What to Wear for Indoor Rock Climbing – All You Need to Know

A closeup shot of many colorful climbing carabiners and knots on a wooden surface.

Like all sports, indoor rock climbing takes special training to be good at. But one of the things that can really attract you to it is the simplicity of the tools and equipment you need to be an accomplished indoor rock climber. Anyone who is starting may think they can just wear what they use in the climbing gym, but that may not always be the case.

Knowing what to wear for indoor rock climbing can determine if you can perform well or fall short of your goal. In this article, you will learn the essential equipment you need to wear when going to a climbing gym.

Before jumping into the list of things you need to have when going on an indoor rock climbing venture, you have to learn about the types of indoor rock climbing activities you can enjoy.

Types of Indoor Rock Climbing Ventures


An indoor free climber making his way up an artificial boulder.

This has to be the simplest of the types you can enjoy. It involves a course that’s relatively close to the ground because it doesn’t use any type of harness or rope. Typically, this is done by someone with relatively more experience or a spotter’s assistance to keep the climber safe when bouldering.

The merit of doing this discipline is it helps build up the climber’s skill and increase strength, balance, and stamina so that they can take any obstacle if they aim to make bouldering their specialty.

Top-Rope Climbing

A man doing a tight-rope climb, walking a line in the sky.

This type of indoor rock climbing is typically the one that most beginners are familiar with. A rope will be secured to an anchor on top of the course when performing this activity. One end will be tied to the climber, and the other will be held by another person called belayer. Their goal is to catch the climber in case they fall.

If you’re a beginner, this is the most recommended activity as it is relatively the safest format, and the belayer can even offer a bit of assistance when climbing. Most indoor climbing gyms have people to help you.

Lead Climbing

Climbing partners making their ascent on to a rock wall, with the other one being in the lead.

Lead climb is quite similar to top-rope climbing. However, instead of just having one point, this will have a series of attached points to the wall. While this may still have a belayer, it will need more technical skills and strength to navigate the course’s different paths.

Indoor Rock Climbing Gears

Climbing Shoes

A good pair of shoes will not just help you become more agile and dexterous all over the course. It will usually be made from materials that will last a long time.

If you are serious about getting into indoor climbing, investing in a nice pair will make a world of difference. 

But don’t expect the regular shoe salesman to know the appropriate shoes for you. While there are specialty stores that focus on indoor rock climbing, if you don’t have any in your immediate vicinity, here is a handy checklist for you to find a great pair of rock climbing shoes.

How to Find a Great Pair of Rock Climbing Shoes

Determine the type of climbing you will do.

Different styles of climbing will require different approaches and sets of skills. Knowing how you will use the shoes will help you determine what type of material you need, how thick a rubber sole you will choose, and other important factors. You will even know whether you really need a brand new pair or you can settle for a used one. 

What’s important when choosing the right pair of indoor climbing shoes is that their features will be fully utilized and make your every step as efficient as possible.

Check the closure.

The closure is the way you can secure the shoe to your foot. There are a few options here: lace, Velcro, and slipper.

Lace-up shoes look like traditional shoes. The main advantage of using this pattern is you can customize the fit of the shoe, and it can accommodate a range of foot shapes and can be used for an indoor climbing gym and bouldering.

Velcro climbing shoes are ideal for indoor rock climbing as they are easy to put on and take off. These are a great choice for beginners as they have all the necessary features for anyone just starting out on rock climbing.

Slippers are simple, yet they are the most favored by seasoned climbers for comfort and how utilitarian they are. They are designed specifically for aggressive rock climb, so it is not an ideal shoe for beginners. Using these shoes will also require specific skills and experience.

Check the downturn.

The downturn is the curvature of the sole. The more aggressive it is, the more it is geared toward vertical terrain. Flat downturns are more for a less inclined climbing wall as they allow your foot to lie flat and are the most comfortable. Beginners can start with a flat downturn and then, once they gained experience, can move on to what’s appropriate for their style and discipline.

How to Ensure Midfoot Support and Stiffness

Climbing is a specialized sport that needs a lot of muscle and skill to accomplish. One of the areas where there is extra pressure applied is on the midfoot. This is why there is an option between soft and stiff midsole support. Most flat shoes have stiffer support which is another reason why flat shoes are the best choice for beginners who do indoor climb.

However, if you prefer softer support, then that is also a good choice since the choice of stiffness is purely subjective.


This is another factor that’s left to the preference of the user. You will have a choice between leather, synthetic leather, or a mixture of both. Keep in mind that the material you choose for shoes and climbing clothes has its own pros and cons.

Leather shoes are more breathable and usually last longer. But they tend to cost more than synthetic materials. Synthetic materials, on the other hand, are better in terms of stretchability and are generally more inexpensive.


A woman wearing a snug pair of climbing shoes, clambering up a rock climbing wall at an indoor gym.

Once you’ve chosen the material you think is most appropriate, the most important factor to consider comes in: size and fit. Make sure that your feet are not constrained or move around the shoe. A leather shoe will need some breaking in before you become fully comfortable in it, while a synthetic climbing shoe is ready to go.

Rubber Soles

The type of rubber and thickness on a shoe is something that takes any avid rock climber down the rabbit hole. There are so many things to choose from, and different climbers have different opinions on it. 

Beginners need not concern themselves with this issue because it will come naturally to them once they’ve learned more about the lifestyle and culture of rock climbing. What’s important is to find a great shoe with moderate rubber grips to help out in their training.

Gym Climbing Clothing

A man wearing comfortable climbing clothing while clambering up a rock climbing wall at an indoor gym.

You don’t really need to think too much about what to wear for indoor rock climbing. Regular fitness clothes will do just fine. Just make sure that they fit well and have great flex since you will need to extend your arms and legs most of the time.

Climbing pants with breathable materials are also great because they will allow you to stay cool during the activity.

Choosing clothes with light materials and fabric is also ideal. Anything that has abrasive materials can cause chafing and make you uncomfortable. You can also choose to wear shorts or climbing pants depending on what you’re most comfortable in.

Make sure that they are slim fit so that you reduce the risk of having clothing catch on anything.


A female climber preparing a harness before her ascent on a rock climbing wall.

A harness has different functions. It is the gear for safety, assisting, and carrying gear. So when choosing a harness, there are a couple of things to consider.

Beginners can do well with a harness with comfort paddings on their waist and legs. Since they are expected to rest more often, these can help keep them from feeling constrained. A harness with adjustable buckles is also ideal.

Gear anchors are also worth considering. These are loops on either side of the waistband where you can attach the quickdraws and the cams. The number of gear anchors depends on the build and purpose of the harness, but the most common number is four.

One thing to remember about these is that they are never meant to be clipped since they are not made for that purpose.

Other features that may be brought into consideration are the belay loops, haul loop, tie-in points, and the rise or elastic straps. But these are secondary as these are not going to be fully utilized by a beginner in sport climbing. 


A closeup of interlaced blue and gold carabiners lying on a wooden table.

While these may not seem like things you wear, but they are things that you attach to your body when going rock climbing. 

When picking out a carabiner, see what type of climbing you will do and choose the most appropriate one for you. The variety includes the shape, type of gate opening, and its overall mass.

There are four types of shapes to choose from: asymmetrical D-shape, regular D-shape, pearl shape, and oval shape. 

Asymmetrical D shape carabiners are the most common and popular types around. They have a large gate opening and are strong and lightweight. Pear shape carabiners are ideal for clipping in ropes and gear.

These are designed specifically for belaying or rappelling. D shape carabiners are the strongest shape available. Oval shape carabiners are the traditional shapes and are favored for their ability to hold a lot of gear.

The gate is an important factor to consider. Straight gates are the simplest ones to use as they are the most durable and have the least risk of snagging. Bent gates have a concave design that makes clipping into ropes much easier. Wiregate carabiners are designed to make your gear lightweight and easy to manage.


Can I wear running shoes for indoor rock climbing?

No. Running shoes are not designed for climbing. If you don’t have climbing shoes, indoor rock climbing facilities offer shoe rentals.

What if I don’t have anyone to assist me?

Indoor rock climbing facilities have trained staff members to help you. These are certified individuals with proper training.

Why do I need the right equipment when climbing?

An indoor rock climbing gym may not permit individuals, especially beginners, to climb the wall without an appropriate rock climbing outfit. Even an experienced climber may not be permitted for safety reasons.

Aside from safety, when you’re wearing the appropriate attire, you will also protect yourself from any injury. Wear the right climbing clothes and climbing pants as a start. Additionally, the right fitting harness will offer better protection and comfort while you climb up the wall.


A young woman climbing a tall, indoor, man-made rock climbing wall in complete rock climbing gear.

If you want to challenge yourself to go beyond your limits, this is a great sport to get into. Make sure that you pick out the appropriate climbing clothes for the type of climbing you will do. Remember that your safety is your primary responsibility. Get proper instruction and experience before doing anything that’s beyond the scope of your skills and abilities.

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