A guide to climbing shoes

Climbing relies on good footwork and good footwork relies on good shoes. There is a lot of technology involved in climbing shoe manufacture to aid your climbing experience. The top climbing shoe manufacturers use a variety of quality rubbers, no rubber is better than any other, but the rubbers used have different properties which operate better at different temperatures. The main thing is to keep the rubber soles of your shoes clean, this will keep them sticky.

How long should climbing shoes last?

Some rubbers are soft. This means they will wear quicker, but poor footwork will wear your shoes very quickly. I go through a pair a year using them about 3 times a week, but like anything, the more you use it the more wear it gets. With age, all rubbers will loose their properties, they become hard and inflexible and they won’t stick.

It is not only the sole that wears. Over time the uppers loose their strength and the shoe does not support your foot as well so there is less power generated through your feet.

Do climbing shoes have to hurt?

Your shoes should not be painful to wear, they might be tight, they might pinch, but they should not HURT. There are more than 5 well known brands of climbing shoe distributed throughout the UK, for example Boreal, Scarpa, Evolv, Spotiva and Tenaya. These brands between them probably produce 50 styles of climbing shoe. The game is to find the shoe that fits your foot like a slipper. From all these shoes I have only found 2 styles, which are from 2 different manufacturers, that fit me. If the shoe hurts it is the wrong style for you.

The importance of getting a good fit

Shoe type is dictated by the style of climbing; rock type, steepness, time wearing the shoe, indoor or out, bouldering or routes, but no matter what style of climbing you are doing the main thing with your shoe is that it is comfortable and this is achieved by making sure it fits correctly.

  • Heel – No baggy spots.
  • Arch – Flat or raised arch, it shouldn’t squelch.
  • Toe – Mortons toe (2nd toe longer than big toe)
  • Toe box – No air gaps
  • Foot – Symmetric (big toe bends inwards to other toes) or
  • Asymmetric (big toe is inline with side of foot)

Female fit shoes – not just for girls

If it is called a female specific shoe and it fits – just wear it. Don’t be gender specific about your feet, female specific shoes have a slightly different cut. There are no male specific shoes, the rest are unisex.

Don’t get too bogged down with shoes. There are climbers wearing trainers that climb better than me, but a climbing shoe that is personal to you and not rented, will give you a better experience whilst climbing. Happy Feet, Happy Climbing.

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