Do You Have to Wear Socks with Climbing Shoes?

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Climbers rejoice! The answer to that age-old question, the answer that will solve the world’s problems, is finally here. Lest we receive an unacceptable answer, we should probably start by defining the question. So, do you wear socks with climbing shoes?

Many a fiery debate has been had atop the boulders on this very topic. Everyone is an expert; it seems. Just like their competitors, the virologists and hurricane meteorologists, these know-it-alls claim to have the answers for the unanswerable. Well, here’s the stinky truth about your shoes, friends. You can wear them however you like.

Should You Wear Socks With Climbing Shoes?

Do you wear socks with climbing shoes? To a non-climber, it might seem like a silly question. But nearly everyone nowadays wears their shoes with no socks. It’s a fashionable choice and the one that shows off how great your climbing shoes are. You aren’t likely to see professionals wearing climbing socks, so why should you?

But the answer is more nuanced than you might think. There are lots of reasons to not wear socks with climbing shoes, and just as many reasons to wear them.

Reasons You Shouldn’t Wear Socks With Rock Climbing Shoes

Modern climbing shoes are mostly designed to be worn without socks. The designers spend a lot of time contemplating sensitivity. The rubber soles are designed to transfer much of the rock’s feel into your foot’s sole. Adding a thick layer of cotton climbing socks isn’t going to help that.

If you’re looking to do intense climbing on steeply overhanging rock, bouldering, or competitions, consider investing in the best shoes you can afford. In these cases, you probably won’t wear socks with climbing shoes.

Many of these climbing shoes are made to fit like a glove. If you’re going to go one size up, you might be able to get a pair that fits well with socks.

Reasons You Should Wear Socks With Rock Climbing Shoes

Do you wear socks with rock climbing shoes? It might be hard to believe, but you’re not alone. There are plenty of reasons why it’s a good idea, and there’s really no right or wrong.

First of all, not all of us are climbing rock stars. If you’re doing easy or moderate climbing, you probably don’t need to worry about it–just do what’s comfortable! If you don’t need maximum performance, other factors might be more relevant to you. Some people find wearing shoes without socks is just…gross. If it doesn’t feel right and makes you feel uncomfortable, you probably shouldn’t do it.

Climbing socks are a good idea if you’ve got extra sensitive feet. They protect your dogs from the inner lining and stitching of the shoe. If your shoes are at all loose, socks with rock climbing shoes can protect you against chafe and excess movement.

Socks can also help protect the shoes for your sweaty, stinky feet. And climbing socks are a must-have sanitary item when using rental shoes!

When Is It A Good Idea to Wear Socks In Climbing Shoes?

Do You Have to Wear Socks with Climbing Shoes_Trekkerr

So what’s the answer then? There seems to be only one consensus–wear socks if that’s what is most comfortable. If your shoes are sized for rock climbing socks, then wear them. If you have purchased skin-tight bareback shoes, you probably couldn’t wear socks with them if you tried.

If you’re just starting, the choice may be a bit tougher. How do you decide? Do you wear socks with rock climbing shoes or not? Based on what we see on the mountains, most people choose not to. But plenty of people do.

You might also check with the manufacturer of your shoes. If you pick up a pair of high-end performance models, they’re likely to advise you against socks. Comfort models may be different. Older shoes that have stretched might also find new life when used with socks.

Finally, many climbers use socks to protect their ankles and keep their pant legs from snagging. In these cases, they size their shoes to fit well over socks. It’s an especially useful tool in crack climbing.

How Do You Wear Climbing Shoes?

Your climbing shoes should be considered a piece of essential equipment if you’re going to take the sport seriously. You need to spend some time researching and trying on different pairs. Think critically about how you’re going to use them and where.

If you are looking at rock climbing socks, remember that not all of them are created equally. A compromise might be to use a thin ankle sock, which will keep your shoes cleaner and less smelly while also not adding too much bulk between your foot and the rock. Of course, if you’re going ice climbing in the winter, you’ll want an extra thick sock for warmth regardless!

Are Climbing Shoes Supposed to be Tight?

If you are looking for absolute maximum performance, your climbing shoes should fit like gloves. And just like gloves, loose or baggy climbing shoes will not do. Imagine feeling out slivers of footholds in a sheer face with a loose-fitting shoe? It’s not a very good idea.

The more advanced or more technical your climbing, the more likely you’ll want the tightest pair of shoes that fit the best. Remember, they will stretch a little bit, but you don’t want uncomfortable pinching or stitches that rub in the wrong places.

Should You Buy Climbing Shoes a Size Bigger?

If your climbing style is a little more relaxed, and you want to wear socks with climbing shoes, buying climbing shoes one size bigger makes sense. The ideal situation would be to have the climbing socks you want to use and try on shoes on top of them.

The main takeaway is this–if you’re going to wear socks, go a little larger. If you’re not wearing socks, make sure they fit perfectly to avoid slips and chafe. It’s probably not practical to expect one pair of shoes to do both, though.


In the end, whether or not you wear socks with climbing shoes is an individual style choice. You have to balance your needs for top performance with your personal comfort. Some folks love their shoes sans rock climbing socks, while others want their trusty old knee-highs that feel like your mom’s Christmas sweater.