Buying Rock Boots

Bernard ‘feeling the pinch’ with overtight rock shoes, for the Grit

Pain is Insane! – Do Not Fit your shoes too tight! Some Simple Advice on selecting a well fitting pair of rock climbing shoes….

These extremely wise words are provided by 5.10 – perhaps the best manufacturer of rock boots around, certainly the stickiest rubber:

  • Street Shoe Size is only a starting point.
  • Rock shoes are unique, no two desgins fit alike. Generally, softer shoes perform best with a snug fit. Stiffer shoes can be worn looser.
  • Eliminate dead space but don’t fit so tight to create hot spots.
  • Climbing shoes should not be uncomfortably tight, otherwise tears might keep you from seeing ( smearing – ed.) micro edges.
  • Feet swell during the day, from 1/2 to a full size. Try on shoes in the afternoon if possible.
  • Synthetic uppers won’t stretch – you will have the same fit in six months.
  • You should have no hot spots when you are up on your toes.
  • Lined leather shoes stretch up to about 1/3 size after a break-in period of about 10 pitches.
  • Unlined leather shoes will stretch up to 1 full size.

Rock Boot ‘Management’

How would your feet feel doing this! It’s hard to concentrate on the climbing if your boots are making you wince! Sophie squeezing tight rock boots into the fine deep crack of The Strand (E2), Gogarth, North Wales

If you’re getting serious about your climbing and do a variety of different styles 1 pair of rock boots will rarely be enough. That radical, bendy pair of slippers so good for precarious smearing at Stanage Plantation will have you in tears on the 1200m, 55 pitch South Ridge of the Noire. This seems remarkably obvious but every year in the Alps I see handy rock climbers wincing with swollen feet in tight boots halfway up a long, hot rock ridge – a lot of climbing still to do…with sore feet!

You should aim to have 2 or more pairs with specific roles in mind for each pair. For example I use 5.10 T-Rocks for most of my single pitch climbing, trad or sport (their profile suits my fairly narrow feet slightly better than the more obvious 5.10 Anasazis). For longer UK type multi-pitch, usually with a rough or scrambling descent I use the classic 5.10 Ascents and for super long alpine rock (with big socks!) I use a comfortably baggy old pair of Scarpa Marathons.

Whatever you buy – do your research first by checking the manufacturers own website to get an idea of the models that are designed for your needs. If you know what model you want and exactly what size then have a look on ebay. There are bargains to be had but unless you are sure it’s better to go to a good climbing shop, in the afternoon, chat about what you want your boots for, try lots of pairs on, have a boulder….and don’t buy them too tight!!

Good climbing and good luck because a well fitting, well broken in pair of sticky boots will be a pleasure to climb in.