gender specific climbing shoes

Is there a need for gender specific climbing shoes?

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Climbing shoes for men and or women

Is there a need for gender-specific climbing shoes? Manufacturers in the past few years have willingly jumped on the bandwagon of creating gender-specific products. Yes, men and women are different and thus require different designs. Or is it?

Colour and print difference

Alright, the most obvious difference that differentiates men’s shoes from women’s shoes. The main reason why men buy men’s design and women buy women’s design. The colour and print. This has nothing to do with gear performance per se. It is more of a marketing gimmick to target products at a specific customer segment. If men are fine with wearing pink climbing shoes with flower prints. Then there shouldn’t be any issues with men buying women’s climbing shoes.

Sizing difference

First of all, the shoe size chart is complicated as it is. With US, UK, and EU sizing along with measurement in inches and centimetres. And on top of that, there is a difference in men’s and women’s shoe sizing 😫.

In general, women have smaller size feet compared to men. However, size measurement is just a number. The best fit can only be achieved by putting your feet into the shoe to test out how it feels. It doesn’t matter if it’s a men’s or women’s sizing.

There is advice that suggests climbing shoes should be comfortable. I will make corrections to that. Climbing shoes are not comfortable, if it is we’ll be wearing them when shopping in the mall. Climbing shoes are supposed to be somewhat uncomfortable. However, there shouldn’t be too much discomfort when wearing for long durations.

Material difference

Climbing shoe manufacturers are making different variations of the same shoe model. The “women’s” version uses lightweight material, has a thinner sole and is more flexible. Hence the women’s model has an overall lighter weight compared to the unisex / men’s version. Based on the design logic, the women’s version has nothing catered specifically to women climbers. Climbers of any gender can opt to have lighter shoes with a flexible thinner soles.

Feet shape difference

Yes, men’s and women’s feet shapes are different. Men’s feet in general have a wider ball and wider heel while women’s are smaller and narrower. However, when it comes to climbing this logic does not apply. Climbers of both genders will wear climbing shoes not for comfort but for performance. We climbers will stuff our feet into small narrow climbing shoes to reshape our feet to maximize performance. The tightness of the climbing shoe is not determined by the shape of your gender’s feet. Instead, the degree of tightness is determined by each climber’s preference and tolerance level. Do not wear climbing shoes that are too tight. But climbing shoes are not meant to be comfortable either.

No gender-specific shoes

So is there a need to differentiate climbing shoes by gender? The answer is no. Some climbing shoe manufacturers are differentiating climbing shoes by “volume”. Instead, of categorising climbing shoes as men’s and women’s. It is categorised as normal or low volume (LV). Low-volume climbing shoes have a narrower toe box and heel.

The correct way to categorise climbing shoes

Manufacturers should stop categorising climbing shoes by gender. Instead categorise climbing shoes by size, shape, material used, stiffness and thickness of the sole. Each of these categories can be independent. Hence, instead of climbers selecting shoes in their gender category. Climbers should look at both men’s and women’s shoes in order to get the optimum fit to suit their fitting preferences.

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