Climbing is one of the best activities for developing strength, endurance, and overall conditioning. Additionally, it offers variety on multiple levels: indoors or outdoors, bouldering or sport climbing, overhangs or verticals, and more. Any climber can tell you that selecting the right shoes is critical to enhancing your skill on all types of climbs and staying comfortable.
Unfortunately, some manufacturers use leather, suede, and other animal-derived materials in the production of their climbing shoes. Huge numbers of cows, lambs, and other animals are killed for their skin, which is then processed with toxic chemicals, which are a major source of water pollution and pose a serious health hazard. We can avoid supporting the cruel skins industry by choosing vegan, high-quality synthetic outdoor gear Almost every major company in the climbing shoe business now offers a variety of vegan shoes without compromising on quality.
Check out the list below for our top pick of shoes for each experience level:
Evolv Defy and Elektra are the higher- and lower-volume counterparts of what has to be the classic beginner climbing shoe. Its Velcro straps and flat sole make it extra-comfortable, especially for those who are not quite used to the feeling of curled toes and extra-snug laces. And since they’re animal-friendly, everyone’s a winner.
As the name implies, these shoes are breathable and great for the gym. Their slight curvature provides that bit of extra strength that comes from curled toes, without compromising on comfort. As an added bonus, these shoes are designed to be machine washable. Check out our cruelty-free laundry detergent options.
These awesome all-around shoes have a more intense toe curl than most beginner shoes, which helps add the foot power necessary to climb overhung routes and tackle more difficult bouldering problems. The slightly thinner sole helps maintain comfort and gives climbers a better feel for the rock beneath their feet. It also has an innovative speed-lace system, which helps climbers get the convenience of Velcro without sacrificing the versatility of laces.
Don’t let the flat sole fool you: These shoes hold their own on difficult routes with their extra sticky rubber. In fact, their flat soles provide added comfort that’s great for all-day climbing, and their faux-suede uppers keep them form-fitting without hurting any animals in the process.
With an aggressively downturned toe and firm arch-supporting soles, these shoes provide unparalleled toe power, perfect for overhung or highly technical routes. Feel the power of compassion to cows and sheep in your heart and on your feet!
Hailed as one of the most comfortable high-performance shoes, the Oracle wins Evolv a second appearance on our list. Softer soles and extra space for toes allow for maximum comfort, while the aggressive toe curl ensures power on even the most challenging routes.
This stylish and affordable shoe is great for growing climbers, providing a good balance of strength, protection, and comfort. Your little monkey will love ascending heights and saving animals at the same time.
This truly flat-soled shoe maintains the comfort of a children’s shoe while giving a boost of added power because it doesn’t turn up at the toes. It also has a soft sole that’s great for preventing sore feet on a little climber.
You can show these companies that you’re excited about their vegan options by shopping for a cruelty-free pair the next time you’re in the market for climbing shoes or by letting your gym know that you’d like to see animal-friendly options among its rental shoes. For more ideas, check out PETA’s How to Wear Vegan guide.
This article was written by PETA Intern Danielle Du Preez.