Has Climbing Shoe Design Reached an Impasse?


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Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
moving thru
Dec 5, 2018 - 07:07pm PT
Right on, Jim. Just like the climbers/peak baggers back in the day wearing heavy boots, tennis shoes....whatever they could find to make their climb happen.

Trad climber
Dec 5, 2018 - 08:03pm PT
Even though they were hot as hell I always thought that Tao's were better than Mega's. Lighter, just about as stiff but better feel. I still have a pair of Tradmaster's which I believe were the last board lasted shoes. I save them for hard (> 11c) thin climbing. Any thing less and I can generally do it in lesser shoes. TC Pros look great but don't fit my foot at all and are unwearable.

Dec 5, 2018 - 08:25pm PT
People are lazy in their minds and want a shoe that does it for them.

Not gonna happen ever.

The best can climb in roller skates.

The rest need all the help they can get .......


the east
Dec 5, 2018 - 08:42pm PT
Its an impasse of what will sell. Which is weird as income adjusted they are as cheap as they've ever been.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Dec 5, 2018 - 09:30pm PT
You haven’t lived until you’ve had a pair of “turbo” Megas. These were my go-to shoe for the 12+ thin edging on steep slabs we were doing up at Courtright, among other places.

I would take a brand new pair of Mega’s, straight out of the box, and use a belt sander to grind off about half the thickness of the sole. It was key to go slow, not to heat up the shoe. I wanted to see a patch of the inner material of the shoe about the size of a dime in the center and have about 1/8” of rubber left around the outside. Then I’d glue on a layer of Chas Cole’s thinnest slipper rubber (using a very thin layer of barge cement,) trim the edges, and finish the edge to perfection with a fine grinding wheel.

The thin 5.10 rubber was well supported by what was left of the harder original sole, and the edging performance was excellent. Of course that thin layer would last about a day of hard climbing, so it was key to renew it before it was worn into the original rubber. That was easy, heat it up with hot air gun, peel it off, and replace.

Sportiva made a shoe kind of like that. Thin rubber on a harder base, meant to be changed frequently. Those were the one's with a rubber slingshot around the back above your heel just in case you still had any feeling left in your toes.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Dec 5, 2018 - 11:00pm PT
Anders, LOL, buddy.

I've managed to climb the Line at the Leap wearing:

1. The brown leather RDs, stiff-shanked friction boots.

2. The EBs so commonplace in the early 70s.

3. Standard old school kletterschue laced tightly.

4. An odd pair of blue leather friction boots from Galibier that I really liked but whose initials I cannot recall. Gonna have to check my mem, here. (RBs! Yes! Knew it'd come to me.)

I tend to agree with the duck on shoesies ("what Werner said").

ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
Dec 5, 2018 - 11:14pm PT
[Click to View YouTube Video]

A long way from where I started
Dec 6, 2018 - 08:27am PT
I posted the story below in a now-deleted thread about shoes. (I think Kevin started it, and it got the chop when everything by The Warbler was disappeared). Anyway, here are some thoughts about footwear...

Once upon a time climbers in Vancouver would gather at a sleazy bar called The Cecil every Wednesday night. Drink bad beer, talk about climbing, tell lies, make plans... The usual. One drunken evening somebody mentioned a route named "Foot in the Gravy."

Silly little 30-foot route in the Little Smoke Bluffs at Squamish. 10c on an 75-degree wall with two bolts.

And this started an argument. Don Serl was there that night, and he happened to say something like "Oh, right, neat little edging problem." To which Konrad Kraft replied "Edging? You must be thinking of something else. 'Foot in the Gravy' is a slab. Smearing all the way."

"Smearing? No, it's little edges from bottom to top."

"Edges? Are you nuts? It's a slab."

"Slab? No, you're nuts. There are edges everywhere you look. There are so many edges I could climb it in crampons."


"Not bullsh#t. I could front-point the whole thing."

"Wanna bet?"


So, the following weekend, everyone who had been in the pub that night wandered out to the Burgers & Fries cliff in the Smoke Bluffs, and watched Don lace up his mountain boots and lash on the crampons. And carefully and concisely front-point his way up 30 feet of 10c as a light rain began to fall.

Of course most of us had climbed the thing a hundred times in sticky shoes, but Don had that edge mentality that comes from spending thousands of hours in stiff boots on steep rock.

So what's the takeaway? Maybe it's in your own mind. Or, if you'd been standing where I was standing, you'd have been able to see the tier of cliffs above, and like me you'd have been torn between watching Don front-point his way up "Foot in the Gravy" on a toprope, and looking up to watch Peter Croft solo "Flying Circus."

I mention this because the light rain had influenced Peter's choice of footwear...

He took off his shoes and climbed it in his socks.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 6, 2018 - 08:52am PT
I always say that I don't climb good enough for my shoes to matter...

the JB's from Acopa were an example of a "new school" high top crack and edging shoe, man were they stiff, but you could put them on an edge, a really tiny edgy, and crank up on it, assuming your remembered that technique (also assuming you ever had it).

But I think Donini and Werner are correct in pointing out that it is the climber climbing, not the shoes.

I once measured the difference in the coefficient of friction for a pair of RR's (Robin's old steel shanked climbing boot with patterned soles) and Fires, it was an amazingly SMALL difference, but noticeable for climbing. There are technologies that may increase that coefficient of friction in the future. I don't think by very much.

Ksolem's story of obsessing over the perfect foot wear could be where climbing would go at the "high end" with custom shoes for particular pitches available, and for single use.

Not sure that front pointing rock routes will ever be acceptable, but apropos regarding technique.

There is the in between technique of "smedging" to acquire also.

The biggest difference in the most recent shoe designs seems to be fit, I had an old pair of Fires in my closest and tried them on, they felt like big boats compared to any modern shoe I had since purchased. The degree to which the various shoes fit my feet, makes them much more responsive and positive, and probably improves my climbing from the standpoint that I'm not distracted by my aching feet, which has become more a problem as I have aged.

The JB's, fit for the ultimate edging shoe, were 2 sizes smaller than what I wore for crack climbing, but would have been a horror show for long routes, you couldn't take them off easily. And then there was some funky rubber problems on the rands.

The Legends were a really good all around shoe for Yosemite, they were a low top and I could wear them on any climb I had good technique on, including wide cracks. High tops for wide really have to do with technique for most of us... doing FAs is another issue.

I suspect that shoes will evolve with materials, maybe spray on sticky/stiff rubber... on top of various mechanical devices to support the foot, some sort of climbing orthotic.

The east Germans were famous for climbing bare foot when they could not get "high quality" western shoes... maybe they had it right after all.
Alan Rubin

Dec 6, 2018 - 09:04am PT
After his experience in Dresden, Henry Barber frequently climbed barefoot on routes of all styles and grades. More recently, prolific New England developer Ward Smith--and a number of other Team Tough stalwarts, routinely climb barefoot--at least up to 5.13. For years the Russians climbed in "galasoh"--which were actual thin rubber rain shoes, worn very tight As Jim says, it is the climber not the shoes--though good shoes do, at least marginally, help those of us with less talent!!!!

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Dec 6, 2018 - 10:27am PT
Mayville and I had both just led Rule Britannia in Josh. Suzuki walked up, and seeing that Dave and I could do it, decided to have it for breakfast before going up to Sole Fusion.

He asked me what kind of shoes, "Edging shoes or slippers?"

I showed him the edging shoes I'd just used, and he put on his slippers. Whatever.

The crux of the thing is probably a bit of steep patina that's hard to get established on, but after that comes a longish section of quite hard runout (did I mention this is a Woodward route) thin, moderately steep slab.

When Suzuki was up there I'd quit paying attention until I heard "Kris! Kris! Edging shoes be much betta!!

across the street from Marshall
Jan 7, 2019 - 02:53pm PT
I just wish there were a few more high-top options.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 7, 2019 - 06:54pm PT
Makes you think that real crack climbing is a dying art. Harrrrumpf!
Leon Alan

Social climber
Gearhart, Oregon
Jan 16, 2019 - 04:22pm PT
Back in the mid 70s I was climbing at the Balls with Royal Robbins. He took pity on me with no climbing shoes and took his prototype RRs off and gave them to me. He proceeded to climb in Sperry Topsiders. It was an employee outing and others showed up including TM Herbert and Yvon Chouinard.

Mar 23, 2019 - 12:44am PT
Climbing shoe designed had indeed reached an impasse.

Since the introduction of "sticky rubber", one of the few real advancements was the introduction of shoes without square edged, flat soles at the front of the foot which, if you remember the Sidewinder and the B-3, Acopa introduced in 2004.

However, new materials and manufacturing techniques have set the stage for the next leap in the evolution of rock shoe design.

Just as rock climbers do, rock-shoe manufacturers use every technique and available tool to go as far as they can and reach new limits. When they reach those limits, the need for new materials, equipment and techniques becomes evident. Once those new materials, equipment and techniques are developed, new limits can again be reached.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Mar 23, 2019 - 03:00pm PT
Wish they were still making Acopas. . .
My JB's are the best!

Trad climber
Portland Oregon
Mar 23, 2019 - 03:23pm PT
Tommy gets any shoe he wants, yet he chose these over a multitude of newer shoes.

More accurately,Tommy gets any shoe MADE he wants. If he insisted on them looking like Chuck Taylor’s or Keds fishheads, that’s what we would all get.

Trad climber
Mar 23, 2019 - 05:09pm PT
I just wish someone produced a shoe for those with a wide forefoot. I ain't 30 anymore and my feet have splayed.
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Mar 23, 2019 - 05:47pm PT
I do not have access to carbon fiber or spring steel shaped to fit "footbed" inserts, that I have read about (& gather) that some are finding success with. I have no vice to do custom work. The idea of grinding and re-building shoes is not new for sure.
The grinding off of lesser rubber and re-applying of different types of rubber seems ideal.

This is from another "Shoe" thread . . . .

I have found that by adding a stiff footbed to shoes around as size larger than I have previously worn I have been able to climb comfortably on terrain ranging from "approach-slab" up thru the sweet spot; just "off vertical" to the goal of 100 feet of sustained, slightly overhanging, foot intensive 5.10.
I normally pay dearly:
My recuperation after a 5 hour day has been foot cramps that lock & dislocate my toes.
I'm still very into climbing.
My feet? not so much!

Sized up from 40/40.5 To 41.5, then a tongue-depressor, popsicle stick re-enforced footbed. I have also tried every variation of 'fanned', not crossed, 'in patterns' of the thin wooden re-enforcements. Also,
I have tried footbed inserts of various thickness/stiffness. One thick enough to sandwich the wooden "sticks" in the center of the spongy rather than stiff material... anyway I Cut to fit then insert, add a touch of silicon-based adhesive, that stays flexible, applied to the heel portion of the footbed.

But I can nevahDecide which oneI only know for sure it all started with theseclimbing itself was changed when boots turned into shoes


Mar 23, 2019 - 06:40pm PT
Wish they were still making Acopas. . .
My JB's are the best!

Thank you, Steve!

And hey, stranger things have happened...
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