What to Look For When Upgrading Your Climbing Shoes.
You may be on the lookout for a new pair of shoes. Whether you are just starting out and purchasing your first pair, or just getting an upgrade, I'll help you know when to upgrade or direct you where you need to go to find the perfect fit.
One thing that most climbers can agree on; is that borrowing or renting shoes is a TERRIBLE idea. They lack performance and stability, are worn out, and most of the time don't perfectly fit.
Your climbing shoes, no doubt, are the first thing you should upgrade from your arsenal. This is mainly because they are hands down the most important piece of equipment you will own, and on top of that, you don't need to share them.
If you are just getting into rock climbing, please, make your first purchase a quality pair of shoes.
How do I know when I need an upgrade?
The shoes you buy are completely dependent on multiple different factors, some being: foot shape, type of climbing, your experience as a climber, and some others. You can dive deeper into this here on our article "Top 5 Things to Ask Yourself Before You Buy a Pair of Rock Climbing Shoes". Anyway, these factors can lead you in many different directions, you need to find out for yourself what really works for you.
You may have been climbing for a few months and are starting to get sick of your smelly rental shoes. Right off the bat, I would say "Get rid of your rental shoes!". Where do I start and what works for my first pair of shoes? Generally, a climber's first pair of shoes will fall somewhere in the range of a neutral to a moderate downturn, meaning that the front section of the shoe naturally bends down slightly or is mostly flat.
The pros of these designs include: maximized or increased comfort as opposed to an aggressive downturn, better with smearing and slots (which will be found more commonly on beginner walls), and they typically have a moderate or stiff midsole to help with arch support when on the wall.
But these shoes also have their cons. They generally underperform on overhang routes and have a thicker less sticky rubber lacking some sensitivity on the wall.
As I have been through the beginner stage myself I would advise you to one, get out of your rentals ASAP and two, choose a moderate or neutral pair of shoes.
You may have been climbing now for a year, or maybe two. You have gone through the struggles of finding your first pair and are ready for an upgrade. One of the most important things I can advise you to do is to take your prior experience and use it.
You know your favorite type of climbing, boulder, sport, or outdoor. You know your climbing style and preferred wall, dynamic, static, overhang or slab. My point is that you know how you feel on the wall and only you experience it. You can feel which aspects of your shoes need improving and which ones are just right.
Take all of this information into account when deciding which shoe is right for you.
If you intend on moving up to an aggressive pair of shoes please be aware that they will be slightly painful. Comfortability is the trade-off for performance on the wall. Don't be surprised when you want to take a break and sit down after your second route.
How do I know when I need an upgrade?
If you have stuck with a single pair of shoes for the past year or so you might have realized that your shoes are starting to look worn. This is your first sign that a new pair of shoes is imminent. There are options to get your shoes resoled, but most likely your first pair could definitely be improved on. I would not suggest resoling your first pair unless you know they are right for you. In that case, why are you even reading this article?
Another sign that your shoes need an upgrade is obviously their size. If it takes you more than a minute to squeeze your feet into your flat-soled shoes you need an upgrade hands down.
Are you able to comfortably walk in your shoes without feeling the need to roll on to your knees? No? New shoes?
Any time your shoes cause you discomfort or physical injury either on the wall or not its time for a new pair.