Do You Wear Socks With Climbing Shoes? Experts say

Do you wear socks with climbing shoes? This is a question climbers have been talking about for ages, and they’re still debating it today. Some climbers, even the really good ones, prefer to go sock-free, while others like to keep their feet covered when they’re climbing in their shoes.

The decision of whether to wear socks with climbing shoes ultimately comes down to personal preference and the type of climbing you do. But, if your goal is to achieve the utmost sensitivity and pinpoint accuracy, opting to go without socks might be the more suitable decision.

Some climbers swear by the skin-to-shoe connection for that ultra-precise grip, while others say, “Give me my socks or give me comfort!” It’s like a cliffhanger in the climbing world, and we’re about to scale new heights in this discussion!

The Amazing Story of Climbing Shoe Evolution

climbing shoes

Climbing shoes have quite the adventure tale to tell! In the beginning, climbers made do with basic shoes that were more about foot protection than anything else. But as rock climbing grew in popularity and skill, so did the shoes. They transformed into high-performance, super-precise, and comfortable gear. Let’s take a quick look at the incredible journey of climbing shoes, from their simple start to the high-tech wonders climbers rely on today.

Before the Climbing Craze of the ’70s

In the pre-rock climbing explosion era of the 1970s, climbers relied on canvas athletic shoes with thick rubber soles, often referred to as pumps or plimsolls. These were the go-to specialized shoes of the time, and climbers typically wore them with socks. Notable models included the La Sportiva Mariacher and the Boreal Fire shoes.

The ’80s Revolution

Fast forward to the ’80s, and climbers were saying goodbye to their socks. This decade witnessed a significant leap in climbing shoe technology. Manufacturers started crafting shoes with bare skin in mind. It’s worth noting that a whopping 95% of climbers today choose to go sockless with their climbing shoes, according to field observations at our local gym.

Why Some Climbers Wear Socks:


One of the primary reasons climbers opt to wear socks with their climbing shoes is comfort. Climbing shoes are designed to fit snugly around your feet to provide maximum control and sensitivity. However, this tight fit can be uncomfortable for some, especially during extended climbing sessions. Socks can act as a barrier between your skin and the shoe’s interior, reducing friction and discomfort.

Moisture Management: 

Feet can sweat, especially in the heat of climbing. Moisture can lead to blisters and an overall unpleasant climbing experience. Socks can help wick away moisture, keeping your feet dry and reducing the chances of developing blisters.


Wearing socks can help maintain the cleanliness of your climbing shoes. Climbing shoes can build up sweat and odor over time, and using socks can resolve this issue by absorbing sweat and preventing it from directly contacting the shoe’s interior.

Temperature Regulation: 

In cold weather or alpine climbing, wearing socks can provide a layer of insulation, keeping your feet warmer during climbs.

Why Some Climbers Don’t Wear Socks:

Better Sensitivity: 

Climbing shoes are designed to provide maximum sensitivity, allowing you to feel the rock surface and make precise movements. Socks can reduce this sensitivity by adding a layer between your foot and the shoe. This can be particularly important for advanced climbers tackling difficult routes.

Tighter Fit: 

Climbing shoes are created with the intention to be worn without socks to achieve a snug fit. Socks can create additional bulk inside the shoe, potentially affecting your ability to fit into tight spaces or smaller footholds.

Potential for Bunching: 

Socks can sometimes bunch up inside the shoe, causing discomfort and reducing performance. This can be a significant drawback, especially during technical climbs.

The Middle Ground:

Some climbers choose a middle-ground approach by wearing very thin, low-profile socks specifically designed for climbing. These socks aim to provide a compromise between sensitivity and comfort.

Bottom Line:

The decision of whether to wear socks with climbing shoes ultimately comes down to personal preference and the type of climbing you do. If you prioritize comfort, moisture management, and hygiene, wearing socks might be a good option. However, if you’re aiming for maximum sensitivity and precision, going sockless could be the better choice.

Remember that the right fit is crucial when it comes to climbing shoes. Whether you choose to wear socks or not, make sure your shoes fit properly and provide the necessary support for your climbing style. Ultimately, the best approach is the one that allows you to enjoy your climbing experience to the fullest.

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