Rock climbing is one of the most satisfying and liberating sports you can undertake. The feeling you have as you hike out to a rock-face, in the midst of beautiful countryside, belt up and tackle a difficult climb has few equals. As with many physical activities, picking the right gear is essential. Anybody who has ever been hiking will know that a bad pair of boots can be the difference between a good walk and one that’s tainted with discomfort and misery. The same is true of rock climbing. This little guide details the different parts of a rock-climbing shoe, a few of the different types available on the market and then offers some tips on picking the best-fit solution for your current situation. The base of a shoe consists of the sole and the rand. The sole is the bottom part of the shoe and the rand is the thick rubber layer that runs around the perimeter just above the sole, and is usually about an inch in width. The toe area of the rand will be used for “hooking” onto outcrops and nooks. The tongue is the flap beneath the laces and extends to the very bottom of your shin. When laced up, the tongue should naturally mould itself to the top of your foot and the bottom of the shin. There shouldn’t be any uncomfortable pressure in any area. All climbing shoes will also have padding to give extra comfort to your feet. Choose a shoe that has a breathable, snug inner-lining without sacrificing comfort. Climbing shoes can either be lace-up or utilize a “slipper” design. There’s little difference in performance between the two so it’s usually best to go with the most comfortable option. Now you know the particular features of a climbing shoe, how do you go about buying the right pair? Shoes are often tailored specifically for a certain style of climbing. If you’re beginning, be aware of the kind of style that you’re actually learning. If you’re only planning on doing some light bouldering, for example, you won’t need a shoe that’s as aggressive and uncomfortable as one required for intensive sport climbing. Make sure you do some research on the kind of features that will best suit your style. Comfort will be the most important factor in choosing a beginning pair of shoes. Those designed for greater sensitivity and control will be required for later, more intensive climbs. Your feet will be in a curved position inside the shoe and those that actively increase this curve tend to give more power to the climber. Without sacrificing comfort, the shoe should be tight around your foot with no specific pressure points that induce pain. Finally, disregard the size numbers. They vary from country to country and rarely accurately represent individual sizes. As a final point, I would personally suggest you do some further research into the Evolv Pontas and the La Sportiva Mantis. Both are well-priced good all-round shoes and will be perfect for beginning climbers. Good luck and happy climbing!