Guest post by PG Routesetter Shannon EK Joslin
Buying your first pair of climbing shoes can be a daunting endeavor. Buying your second pair can be even more stressful!
This blog post is a quick guide in how to streamline your shoe buying experience. We want to help you get out of the shop, into shoes and on the wall!
Planet Granite offers a variety of shoes for climbers of various different levels. Certain subsets of shoes are highly specific to the style of climbing and the climber’s ability level.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
Q – What type of terrain will these shoes be primarily used on?
Sticky rubber is essential for climbing at your limit both inside and outside. We all want a shoe with “the stickiest” rubber!
However, when it comes to adhesion on rock there isn’t ‘one-size-fits-all’. Yosemite’s granite is vastly different than Mortar Rock’s basalt. The top of the line rubbers that rate well on multiple stone types are Vibram® rubber (used in many La Sportiva shoes), Stealth® C4™ rubber (used in 5.10’s shoes) and, most recently, TRAX rubber (used in Evolv shoes). You will find all of these brands and rubber in PG’s gear shops.
Q – How many climbing sessions a week are you getting in?
If climbing is more than just a ‘hobby’, and you find yourself climbing multiple times a week and on the weekends, buying a 2nd (and even 3rd pair!) might be a good idea. Having multiple pairs of shoes can be a really effective way of not only catering to the variety of indoor and outdoor terrain, but can also increase the longevity of the shoes. Rotating through your shoes can make the rubber and fit last longer!
Some people choose to train with an older, worn-in shoe and then save a pair of their favorite shoes for an upcoming competition or a redpoint session outside.
For those on a budget, Evolv offers a great subset of cheap (but sticky!) climbing shoes. Planet Granite currently stocks the Addicts, Elektras, and Defys - all of which have TRAX rubber and are under $100.
Q - What style of climbing will you be doing?
Think about the degree of wall you normally climb on. Vertical, overhanging, slabs, or a mixture?
Vertical and Slab -
If you climb primarily on vertical and slab routes a shoe with a good edge is essential. A good edge allows you to stand on your feet while using ‘bad’ foot holds As you may have experienced, us route setters, we like to use tiny feet on slab routes. Look for shoes that market their “edging power.” Good shoes for vert and slab climbers are La Sportiva’s Miura’ and Katana’s, 5.10 Anasazi’s Velcros and Pink Lace-ups and Evolv’s Defy.
If you climb primarily on overhanging routes you will want a shoe that is marketed as aggressive. An aggressive shoe has a downturned sole and is usually asymmetrical in their toe box. Subtle difference in a shoe’s toe box and heel cup make a world of difference for overhanging routes. I have found that I particularly enjoy having a shoe with rubber extended far over the toe. Great shoes for overhanging climbing are La Sportiva’s Solutions (my personal favorite), Five Ten’s Dragons and Team, and Evolv’s Nexxo.
When trying on new shoes look for a shoe that fits like a glove.
A shoe that fits well should have no air pockets, nor should it crunch your foot into looking (and feeling) like you are practicing binding your feet. I can’t stress this enough, especially if you are trying to develop new technical skills like finicky heel hooks, technical toe hooks or the ever-strenuous smear.
The two most temperamental air pocket areas are heel cups and toe boxes. Use your newly developed strong climbing fingers and poke around a bit to feel for the pockets.
It’s important to take note if the shoes that you are purchasing are lined or unlined leather or synthetic materials (you can find this information in the technical specifications for each shoe).
Unlined leather shoes (LaSportiva Mythos) will stretch as you break them in whereas synthetic shoes (5.10 Dragon Lace-up and Teams) generally stay the same size. Lined leather shoes (LaSportiva Katana Velcro) fall somewhere in the middle, giving a bit of stretch with time but nowhere near as much as an unlined leather shoe.
Factor this into how the shoe initially fit. I like my big toe to be fairly bent in my new leather aggressively shaped shoes, so when they stretch my toe will be left with a tiny bend—a quality I have found valuable when grabbing the rock with my feet.
I like my vertical shoes to be very snug with no bend in the toe. I like my trad shoes (shoes I know I will be spending a full day in) to be very comfortable. Tight but not overtly so, as I know that one can spend all day climbing long multi-pitches in the heat of summer and feet will inevitably swell.
Another factor to consider when buying climbing shoes is your current and projected climbing level. Are you just starting out and don’t know if climbing will be your hobby of choice?
Go for a more all-around shoe—the Evolv Defy or Elecktra will do you a solid. Think the sport of rock climbing (and your feet) will stick? Get some of the stickiest rubber out there and grab an advanced pair of Scarpa’s, LaSportiva’s or 5.10′s.
Are you trying to branch into steep, hard boulders? Try the La Sportiva’s Solution or Five Ten’s Dragon.
To close, the most important aspect of buying a climbing shoe is making sure that your foot is happy. If your feet feel great you can spend less time worrying about when you get to take off your shoes between burns and more time having fun climbing.
And remember kids, With great rubber comes great responsibility.
*Check out Shannon in action in our Tip of the Week video!
Born under a smoldering Mars, it is rumored that Shannon began setting routes as a young girl in the gaudy playpens at the Sultan’s palace in Delhi on walls of pure velvet and pinches of wrought gold. As word of her startling talent spread she was adopted by a traveling English sugar baron and quickly inducted into the glittering halls and silk petticoats of London’s new rich, where she lived for a time before stowing away on the four-master Santa Guadalupe, bound for the Americas. What transpired aboard the vessel can only be guessed at by a tremor in her root-like thumbs—though many have of course cited the numerous horrific diaries discovered among the wreckages of two Japanese whalers. How she at last came to Planet Granite remains unknown…