Whether you can boulder barefoot is kind of a coin toss. Bouldering barefoot is allowed in some climbing gyms and straight out banned in others. I’d say if your bouldering gym is on the commercial side, they definitely won’t allow bouldering in bare feet. However, if you go to an old-school bouldering gym, you might have a better chance.
📚 Learn more about bouldering in our Bouldering Beginners Guide
Why is Bouldering Barefoot not allowed in Bouldering Gyms?
Bouldering barefoot isn’t allowed for hygiene reasons. After all, our feet aren’t the most well-cared-for parts of our bodies (especially among us climbers). Our feet are dirty. They sit in sweat-inducing socks all day, creating a warm and damp place favored by bacteria.
While we can wash our hands (and use liquid chalk) to get our hands as clean as possible, we don’t really do the same for our feet (yet?)
So if you are bouldering at the climbing gym in your stinky, bare feet, you are essentially putting the germs from your feet all over the handholds. Which, in turn, will end up on your hands (and those of others).
So there you have it. Barefoot bouldering is not allowed at most climbing gyms because its simply not hygienic.
Similarly, bouldering in sneakers is not allowed in most bouldering gyms either.
You can boulder barefoot outside
If you really want to boulder in your bare feet, you can always do so outside of course. Nobody is policing the outdoor boulders after all (or at least I hope not).
The barefoot boulderer: Charles Albert
If bouldering barefoot fascinates you, I’d recommend you check out the video of Charles Albert below. Charles Albert is a french boulderer known as ‘the barefoot boulderer’. This fascinating climber has even sent a potential V17 (9a converted) using just his feet.
(Yes he chalks his feet)
The way he uses his feet to his advantage impresses me every time. Maybe Charles Albert is onto something and going barefoot is the intended way and the future of bouldering.
Here are some more barefooted sends.
Climbing Shoes that are Close to going Barefoot
If you want to experience what it is like to climb barefoot, the best thing you can do is to get the softest climbing shoes possible. Here are some climbing shoes that make it feel like you are climbing in socks.
Best choice: Scarpa Furia Air
The Scarpa Furia Air is an incredibly soft climbing shoe that makes it feel like you are climbing in your socks. Being the lightest shoe on the market, these are about as close to going barefoot as you can expect.
Inside Furia Airs, your toes have complete freedom to replicate barefoot climbing.
TIP: don’t go for a super tight fit, to experience a barefoot climbing experience you’ll get more out of them in a more comfortable fit as opposed to a super aggressive toe curl.
Ideal for All Bouldering: Scarpa Drago
Scarpa Dragos are soft climbing shoes that offer exceptional performance in bouldering. Favored by many Olympic boulderers as well as Magnus Mitdbo, you can’t go wrong with a pair of dragos.
These have less of a sock-like feel than Furia Airs but they make up for it in heel and toe performance.
Indoor Bouldering: Evolv Zenist
The Evolv Zenist is a soft climbing shoe designed for indoor bouldering. This is a great option if you are looking for something sock-like which still has good edging capabilities.
More articles like this
- Indoor Bouldering Basics: intro to gym climbing
- Tips for short climbers
- Complete Guide to Bouldering Grades (& conversions)
- How to start and finish a boulder problem
- Can I get abs from climbing?
- Bouldering vs rock climbing
- How often you should go bouldering per week
- Why bouldering is a good full-body workout
- Climbing 101: what is cutting feet?
- How long does it take to progress in bouldering?
- How much does it cost to start bouldering?
- What to wear indoor bouldering
- How much of a bouldering wall can you use?
- Should climbing shoes hurt?
- How many climbing shoes do you really need?
- Yoga for climbers
- Core workout for climbers