You have probably heard people talking about how tight there climbing shoes are, and it made me wonder…
Are Climbing shoes supposed to Hurt? No climbing shoes are not meant to be painful. A Climbing shoe that gives you significant uncomfort generally means it isnt the shoe for you, or you have sized them too small. our foot shapes vary greatly and some shoes just might not be designed to accomodate your foot properly.
I dont know where the conception that tighter shoes are better came from, there is some level of sense to it but its been massively misunderstood.
I spend the first 3 years or so in my climbing getting shoes so tight I could barely walk in them, it was just some unspoken thing that high performance shoes are tight and uncomfortable, and i just put up with it for so long.
Until I tried a good pair of shoes like the miuras, I did a review on them here.
In retrospect this makes no sense, im going to say now, no your shoes shouldnt be painful!
in the article I cover:
- Comfort illusion
- cons of discomfort
- foot shape
- more comfortable climbing shoes
- hack to improve shoe fit
Where did this misconception between tightness and performance come from?
Probably the fact that generally, a tighter shoe is related to a better fit and more performance, up to a certain point.
Like if you had a soft, ill fitting pair of tarantulas on, and swapped them out into a tighter, better fitting pair, you would do better on whatever you were trying to climb.
Because you wore a better fitting pair of shoes, not the tightest.
Beyond a certain point of tightness there is no beneftit, its actually going to negatively impact your climbing and make climbing much less fun
I think thats where this misconception could have started but no you do not need to wair a painfully small pair of climbing shoes to climb your hardest.
Its kind of Counter intuitive but a more relaxed and less painful pair of shoes will be much better for your climbing because you will be able to properly and comfortably weight them.
Cons of Discomfort
A comfortable shoe allows you to put all your force through your toes because it isnt painful in a comfortable shoe.
Uncomfortable shoes are uncomfortable to weight, I couldnt stand properly in my second pair of shoes, I had to walk on the outside edges of my feet in them.
The WHOLE POINT of climbing shoes is they allow you to put weight through your feet, so using shoes that are too painful to weight fully is kind of…ironic? maybe just dumb.
The discomfort you feel in your feet climbing can mean you Firstly, weight your feet less, secondly take more time to climb because your caught up with the pain, and finally the pain is an incentive to use worse technique to minimise the pain in your feet.
There are many different distinct foot shapes, all having there own requirements in a shoe.
Heres the diagram illustrating the different shoe shapes;
You can see how there all different, no one shoe can be the right shoe for you.
Thats why although i recommend everyone my two favourite shoes, i say there not for everyone!
If you had a shape 6 foot you would find them really uncomfortable and probably just wouldnt be able to climb in them.
If your shoes are really uncomfortable on the pinkies or one spot around the edges of your shoe, then its probably caused by the shoe not being right for your foot.
Each shoe will be designes to fit a certain shape, and if your not that shape the shoes will be assively uncomfortable and wont allow you to climb your best.
Stiffer shoes can sometimes be much more comfortable as they provide support for your feet and assist with holding your weight, as long as they fit right.
Stiffer shoes like the La Sportiva Miuras are great for crack climbing because they protect your foot well and can perform really well oversized.
plus there stiff right the way through the shoe, so they support your feet much better than a soft pair.
This allows for you to wear your socks while you climb, iether because its really cold, or you want to protect your ankles from the rock while crack climbing.
Stiff shoes can be a pain though if the shoes dont fit properly you can have hotspots and you might not be able to solve it so easily with a more rigid pair of shoes.
Stiff shoes can be much more uncomfortable too if they dont fit properly, or cause discomfort on your achilles from the heel being too tight and not allowing flexion.
Soft climbing shoes are pretty much always more comfortable untill there is very little rubber left on them.
But soft shoes are much less supporting than a stiff pair and if your interested in doing longer climbs or climbing all day, your foot muscles will get fatigued faster than if you were i na stiff pair.
This is why Alex Honnold wore the Miuras (Review Here) for his free solo of el cap, not a soft pair of shoes!
you usually will wear through a soft pair of shoes much sooner than a hard pair, and when the soft shoe gets thin it can be very uncomfortable to climb in them because there isnt much protection between your foot and the hold.
My softest and most comfortable shoes, the Tenaya Oasis were very comfortable until i wore through the toe rubber.
Now when i climb in them im basically just standing on my bare toe and this is really uncomfortable when your using really small holds, or kick the wall.
So while they are generally much more comfortable they wear out much faster in my experience.
More Comfortable Climbing Shoes
So you might have found this because your climbing shoes are uncomfortable. sorry, that sucks, but you are in luck.
There are a couple hacks you can do to make them more comfortable!
If your shoes need breaking in more;
you can wear them into a hot shower and then walk around in them a bit. this will soften them up and Boost the breaking in process. the warm water allows the shoes to relax a bit and mold to your foot!
or you can try putting a bag full of water in them and freezing it all overnight, the bag will expand and stretch the shoe, improving the fit.
These are more like solutions when you have your climbing shoe, but if you are lucky enough to read this before buying your climbing shoes, remember you can usually go a size bigger than you were going to get, and have the same amount of performance and feel with none of the discomfort.
Quick hack to make new shoes Comfortable
How can i get my new shoes on easier? Using the plastic wrapping that your shoes probably came in you can create a ‘sock’ and use it to slip in and out of your new climbing shoes much easier. Wrap the plastic around your foot and slide them into the shoe, you can now trim off the excess wrapping that sticks out.
Using the plastic in your shoe you can now get in and out of them much easier, and it will help speed up the breaking in process.
speed up Breaking in process
If your shoes have ‘Hot sports’ where they rub and cause discomfort you try a couple things:
Put a bag of water in the shoe and freeze them.
This will force the shoes to stretch and can ease up those tight spots that cause discomfort.
If that didnt work,
Try wearing them in the shower.
The warm water will ‘relax the shoes’ and since there on your feet they will become much more moulded to your feet.
This should ease up those points of uncomfort for you.
if your shoes are mostly comfortable,
Theres just a bit of rubbing you cant eliminate with the previous techniques
you can alway wear socks with your climbing shoes.
Hikers add a second pair to eliminate rubbing, and it can help ‘pad out your shoe’ without really decreasing sensitivity.
No one will judge you for it, promise!
If these methods arent working, compare your shoe shape to that of the shoe, because your shoes just might not be made for your feet…
In fact, maybe try this before you wear them in the shower.
If your feet are clearly a different shape to that of your shoe,
you might just have to get another pair of shoes, and make sure to compare the shoe hape to your feet before buying them.
So essentially, no your shoes shouldnt be tight. its bit of a false conception that tighter shoes are directly correlated with more performance. Just choose a pair of shoes in person, and make sure they fit PERFECTLY.
if you have some shoes that are already causing you discomfort please try the suggestions in the article and i hope they help!
Thanks for reading this, i enjoy making them and plan on making many more.
Comment what you want to see next and id love to make a post for you!