Getting the best out of your climbing shoes

There are some climbs where good friction between shoe and rock is absolutely vital, and they’re almost impossible to complete without it.  When climbing on granite, I’ve found a few instances where I’ve had to trust steeply sloping footholds which I would rarely have trusted previously.

To gain the required amount of friction on climbs where friction is less than perfect, e.g. polished, steeply sloping holds, it is important to pay some attention to your shoes.

Make sure they’re clean

Just taking a moment to wipe any dirt from the sole of the shoe can make a significant difference to the amount of adhesion you’ll get from it. For cragging, try keeping your trainers / approach shoes on until the last moment before you climb. To avoid stepping in muck, stand on a rock or on top of your approach shoes, at the base of the climb when you put your climbing shoes on.

Roughen them up a bit

The guys that I have been climbing with here carry small, stiff-bristled brushes which they use to slightly roughen up the base of their shoes. They lightly brush a cross-hatch into the base of the shoe for maximum friction.

Technique will ultimately make the largest difference to the amount of friction you’ll achieve on a hold. The direction you push off or the angle of your foot can make all the difference. I tried about 5 times the other day to push off on a small, sloping foothold, each time slipping off as I launched for a distant crimp. One of my climbing buddies pointed out that a) I was on the wrong part of the hold and b) my foot was flat (or in some attempts actually sloping downwards). I got stood on the sharpest part of the hold, on my toes and hey presto, just enough grip to go!