If the Shoe Fits – A Guide to Climbing Footwear Part 1

You may have not really thought about your footwear if you are just starting out in climbing. Yet just like almost every other sport there is a specialised shoe that goes with the task of mounting rock faces and staying static in odd positions. Climbing puts new demands on your feet which you will come to experience as you reach more advanced climbs, simply holding your weight in awkward positions alone can put some strain on your soles and toes which is where dedicated climbing shoes come in to help. To newcomers however these odd-looking sandal-like shoes may be a little overwhelming. As with any task, especially climbing, breaking down seemingly insurmountable obstacles into smaller ones is a mental model you should be familiar with, and this is exactly what we are going to do with the shoes.

Fit
Fit

Fit

First and foremost as with buying any types of shoes you need them to be in your size, this may seem like a no-brainer but finding the right size is a lot more vital here than your casual pair of trainers. Your feet are under a lot of stress while climbing and as a result a poorly fitting shoe can only exacerbate your discomfort, meaning you aren’t going to be at your best if your shoes don’t fit well. In order to get a decent fitting pair you will need to physically shop for them, buying online only works if you can return them for free. What you don’t want is a pair too loose because they won’t work to the shape of your feet as they are supposed to, similarly a tight fitting pair can give you grief on the rocks and stop blood flow which is dangerous for several reasons. Also be aware that your feet can change size throughout the day so don’t grab a pair that feels tight already as it could get worse in different conditions. Also don’t fall into the trap of trying them on with your socks on as most climbing shoes are designed to sit against your skin.

Materials
Materials

Materials

As you can probably imagine the materials these shoes are made from play quite an importance on how they perform. As with any type of footwear; wear and tear is something that occurs with prolonged use and you aren’t just strolling to the shops in these ones. Robustness, comfort and sensitivity are all things which are governed by the materials on the shoes. Obviously if you like to bring your ethics into your clothing then you will be looking for synthetic uppers on your shoes instead of leather. With these you will be able to gauge the type of fit from the get go, as unlike leather which has a little budge (sometimes enough for an entire shoes size) the animal-free alternatives hold their shape a lot more. The rubber that makes up the soles of climbing shoes has its own gradient too, ranging from solid and thick for lots of support, to a thinner stickier kind that as you more sensitivity when finding footholds.