First things first. Wear your rock shoes on the rock, for climbing. Don't wear them on the trail or the approach—even if it doesn't hurt your feet to do so! Walking in climbing shoes allows dirt and gravel to grind into the rubber and wear down its surface prematurely. Dirty soles also have less grip when you get on the rock.
Some tight-fitting shoes and slippers can be painful to wear. Some climbers use them for one sport route, then off they come. Resist the temptation to walk around with only your toes slipped inside—you'll crush the heel cups and quickly wear out the shoes.
A little prevention can help keep your shoes clean:
Dirt and sweat will probably eventually take over. Here are some remedies:
Your rock shoes' soles and rands (the rubber rims from toe to heel) are made of sticky rubber to give you that secure feeling on the rock. This sticky surface also collects dirt and gravel, which compromises your shoes' ability to grip.
Besides wearing your rock shoes only for climbing, you can preserve the rubber by cleaning grit and dust off the soles and restoring the stickiness as follows:
Other common sense ways to protect your shoes:
You want to wear your beloved rock shoes for as long as possible, and you probably don't want to give them up for a week or two to be resoled. Make sure you don't wait too long before shipping them to the repair shop, though. Keep an eye on the high-wear areas of your shoes and take care of them before holes appear.
Areas to watch for include:
What to look for:
If you wait long enough for holes to appear in the rubber, or for the rands to wear through, resoling is more difficult and more expensive. Plus, your resoled shoes may not perform up to their old standards.
If you're somewhat handy with tools, you can resole your rock shoes yourself. You need some rock shoe rubber and glue, which are sold as resole kits, plus a hammer, an electric drill with a 3 inch grinding wheel, a utility knife, pliers and a heat lamp.
An easier, though longer, option is to send your shoes to a cobbler specializing in climbing shoe repair. They usually know that you want to be climbing again as soon as possible, so turn around times are fairly quick. You can request a half-sole replacement, done by removing the front half of the sole and replacing it with new rubber. It's less expensive than a full resole and saves the broken-in fit.
You can usually request the type of rubber or the sole to match your brand of rock shoe. The types of rock shoe rubber available are (from harder to softer, more or less): Boreal Fusion, Vibram XSV, Vibram Megabyte, Stealth C4 and Stealth 2. Softer, stickier rubber usually performs better on friction routes, while the harder rubber tends to wear longer, edge better and hold up better for gym climbing.
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: 02/18/2014
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