As a rock climber, choosing the right pair of rock climbing shoes goes a long way in dictating your rock climbing experience.
Whether you are an experienced rock climber or you are new to the sport, you definitely need good shoes. As a learner, you will need a shoe that will establish a fine balance between comfort, longevity and support, but as an experienced climber, power should be chosen over comfort.
Below, we explain all the necessary things that you need to know before buying your next pair of rock climbing shoes.
What Kind of Climbing Do You Do?
The first step to getting the best out of your rock climbing shoes is to consider the kind of climbing you do. Shoes with a down-turned shape are designed for bouldering, hard sport climbing, and steep, overhanging terrain.
These shoes hold the toes such that the force applied gets through the foothold. However, they only give you power at the expense of support, smearing ability and comfort.
If you climb vertically, then your best bet would be shoes with a flat base, a snug fit, and little to no dead space.
What Shape is Your Foot?
When buying shoes, you will also need to consider the shape of your foot. Ill-fitting rock climbing shoes can dampen a climber’s day while well-fitting shoes can create the best experience for a climber.
Well-fitting climbing shoes can be a deal-breaker, especially for the new climbers, and could lighten up your climbing experience. Imagine if your first pair of shoes is uncomfortable or does not fit properly.
You will probably be heading off to the crag, and you will end up limiting your experience.
The Volume of the Shoes
The volume of shoes is also crucial when buying a shoe. Volume is how deep the foot is. If your feet are low volume, then a low volume shoe fit is the best.
A high volume shoe will give you bad power transfer from the foot to the shoe’s wall and result in a baggy, uncomfortable fit.
If your feet are high volume, the best shoes for you would be high volume shoes, as the low volume ones will feel a bit discomforting.
These kinds of shoes will push the knuckles of your toes to the shoe’s roof and cause foot cramps. Since volume is often overlooked when buying normal day to day shoes, you will have to try different volume rock climbing shoes to get the perfect pair.
Shoe width is yet another crucial aspect of rock-climbing shoes. As opposed to volume, shoe width, especially for rock-climbing shoes, is also a vital aspect when choosing the perfect pair.
If the shoes are too narrow, your feet will be pushed and contorted into uncomfortable positions. If they are too wide, then the shoes will probably roll around your foot as you try to edge.
In order to know the appropriate width for your shoe, feel it around the widest part of the foot, which is at the first knuckle of your toes. If it is too wide or too narrow in the said area, you definitely need a better fit.
As a climber buying shoes. You probably need to consider the heel depth. This is one of the trickiest to figure out. However, if the heel is too baggy, the shoe may slide off your foot when you apply pressure to the toe.
Just ensure that there isn’t too much pressure on the Achilles tendon, as this is a hotspot for injury. Since it is hard to find a perfectly fitting heel, don’t leave out a great shoe because of this slight imperfection.
Variables of the Climbing Shoe
There are different types of rock climbing shoes, let us go over them briefly below.
Velcro or Lace
Velcro and lace is really an issue of preference, none being better than the other. Velcro is great for its simplicity which enables you to take your shoes off anytime. Laces are better for a precise fit or narrow feet.
Stiffness for rock climbing shoes varies widely, giving different levels of smearing ability, comfort and sensibility. Soft shoes allow the climber to feel the minor footholds and therefore, better foot placement.
For vertical climbing, however, stiffer shoes provide toe support when edging.
Different shoes have different climbing rubber, with each manufacturer coming up with the right compound to balance durability and stickiness. Sticky shoes wear out quickly but are great for smearing.
Beginners are better off with durable shoes as they probably will not feel the effect of sticky shoes at easier levels. Lastly, always try the shoes before buying.
All in all, always remember to buy comfortable shoes as a climber since they make the whole rock climbing process easy and manageable.
It will also be a good idea to remember that all shoes soften up and get more comfortable after a few days of using them. Therefore, when you choose that perfect-fitting pair and realize that they are too tight, give them some time.