5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Climbing Shoes

Having the proper equipment for rock climbing is imperative. And part of that equipment includes your shoes. Climbing is challenging enough without having shoes that aren’t up to standard.

So, what are the signs it’s time to replace your climbing shoes? You should check your shoes for wear after every climb. Give them a once over when you clean them and look for:

1.Climbing rubber is worn or damaged

2.Delamination

3.Toe box is worn or damaged

4. Rand is worn, damaged or blown

5. Sole is worn or damaged

Rock climbing can be dangerous if your equipment isn’t in its best working order. Shoes that are in tip-top shape can also contribute to your safety. Keeping an eye on the condition of your shoes is important.

Hints It’s Time to Replace Your Climbing Shoes

If you have a pair of climbing shoes you love, don’t let them get to the point where they must be replaced. It’s better to take care of them and just have them resoled periodically. Here are 5 signs that you’ve gone too long and it’s time to replace your climbing shoes.

1. Climbing rubber is worn or damaged

The climbing rubber on the end of the toe is prone to wear. After all, when you’re climbing, you’re digging that toe into the crag. The climbing rubber is located below the seam. It’s the area where it meets the rand.

Check to make sure the toe rubber isn’t worn. If it’s worn down eighty percent or more, it’s time to move onto another pair. Likewise, holes in the rubber could compromise the rand. Your shoes are showing wear and tear. It’s time to consider replacing.

2. Delamination

If your shoe seems to be coming apart at the seams, the glue that holds things together may be wearing out. You don’t want to risk them falling apart. While you can try to fix this yourself, or even take it to a shoemaker for repair, if it happens more than once – replace your shoes.

3. Toe box is worn or damaged.

Check out the edge around the shoe box. The shoe box is the area that encompasses the toe. This part wears down fast since it’s the first part of your foot to hit the rock. Once more, because you use your toes so much when climbing, it’s important to keep this area in good repair.

If you see and feel damage or extensive wear-and-tear in this area, there’s not a good fix.

4. Rand is worn, damaged, or blown.

The rand is the rubber above the climbing rubber. It is a thick layer and protects the upper part of the shoe and the stitching. It also provides more friction for toe hooking. You’re not supposed to climb on the rand. If the rand is damaged it could cause a hole in the upper.

When you have a blown rand you’ve probably damaged the upper. It’s definitely time for a new pair. A blown rand is when there’s a hole through the rand. The integrity of the shoe is compromised. Unfortunately, sometimes you can blow a rand on a new pair of shoes by hitting a sharp rock. That’s a heart breaker.

5. Worn or Damaged Sole

You’re not going anywhere with climbing shoes with severely worn or damaged soles. If you’ve worn through the sole, but the rand is still tact, you may be able to get a resole. However, if you’ve gone so far that the rand is damaged, get ready to purchase a new pair of climbing shoes.

How Long Do Climbing Shoes Last?

If you’re an active climber, you’re probably going to wear your shoes out frequently. The average climber goes through two to three pairs of shoes a year. A gym climber is going to buy even more shoes. They can go through more than three pairs a year. However, if you follow a few rules, your shoes may last longer.

  1. Make sure they fit correctly
  2. Clean your shoes after every climb
  3. Climbing shoes are made for climbing, not walking. Put them on at the base of the cliff.
  4. Let them breathe! Your feet can get sweaty. Constantly damp shoes can lead to decay.

Your climbing shoes are a big investment. Take care of them and not only will you save money, but they’ll also take care of you.

Resole Your Climbing Shoes

You probably love your climbing shoes. After all, you’ve had them a while, and they’re completely broken in. They fit you perfectly. But the rubber is worn and about to hit the rand. It’s time to move on. But you don’t necessarily have to buy new shoes. You can have them resoled. Other parts of the shoe that might need to be repaired include the:

  • Strap
  • Buckle
  • Velcro

How Much Does it Cost for a Resole or Repair?

To have a half resole will probably cost you around forty dollars per pair, whereas a rand repair will run around ten dollars per shoe. The average cost for a good pair of climbing shoes is a hundred dollars. It might be worth saving your favorite pair.

You might want to make it a point to always have two pairs of shoes. That way, if one needs to be repaired, you can still climb.

Characteristics of Climbing Shoes

The type of climbing shoe you buy depends on your needs and goals. A boulder climber is going to have a different need than a gym climber. Your skill level is also a factor. For instance, a professional will have super thin soles so they can feel every nook and cranny easier. A beginner will probably have a thicker sole. Features to look for in a climbing shoe include:

  1. Size
  2. Laces versus Velcro
  3. Style
  4. Materials.

1.Size

Climbing shoes should fit snuggly. When the sport was just getting popular, the prevailing thought was overly tight shoes. People bought their shoes two to three times smaller than their usual shoe size. This is no longer the thought. Fit is more important. A good fitting pair of shoes will form to your feet. You no longer have to soak your shoes in water and then let them dry on your feet. If bought correctly, they should come out of the box ready to climb. When trying on climbing shoes:

  • Wear very thins socks—most climbers don’t wear socks.
  • Shop in the afternoon or evening after your feet have swelled
  • Mimic climbing—If the store has a climbing wall, great. Otherwise, point your toe, curl your toe, etc. Try to pretend you’re climbing.
  • Unlined leather shoes stretch up to a half size. Synthetic shoes won’t stretch.

There are unisex shoes, as well as women’s and men’s size shoes. The men’s shoes have move width and volume than the women’s shoes.

2.Laces versus Velcro

This depends greatly on what you’re doing as a rock climber. Laces can go all the way up the shoe. This means you can get them tight. Or, you can loosen them if need be. They will help the shoe form around your foot. You can get the perfect fit.

The downside is if you are taking your shoes on and off, it takes extra time. You don’t want to walk in your climbing shoes, so it can be a bother to constantly unlace them and lace them back up. Velcro comes in handy. Just a pull and you’re out of your shoes.

If you are a gym climber you will be taking your shoes on and off more often. You’ll probably want to change shoes if you belay. And for any type of climbing, you’ll probably want to give your feet a break. But ultimately, it’s a matter of preference.

3.Style

There are several types of climbing shoes. They include:

  • Neutral (flat)—These are for the beginner. They have stiff midsoles with thick rubber soles. They provide great support. The profile is flat, so it’s great for jamming into cracks. However, because those comfortable soles are so thick, you lose sensitivity.
  • Moderate—These have a slightly downward front. Your foot should be in pretty good shape to wear these. These aren’t really for a beginner. They’ll give you a stronger grip when you attack those crack climbs and slab routes. They have thinner soles, so they’re more sensitive, but you do lose comfort. They also wear faster than the Neutral.
  • Aggressive—This style pitches the toe severely downward. The foot curves. They’re great in giving you precision on small holds. They also give you quite a bit of heel tension. The rubber is quite thin to allow greater sensitivity. But because of this, the rubber wears faster. It’s not the best for smearing.

Depending on your skill level, you might want to have different styles of shoes. That way, you can handle any type cliff or boulder.

4.Materials

A climbing shoe consists of the sole and the upper. The sole is made of soft, sticky rubber. You want the rubber to be soft to create friction and stick to the rockface. Hard rubber is too slick, and you’ll slide off.

Thick rubber is great for jamming and crack climbing. They will also last longer. Thin rubber is great for finding crevices. They let you feel more. But they wear out quickly.

The upper is made to offer several options. They can have:

  • Leather
  • Synthetic
  • Lined leather

The leather upper is comfortable over time. It ages well. It also breaths better, so it keeps the stink down. However, it stretches. In fact, with a lot of use, it can stretch to the point where it goes up a size. This isn’t good when you want your shoe to fit snugly.

Synthetic uppers don’t stretch. However, your feet can get pretty hot and stinky in there.

The final option is lined leather. This is a common one. This keeps important areas like the toes from stretching. Your shoe might still stretch. But it will only stretch about half a size.

How to Choose a Climbing Shoe?

Where do you want to climb? The shoe you choose depends on what you intend on climbing. There are three types of techniques for different terrains.

  1. Sport
  2. Trad
  3. Bouldering

1.Sport

For sport climbing, you’ll need a stiff midsole. You’ll want a moderate shoe in order to scale the vertical climbs.

2.Trad

Because you’ll probably be doing a lot of jamming in cracks, you’ll want a neutral or flat shoe. It will give you ankle protection, a stiff midsole, and an overall relaxed fit. Go with the laces on this one to get a better fit. But if you like to do more steep routes, you might want to go with a moderate.

3.Bouldering

You’ll need an aggressive for this. They’re not designed for comfort, but then, neither is a boulder. Aggressive will help you climb on steep terrain. You’ll stick to and feel those incuts, toe hook, and heel hook.

Best Aggressive

Highlighting the different materials, here are our picks for the best of the aggressive.

  • La Sportiva Miura VS—leather:  This one has leather uppers and wicking Dentex synthetic linings. It can be resoled and is effective in small edges and pockets.  
  • Butora Acro—Leather/synthetic: Has an extended toe rubber, German upper leather, and nylon stretch tongue with silicone sponge.    
  • Evolv Shaman—Synthetic: Roomy toe box allows your big toe to stay bent in the power position. Flexible synthetic suede uppers resist stretching and dries quickly.  

Best Moderate

Explaining the different materials, here’s the best of the moderate.

  • Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS—synthetic: This has a synthetic sole and is 100% textile. A floating strap enhances fit and provides power.
  • La Sportiva Otaki—Leather/synthetic: Patented S-Heel construction provides optimal heel hooking and perfect heel cup fit. Upper is microfiber/leather, and the lining is synthetic.

Best Neutral (flat)  

For the beginners or jamming rocks, the choices may lead to comfort. You decide.

  • Butora Endeavor—Leather/synthetic: This one has a wide fit. It is lined with 100% hemp, which helps control stench and stretch. Triple fork webbing creates a custom fit.
  • La Sportiva TC Pro—Leather: Comes with an unlined underfoot and is lace up. It can be resoled, and it’s unisex. There’s thin padding at the ankles and above the toes to protect your feet when they’re jammed in a crack.

Taking Care of Your Climbing Shoes

You can become attached to your climbing shoes. When they’re broken in and fitting well, they contribute to the success of your climb. Climbing shoes can also be expensive. You have a lot of reasons to want them to last as long as possible.

By properly taking care of them, you’ll be able to postpone the inevitable. Below are some techniques that should help you take care of your shoes.

1. A little prevention

There are some preventative measures you can take to help keep your shoes climbing longer. They include:

  • Buy shoes that fit properly—If your shoes fit correctly, they won’t wear in odd places.
  • Watch your footing—Clean footwork will prevent unnecessary wearing. Try not to drag your toes.
  • Climb, don’t walk—These shoes are made for climbing not walking. Only wear them when you climb.
  • Climb, don’t jump—Don’t try to save yourself a few steps by jumping the last couple of feet. This is tough on the soles.

2. Keep them clean

Rocks aren’t clean, so your shoes are bound to get dirty. Cleaning them can actually help preserve the rubber and keep your shoes in good repair. It also will help you climb better. They’ll be nothing between the rubber and the rock. Rubber provides stick. No matter how strong or good you are, if your shoes don’t provide you with enough grip, you won’t go far. Dirt on your shoes can affect the stickiness of your rubber. The bottom line is that clean shoes help you climb. Here are some ways to keep your shoes clean and in good shape.

  • Carry a piece of carpet with you. The roughness of the carpet works well in rubbing fine dirt off of the rubber. And it’s lightweight and cheap. Just throw a piece in your bag and use it before and after a climb.
  • Clean your shoes with warm water and a wire brush. Don’t soak the shoe. Too much water could damage the rubber
  • There’s always spit n’ shine. That’s right, spit on your shoes and wipe them with a soft cloth. It may look gross, but some people swear by it.
  • Never wash your shoes in the washing machine. It can damage the rubber, and the custom fit could be affected.

3. Protect that stickiness

In order to have the grip needed to scale a cliff or boulder, your shoe’s rubber needs to be sticky. Poor footwork or just a rugged climb can increase wear and reduce stickiness. It especially shows up around the big toe and front of the soles.

If you catch the damage in the beginning stages, this is a fixable problem. Here are some ways to treat these problems.

  • Back to the warm water and wire brush. By cleaning your shoes and scraping with the brush, you take off some of the rough/worn areas. This should leave your shoes as sticky as when you first bought them. But remember, don’t submerge them.
  • Use rough sandpaper. If you see some mini tears in the rubber, it’s going to take a little more than a wire brush. Gently use rough sandpaper on the areas that are losing their sticky grip. Be thorough. You can actually extend the use of your shoe by using this trick.
  • Watch your climbing technique and footwork. Dragging your toe can cause unnecessary wear.

4. Relieve the stink

 Because most don’t wear socks, the inside of the shoes can get sweaty. And with that, sweat comes stink. The stink is caused by bacteria that grow in your shoe.  Make sure you let your shoes dry between climbs. Don’t just put the shoes in your bag and let them ferment. Below are some dos and don’ts to combating the stink.

  • Do not dry your shoes out in the sun. Direct light can damage the rubber.
  • Lightly spray water-diluted isopropyl alcohol in your shoes. This will kill the bacteria. When you kill the bacteria, you kill the smell. Let dry.
  • Try baking soda to help dry the shoes.
  • Do not put in the dryer. This will damage the rubber.
  • Do not expose shoes to extreme heat or cold.
  • Do not use dryer sheets. This will only mask the smell, not kill the bacteria
  • 1:50 diluted vinegar sprayed in the shoe and then left to dry works

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