I've been indoor climbing in my Vibram Five Fingers and I can't seem to move onto harder routes. Are my toes holding me back? Could you suggest a beginner climbing shoe for me?
What’s holding you back is that Vibram Five Fingers aren’t really a climbing shoe. They might be fun for light scrambling or maybe as an approach shoe. But they’re just too soft when you need to edge, toe a crack, or anything like that.
I’d look for an entry level rock shoe. The Spire Rock Shoe by Five Ten ($99) is one good choice. They're a good beginner shoe, but will keep up as as your skills advance. They feature Five Ten’s sticky Stealth C4 rubber soles and use an asymmetric last to help keep the foot oriented for good friction and edging. They also have full-length lacing to help with fit.
You might like the Quest AF rock shoes, also $99. They lace up like the Spires, which I think is better for climbers without a ton of experience compared with hook-and-loop closures. They have a synthetic upper and are designed for edging and friction.
For a few bucks more, the La Sportiva Mythos ($129) is a classic, go-anywhere shoe. They’re comfortable and perform well, and you still get a Vibram sole and downturned toe to give you lots of power for tricky moves. Again, they come with full laces.
Try to find a shoe fitter who can work with you to find the best shoe. Shop in the afternoon, when your feet have swelled a little. And try them on—even different sizes from the same brand. You want a fit that is snug, not loose, but not so tight your toes are bunched up.