Whether it's your first or your 20th, caring for your shoes will help prolong the life of your shoe and spare some noses along the way! Tim has compiled his top ten tips to ultimate shoe care.
Keep your shoes dry and air them out after use.
Avoid wearing the rubber out too early by working on your footwork and taking shoes off between climbs.
Stay on top of your shoe care, it's much harder to catch up after.
Know when to resole your shoes.
1. Air them out.
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.
2. Don’t leave them in the sun or hot car.
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.
The next worst thing is leaving your shoes outside to air for a few days,
only to find something has decided to make it it’s new home… BIG NOPE!
3. Watch your step...
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.
4. ... And save it for the wall.
Give your shoes a quick wipe before jumping back on the wall.
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.
5. Cleanse your sole!
Not quite getting the grip you need? Try cleaning the bottom of the shoe.
Most climbing/bouldering gyms will have a somewhat dusty/chalky floor. Try to give them a wipe on the leg of your pants or leggings! Or, alternatively give the soles a little clean with some white vinegar. 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.
6. Use a shoe deodoriser.
Moisture absorbing, lavender-infused shoe deodorisor - what more do you want?
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.
7. Wear socks.
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!
8. Clean them.
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.
Hand-washing your shoes in your sink is pretty effective, especially if you use a brush. I find that an old toothbrush makes a good shoe scrubber, just make sure you ask your housemate before repurposing their toothbrush, and maybe don’t put it back where you found it.
If you’re going to hand wash, soak those shoes in warm water and fabric detergent for a solid hour—unless the shoes are leather. For leather shoes a shorter hand wash is what I would recommend. Just keep the water cool enough to touch, don’t forget, climbing shoes and high heat don’t mix well as rock shoe glues can melt with high enough heat.
Rinse the shoes until the water runs clear. You can use a mild soap of your choice. However, the best thing you can do is to use real laundry detergent (there are plenty of eco options available).
Synthetic shoes ‘could’ be machine washed on a gentle cycle, with warm water. Don’t use hot water, don’t use bleach! Take out any laces and close any Velcro straps beforehand. Note that not all of the materials in a climbing shoe are colourfast.
After washing be sure that you completely dry the shoes with either a fan or other air-dry method. You can fill them with newspaper or paper towels beforehand so they don’t shrink. Never put rock shoes in a dryer, even on an air dry setting! Bacteria need a moist/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.
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.
9. Resole them before you get holes.
When the sole is wearing thin and you start eating into the rand - time for a resole!
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.
It’s ok to have an indoor pair, an outdoor pair and a training pair. Live your best life!
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!
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