Just like us, your shoes need to breathe. You should always air out your shoes after a climbing session. As easy as it is to leave them in the bottom of your bag, this prevents the shoes from drying out and promotes antibacterial growth and smell.
Get in the habit early of taking them out of your car or bag when you get home and air them out.
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 for too long especially in the sun.
Avoid storing your shoes long term in direct sunlight or extreme heat and 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 and, if trapped in a car, your passengers 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 scrapped off on the wall. Practice good footwork to help prolong the rubber.
Pro Tip: Try climbs a few times over, rather than moving straight on to the next. Learning a route and how to be efficient on it can do wonders for your technique and footwork.
Similarly, you wear away your rubber while walking on the ground between climbs. Take your shoes off between climbs and, if you don't, watch where you do walk in them. Try to keep them as clean as possible by being aware of your surroundings and where you stand/what you stand in.
Not quite getting the grip you need? Try cleaning the bottom of the shoe.
Most climbing or bouldering gyms will have a somewhat dusty/chalky floor. Try to give your shoes a wipe on the leg of your pants or leggings! Or, alternatively give the soles a little clean using a damp cloth with white vinegar diluted with water or the Tension Shoe Spray. 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.
There is a reason that climbing gyms and bowling alleys do this for their rental shoes. It works! Not only can you get sprays and inserts that mask the smell of your well-loved shoes, but you can also get ones that are antibacterial. These will always work better if you stay on top of it and use them from the get go.
Try some Boot Bananas if you haven’t already. They are moisture absorbing and neutralise any bacteria developing in the shoe. Keep them in your shoes when you're not climbing.
Boot Bananas come in two versions, one for winter boots (I have some, they go great with my snowboard boots and are fantastic for moisture absorbing and can dry out a pair of wet boots in a matter of hours!) and the standard odour-eating version, perfect for climbing shoes.
While socks can add a bit of slippage in a shoe and change that skin-tight feel, socks will help absorb sweat and the less of it that stays in the shoe, the less it will smell like your nasty foot!
There is nothing wrong with rocking the ‘Trad Dad’ look, with a pair of knee high tube socks! Or if you prefer your dignity intact, perhaps some small ankle socks are for you!
If all else above fails and your shoes inevitably get dirty, you are allowed to clean them!
If your shoes become ‘soiled’ or muddy, give them a scrub inside and out with mild soap and warm water. Avoid using any harsh chemicals that might destroy the rubber, leather or glue. After any cleaning, be sure to air dry them in the shade.
Please note: Cleaning your climbing shoes in a washing machine is not recommended by all manufacturers, hand washing is the better option. 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 comfy 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!