How to Break in Climbing Shoes

Close up of rubber climbing shoe on rock
A rock climber should be wearing the right shoes. (Image: BackyardProduction/iStock/Getty Images)

Rock climbing shoes are probably unlike any other shoe that you have worn. Designed to fit tightly, they allow you to feel small holds and features in the rock. To make the process of breaking them in easier, buy shoes that mimic the natural shape of your foot. If you buy a pair of climbing shoes that is not right for your foot, they may never be comfortable. Leather shoes will stretch and conform to your feet over time, but shoes with synthetic uppers may not change much, so it's essential to start with the proper fit. Always try on shoes before you buy to make sure you have the right size. Outdoor gear review web site Spadout reports that your climbing shoe size may differ as much as two sizes from your regular shoes.

Step 1

Choose the right fit. Climbing shoes should be snug but not painful. Your toes should be slightly downturned inside the toe box.

Step 2

Wear them around the house for short periods of time. This will allow the shoe to stretch and begin molding to the shape of your foot. Leave them on for only a few minutes at a time to prevent blisters.

Step 3

Engage in some light climbing. The best way to break in shoes is to climb in them. Allow yourself short periods of climbing on the bouldering wall or on easier routes, removing your shoes after each climb so that your feet can rest.

Step 4

Progress to longer climbs. If you have an older pair of shoes you can wear, try alternating between your new and old shoes. Avoid the temptation to wear your old shoes for the majority of your climbing; your new shoes will never become properly broken in if you don't give them proper time on the wall.

Tip

If your shoes continue to be painful after extended wear, you may have a shoe that does not fit your foot properly. Consider buying a new pair.

Try on several different styles and brands to find one that is more comfortable. Remember that lace-up shoes will give you a more precise fit, whereas Velcro or slip-on shoes are easier to remove between climbs.

Warning

Take care of any blisters caused by your new climbing shoes right away. You don't want anything to cramp your climbing style.

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