What shoes should I wear to climb in?
Rock Shoes // Rock Boots // Climbing Shoes // Trainers // Plimsolls // Flip Flops – What shoes should I wear to climb in???
The answer is thus: you can wear whatever shoes you like. Historically climbers wore plimsolls, before modern climbing shoes evolved into the multi-colored, multi-styled, maxi-priced extravaganza that we see today. Some people still choose to climb in their normal shoes or trainers – it’s all about personal preference. What you choose to wear will, however, have an impact on how well your feet stay on holds, particularly when you start to use holds that are small.
If you’re just starting out you can wear any shoe – something like a converse pump or close fitting rubber-soled shoe that will help to give you some grip on the holds and against the wall. Or cheaper still, a pair of plimsolls.
Firstly, don’t feel under pressure to buy shoes until you’ve had a chance to try some out – maybe hiring shoes at your local wall or finding out if your local climbing centre has a rock shoe trial day where the manufacturers bring their range of shoes in different sizes for you to try out at the wall before you buy. If you have friends who are climbers, perhaps you could ask to try their shoes for an hour to see the difference between shoes.
Once you’ve decided that you actually like climbing and you’re not going to quit after a few sessions, you can start to have a think about what you’re after from your shoe. By doing this you will help your climbing shop to help you choose the right shoe. For example, if you are a total beginner, you’re doing climbing for fun and you already have sore feet, you’re very unlikely to be keen on wearing a pair of aggressive, downturned shoes that are so tight you need plastic bags on your feet to get them on! However, if you’ve been climbing for a while, are improving well and want to improve more by concentrating on your footwork in general, then something less like a slipper and more like a snug well fitting shoe would probably suit you.
My first pair were Mad Rock shoes that cost less than £40 from the Costwolds outlet store on Oxford Rd in Manchester. The staff were absolutely brilliant and remain so. They have never sold me something I don’t need and they always tell me if they think something’s not right for me, even if it means not making a sale. It means that I go back there, as I trust them. The drawback of this store is that they generally just have the remains of what’s left over from previous seasons or unsold stock. If you’re after something specific then I would advise you to go to a shop within a climbing centre. The staff in these shops will almost without exception be climbers. They will be experienced in fitting feet to shoes, they know their stock and they will take time to make sure you get the right shoe. My main experience of this is at my local wall Manchester Climbing Centre, where I also used to work. I’m pretty confident that the same will apply to the shops at all indoor climbing walls, but if you’re not sure, ask the staff member’s credentials – do a bit of poking around. At MCC I was able to get the opinion of a few different staff working in the shop on different days, when I went to buy my shoe.
The key is not to rush. It is so exciting getting new rock shoes, but the more time you take to try different shoes, especially as you advance and improve, the more you’ll feel like you’ve made the right choice for you, because, let’s face it, some of us have funny old feet. If in doubt, wait it out and try again another day or ask someone else.
Happy shoe hunting.