How to Break in Climbing Shoes?

Have you just purchased a brand new pair of climbing shoes, but not sure how to break them in?

Most shoes, especially climbing shoes, will need to be broken in. It can be quite a frustrating and painful process, but it doesn’t have to be like this.

This article will go over some simple methods on how to break in climbing shoes!

Types of Climbing Shoes

There are three types of climbing shoes:

  1. Neutral shoes: They have a flat sole, making them rather comfortable. It’s the ideal option for beginners.
  2. Moderate shoes: These possess a downturn feet sole that ensures a stronger position. It’s best for crack climbs, multi-pitch ascents, and overhung trails.
  3. Aggressive shoes: These types of shoes offer a great amount of heel tension due to their more prominent downturn design. Most experienced climbers use them for overhanging escalating.

broken in climbing shoes

How to Break in Climbing Shoes?

Most climbing shoes are made of plastic or leather. Since leather can stretch more efficiently, you can expand your shoes.

Stretching climbing shoes is another approach to improve your footwear comfort if they feel too tight.

However, take into consideration that you will only be able to stretch the upper portion of the shoe. The toe cap and heel and are made of rubber, which means that it will return to its original shape.

Hot Shower Method

As simple as it sounds, take your climbing shoes out of the box, remove all the packaging, and wear them.

Then you will take a hot shower while wearing them. This will allow your toes and heel to slip further into the shoe and stretch it gradually. Also, it will allow the leather to mold to your feet shape and positioning.

Continue to wear them outside and let them dry around your feet. If it feels uncomfortable after a while, you can remove them and place some newspaper tightly inside of them.

You must do this while they’re still wet, so the leather will mold and stretch. With this method, you can increase your shoe size by one dimension. It may be necessary to repeat a couple of times to ensure the stretch.

Ice Bag Technique

Stretching climbing shoes can also be done by placing a bag of water inside the shoes.

Fill the bag, so it eliminates any space inside your shoes. Then, you place your shoes in the freezer and allow the water to freeze completely. Remember that water expands when frozen, and it will stretch your shoes.

You can do this overnight and then take them out the next day. Allow the water to thaw out before taking out the water bag.

This approach may take more time to stretch your shoes, but it’s equally efficient. For this reason, you may need to repeat this procedure many more times to maintain the mold.

How to Shrink Climbing Shoes?

After wearing your climbing shoes after a couple of months or years, they might stretch too much and feel loose. Your shoes must feel snugged for a better grip when climbing. Therefore, you can apply certain methods to shrink them.

Washing Method

You can wash your shoes and let them air dry completely. As the moisture is consumed, the fibers can reduce their size and cause the shoe to shrink gradually.

However, you must allow it to dry itself before wearing it, or the shoe will mold to your feet.

Heat Method

Heat is a great way to reduce the size of your shoe. Leather usually shrinks when exposed to continuous heat.

Therefore, you place your shoes under the sun all day to shrink it. Nonetheless, never place them inside the microwave or oven because they can release toxic chemicals from the rubber and ultimately damage it.

Wear Socks

One of the easiest approaches to improve your shoes’ grip is to wear socks. It will increase your feet’s overall size that may be just enough to create an appropriate seal between the inside of your shoes and your feet.

I find these socks ideal for climbing as they are thick, super comfortable, and don’t cause any slipping or blisters. They also offer great ventilation.

Importance of Choosing the Correct Shoe Size

Remember that you should always choose a climbing shoe that will fit your climbing needs.

Some are best for multi-pitch ascents, while others are more suited for overhung sport routes and mountaineering. Apart from this aspect, your climbing shoes should also fit snugly around your feet.

They must be tight enough to create a secure grip without causing pain or discomfort after using them for extended periods.

How Tight Should Climbing Shoes Be?

Each climbing shoe brand uses a unique size chart that displays the proper shoe size according to your regular footwear.

This is because each manufacturer designs a different shoe layout and ultimately change your shoe size. For example, La Sportiva is an excellent shoe brand that offers durable climbing shoes.

However, they tend to be wider and bigger. Therefore, you should try to reduce the size by 1.5 to 2 sizes.

You can also choose a climbing shoe based on your toes positioning and heel comfort. Ideally, your toes should be curved vaguely at the knuckles to eliminate any crevice between the inside of the shoe and your toes.

They should also lay flat on the sole. If you feel that your toes are clumped, it’s the wrong size.

In regards to the heel, the shoes must have a tight grip around it. You can do this by tiptoeing and assessing if the back of the shoe rubs roughly on your achilles tendon.

If it does, it can damage your skin and cause blisters. On the other hand, the shoe size might be too big if your feet slip out of it when you stand on your toes.

Some people might say that wearing shoes that are too tight doesn’t cause any harm, but they’re greatly mistaken. There are certain health issues that can develop from using wrong climbing shoes, such as:

  • Nail Bed Infections
  • Bunions
  • Calluses
  • Blisters
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Hallux rigidus (the big toe becomes stiff due to joint damage)
  • Subungual Hematoma

Most of the previous issues cause pain and discomfort in the early stages. However, if your feet are exposed to these conditions for an extended period of time, it can lead to chronic infections and deformity.

Some people have even required surgery due to mobility issues and stiffness.

Climbing can be a wonderful experience if you wear proper climbing shoes that feel comfortable and tight. You will be able to enjoy it more and improve your climbing skills at the same time. Rock climbing does not always equal pain.

Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!