The White Spider Guru is back to bring you a guide on how to find the perfect climbing shoe! Whether you’re new to climbing, or you’ve just always been unlucky with shoes, here is a handy guide to buying climbing shoes that work for you:
Step 1 – Choosing your shoe
1. If you’re new to climbing, you want a relatively flat shoe, either lace up or Velcro. Avoid slip-ons to begin with.
2. Climbing shoes come in 2 main construction types;
Board lasted: This stiffer shoe makes them better suited for beginners. They usually have little visible stitching on the inside of the shoe, and have a stiffening board or a stiffened mid sole. This acts as a platform for you to stand on when you place your foot on a hold or small edge.
Slip lasted: These softer shoes are better suited to more experienced climbers. They are usually sewn together with very little stiffening or none at all, and are almost ‘squishy’ when squeezed sideways. The stitching is usually quite visible on the inside of the shoe. These shoes allow greater sensitivity on a hold, or smear placements, but require a much closer fit and stronger foot muscles to get the most out of them.
3. Climbing shoes are manufactured with thin leather or leather substitutes, this means that they will stretch anything between half a size and 1 full size usually within the first 2 months of use. Please bear that in mind when trying them on in the shop.
4. Taking shoe stretch into consideration;
Lace up shoes can be adjusted usually all the way up to the toe, so once stretched can be tightened to keep the fit snug. This usually makes them well suited to beginners. With lace ups, you are looking for at least a 2 finger width gap between the sides of the laces.
Velcro shoes have less adjustability and usually no adjustment on the front of the foot (this area usually stretches the most).
Slip-on shoes have no adjustability so once stretched – that’s it, they’re stretched!
Step 2 – How tight is right?
1. Climbing shoes are designed to be tight fitting, but don’t buy your shoes too tight – they want to be snug and close fitting, but not painful. If they are too painful, you won’t want to climb in them.
2. When fitting your shoes you want a good close fit all the way around your foot, with no air pockets around the toes or the heel. If your heel is not fully in the heel cup of the shoe try a smaller size or a different brand or model. You will be able to tell if your heel is not fitting properly if the rubber around the heel cup is ‘squishy’ and loose, or bumpy. When you put on a well fitted pair of shoes, they should make a ‘whoosh’ sound as the air is forced out of the back of the shoe when you pull it on.
3. Every manufacturer builds shoes with slight variations in width across the forefoot, volume and narrowness in the heel, this also changes across different models within a manufacturers range. So if in doubt, try as many different sizes, and types of shoe as possible, to get the best fit.
Step 3 – Testing the fit
1. When you stand on a small foot hold in a new pair of climbing shoes, there should be very little bagging/wrinkles on the material at the front/top of the shoe.
2. If there are pressure points on any of your toes or toe knuckles, then try a different brand or model.
3. By dragging your heel across a bench/hold/floor, you can test whether the heel lifts out of the shoe; if it does then it is ill fitting.
4. If you stand on the inside edge, you don’t want the shoes to deflect too much against your foot, so your foot shouldn’t roll inside the shoe. The same goes for the outside edge as well.
5. The idea when buying your own pair of shoes is to fit them without socks. When wearing even a thin pair of socks inside your shoes, it will increase your foot size by at least half a size and it adds an extra slippage surface. It’s totally acceptable to try shoes on without socks, and this is expected.
6. Your feet are usually smaller in the morning and larger in the evening, and this variation can be up to half a shoe size. Your feet will also swell in the summer and shrink slightly in the winter, please also bear that in mind when trying them on in the shop.
And lastly, don’t be afraid of taking up the person in the shops time, at the end of the day that’s what they are there for.
The White Spider Guru.