Working at a Bouldering Centre and climbing for 5 years I have had a lot of time to Discuss climbing Shoes and It has become pretty clear to me you should NOT Downsize climbing shoes… Heres Why:
Should You downsize Climbing Shoes? No, You should not downsize your climbing shoes because the extra uncomfort that comes with a Climbing Shoe a few sizes too small is actually detrimental. If your feet are hurting to stand, you are not going to put the maximum amount of weight through your feet while climbing.
There is more to it than this though (as always) because I still downsize my climbing shoes… Let me explain why.
Downsizing your climbing shoes
First lets just clarifty: ‘downsizing’ means going down a couple sizes from your street shoe or just smaller than a shoe that fits comfortably.
I think the notion of downsizing shoes equalling better performance came from the fact that a tight shoe is better than a baggy one and its just turned into Smaller = Better.
I am sure you have heard it, Everyone says ‘The tighter the better’ and ‘The pain is good’ for example.
Having a pair of climbing shoes that are tight enough for your toes to be ‘squidged’ into the ends of the shoe is good because it makes your toes much stronger and lets you stand on smaller holds.
Somehow it just got lost in translation that they just need to squidge your toes instead of actually crushing them into the ends of the shoes.
You shouldnt really be able to move your toes in a pair of shoes that fit but you should certainly be able to comfortably stand in them and walk.
If you cant, or you wouldnt dare walk in them… Your shoes are probably unnecessarily tight, and it might actually be detrimental!
I still see people Squeezing themselves into excrutiatingly small climbing shoes.
I did the same, maybe it did make sense or maybe I just did it because my peers told me to…
My first pair of climbing shoes were a couple sizes down, the shape of the shoe was wrong for me and they apsolutely CRUSHED my feet.
I would hobble about between climbs in a good amount of pain.
And theres literally no need.
I am climbing much harder than I would have imagined in a second hand, comfy ass pair of miuras!
They are the same size as my street shoe and I climbed a Techy, blank face 7c+ in them.
I can also wear them comfortably for a full trad lead or bouldering session with apsoutely no discomfort at all!
Once your shoes are tight past a certain point its actually going to do more bad than good.
Downsizing trades comfort for performance
This is the first reason I would not advise people to downsize there climbing shoes is because you trade your comfort for pain and this illusion of increased performance.
We all climb because its enjoyable but when I wore those super tight climbing shoes It was less enjoyable to me and there was no concievable benefit to doing it…
Climbing shoes ‘squidge your individual toes together into one strong platform you can use to stand on all kinds of small holds.
Your Climbing shoes do need to be tight so your toes are all working as one in the shoe but any tightness past this point is simply detrimental.
This graph above demonstrates a comfort to performance fit… I would argue that the ‘Performance’ diagram should be more downturned.
Downturned climbing shoes are brilliant for standing on small edges and I think there incredible but they still dont need to crush your toes!
The diagram illustrates how slight of a difference the fit of the shoe is for both comfort and performance.
I would change my favorite shoes probably one size max to differ between performance and comfort, Not 3!
Going and downsizing so your toes are genuinely crushed into the shoe is just painful with no real benefit.
Downsized climbing shoes and Climbing Efficiently
So one day it suddenly dawned on me… If I Cannot bear to weight my feet properly in these climbing shoes, how am I going to Weight them to the fullest when I am climbing?!
Once I was aware of it I noticed when I was climbing I wasnt putting all my weight through my feet because they were painful.
Subconciously I was keeping more weight on my arms because I wanted to avoid the pain of really using my feet while climbing!
Can you see how it doesnt make sense!
This is the second reason I advise people to Not downsize there climbing shoes.
Not only is it uncomfortble but it also might mean your not using your feet properly when your climbing!
Once I realised how unnessesary it was for me to be in those terribly small shoes I went and got myself a new pair.
They were comfortable and it didnt detract from my climbing in any way!
I put as much weight on my feet as I could with no discomfort and I was enjoying all of the climbing time.
There was no throbbing pain in my toes as I climbed up!
Your climbing shoes should squidge your toes… Thats the whole point!
But they shouldnt be so uncomfortably small that you:
- grimmace as you put them on
- cant bear to weight them
- wouldnt dream of going in tiptoes in them
- Must take them off after a minute
If this is the case theres a pretty good chance there too small!
Put your attention in your feet the next time your warming up and see how much or how little you like putting the weight over your feet.
You might find your subconciously avoiding the pain in your feet and this means youve got unnessesary weight on your arms!
Anyway, thanks for reading… I hope it brought you some value 🙂