JON WICKHAM advises on fit and function
Buying your first pair of rock shoes can be a tricky business. At George Fisher we have an expertise in boot fitting which transfers across to climbing shoes.
Myths about climbing shoes include that they should be bought several sizes smaller than your street shoe size, and that they will be painful to wear. These ideas are wrong and outdated, but still continue to dominate many people’s ideas of climbing shoe fitting.
Feet come in many different sizes, but also shapes. Each brand makes their climbing shoes to a different shape (or Last), and it’s about finding the shoe that is closest to your foot shape. This is why we encourage customers to come in for a fitting, rather than buying online where you are essentially buying blind.
A climbing shoe must be tight enough that your toes touch the end of the shoe. This enables you to feel the rock through the sole, and find the best position on a hold. The shoe must also be tight enough that your toes are not splaying out. This would mean the force you are putting into your foot is being lost, rather than transmitted into the tip of the shoe and onto the hold.
This may feel very strange if it’s your first experience of climbing shoes, and you may get some initial discomfort until you get used to them, but you certainly don’t want it to be painful.
More difficult climbs may have smaller holds and a steeper angle. Shoes designed for these routes maximise power transfer from your legs by pushing your toes into more of a point, and putting your foot into a curved ‘claw’ shape. It is often here where climbers choose an overly small shoe in an attempt to get their feet to fill voids where the shoe does not fit them. A shoe that fits properly will not have these voids, so you will not need to squash your foot into a small shoe.
A shoe that is too small will be uncomfortable. This can cause long-term deformity and a loss of feeling due to a lack of blood to the foot, which ends up in losing the sensitivity you were seeking in the first place! Climbing should be enjoyable, so don’t let a badly fitting pair of shoes put you off.
Much is made of different sticky rubber soles, but the difference in grip is not massive and it certainly should not sway you when buying your first shoes.
The best piece of advice I can give is to try on as many pairs of shoes as possible. We have a wide range of shoes in stock, and the expertise to help you find the right pair. Happy climbing!