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Fancy Footwork: How to get better

Footwork is talked about so often by climbers, but even experienced climbers often don’t know where to go to improve their footwork. Today’s article is all about improving footwork. If we’ve missed something, leave us a comment and share your experience and knowledge with us and others.

Why improve footwork?

Footwork is typically the last skill to be addressed when climbers try to progress. This bias is not surprising since emphasis is almost always put on upper body strength. Learning to optimally place and weight your feet reduces strain on your forearms and puts your body in a position to reach the next set of handholds more efficiently.

The muscles in your legs are much larger than in your arms and have more stamina, so the more propulsion you can get out of your legs, the better. The result is that climbing feels easier. Wearing tight-fitting, high-performance shoes will redefine what you can effectively stand on and move off from. At some point, your every day, old and well-used climbing shoes will get too sloppy and loose to get the desired result.

What IS good footwork?

Right First Time:

Good footwork starts with placing your feet right first time. This takes practice.  Try going on a route this week and not looking away from your foot until it is placed exactly where you want it. When you’ve done this exercise, come back and leave us a comment about what you’ve discovered.  

Maximising Friction:

There is more to good footwork than putting your toes exactly where you want them. Once your feet are in position, you need to maximise the friction between your feet, the rubber on your shoes and the surface of the wall.

To achieve maximum friction, concentrate on wrapping your toes over the hold while weighting your foot. Developing your core strength and body awareness will help you with this.

Small Steps:

Indoor climbing routes encourage large movements between footholds. While high-stepping or a wide bridging may help you smash the blue route, these techniques have much less value on real rock. When practicing, work to make small, frequent foot placements, or better still use any available features. Specifically, try making three foot placements for every hand move. Don’t be surprised if you have to add intermediate feet that aren’t part of the designated route. Climbing in this style will train you to keep your body close to the wall and your weight on your feet and ready for climbing outdoors.

Weighted Feet:

It can sometimes seem strange to have to think about this: how much weight do you put on your feet? Try this exercise out: When you’re next at the climbing wall, with the relative safety of a top rope, try to complete a slab climb using only 1 finger on each hand, but maximising the weight on your feet.  What do you notice by doing this?

When you’ve done it, leave us a comment below.

Michelle Mudhar and Emily Pitts

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