Why you shouldn’t wear socks in climbing shoes

You may have noticed that you are the only climber at the climbing gym wearing socks in their shoes, should you be worried? Is it bad to wear socks in climbing shoes? Does it turn you into a laughing stock? In this article, we’ll answer all your questions.

Should you wear socks in climbing shoes?

Generally, you should not wear socks in climbing shoes. Socks put extra padding between your feet and your shoes and that is the last thing you want as it will give you less sensitivity and make your footwork sloppier.

That’s the main reason why you hardly see experienced climbers with socks on (though exceptions exist).

Reasons you shouldn’t wear socks in climbing shoes

why you shouldnt wear socks in climbing shoes

Climbing shoes should be worn tight

In our article regarding climbing shoe tightness, we lay out that climbing shoes should be worn tight. They should hurt during the break-in period and your toes should at least be slightly curled inside them. That’s how anyone shopping for intermediate or performance climbing shoes should go about it.

But if you wear socks inside your climbing shoes, you can go as tight as you want, but you won’t have any of the benefits that come with it.

Moreover, if you size your climbing shoes while wearing socks, you won’t be able to ever take them off as your climbing shoes will simply not be tight enough once you decide to go barefoot.

Feel and sensitivity

The most important reason to not wear socks inside climbing shoes is that they will significantly lower the feel and sensitivity of your feet inside your shoes.

The reason we wear climbing shoes tight is so that we can have as little in between the rock and our toes as possible. This feel allows us to have precise footwork. This makes it so that we can edge and smear to successfully send our problems and routes.

If instead, you wear socks inside your shoes, your footwork will be much sloppier. So you are essentially stunting your growth as a climber.

Your feet will get sweaty

Climbing is a demanding sport that will make you sweat quickly. Especially our feet are likely to sweat inside our climbing shoes. If you wear socks inside your climbing shoes, your feet are even more likely to sweat and this may make your socks soggy and slippery which could potentially be dangerous.

Some climbers use wearing socks as an excuse because they have sweaty feet. But wearing socks inside climbing shoes makes your feet sweat even more and in turn, your shoes will smell even worse.

Avoid looks

You are bound to get some finger points and funny looks in your direction if you are seen wearing socks inside intermediate or performance-oriented climbing shoes.

If you are one of those people that doesn’t care what others think, go on, do your thing. But if you want to avoid such looks, size your shoes correctly to fit your feet without the need for socks.

Again, this only applies to intermediate shoes and above. No climber will bat an eye if they see someone wearing socks inside rentals or beginner shoes but please don’t go wearing socks in a pair of downturned shoes…

When is it acceptable to wear socks in climbing shoes?

Inside rental shoes

Rental shoes have had hundreds of different climbers’ feet in them. They are full of germs so the last thing you want is to go barefoot in them! Besides, rental shoes are for beginner climbers who simply don’t need the sensitivity that barefooted climbing offers.

Inside beginner shoes

While I’d advise you to start wearing shoes tightly right away, and preferably go barefoot in them, it is considered acceptable to wear socks inside beginner shoes. After all, when you first start climbing, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable inside your shoes.

So if comfort is very important to you, and you don’t like the feel of going barefoot inside your beginner climbing shoes, by all means, go ahead. No one is judging. As long as you aren’t wearing solutions 😉

Inside old, big shoes

If you have an older pair of climbing shoes that are slightly too big for you (e.g. a miss purchase or a hand-me-down) you might want to wear socks in them and get some use out of them on training days when your footwork isn’t as important.

No, I’m not saying you should buy climbing shoes a size too big just so you can wear socks. But if you have a pair that is too big, this could be a good use for them.

During the break-in period

Once you start getting in the intermediate and advanced stages of climbing, you are likely to buy climbing shoes that are sized down a bit from your street shoe size. These climbing shoes take a while to break in. During this time, climbers will often wear socks inside their shoes to make them stretch more.

One of my own favorite ways to break in new climbing shoes is to wear socks inside them and blow a hair dryer at them while I watch tv or write articles. Who knows, maybe I’m breaking in some climbing shoes right now.

wearing socks in climbing shoes during the break-in period is a good way to stretch them out
Breaking in a pair of women’s climbing shoes with socks on

When is it unacceptable to wear socks inside climbing shoes?

While socks shouldn’t be worn inside climbing shoes beyond rental or beginner climbing shoes, the only time it would be considered completely unacceptable is to wear socks inside aggressive, performance shoes.

La Sportiva solutions are performance shoes that should never be worn with socks

That’s like throwing money in the water. If you are going to wear socks inside your shoes, don’t buy expensive performance shoes. That’s one surefire way to get laughed at and look like a rich asshole amongst a bunch of climbing dirtbags.

Aggressive performance shoes are meant to be worn tightly to get the most out of them. You have to downsize to get inside them so that they fit like a glove (or a sock). Why on earth would you wear socks inside those? By wearing socks, you leave no room for sensitivity, and the features that make the shoe so powerful essentially become useless.


Hopefully, you’ve learned everything you need to know about wearing socks inside climbing shoes. It’s considered acceptable inside beginner and rental shoes but mostly should be avoided beyond that.

If you’ve been climbing with climbing socks on until now, you should try to go barefoot in your next session, you’ll notice you have a lot more feel and sensitivity, and who knows, your footwork might improve.

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