Comparison Review: High-Top Climbing Shoes

A head-to-head review of the most common high-top climbing shoes on the market.

High-top climbing shoes have seen a huge resurgence in popularity over the past few years. This has of course prompted more brands to jump back into the high-top shoe game. Now, where there was once only a few high-top options around, every major shoe manufacturer seems to make a pair. To determine how these different shoes stack up against one another we’ve tested 5 different pair from 5 different brands in a head-to-head comparison. So if you’re in the market for some high-top shoes but aren’t sure which pair will suit then this is the article for you.

Reviewed high-top climbing shoes from left to right: The General, TC Pro, Maestro Mid, Grandstone & Altura.

The Line-up*:

  • TC Pro – La Sportiva
  • Maestro Mid – Scarpa
  • The General – Evolv
  • Altura – Butora
  • Grandstone – Five Ten

* For the purposes of this article I’m going to call any shoe that covers the ankle bone high-top climbing shoes.

Summary Table of High-Top Climbing Shoes:

 La Sportiva TC ProEvolv The GeneralScarpa Maestro MidButora AlturaFiveTen Grandstone
ProfileFlat
Subtle Camber
Flat
FlatModerate Camber
StiffnessModerateModerateModerateHighHigh
RubberVibram XS Edge
TRAX XEVibram XS Edge
Butora's Neo FuseStealth C4
UpperLeatherLeatherLeatherLeatherMicro-fiber
LinedYesYesPartialYesYes
Sizing
(test size)
As Expected
(42.5)
Small for Size
(44)
As Expected
(43)
As Expected
(43)
Small for Size
(n/a*)
Break-in, StretchAlmost half size, fit a bit tightVery little, don’t undersizeAlmost half size, fit a bit tightRelaxes a bit, fit snug w. no toe curlVery little, don’t undersize
Best At:Crack and friction slab climbing, especially graniteLong moderate face climbs or wider cracksCrack and friction slab climbingFirst crack shoe or long moderate crack climbsSteep face and edgy slab climbing
Pros:Granite specific shoe that's an absolute crack climbing weaponWell padded, durableComfortable, use eco-friendly leather, versatileWide & regular fit options, amazing craftsmanship, durablePerformance oriented technical climbing shoe
Cons:Some durability issuesThick toe-box, funky sizingDeep heel pocket has a bit of bubbleRubber seems to have a break-in periodLong break-in period, super-narrow heel

* FiveTen shipped the wrong size shoe (size 8.5 instead of 9.5) so they were tested by another reviewer and the sizes can’t be compared across to the other reviewed shoes.


La Sportiva TC Pro:

La Sportiva TC Pro’sThese shoes need no introduction of course. They’re an absolute granite climbing weapon! The TC Pro was developed in collaboration with Tommy Caldwell specifically for climbing Yosemite granite and it shows. It has a fairly thin toe box that fairs well in thin cracks. To-the-toe lacing that’s protected from wear when jamming for a secure and snug fit with no extra fabric over the toes to inhibit a thin jam. La Sportiva’s P3 tensioning system was employed with Vibram XS Edge rubber for a bit more power and edging. Lastly, they feature a synthetic lining to help keep the stink down while reducing stretch, a lightly padded synthetic tongue with vent holes and of course a little padding over the ankles.

This combination of features is ideal for granite climbing. The TC Pro’s work fairly well on small edges but still have no issues smearing up friction slabs. They jam well in all but the thinnest of cracks and provide a really snug and comfortable fit that relaxes just enough to feel like a glove (about a half size). However, they’re not perfect. I’ve had a few pairs of these shoes and they tend to have durability issues. Stitching falls apart, rubber delaminates and so on. If you get a pair it’s a great idea to get a little Shoe Goo so that you can make little fixes before they become big problems.

Specs:
  • Profile: Flat
  • Stiffness: Moderate
  • Rubber: 4mm Vibram XS Edge
  • Upper: Leather
  • Sizing: Bang on
  • Lined: Yes
While designed with granite in mind the TC Pro’s also make great Indian Creek shoes.

Pros: Designed specifically with granite climbing in mind and it really shows

Cons: Some durability issues

Overall: Like I said in the intro, an absolute granite weapon. If you plan to spend a bunch of time in areas like Yosemite or Squamish then this is the shoe you want to buy (if it fits that is). They’re not designed for steep, overhanging face climbing or long pitches of technical edging though.


Scarpa Maestro Mid:

Scarpa Maestro

Scarpa released the Maestro in both high-top and low versions. The flat lasted Maestro Mid (a high-top shoe for the purposes of this review) was designed with crack climbing in mind and geared towards all-day comfort and performance. Quite similar to the TC Pro in look and design, the Maestro has a slightly softer and more dexterous feel when worn due to the softer leather upper. They feature abrasion protected laces that extend right to the toe for a snug fit, a synthetic lining around the ankle with some ankle bone padding and a wide leather tongue.

Scarpa Maestro MidOverall a great performing shoe for crack climbing, especially granite. The Maestro Mid’s offer dexterity and precision on slabs and small features while still edging reasonably well. However, without any downturn in the toe it takes a bit more effort to get much power out of thin edges. The toes are fairly thin and dexterous for secure jamming. A great all-day crack and friction slab climbing shoe that’s ideally suited to granite. A great alternative to the popular TC Pro depending on fit.

Specs:
  • Profile: Flat
  • Stiffness: Moderate
  • Rubber: 4mm Vibram XS Edge
  • Upper: Leather
  • Sizing: Bang on
  • Lined: Partial
Scarpa Maestro
Maestro Mid (right) and Regular (left).

Pros: Comfortable, use eco-friendly leather, versatile

Cons: Very deep heel pocket, may not fit some people

Overall: A fantastic option if you’re looking for a comfortable all-around granite climbing shoe that’s in direct competition with the TC Pro. We would recommend trying them both on for fit before you pull the trigger on either. Not designed for steep face climbing or long technical edging routes.


Evolv’s The General:

Built for protection and comfort, The General features a soft and padded split tongue and offers a smooth faux-leather lining with padding around the ankles and the toe box. This has been combined with a slightly down-turned or cambered toe for more support and power when edging. The trade-off of all this padding and protection and a lacing system that stops short of the toes is a thicker, bulkier toe. This makes it harder to jam The General into thin cracks and seams though it does make wider cracks quite comfortable. The slight camber, while providing more edging power, makes smearing a little less secure. At least until the shoes have a few miles on them and the camber starts to flatten out.

I would call The General less of a crack climbing specific shoe and more of a generalist… perhaps the name isn’t a military reference but a guide to their intended use. With good edging, lots of padding and slight camber The General is great at long rock routes that don’t require thin jamming but their edging and support are needed. Think Red Rocks and you’ll get the idea.

 Specs:
  • Profile: Slight camber
  • Stiffness: Moderate
  • Rubber: 4.2mm Trax XE
  • Upper: Leather
  • Sizing: Small for size
  • Lined: Yes

Pros: Well padded, durable

Cons: Thick toe-box, funky sizing

Overall: Less of a traditional crack climbing shoe, more of a general, all-round moderate multi-pitch climbing type kicks. The General will work well on routes that require footwear that does well over a variety of climbing techniques from steep jugs to edging and so on.


Five Ten Grandstone:

With a moderate camber and narrow heel, Five Ten’s Grandstone is more reminiscent of a high-top sport climbing shoe than anything else. They feature Five Ten’s amazing C4 Stealth rubber that sticks to rock like a crampon to ice. The uppers are made of a lined micro-fiber material with ankle pads and a thin, lightly padded tongue. The lacing extends fairly low on the shoes for a great fit. Geared heavily to the performance climber, the Grandstones require a slightly longer break-in period and have minimal stretch. Be sure not to size them too snug out of the box.

The Five Ten Grandstone is a very stiff shoe that provides incredible edging powder. Its stiffness, once broken in, can be compared to Butora Altura. Depending on how tight they fit, the Grandstone’s can be made to climb cracks fairly well, especially thinner cracks where less jamming and more scumming is involved. However their aggressive profile makes them much less a long multi-pitch crack climbing shoe so much as a weapon for sending technical routes. A great option for the experienced climber that’s looking for a performance shoe.

 Specs:
  • Profile: Moderate camber
  • Stiffness: High
  • Rubber: Stealth C4
  • Upper: Micro-fiber
  • Sizing: Small for size
  • Lined: Yes

Pros: Edging powder, stiff protective shoe, durable, low stretch

Cons: Long break-in period, super-narrow heel

Overall: Basically a high-top sport climbing shoe. Ideal for steep routes, technical cracks, thin edges and so on.


Butora Altura:

Butora AlturaThe quality of Butora’s manufacturing and their attention to detail is simply amazing and the Altura is no exception. Impeccably made, the quality of these shoes is immediately obvious and you can expect them to stand up to years of abuse as they get resoled over and over again. From a performance standpoint the Altura’s are the least technically oriented shoe in this review but feature an exceptionally stiff sole. An ideal combination for reducing foot fatigue on long rock routes or taking some of the sting out of jamming. The rubber is Butora’s own proprietary blend which performs well though it does take a little time to break in.

OR Splitter Climbing GlovesWhat really sets Butora apart from other shoe manufacturers is the regular and wide fit options that they offer in each of their shoes.  Everyone’s foot is a little different and many climbers have a hard time finding a pair of rock shoes that both fit well and meet their particular climbing needs.  With the option of two widths (regular and wide) Butora will be a good match for a lot of people.  We tested both the wide and regular versions and the fit between the two is definitely different. I would categorize them as regular and high volume more so that regular and wide though.

The unique combination of a stiff sole, thin toe and low & high volume fit options make this an ideal crack shoe for the first time crack climber. Crack climbing can be painful for the new initiate and the Butora Altura offers a good fit in a shoe that really reduces the foot pain and fatigue that can suck the fun out of crack climbing.

Specs:
  • Profile: Flat
  • Stiffness: High
  • Rubber: 5mm Neo Fuse (Butora’s in-house rubber)
  • Upper: Leather
  • Sizing: Bang on with regular and wide versions available
  • Lined: Yes
Butora Altura
The Altura regular on the left and the wide on the right.

Pros:  Options to fit a wide range of foot shapes and types, amazing craftsmanship and attention to detail, durable

Cons:  Rubber seems to have a break-in period

Overall: Stiff, comfortable and exceptionally well made all-day multi-pitch or off-width climbing shoe. Ideal for the first time crack climber or if you’re looking at climbing long moderate routes and want a comfortable shoe. Also worth checking Butora if you have trouble finding shoes to fit your unique foot, they might just have what you’re looking for.


Summary:

As with anything, there’s no perfect shoe, just shoes that excel in certain types of rock or styles of climbing. So with that in mind here’s a summary of where we think each of the reviewed high-top climbing shoes fit. Of course you want to take fit into consideration as foot pain can really suck all the fun out of a day of climbing.

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La Sportiva TC Pro’sLa Sportiva TC Pro: If you plan to climb a lot of granite then this is your weapon. Climbers planning a trip anywhere like Yosemite or Squamish will definitely want to grab a pair… so long as they fit, otherwise checkout the Maestro.

Evolv The General: Ideal if you’re climbing long moderate routes that require some ankle protection but are not necessarily just pure crack climbing. Think rock climbing destinations like Red Rocks or Mount Arapiles and you’ll get the idea.

Five Ten GrandStone: Performance oriented, the Grandstone is more reminiscent of a high-top sport climbing shoe than a long moderate crack shoe. Ideal for the experienced climber that’s looking at steep or technical face climbing or thin cracks.

Scarpa Maestro Mid: A very similar design to the TC Pro they’re also an amazing granite climbing shoe just with a slightly more flexible feel and more durable construction. Ideal for any crack climbing destination.

Butora AlturaButora Altura: A great choice if you’re climbing lots of moderate crack or want a shoe that’s really going to last. Also a great shoe for initiate crack climbers.

 

Black Sheep Adventure Sports was supplied with samples of some high-top climbing shoes for review but of course this didn’t influence us in any way.