We see it all too often: climbers putting on their climbing shoes with pain written all over their faces, then taking them off as soon as possible with relief written all over their faces.
What is the ideal tightness for climbing shoes? Does it hurt to wear them? Should we stop being such wimps and cope with tight shoes, or do they have negative effects? Eventually, you’ll have to move on to the next level, right?
Early climbers wore boots laced with hobnails and cleats. In the past, climbers realised that wearing special climbing shoes would allow them to climb more difficult routes. Not only was this due to the special soles, but also to the fact that the shoes became tighter, which resulted in climbers having more sensitivity in their toes for small footholds.
The result was a back-and-forth between increasingly difficult routes and more aggressive shoes. In spite of all of this, climbers’ feet were completely ignored for many years.
The wrong shoes are worn by so many climbers, and too tight shoes are even worse! There are many reasons why climbers wear the wrong shoes.
A climber’s shoes need to be tight. Climbing shoes, even if they are well-fitted, tend to be much tighter than regular shoes. Climbers have just become desensitised to tight shoes over time, and they just feel right in them now! Beginners would say, “Are you sure my foot is supposed to fit in there?there?there? ,” while experienced climbers would shove their feet in the shoes in hopes that they would stretch half a size. They’d just have to live with it if they didn’t!
Climbing shoes are not the only ones affected by this phenomenon. Since we’ve grown accustomed to wearing tight shoes, we purchase casual shoes that are as tight. It’s just the way things are! Our shoes tend to be a lot tighter than normal! This keeps happening…
IF THERE IS NO PAIN, THERE IS NO GAIN
You should wear tight climbing shoes at first, especially if you buy a pair that is supposed to stretch after a few hours of climbing. Nonetheless, the shoes should never hurt your feet, especially if you’ve broken them in over several weeks. However, if they do hurt, you should seriously consider exchanging the shoes for a different pair. “Climbing shoes are supposed to hurt” – this little phrase is just as untrue as it is persistent. In the end, beginners just end up buying the wrong shoes. There’s no need to do that! It is not necessary to wear aggressive shoes at first, but rather more “simple” shoes to develop your footwork and technique.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS OF EXPANDING THE SHOES?
Apparently, they handle everything themselves! Leather shoes in particular are excellent at this. So go for it! And then climb even higher! But why? Because the shoe will adjust to your unique foot shape. You may want to buy a half size larger if the mere thought of stretching out your new climbing shoes with your own two feet makes you sweat.
Keep in mind, however, that climbing shoes expand when they get warm. It’s normal if they feel really comfortable after climbing for two hours and feel tight the next day.
QUICKER YOU CLIMB, THE AGGRESSIVER THE SHOE
What shoe does Alex Honnold wear on his free solo ascents? The La Sportiva TC Pro, among others. The shoe is good, but it’s not a machine – this is just another well-known climbing myth. The more aggressive your shoes, the better climber you are. Wear aggressive climbing shoes if you want to show everyone how good you are as a climber.
Professionals and other experienced climbers decide what shoes to wear based on their disciplines and routes. On a multi-pitch climb, none of them would think about climbing in overly tight shoes with a lot of heel tension. Except for the crux, for which they have different shoes.
There is a close relationship between performance and embarrassment than you might imagine. A shoe with an aggressive tread would make climbing a multi-pitch alpine route miserable. But why? Because it is completely unnecessary. You could, however, earn the respect of others in an Anazasi slipper if you were able to climb crazy roof routes.
IS IT REALLY BAD TO WEAR TOO TIGHT CLIMBING SHOES?
Pressure points and calluses: These have a tendency to be painful, to open up, and to become infected. Then there’s the fact that they’re ugly! Based upon an article authored by Volker Schöffel in 1999, the following list summarizes the “risks” involved in incorrect climbing footwear:
- Calluses and pressure points don’t have to hurt, but they can open up and become infected. The pain caused by their tight shoes. This leads to extra nails growing. What could possibly go wrong? An untreated infection may require surgery.
- Undernail hematoma (bleeding under a toe nail): It’s not as serious as it sounds, but it is painful and common.
- Bunion: The bergsteigen.com website reports that 54% of climbers suffer from this compared to 4% of the “normal population”. Bones are quite the nasty little thing. When you’re young, it won’t bother you that much, but as you get older, you’ll start to notice it more and more. Eventually, you may have to have surgery.
- Hallux rigidus: This refers to partial stiffness of the joint in the big toe as a result of overexertion and younger people can also develop this condition.
- Dermatomycosis (fungus): It has less to do with the fit of your shoes than it does with hygiene. Not pleasant to experience while climbing with your friends.
Dr. Volker Schöffel contends that some of these ailments can be prevented by not wearing modern climbing shoes in the correct size or too tightly.
It is remarkable that climbers put so much effort into protecting their hands, shoulders, arms and necks with lotions, tape, and other methods, while ignoring their feet! While researching this topic, we found countless articles on all sorts of extremities, but only one serious text (from 2004) on the topic of shoes and foot ailments.
CAN ANYTHING BE DONE?
Having comfortable shoes is easy! Fit and size are both important factors to consider when shopping for climbing shoes. Today, there are so many models available that you are sure to find one that fits your needs. The size and fit of climbing shoes are particularly important when it comes to children, as their feet are still developing. Therefore, make sure that the shoes don’t feel tight on them.
As always, use common sense and if your feet hurt and get infected, something’s not right! It’s important to remember that if these problems reoccur or don’t go away, serious consequences could follow. You can only reach your full climbing potential with healthy feet.
ONE MORE THING
It isn’t always bad for your feet to wear shoes with heel tension and asymmetrical lasts. There are even individuals who claim that shoes with a high heel tension and a steep downturn are the most healthy and we were not able to find any literature on this topic.
Outdoors and climbing industries have a lot to offer. We are constantly learning about new products, reworking and improving existing ones, and improving ourselves. In addition, we want to offer these knowledge to our readers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How do I know if my climbing shoes are too tight?
Look for shoes that fit all your toes on the front and are slightly curled in your shoes when buying a sport/bouldering/gym shoe. The big toe should not be the only part of the foot you press with. Your goal should be to press snugly, not painfully.
Why are climbing shoes supposed to be tight?
You will put a lot of pressure on your toes when climbing. Unless you have your toes at the front of the shoe, you will not be able to feel or control the ball very well. Climbing shoes ought to fit the foot tightly around all parts of the inside.
How do you loosen tight climbing shoes?
To loosen up climbing shoes, do the following:
On a long climb, you should wear your shoes
Put plastic bags filled with water in your shoes and freeze them
Heat your climbing shoes with a hairdryer by wearing thick socks inside them
In a bowl of hot water, soak your climbing shoes
Take a hot shower in your climbing shoes
How long do climbing shoes take to break in?
If you climb consistently, it usually takes 2-3 weeks for climbing shoes to break in. This translates to about 8-10 climbing sessions.
How long does it take for climbing shoes to stretch?
They do stretch a little bit more than leather climbing shoes, though they are less flexible than leather climbing shoes. During the next couple of weeks, climb in them as much as you can. Other more drastic methods can be used if you cannot handle that.