Climbing shoes are the part of your climbing equipment that has the greatest impact on the climbing itself. A common misconception is that the most important thing in climbing is to have a strong upper body, it is a fact with a twist.
On most walls, it is certainly possible to get up with the help of only upper body strength, but you will never be a good climber if you rely blindly on your upper body.
The leg muscles are considerably much stronger and more enduring than the arm muscles. Therefore, it is important to use climbing shoes that give you the opportunity to apply the force from the leg muscles at a certain point in the most efficient way possible, in order to succeed in getting you to the top of the mountain.
How To Choose Climbing Shoes
Climbing shoes are extremely important when climbing – as it is through them that you relieve most of your weight. With the wrong shoes, you make your climb much more difficult. Too large shoes make it difficult to stand on small grips, you lose the feeling of the grips and the heel may get out of the shoe on a heel-hook.
With too small shoes, it can simply be too painful to climb. Some are able to handle the pain, while others can not stand it. You have to find a good balance. The shoes must not hurt very much, but they must fit completely tight.
If you just want to climb for fun and do not climb very overhanging routes, I think you should invest in a pair of beginner shoes. You should be aware of the type of climbing you want to practice. If it is route climbing, where you are on the wall or the cliff for a long time, a comfortable shoe with lacing is a good choice.
If, on the other hand, you want to climb very difficult routes and boulder obstacles, there is no other way out than a pair of aggressive shoes. Most experienced climbers have more than one pair of shoes – often different models – but sometimes also only two pairs of identical shoes. An aggressive velcro shoe can be a good choice for hard bouldering – shoes.
How Should Climbing Shoes Fit
To find a climbing shoe with a perfect fit, you should always try on the new pair of shoes towards the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen. This is because your feet will swell up as you climb due to increased circulation. If you do not have the opportunity to visit the store late in the day, you can go for a quick walk before you start trying on shoes so that you get more blood down to your feet.
The most important thing to keep in mind when buying climbing shoes is that they fit well. A climbing shoe should not feel like a shoe but like a second layer of skin on the feet. It should almost feel like you are climbing barefoot instead of with shoes.
- A beginner’s shoe should fit comfortably. It should have contact with the foot everywhere, no air space. The foot should not slide around in the shoe. Forget about your normal shoe size, many climbing shoes differ a lot in size, often you need to choose a size larger.
- More advanced shoes can fit a little tighter and do not necessarily have to be comfortable, but they should not hurt either. Sometimes expressions are heard such as “the smaller the better” which means the more support the foot receives and thus better climbing properties.
How Tight Should Rock Climbing Shoes Be
If you are new to climbing, you may know what a perfect running shoe is, but probably not what a perfect climbing shoe is. For a climbing shoe to sit very tight, is when you put on the shoe, the toes should be slightly bent and you should not actually be able to really move them.
The first time you try climbing shoes, it can be a little uncomfortable, but you’ll get used to it surprisingly quickly. It should also be said that most climbing shoes stretch half to one full size and adapt to your foot. The shoes should therefore become more comfortable with time.
There are a lot of different types of climbing shoes. There are aggressive climbing shoes and “flat” shoes – often called beginner shoes. These are generally more comfortable to wear, but on the other hand not quite as good for standing on very small grips or on overhanging walls or rocks.
Conversely, the flat shoes can actually be good for “conquering” on the climbing surface. That is, not only to use the tip or sides of the shoe but to maximize the use of the shoe surface, something that is relevant when climbing slabs – that is, routes with a slope.
How To Buy Climbing Shoes
As you have probably regarded, there is a whole multitude of climbing shoes which can be very complicated. But it’s not really as complex as it may first appear. For a start, various shoe models are adapted for distinctive classes of climbing, so pick the shoe that accommodates your climbing technique.
If your climbing shoes are too big, you can try to shrink them by putting them in the washing machine.
Since a shoe stretches between ½-1 size after one or a few months of use, it is especially tricky to know how much “too small” shoe you should obtain. Therefore, I suggest you talk to your climbing mates about which shoe type they wear and how much it has stretched.
Try out your new climbing shoes in a physical store
Since the sizes of climbing shoes differ considerably between many brands, and sometimes also between varying designs within the same brand, I think it is a little impracticable to buy climbing shoes online. To be able to feel how the shoes are to climb with, I usually do some “toe lifts” on a step to see how it feels to push off with them.
The significant variations are due to the fact that many climbing shoes, primarily more deluxe models of leather, are handmade. Consequently, you should always buy your shoes in a store where you can both get guidance from proficient staff and try out several models.
An online store is only to be recommended if you already know which model and size you should have.
How To Break In Climbing Shoes
Many sophisticated and unyielding climbers often recommend extremely tight-fitting shoes that both hurt and can bend the toes in an a very uncomfortable way. So tight shoes are not obliged in my opinion, climbing should be pleasant and not a form of agony you have to get used to.
Personally, I think that climbing shoes should feel tight and steady without it hurting the feet or make your toes go that numb. Try it out and feel how much bending suits you. You should feel that you have power and control during the climb without every step feeling like a torment.
The sweet spot is when the climbing shoe holds tight and firm but without being so crushing that it becomes painful. Since all climbing shoes stretch, particularly handmade leather ones, you may feel a bit sore when you wear them at first. However, after a while, it will probably have widened out and got a precise fit.
How To Stretch Climbing Shoes
You need to determine what type of foot you have. Are your toes about the same length or do they get smaller and shorter to the little toe? Do you have a high or low arch? Is your heel narrow or wide? Are you wide or narrow over the foot just above the toes? Once you have the answer to these questions, it actually becomes quite easy to find the right model.
If after a few months you still feel that the shoes are a little too tight, you can always wet them and walk around, or climb, with them so that they stretch a little extra. If the leather is still damp or wet when you use the shoes, they will stretch. Using wet climbing shoes is a very effective way to stretch and reshape newpair of extremely tight climbing shoes.
How To Clean / Wash Rock Climbing Shoes
I want to point out that the tip about washing the shoes does not always work! It all depends on the quality and properties of the shoe. Some shoes washes nicely so that the shoe sits tight on the foot again while most models, unfortunately, quickly shrinks after washing.
Do not wash synthetic climbing shoes!
Please note that this washing tip only applies to leather shoes and not to synthetic shoes!
Wash at low temperature
In order not to ruin the rock climbing shoes, you should rinse them at a low heat and with no or very little or no gentle soap. Oppositely there is a big chance that the leather and rubber in the shoes will be damaged. If you use shoes with lacing, remove the laces before putting the shoes in the washing machine.
Let them dry
The best way to dry the climbing shoes is to just leave them at room temperature with absolutely no direct source of high heat. The shoes should nevernot be dried in a microwave, oven, dryer or drying cabinet as this will destroy the leather and in the worst case also soften the shoe’s rubber.
To help maintain the shoes shape while drying them it’s best to put newspaper inside the shoes.