If you are an adventure junkie with a deep love for climbing, you know how tough finding the right shoes can be, especially when it comes to breaking them in, without damage.
So, for the right intents and purposes, when it comes to how to break in climbing shoes the proper way, let us guide you on the easiest, most effective hacks to start helping you scale upwards. Because after all, it is all getting the right grip, just how climbing shoes are meant to be!
Climbing shoes explained
In short, this footwear can be best defined as a second layer of skin for your feet, made exclusively for climbing. They are designed to act as the interface between your feet and the rock. If you are looking to cradle your feet like a glove, over rocky edges, climbing shoes are the best fit.
They are made with stretchable, flexible materials which makes rock climbing easy. And as with any shoes, they have a breaking-in period. With rock climbing shoes in particular, however, it can take some time at first.
What to look for when buying climbing shoes?
Now that you know what climbing shoes are specifically made for, how do you find the right fit before you start breaking it in for comfort? There are 3 main things to consider before buying the right climbing shoes for you:
Climbing Shoe Fit
This is a no-brainer. You need the right size which will adjust with the shape of your feet accordingly. Questions you have to ask yourself when buying the right size are how the stiffness or tightness feels, or if the toe box is just right enough for you. The straps and width also factor in when it comes to the right climbing shoe fit.
You may wish to visit indoor rock-climbing centers to test out what is best for you before buying shoes.
Climbing Shoe Shape
This is the most important aspect when it comes to choosing the right climbing shoe; the shape. How a climbing shoe will function on rocky edges will depend on the shape. Climbing shoe shape is categorized into 3 parts:
- Aggressive climbing shoes are not for beginners. They are more seasoned climbers with years of experience. They have a high downward shape (at the bottom of the outsole) which makes rough edging smooth and great for hard climbing
- Moderate climbing shoes have a gentle downward and heel tension shape (outsole). They allow the hold of foot movements on rocks with relative ease, giving the wearer moderate control.
- Neutral climbing shoes have a standard outsole with the lowest downward shape. They will feel like a natural fit as any other casual shoe. They aren’t made for extreme edging or climbing and are the best option for beginners.
Climbing shoes are actually made with different kinds of leather or synthetic fiber, which allows them the ability to edge and be flexible for greater hold. When choosing the right climbing shoe to buy, it is best to go with a material which is known as ‘lined leather’.
Lined leather material is a combination of the two and offers breathability and stretching without making the shoe feel sloppy or too loose.
Best ways to break in climbing shoes
For all you adventure junkies out there, here I am going to discuss how to break in new climbing shoes. Yes, you can wear them the traditional way and climb around several times enough for them to adjust to your feet, but let’s face it, in a fast-paced world, who has the time.
1. The Hot Shower Method
If someone told you that the best way of breaking shoes was in the shower, you would be in disbelief, right? As weird as it sounds, when it comes to climbing shoes, run the hot water, wear the shoes, and just pop into the shower.
how to break in climbing shoes hot water is one of the simplest, yet effective methods when it comes to stretching climbing shoes. Simply follow these steps:
- Lace-up or strap in your climbing shoes gently
- Step into the hot shower and just soak your climbing shoes for about 10 to 12 minutes max.
- Move your feet and toes around within that time frame to help stretch climbing shoes.
- Step out and walk around in your steaming warm shoes in the yard for about 30 minutes.
- You may go for a brief climb session in this way to stretch the shoes or break them in more (optional).
- Take off your climbing shoes and dry them with newspaper. You will also want to stuff them inside the paper to completely dry them off.
- Repeat once again if you feel the climbing shoes need more breaking in.
2. The Ice Bag Thaw Method
This is probably the weirdest, yet uber-simple method on how to break in climbing shoes, and again, it will only work with this particular footwear. We like to believe that the ‘the ice bag method is far simpler and hassle-free than the previous one because this way will ensure a precise fit.
To break in your climbing shoes without damage, follow these steps below:
- Take two ziplock bags and fill them up with water, enclosing them. (If you don’t have ziplock bags, find a similar substitute as long as it can be closed)
- Place the bags filled with water into the climbing shoe making sure they fitfully. Ensure this by lightly strapping up or loosening the lace.
- Simply take your climbing shoes into the freezer and leave them overnight.
- Let them stay a minimum of 12 hours and a maximum of 16 hours.
- Take the climbing shoes out of the freezer and allow them time to thaw out completely.
- Repeat this step with lesser time for thawing if you feel they require a bit more fit or loosening.
3. The Blow Dry Method
Easy but time-consuming, the blow-dry method is probably the least cool or soggiest method when it comes to breaking in climbing footwear. This still is a very effective way to stretch your climbing shoe without the hassle. It uses heat, which makes the materials stretch thus making it easier. Simply follow these steps:
- Take our climbing shoes out and stuff them with socks.
- Bring out your dryer (shoe dryers can be used too but optional) and adjust to a moderate level of heat-blow.
- Warm up your shoes and eventually raise to high heat. Continue for about 3-5 minutes maximum.
- Bend the climbing shoe. Flex it around with your hands in that state.
- Next, stuff the socks deeper into the shoe, and start blowing heat using the dryer for another 3 minutes, from all sides (inside and out).
- Then wear your climbing shoes. It should be a bit more comfortable to wear now. Walk around or go for a brief climb to test the grip and flexibility.
- Repeat the process once more with less time if you feel the climbing shoes need more adjustment.
The next step in breaking in your climbing shoes is simply to go climbing. By now, your new climbing shoes have adjusted well to your feet and made them comfortable enough to flex.
What to know before buying climbing shoes?
They can be very, very tough to wear at first. Climbing shoes are made to basically act as a tougher, second layer of skin, to help navigate over rough terrains and climbing with your feet. As a result, the synthetic leather and elastic fabric of climbing shoes are tighter when you first buy them.
How are climbing shoes different?
Climbing shoes provide exceptional grip for the feet. For example, if you are about to climb rocks, real or artificial, regular sneaker soles are flat and don’t have that sticky or rubber grip to them, making it easier to slip. A climbing shoe with a thicker outsole means better, smoother grips and support for your foot.
How long does it take to break in climbing shoes?
If you use certain hacks for breaking in climbing shoes, it can be done in about a day, without even wearing them. For the traditional method, you need to start wearing them and going out. Few hours a day for 2-3 days should be enough to loosen climbing shoes for them to fit your feet perfectly.
Why are climbing shoes so expensive?
Climbing shoes are mainly expensive either because they are handmade, or the manufacturer has to use high-grade materials. As these aren’t your typical run-of-the-mill shoes for casual treading, climbing shoes are made for adventurers. If the materials are of high quality, ensuring features like tough gripping and flexibility, wearers will be prone to more accidents.
How do you break in climbing shoes fast?
The best way to break in climbing shoes fast is using the ice water bag method. By filling up your shoe with a bag of water, overnight in the freezer, the ice helps stretch the shoe really fast.
How long does it take for climbing shoes to break in?
It can take several days depending on the material. With certain hacks, you can break in climbing shoes after a day. Just be sure to wear and use them for a few days for the shoe break-in period.
How painful should Climbing shoes be?
Climbing shoes shouldn’t be painful at all but at first wear, they can be slightly tight due to the materials. Climbing shoes need to be broken so your feet can adjust comfortably.
How do you break in synthetic climbing shoes?
To break in synthetic climbing shoes, simply wear them in the hot shower. The heat helps the material expand a bit. After that, walk around for few hours a day, for 2-3 days.
Regular shoes are not going to cut it when you are scaling the rough ridges or terrains of the Rocky Mountains or deep ravines. Climbing shoes are the only option. Now that you know how to break in your climbing shoes with ease, it’s time to begin your ascent on a rocky, yet exciting life of rock-climbing. Hopefully, you won’t have any more questions on the topic of how to break in aggressive rock climbing shoes.