Writer of this article
I’ve been climbing for about 10 years both indoors and outdoors.
I used to work at a bouldering gym in Tokyo. I’ve been to several countries, sometimes have lived there for work, and experienced a lot of different climbs.
Hope this article helps!
What do you want to buy at climbing gear shops in Japan?
There are a lot of outdoor shops in Tokyo. At outdoor shops, you can buy equipment for many types of outdoor activities. However, depending on the purpose of your shopping, the shop you should visit may differ. For example, some shops specialize in hiking gear, but not climbing gear. Some other shops handle a lot of climbing gear, but not camping gear. You may find a lot of online shops that sell climbing shoes, but unlike sneakers, they fit very differently so you should avoid buying them online. If you are thinking about buying them, it is necessary to visit the actual store and try them on. In this article, I would like to recommend gear shops that specialize in climbing shoes.
Differences between regular shoes and climbing shoes
In case you do not know anything about rock climbing shoes, here is some basic information. Climbing shoes are shoes, but unlike any other shoes, they have unique features.
Rock climbing shoes look different from regular shoes. They are small, colorful, and mostly covered with black rubber.
The soles of rock climbing shoes are a lot stickier than the ones on regular shoes. The soles are made just for rock climbing and have better traction.
Because of the narrow shape, climbing shoes feel smaller than the size listed on the label.
Rock climbing shoes are mostly made from either artificial or authentic leather.
Most climbing shoes have velcro straps. There are not many lace-up climbing shoes and slipper type shoes.
・Buying them online
You might have experienced buying regular shoes like sneakers and boots online. Unlike these types of shoes, buying climbing shoes online is not recommended without trying them on first. The size, shape, and structure are all very different from regular shoes.
Things you need to be aware of before visiting a climbing shop
There are a few things you need to know before trying on rock shoes at a shop.
Try on the shoes after asking the store staff
Some shops display all the shoes and sizes so that customers can try them out right away. However, even though shoes in your size might be on display right in front of you, trying them on without first telling someone who works in the store is not recommended.
Use plastic bags or socks when you wear them
It is necessary to wear plastic bags or socks when you try on climbing shoes. Some of the stores are very strict about this; if you try them on without wearing anything, the store may require you to buy them even if they do not fit. Plastic bags are provided at all stores. *Be cautious choosing climbing shoes when wearing plastic bags; tight shoes are easier to fit into, making it easier to accidentally buy shoes that are too small.
Choosing the right climbing shoes
Choosing the right shoes is the most important, but the hardest part of buying rock climbing shoes. These categories might help you select the right ones.
How tight do they need to be?
Your climbing shoes should be smaller than regular shoes so that you can step on tiny edges on the wall. With loose climbing shoes, it is hard to put power on your toes and moreover, your feet can slip off the rocks easily. If you are wearing the right size, your foot should be making a fist inside your shoe. Unlike sneakers, climbing shoes are not made to be worn all day. Your climbing shoes should be as tight as you can put them on for 20 minutes maximum.
The size listed on climbing shoes
There are more than 15 brands available at most shops. The popular brands are La Sportiva, SCARPA, and Adidas. Every brand has its own extensive lineup from beginner to performance. One very confusing point is that the actual size of the shoes differs between the brands. For example, if you wear US9 La Sportiva climbing shoes, US10 SCARPA climbing shoes will fit you. In spite of the fact that both of these brands are made in Italy, SCARPA tends to run smaller than La Sportiva.
Shapes of climbing shoes
All climbing shoes are asymmetric. Some of the performance climbing shoes even have curved shapes, which is called downtoe. In other words, the shoes for beginners are less asymmetric and downtoe than performance shoes.
What is your foot shape?
If you are wearing the right size shoe and it still hurts, you may want to check out your foot shape. There are three types of foot shapes. Here is a basic guide for three major foot shapes.
・If you have greek toes
Because of your index toe, pointy climbing shoes do not suit you. Climbing shoes that are more symmetrical are recommended.
・If you have roman toes
Your toes are lined up more horizontally than other foot shapes. Wide and round toe climbing shoes are recommended.
・If you have egyptian toes
Any shape of climbing shoes are recommended.
In addition to your foot shape, your insteps are also crucial. If you have high insteps, lace-up climbing shoes suit you. The straps of velcro climbing shoes may not be long enough for you to close up. Slipper climbing shoes may be too tight or uncomfortable for your feet. Wide climbing shoes are the best match for people with high insteps. If you have narrow insteps, it is not necessary to choose narrow climbing shoes, but they may fit better than regular shoes.
What level are you?
Depending on your level, recommended climbing shoes vary. Less asymmetry and flat-soled (no downtoe) climbing shoes are recommended for beginners. With asymmetric and downturned climbing shoes, it is hard to learn the basic climbing moves such as placing your feet. They are much more painful than flat and less asymmetric climbing shoes regardless of your foot shape. They are recommended for intermediates and higher.
What are the shoes made out of?
Climbing shoes are made out of several different types of materials; most of them are either authentic or synthetic leather, and some are nylon. If you have genuine leather climbing shoes, they will get a little bigger every time you wear them because they stretch well. You may want to choose a half size smaller. Synthetic and nylon climbing shoes do not stretch much. If you are going to get them, the size needs to be just right.
Top climbing shoe shops in Japan
The best climbing shoe shops included in this article were chosen based on how many brands and models the shop has. Honestly, it is hard to find the right stores because most outdoor shops do not list how many and what model of climbing shoes they actually have at the store. I can say for sure that each shop listed below definitely has a great number of climbing shoes because I have visited all of them.
Kamoshika sports has a store in Tokyo and another in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture. At the store in Tokyo, more than 35 models are available. At the store in Yokohama, more than 50 models are available. Kamoshika sports only handles three brands of climbing shoes: La Sportiva, SCARPA, and UNPARALLEL. The store in Tokyo has a tiny wall where you can try climbing shoes. At the store in Yokohama, there is a huge wall for the same purpose. As far as I know, only a few stores offer this kind of service.
Kamoshika sports Yokohama
Operation Hours: Weekdays 11 am ~8 pm, weekends and holidays 11 am ~ 7 pm
Location: 2-6−32 Takashima, Nishi Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa
Kamoshika sports Tokyo
Operation Hours: Weekdays 11 am ~8 pm, weekends and holidays 11 am ~ 7 pm
Location: 1-28-6 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku City, Tokyo
Calafate is an outdoor shop located in Mejiro, Tokyo. The shop has more than 15 brands and 100 models available at the store. The number of climbing shoes is one of the best around Tokyo. The good thing about this store is that there are about 30 pairs of discontinued or less popular climbing shoes available at discounted prices. It would be a great deal if they fit you. One negative aspect is that some popular models are sometimes out of stock since the store is well known and popular. The store can also be packed with customers on the weekends. You can see if they have your size on their online store.
Operation Hours: Weekdays 11 am ~ 8 pm, Saturday 10 am ~ 7 pm, Sunday and holidays 10 am ~ 6 pm
Location: B1F 3−2−12 Shimoochiai, Shinjuku City, Tokyo
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Sakaiya sports offer a whole bunch of outdoor items including climbing shoes. Their stores are separated by 5 categories and are all located around the same area. The store has more than 15 brands and 100 pairs of climbing shoes. They can be tested on a small wall at the store. Most of the times I visited the store, there was no one trying out climbing shoes. They also have an online store available. It is useful to order online if you know what size and model you want and how they fit, or to check out if they have your size in stock.
Operation Hours: 11 am ~8 pm
Location: 2-20 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo
ICI sports is a Japanese outdoor retail store that has a lot of locations all over Japan. There are about 10 ICI sports stores around Tokyo. The good thing about ICI sports is that the shops are easy to find. However, the number of the models they have varies depending on which store you go to and their online does not have information about them. I recommend visiting either ICI sports Shinjuku Higashiguchi BICQLO shop or the one located in Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku. Most of the climbing shoes they handle are La Sportiva or UNPARALLEL. About 30 models are available at the store.
ICI sports Shinjuku Higashiguchi BICQLO
Operation Hours: 11 am ~8 pm
Location: BICQLO Shinjuku East 8F 3−29−1, Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo
ICI sports Kanda Jinbocho
Operation Hours: 10 am ~8 pm
Location: 1−6−1 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo
B-Pump Ogikubo is a climbing gym located in Ogikubo, Tokyo. There is a section that sells climbing shoes and some other climbing products. About five to sixF\ brands and more than 60 models are available. You can check out what models they sell on their online store, but it is not what they actually have at B-Pump Ogikubo because they share the inventory of other Pump climbing gyms.
Operation Hours: Weekdays 12 pm ~11 pm, weekends and holidays 10 am ~ 10 pm
Location: 3F Ogikubo Toa Kaikan, 1-10-12, Kamiogi, Suginami-ku, Tokyo