Fit is the most important factor to consider when choosing a climbing shoe. Every major climbing shoe manufacturer makes high quality shoes that provide edging power, toe hooking patches, heel hooking and a whole host of other features. None of these features matters however if the shoe does not fit properly. Feet come in such a tremendous range of shapes and sizes that there is no telling how any given shoe will work for you until you try it on.
The best way to determine how well a shoe fits you is simply put it on and assess its level of comfort. Your feet are smart and the foot has more nerve endings per square inch than anywhere else in the body. If the shoe is too loose or constricting in a certain area, if its too stiff or too flexible, too firm or too mushy, your feet will know this right away. The shoe should feel perfect right from the box.
That said you cant thoroughly asses fit and comfort until you start moving. Most real shops/ as opposed to internet sites, have a small board for you to test their shoes in, (we win here we have a whole wall!) This allows you to try a full range of moves to really get a grip of the shoes performance. (See what I did there!) Try to avoid talking yourself into buying shoes that are mostly right, the small imperfections will really wind you up once you start to log pitches!
What do you want them for? The best shoe for that boulder problem at your limit will not be the best for a day of multi pitch routes in the Verdon. Equally if you like slate climbing your unlikely to want a soft shoe and if you mainly boulder on grit then smearing is probably more important to you than edging! Some shoes excel at one thing, others are adequate at everything, this is why you will see some more serious minded individuals with odd shoes on their project as they attempt to eeck out any advantage they can find. As Angelo Dundee (Muhammed Ali’s ring-man) used to say “no advantage is too small to take.”
Like most things in life finding the type of shoe that fits is a learning experience. Footwear is the most important component of your climbing gear, so its worth investing some time and effort in the process of what works for you and what doesn’t. And what better way to do that then to come to the Indy next Saturday afternoon and try on dozens of pairs of shos.