellent “feel” for the hold you are on. You may hear that it’s important to buy rock shoes a size smaller than the shoes you would normally wear, so that your feet are litterally crammed in. This is not the case and it’s recommended that the shoes feel tight but comfortable. Rock shoes are generally worn without socks (except rental ones of course), however many climbers prefer to wear a thin pair of socks. This is personal preference and won’t really make a difference to your performance (especially when starting out).
Rock shoes are available with lace fastening, velcro fastening or slip-on styles. Lace up shoes tend to be prefered by rock climbers because they can be tied very tight, ensuring a really close fitting shoe. Boulderers often prefer a velcro fastening as this allows them to slip the shoes on and off quickly whilst moving between boulders. Slip on shoes are not as popular as they used to be and therefore are not as easily found on the market these days. This is a very broad breakdown. Some of the top climbers in the world prefer to wear velcro style shoes whilst many of the top boulderers wear lace ups. Before purchasing a pair of rock shoes, it is vital to try on as many different brands and styles as you can. Many good climbing shops have a small climbing wall for you to try out the shoes before you buy them. Good fitting shoes will help you progress quicker, not to mention make your climbing a more pleasurable experience.