The best rock climbing shoes will vary according to the type of climbing you will be doing. If you are a beginner, choose an all-around shoe that will be suitable for all types of climbing; this shoe will feature a stiff sole with a comfortable toe box, and very often a high leather upper. Rock climbing shoes should fit tightly but comfortably; if your toes feel jammed into the toe box or begin to curl when you wear the shoe, it is probably not the best fit. It is important to remember that rock climbing shoes will stretch after use, so choose a snug fitting pair to begin with.
The two common types of rock climbing shoes are slip-lasted and board-lasted shoes. Board-lasted shoes have a stiff sole that will not bend easily. This is a good choice for indoor rock climbing, all-around climbing as a multi-purpose shoe, and easy to moderate climbs. Slip-lasted shoes are flexible, they usually feature pointed toes, and the shape of the sole can vary significantly depending on the purpose of the shoe. Slip-lasted shoes are good for extremely difficult climbs, climbs with overhangs or roofs, and climbs that require a significant amount of foot flex. Most climbers will not need such a shoe; beginner and intermediate climbers are usually better off with a multi-purpose board-lasted shoe.
Buying your rock climbing shoes from a reputable dealer is a good idea for several reasons, the most important of which is the ease with which you will be able to become educated about different shoes. Some dealers even have small rock climbing walls on which you can test the shoes. Look for a dealer with competitive pricing and knowledgeable staff, and if possible, find a dealer that has a few of last year's models on sale at a discounted price. Buying last year's models will save you cash without sacrificing performance.
If bouldering is your main goal, choose rock climbing shoes with a curled sole that will allow you to hook your foot around holds hung from a roof or ceiling. These shoes are usually slip-lasted and may feature laces, hook and loop straps, or a slipper design that does not feature any securing method other than the tightness of the shoe. Lightweight shoes are best, and durable upper materials such as leather will be a good choice. Look for lined leather, which will limit the amount that the shoe will stretch after use.