Determine your climbing shoe size correctly with the Red Chili size advisor

The right climbing shoe size is an individual thing. No two feet are alike. The perfect fit is not only about foot length and width. The shape of the foot, i.e. the different length of the toes, the shape of the arch of the foot as well as changes and deformations, e.g. the widespread hallux valgus, play a role. In addition, some people are very sensitive to pressure, while others feel perfectly comfortable in almost any shoe.  

These conditions make it difficult to give an experienced and reliable information, e.g. via an online tool, which spits out a number for your perfect size in the end. That's why we want to provide you with a size guide that will provide you with knowledge so that you can make an informed and conscious decision when buying your climbing shoes.

The golden rule for fun and performance: the shoes have to fit

First of all, the most important thing: your climbing shoes must fit and sit snugly on your feet - not too tight, not too wide. The motto is to try them on. Make sure you don't have too much air or play in the shoe. At the same time, the shoes should not squeeze your feet. Too tight shoes and sore feet can limit the fun and prevent you from reaching your full potential.  

Fortunately, technology has advanced so much that the days of buying climbing shoes at least two sizes too small and squeezing in with a plastic bag to get a good grip are long gone! Today, shoes are designed to perform when they fit comfortably.

What points should I pay attention to when choosing a size?

1. A good guide is your street shoe size. 

At Red Chili, we design our lasts so that the fit of our climbing shoes corresponds to your street shoe size. Please also consider your climbing shoe size, what your preferences are or what you are used to wearing. If you generally wear your shoes rather wide, you can also transfer this to your climbing shoes, just as if you prefer tight shoes. A general tip is: comfort à la slippers is too big, painful is too small. 

This is how to choose the right size in the Red Chili collection:

  • COMFORT Line

    Here we recommend that you choose a street shoe size. You can adjust the number up or down a little, depending on which street shoes you use as a guide - rather wide sneakers or precise approach shoes. 
    COMFORT = street shoe size


    In the performance category, you are also well advised to use your street shoe size as a guide. If you have an ambitious project or are a performance-oriented climber, it can be helpful to deliberately choose a shoe that is up to half a size smaller. 
    PERFORMANCE = street shoes up to max. 0.5 UK size tighter

  • HIGH-END Linie

    Here, too, the principle of street shoe size applies. If you are aiming for full performance and high-end climbing, you can - at the expense of wearing comfort - choose your model particularly tight to build up even more tension. 

    HIGH-END = street shoes up to max. 1 UK size tighter

    2. The type of climbing shoe and what you want to do with it. 

    When you buy a new climbing shoe, you should think about what you mainly want to use it for. Should it be a model for top performance, long wear or something in between? Also, how ambitious you are in climbing or bouldering and how much experience you already have. 

    Generally speaking, a shoe designed for performance is also more uncomfortable than a shoe designed for comfort. Logically, because performance is often achieved through tension systems such as downturn, asymmetry and pretension. They push the foot into a certain shape, shorten the distance between the heel and the big toe, thus building up tension and are accordingly not as comfortable.

    Your experience, climbing or bouldering goals and your ambitions determine which type of climbing shoe (at Red Chili COMFORT, PERFORMANCE or HIGH-END - see point 1) you choose and accordingly whether and how far you deviate from your street shoe size. Generally speaking, the more performance-oriented you are, the tighter the shoes should fit.  

    Extra tip for soft shoes: If you do a lot of bouldering or climbing, you often look for particularly sensitive and soft shoes to get a good feel for the ground. If you have a soft model in mind, such as our SENSOR, you should be careful not to make it too tight. In a model that is too small, your foot will build up tension in the shoe and take away the intended snugness and sensitivity.

    3. LV stands for Low Volume  

    As you've probably noticed, there are shoes called LV, which is often misinterpreted as 'ladies version'. LV stands for Low Volume. These models are designed for narrow feet that don't quite fill the normal shoes. This creates voids that can prevent a snug fit. At Red Chili, we assume that wearers of low-volume shoes are lighter and adjust other elements such as midsoles or materials so that the shoe is perceived as soft or hard as the 'normal', i.e. non-LV model by a heavier person. If you have rather narrow feet and often have play or air in your climbing shoe, we recommend filtering by LV / Low Volume in our online shop.

    4. Upper Material and Rubber 

    The material also has an influence on choosing the right climbing shoe size. Genuine leather and suede widen more than synthetic leather or artificial suede. Especially leather shoes without lining can widen up to a complete size. Leather shoes with lining contain this effect somewhat. Microfibre or artificial leather is more dimensionally stable and less yielding. You should definitely take these properties into account when buying.

    This means that you can buy a pure leather shoe tightly, as it will expand over time to fit the shape of your foot. With faux leather models, you should be aware that they won't give much, so they shouldn't be too tight or pinch too much when you try them on. 

    You should also look at whether your shoe has a very high rubber rand or toepatches. Shoes with a high rubber content have a more defined fit and are less yielding overall. This applies especially to models with a lot of pretension, downturn and asymmetry. At Red Chili, you will find low-volume (LV) versions, especially in the highly technical climbing shoes, so that you can choose your fit more precisely. A shoe with less rubber, for example from our COMFORT line, stretches more easily and is more forgiving of small deviations in the fit than a less stretchy shoe.

    5. Closure System 

    Depending on the closure system, you can adjust your shoes more or less well. Of course, a lacing system that runs far to the front offers more individual adjustment options than a single Velcro fastener. Personal preferences, comfort when putting on and taking off, but also the desired fit and adjustability often play a role here. If you have chosen a model with lacing, you will also be able to adjust it perfectly over time if it widens, for example because it is made of leather. Even shoes with a double or triple velcro fastening in the opposite direction can still be adjusted well and maintain the fit and even pull. Loafers that have no closure at all or sometimes only a Velcro, on the other hand, have to be comparatively tight when you buy them.

    In summary: The most important rules for the right climbing shoe size: 

    • Avoid shoes that have air and voids in them, otherwise the shoe will not sit securely on your foot and you will lose performance. 
    • Make sure the toes are flat or slightly turned up and the toe knuckles are not painfully pressed against the top of the toe box. 
    • The heel should fit snugly, even when you stand on your toes. The edge of the shoe should not press on your Achilles tendon. 
    • Leather stretches more than synthetic leather. Shoes with a high rubber rand, toe patches and overall high rubber content are more dimensionally stable and adapt less. 
    • LV stands for Low Volume and is aimed at people with narrow feet. 
    • Every foot is different. If you can't get into a shoe at all, it's probably not the right model for you. 
    • In general, the more performance-oriented your climbing and bouldering, the tighter the shoe should fit.

    How to measure your feet correctly

    A look at our size chart will show you that for each size we also indicate the corresponding measured foot length from heel to toe. Here, too, it is always a good idea to try the shoes on and off. Many specialist shops offer the opportunity to try on climbing steps of different sizes and thus feel how the shoe performs vertically or to what extent the shoe supports you, for example.  

    If you can't try them on in the shop, you can measure your feet as a further guide in addition to the street shoe method and use this to make the best possible choice of shoes. The most important thing is that you measure correctly and that you measure both feet, as many people have feet of different lengths. The following instructions will help you to do this.

    How long is your foot?

    To find out, you need: 

    • a smooth DIN A4 sheet of paper 
    • a pencil with a fine tip that gives off its colour well (e.g. a fine liner is suitable here so that you don't press through the paper when drawing on a soft surface and you still get a clearly visible mark. 
    • a centimetre measure (ruler, tape measure, folding rule, etc.) 

    And this is how it works:

    • First, find a straight wall against which you can stand upright. 
    • Now take the sheet of paper and place it with the short side directly against the edge of the wall. 
    • Stand upright with your back to the wall and place your foot on the paper so that your heel touches the wall. 
    • Now mark the place on the paper where your longest toe ends. Depending on the shape of your foot, this can be the big toe or the second toe. 
    • Tip: You will get the best result if you stand upright yourself and have a second person help you mark your feet. 
    • Now measure the distance between the wall and the mark with a centimetre ruler.  
    • Repeat the measurement with your other foot.

    How do you best interpret the result?

    If you now look at the two measured foot lengths, one of the following statements should be true:

    1. According to the size chart, your feet clearly fall into one and the same shoe size.  

    In this case, you can use the result as a guide and choose a half size smaller for shoes from our PERFORMANCE line or up to a whole size smaller for shoes from our HIGH-END line. 

    2. Your feet are pretty much the same length, but according to the size chart you are between two sizes.

    In this case, both sizes can work for you. For the sake of our environment, you can still choose the better size for you according to your goals and not order several sizes on the off chance: If you are used to wide, comfortable shoes, the larger size might suit you.

    If you are more performance-oriented and prefer tight shoes, the smaller size may be the better choice. Also pay attention to the composition of the materials - leather can still stretch a little, synthetic materials less so. 3. 

    3. Your feet are of different lengths and correspond to 2 different shoe sizes according to the size chart. 

    At this point we recommend basically the same procedure as in the previous case, in which you make your choice according to your habit, performance orientation and, if necessary, upper material. However, if your foot lengths are very different, you should rather orientate yourself towards the longer foot. In the end, your shoes may be tight, but they should never be uncomfortable or even painful.

    With these methods, you should be able to find the right shoe size for you quickly and easily. Of course, it can still happen that the shoes you buy don't fit properly. Take into account that, depending on the material used, the shoes may still stretch a little. In the end, however, your new shoes must fit you and support you perfectly on the wall. If this is not the case, you can return them to us and exchange them for the right size.  

    If you prefer to be on the safe side and buy your shoes locally, you can check our website to see where you can find them in your area. If you already have a specific shoe model in mind, you can even check availability at retailers in your area. To do this, go to the product page of the desired shoe model and use the "Buy local" function. Depending on the region, you may not find a specialist retailer in your immediate vicinity that currently has your desired shoe model available.  

    If you would also like to try on different Red Chili models and compare them with each other, then come along to one of our Red Chili URBAN TOUR Testivals, where we will have many different shoe models in many sizes for you to test and will also be happy to advise you individually - we look forward to seeing you there.