Climbing shoes are an essential piece of equipment. They are probably THE most important piece you will buy. Your shoes will affect your comfort indoors and outdoor climbing. Choosing the right shoe is important too, because climbing is all about your feet – how you use them and how they take the weight out of your arms.
We don’t usually get a detailed explanation about how and why our feet are important, so it can be confusing and frustrating and maybe not mean much at all, in the end.
The right fit
The correct fit of climbing shoes will give you the most pleasure (and possibly a little pain) from your climbing. The choice of shoes is amazing; board lasted or slip lasted, lace ups or Velcro, leather or man-made, beginner or technical? Today we’re going to give you a run-through of the basics. Whichever shoe you decide on, it will usually be based on fit, so that the foot cannot move inside the shoe, and is tight enough to make you want to take it off between climbs, but not too tight that it causes tears of pain. If the shoe is too loose it will allow the toes to move inside the shoe which means you may be unable to keep your feet on small holds and be more likely to use the strength in your arms to keep you in balance, which is inefficient.
A board lasted shoe allows the toes to flatten, and are a good beginner shoe, because they do not scrunch up the toes. It can be useful to go for a snug fit and take them off between climbs. Climbing shoes are designed for climbing only and NOTHING else. If you can wear them for 2 hours they are probably too loose.
A slip lasted shoe, is more technical; it is softer and more flexible and therefore more sensitive and is designed to fit with bent toes allowing you to stand on very small holds.
Lace-up rock shoes
Lace up shoes will give you a more precise fit down the length of the shoe
Velcro rock shoes
Velcros are easier to take on and off and ensure you will go for a closer fit.
Rock shoes materials are not made equal. Leather tends to give over time, whilst man-made materials have less give and are more likely to maintain their original fit.
A beginner shoe will offer stiffness that may be useful initially, but the shoe is often soon outgrown and discarded for a more technical shoe.
How to choose the right rock shoe
- Try on as many different makes and styles of shoe as you can, before you make your choice.
- Don’t feel you have to buy a shoe before you’re ready.
- Test some shoes out at a climbing wall testing day – call your local wall to see when manufacturers are next doing a demo day.
- Buy some cheap shoes to begin with, if you like, so you can see what works and doesn’t work before committing large amounts of money to an expensive pair that may not be the right pair for you.
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