How to Fine Tune Rock Shoes

Each rock-shoe manufacturer’s choice of rubber is akin to a Formula One’s team of engineers matching suspension and tire choice to a specific track. The nuances of rubber performance are vast, but all rubber is good. Certainly, some rubber is slightly stickier than others, some is firmer for better edging, while others still are softer to help “grab” holds … the list goes on. Shoe design and construction play an integral role in how the rubber works and wears. Here are a few tips for maximizing shoe performance.

1. Pay attention to your feet and shoes when you are standing on different types of holds. For edging shoes (generally stiffer) performance gains can be easily made by beveling the sole inward. Watch the edge of the sole while standing on small edges—if the rubber spooges out from under the shoe, file it back 10 to 15 degrees to keep the edge of rubber directly under the weight of your foot. Squaring off the edge makes for greater precision at the cost of slightly reduced sole life.

For softer shoes and slippers and steep problems where sticking the move involves more smear and grab technique, wire brush your soles laterally to increase their adhesion.

2. If you climb indoors, vary the routes. Doing multiple laps on the same problems works the same muscles—and rubber. At a minimum, practice using different foot placements.

3. If your shoe has a flapper, snip it off. Crop the flap, and you’ll prevent it from “running” or getting bigger.

4. Keep it together. If you have a minor delamination on the rand (the rubber strip that encircles the shoe) or the sole (toe draggers know what I mean) re-glue it over night with Barge contact cement. Many experienced climbers carriy a small tube in their repair kit. Additionally, you can reinforce wear points and improve friction with Stealth “rubber paint” made from rubber dust and glue.

5. Give your shoes a rest. If you climb every day, have two pairs of shoes and alternate so each pair has time to dry out and recover.

——Larry “Toolman” Arthur


Feature image by akeg