Caring for your climbing shoes helps prolong the life of the shoe, it's friction, as well as spare some noses along the way! Tim recommends ten tips in his ultimate shoe care guide.
Air drying climbing shoes helps reduce stink. After a climbing session, climbing shoes are warm and damp from sweat; the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. Unlike running shoes where sweat is soaked up by your socks and changed often, most climbers prefer not to wear socks inside their shoes and so the build up of sweat overtime can cause a climbing shoe to smell pretty bad.
As easy as it is to leave your climbing shoes in a bag or car, get into the routine of taking your shoes out to dry when you get home.
Pro Tip: Use a mesh shoe bag or clip them to the outside of your bag so it’s easier to remember when you get home.
Yes, air them out, but don’t leave them out in the sun.
Avoid storing your shoes in direct sunlight or extreme heat like keeping them in your car on an Aussie summer day! The glue that binds the sole to the rest of your shoe is heat sensitive and is prone to splitting apart. Not to mention bacteria thrives in a warm environment. If your shoes are trapped in your car, your passengers also may not be too happy with the resulting smell.
We've all seen the black streaks on slabs across gyms and crags alike. This is precious shoe rubber being scraped off on the wall. Practice good, delicate footwork to get more time out of the rubber.
Pro Tip: Try climbs a few times and pay attention to your movements with your feet. Learning a route and how to be efficient on it can do wonders for your technique and footwork.
Climbing rubber is alot softer than the rubber on your walking shoes. You can easily wear your climbing rubber down while walking on the ground between climbs. The best thing to do is to take your shoes off between climbs or walk on your heels. If you prefer to walk around in your climbing shoes, try to keep the soles as clean as possible by being aware of your surroundings and where you stand/what you stand in. Cleaning your soles on a mat before jumping on the wall is regular practice, especially when climbing outside to reduce potential damage to the crag.
Mud, dirt, dust and chalk can clog up the rubber on your shoes. Give the sole a wipe with your socks or on the leg of your pants. If you are climbing outside and notice a lot of dirt or sand, a small square of carpet/towel is handy for wiping your shoes. Some bouldering mats even have inbuilt foot wiping carpets.
Still not clean? You can clean with soles with a damp cloth and a soft tooth brush. Using water to dampen a cloth, wipe off any excess dirt from the sole of the shoe. If you still notice dirt stuck deep in the rubber, use a soft tooth brush in small circular motion to lift any dirt and grime. Spray the sole with water until the water is running off from the shoe is clear. Avoid getting the fabric of the shoe wet to save yourself from drying the entire shoe.
There is a reason that climbing gyms and bowling alleys do this for their rental shoes. It works with minimum effort!
Shoe deodorisers come in many forms from antibacterial spray, inserts that absorb moisture to DIY kitty litter alternatives. All shoe deodorisers work best if you start using them from the beginning and keep up with any maintenance that is required.
Boot Bananas fits in climbing shoes to absorb moisture and neutralise bacteria. Keep them in your shoes when you're not climbing & maintain them by drying in the sun. One thing to note is that all deodorisers cannot return a smelly shoe to a fresh one without having to wash the grime or sweat out first. Also check out our Shoe Care Kit that comes with a breathable bag that will fit your shoes and BB's in them.
What to avoid: We do not recommend using powdered shoe deodorisers because when it mixes with sweat, it leaves a sludgey residue in your shoe.
The old school way, trialled and tested thorugh many different sports, is to simply wear socks. Now, it's not for everyone. Socks can add some slippage and change that skin-tight feel, but it will also help absorb sweat and make your shoes less smelly!
We recommend finding a thin pair of socks without a joining seam around the toes. A thin pair will not obstruct with the sensitivity you need for climbing and doesn't apply too much pressure on the toes. There is also nothing wrong with rocking the ‘Trad Dad’ look, with a pair of knee high tube socks too! But if you prefer your dignity intact, perhaps some small ankle socks are for you!
If all else above fails and your climbing shoes inevitably get dirty or stink, you are allowed to wash them!
Your shoes can build up dirt, grime and salts inside and outside. Salt from sweat affects the material's elasticity, while dirt and grime can make the inside surface feel slippery, smell bad, and appear black.
There are alot of voodoo out there when it comes to cleaning shoes. We recommend cleaning by hand with only warm water and a soft toothbrush or microfibre cloth. Avoid using any harsh chemicals that might destroy the rubber, leather or the glue. After any cleaning, be sure to air dry them in the shade.
Remember, bacteria need a moist and humid environment to survive, so by drying your shoes completely after each use as well as after washing them, you make it difficult for the smell producing bacteria to survive.
Synthetic shoes ‘could’ be machine washed on a gentle cycle with cold water. Don’t use hot water or bleach! Prior to throwing them in the machine, take out any laces and close any straps.
Please note: Cleaning your climbing shoes in a washing machine is not recommended by all manufacturers, hand washing is the better option. Using any chemicals (including soap and vinegar) or heat may void warranty depending on the manufacturer. If you are not sure, refer to your manufacturer's website for more details.
A pair of already worn-in shoes but with brand new rubber? Give your favourite shoes a new lease on life. Resoling shoes is not only a great way to prolong the life of your shoes, it's also cheaper than buying a brand new pair.
Don’t let the soles or rand wear all the way through before sending them in to get repaired. If your shoes get massive holes in them, they are less likely to be able to get repaired and if they are, the repair will cost much more.
No matter how careful you are with your shoes, they will not last forever.
Over time, most climbers will amass a few different pairs of shoes. These can be used for different styles of climbing or having that comfortable worn out pair for warm ups and another for the send. It also means when one pair is off for a resole, you're not left high and dry!
I've been rock climbing for about 16 years now, as well as working for over 10 years in the rock climbing industry. From starting as an indoor instructor and Children's Climbing Coach, to becoming Assistant Manager at the Climbing Anchors store here in Collingwood (VIC), I am passionate about climbing, and about gear, and especially about climbing gear. I love everything about it, from helping a regular climber buy their second trad rack, to helping that new climber kit themselves out for the very first time!