This Month's Gear Guru Question:by Backcountry Bob
Q. I have heard two different sides as to the choice of shoes when rock climbing. On one hand, I've heard that toe-numbing tight is the best way to go; on the other, tight but not too tight. Which is it?
A. In my mind the toe numbing tight philosophy is the most ridiculous idea that ever came around—but it sure did. With the advent and growing popularity of sport climbing in the 80's and 90's, this fad became almost totally accepted as gospel. I, too, used to crush my toes into shoes 2+ sizes too small for a five-year-old, all in the name of sensitivity and performance. I had friends that would have to remove their shoes half way up an 80-foot route just to relieve the cramping in the arches! My feet have never been the same since.
Really though, it depends on what kind of climbing you're doing, and at what level. Many climbers have several different pairs for the specific type of climbing they are participating in for the day. For instance, I go with my regular shoe size (I can even wear thin socks) for my all-day or long trad route shoe. No toe cramping here—I can even walk off a climb in them if necessary.
For shorter trad or harder sport routes my shoes are definitely sized down for a tighter fit—but certainly not painful. These type of routes usually only require you having your shoes on for 15 minutes at a time or less, so a little discomfort is acceptable. A tight fit will give you increased "feel" or sensitivity, but I believe there is the law of diminishing returns at work here, as well.
Check out our selection of climbing shoes.
Good luck and happy climbing!
This month’s Gear Guru question was submitted by Jason from Manassas, VA. He will receive a BackcountryStore.com Nalgene bottle for his question. Enjoy Jason!