I'm a casual rock climber and want to upgrade my entry-level rock shoes. I see there are both cbered and fairly flat models available, but why would you ever need to crunch up your toes and wear the cbered model? All the advertising refers to higher performance, but I don't really understand how this helps. So I may go for a flat shoe, perhaps one with a Velcro closure for easy in-and-out access. What do you think? Karen Wellington, New Zealand
It's all a matter of practice, then. If you spend a lot of time on rock then you'll be able to make better use of cambered shoes, such as the Five Ten V10 ($130; www.fiveten.com), a slip-on "slipper" design with a strongly cambered sole. Great shoes, but ideal for technical climbers with some skills and experience.
Still, there are lots of great rock shoes out there that the occasional climber can use and enjoyand that include Velcro closures. Five Ten, for instance, makes a shoe called the X-Ray ($89), which is a low-top, all-mountain shoe that's perfect for the intermediate climber. A snug fit, but not uncomfortably so, and Velcro closures for easy on and off. La Sportiva's Mythos ($120; www.lasportiva.com) is a low-top lace-up shoe, but still one of the best for all-around climbing.
Check out more essential climbing gear in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide.