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A beginners guide to rock climbing shoes

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ock climbing shoes don't look like normal shoes, because, well, they're not normal shoes, but are aimed at moving up, rather than along. We decided to pay a visit to our local climbing shop called Urban Rock to gather some thoughts on climbing shoes and find out what to look out for when buying a pair.
BY:   Crimp       14/07/2013

If you're not familiar with Urbanrock, they sell around 30 different models of rock climbing shoes, have been going for over a decade (so they know a thing or two about climbing!), and also have a couple real world shops that can be visited to look at stuff and try things on.

We had a chat with Colin there:

First off the bat, what are rock climbing shoes, and why are they different to normal shoes?

Climbing shoes are built to give you more support for when you need to stand on small things, which is obviously quite common in climbing, they're designed to help you maximise your foot placement on rock which is why they're shaped the way they are.

You mention the shapes of shoes, could you go into that a little more?

Some shoes for instance are quite flat, which typically makes for a more comfortable shoe, with possibly more focus on pressing down on more vertically inclined rock. Other shoes for example are more curved in profile, the reason for this is simply the mechanics of trying to make the structure of the foot and shoe stronger. Curved shoes may be better suited to say things like steeper terrain.

What do you think should be the main thing to go for when buying a first pair of climbing shoes?

Everyone's feet are different, and fit should be the main driver. Essentially someone should look to buy a pair that's as close fitting as they can get away with, without being too uncomfortable. They may well be comfortable, which is a bonus, but shouldn't be loose.

What should someone do when trying on a pair of shoes?

Try and mimic what you would be doing when climbing, so weighting the edges of the front of the shoe and seeing how the shoe performs. Something to look out for is to see if the foot is rolling inside the shoe when trying them on, if this happens then the shoe may not be closely fitted enough to get the most out of the shoe.

Are there any shoes you recommend for beginners in rock climbing?

Not really, because people's feet are so different. It's always going to be a case of trying on a broad range of shoes and seeing which of those feel good and fits well. I would mention though that the Boreal Joker shoe is quite popular amongst beginners as it seems to tick a lot of the boxes for what people are looking for.

A lot of shoe manufacturers offer lines of shoes specifically for women, how are they different?

Generally the shoes manufacturers make that are targeted more at women are a bit narrower, and of lower volume. They also tend to come in a larger ranger smaller sizes. Being called "women's" shoes can be a bit misleading as it's really about the fit, it might be fairer to describe them as being "low-volume" rather than "women's" shoes, as these shoes may well be suitable for guys' feet also.

Finally, how long would you expect a pair of shoes to last for, if someone climbed once or twice a week?

Typically I would expect a pair to last six and nine months, but probably closer to nine. There are lots of different variables that affect how long a shoe last, but somewhere within this time would be a reasonable guess.

Our thanks go to Colin and the guys at Urbanrock for their time, if you want to check out their shops or website you can find it all here.

If you're wondering who the beautiful creature is who wearing the four trainers in the picture, her name's Daisy, and she's the devoted friend of Brian Boyle. We'd like to thank Brain again for allowing us to use Daisy's pretty face for this story. If you're looking for a little inspiration you might want to check out Brian's Bio, as he's quite an amazing story to tell of his life experiences.