How Tight Should Climbing Shoes Be?

We have already done an article on the best climbing shoes available in the market. Now we are here with another guide that will be very helpful. Climbing shoes should be picked depending on what kind of climbing you are doing. There is one another golden rule- if the climbing shoes are hurting you, then they are definitely not the right ones.

Sure, shoes can be tight when you first start wearing them, but they get loose after wearing them once or twice. But they should not hurt you at all. In this article, we will be discussing everything about how tight should climbing shoes be. 

how tight should climbing shoes be?

Yes, we realize we are repeating ourselves but you have to trust us. Ask any experienced climber there is and they will tell you the same thing- tight climbing shoes will do you no good. A lot of severe problems can be caused if you don’t take care of that.

Once you start climbing actively, you will learn to buy various kinds of climbing shoes. This is what a lot of climbers do. Different climbing shoes will help you try different types of climbing. You cannot have a universal shoe for different types of climbing. But they shouldn’t be too tight. They should be the right amount of tight to give you confidence that they will not fall off. But they shouldn’t be so tight that your bones might get crushed. 

Tight shoes will give you awful looking blisters and you won’t even be able to walk without limping. Tight shoes can severely cause damage to your feet. 

If you have the wrong shoes then they can result in orthopedic damage as well. A lot of new climbers like to rent shoes from the gym and they sometimes ‘adjust’ with shoes that are way too tight for them. This might result in their focus being just on the tight shoes instead of improving their climbing skills.

If you want to rent shoes in a gym, make sure you are renting them according to your size and if you are wearing socks, then rent a size bigger than what you normally would. 

Do climbing shoes stretch?

how tight should climbing shoes be

This is a very common question asked by a lot of amateur climbers. And the answer is yes. Since most of the shoes are made from leather, they are bound to expand. But they should start feeling like your second skin. Wearing climbing shoes, again and again, will make them conform more. 

Leather has a tendency to stretch. So, if you are buying climbing shoes made from leather, then buy a size slightly smaller than your feet size. This will give the climbing shoes a chance to expand and fit you perfectly. But they shouldn’t stop your blood flow. Initially, the shoes can be weird to wear as the leather climbing shoes tend to expand because of the warmth but they might go back to what it was the very next day.

When we say the shoes expand, we don’t mean that they will loosen up a lot. They will just stretch a little. Just like how socks do after two washes. So, when you are trying out some climbing shoes, they should not hurt you badly, they should just feel a little snug. Don’t go around buying a full one size bigger pair of shoes than you normally would. 

What happens if you buy climbing shoes that are way too small?

There are several reasons why you should not buy smaller climbing shoes. The main reason is these shoes will come in between you and your climbing. Which is the last thing you would want? Climbing shoes are supposed to provide you grip and that won’t happen if you are not wearing the right shoes.

Here are some reasons why you should not wear climbing shoes that are too small:

They are a huge distraction

The main thing that tight shoes will do is that they will distract you from climbing properly. Initially, it will be a little difficult to notice but the pain will slowly creep up on you as you are climbing upwards.

It will be slow at first but just like an alarm, the pain will become louder and louder and you won’t be able to think of anything else but that pain. Climbing is supposed to be a fun experience, but if your feet are uncomfortable then you will not be able to enjoy the experience at all. Forget about even trying to attempt to learn new techniques and strategies of climbing. 

Severe injuries can happen because of small shoes

You might take it lightly, but small climbing shoes can cause damage to your feet permanently. Like after women wear heels for a long time, their feet get swollen. Imagine wearing tight shoes for a long time, what kind of effect that might be. You don’t want to visit the podiatrist every single week.

If you did rent some tight shoes a few times then you don’t need to worry. Long term damage won’t be caused if you have worn it a few times. But to avoid getting foot deformities you must immediately stop using tight shoes. By using it you can get hammertoes, claw toes and those are disgusting to look at. Not to mention painful.

You can also get fungal infections, corns, bunions, bleeding toenails, feet with a lot of bruises, and several other unpleasant deformities by wearing tight climbing shoes for a really long time. That is why it is extremely important to check the shoes before you buy them. But don’t go to a new place, find a place who knows their climbing shoes and they can guide you what kind of shoes you need to wear. You can also take some of your experienced climber friends with you to help you buy perfect shoes. 

After trying out climbing shoes and finding your correct size, you can get other shoes online too if you want to. Once you have the right shoes, you can truly experience the joy behind climbing without having to worry about anything else. 

While climbing you should definitely not think about your painful feet and if you are thinking about it, then you certainly have the wrong pair of shoes. 

Let us look at what other gross things can happen if you wear tight shoes.

Pressure points and calluses

If you don’t know what these are, then try googling them. They look disgusting and feel even more disgusting. You will think twice before removing your shoes in front of people. Even if you do, other people will never forget what your feet look like. Do you really want to be the person that people run away from?

Hammertoes, claw, cross-over

This looks exactly like their names, scary and disgusting. You should see the picture of women from China who keep their feet small, keep them bound. That is what your feet will look like if you continue wearing tight climbing shoes regularly. 

Subungual hematoma

This condition is where the area under your toenail starts bleeding. This condition is extremely common and it hurts like hell.


The medical name of bunions is hallux valgus. The name sounds cool, but the condition is definitely not. A lot of old people have this and let me assure you, it is not something you want to look at. Don’t even try Googling it. Several experienced climbers have these too and unfortunately, climbers have high chances of getting them. So, make sure you are doing everything you can to avoid getting them as you also get lumps near your toes that hurt too much.


Yea these are definitely not sweet looking like the corn you eat. They develop near the pressure points. They are dead skin that is hard and thick and they sting way too much. 


Maintaining hygiene while climbing is highly necessary. When you are wearing tight shoes, your hygiene will be thrown out of the park. You don’t want to be that climber with fungal infections which will make other climbers run in the opposite direction from you. You can also give the infection to someone else.

Nail bed infection

Small things like cutting your nails a little too much can also cause huge problems. If you have cut your nails too much and on top of that you are wearing tight shoes, you are inviting infections with wide arms. These infections can get very serious if you don’t get them looked at immediately.

Hallux rigidus

Yes, it sounds like a Harry Potter spell. It could be because this is where your joint gets partial stiffness because of extra pressure on your toes. This is a very painful condition and you won’t be able to climb properly.

Nerve compression disorders

These disorders occur when extra pressure is exerted on some parts. Wearing tight shoes will squeeze your feet and nerve compression disorders can occur. The symptoms of these disorders could be pain, weakness in muscles, numbness. These things will very easily affect your climbing negatively. 


So, basically all you need to do is buy shoes that are comfortable. We don’t know about things elsewhere, but size definitely matters here. Do not order shoes just because they are cool looking. Try them out first before you make that purchase.

Let your logic making senses do its job. If the climbing shoes hurt you even a little bit and you can’t think of anything else then they are most definitely not the right shoes. Listen to your feet as they are the organs that will help you climb.