Has Climbing Shoe Design Reached an Impasse?


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Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 5, 2018 - 06:50pm PT
Keep in mind that it was Tommy, Kevin and Adam doing the climbing...not their shoes.
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.
Jebus H Bomz

Sacramento, CA
Dec 5, 2018 - 08:18pm PT
Based on one picture the OP saw, yes, climbing shoe advances have undoubtedly hit a 20-year plateau.

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.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Dec 5, 2018 - 08:57pm PT

Has Climbing Shoe Design Reached an Impasse?

My climbing ability has reached an impasse that the best shoe design can't fix. ;)

Jebus H Bomz

Sacramento, CA
Dec 5, 2018 - 09:12pm PT
Climbing shoe design has reached the peak, say some.

I’m with you T Hocking, the problem is not with the shoe.

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

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.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Dec 6, 2018 - 08:32am PT
Good stuff Ghost.

Trad climber
Colorado Springs, CO
Dec 6, 2018 - 08:48am PT
You tell 'em, Werner! I refused long ago to buy into the shoe arms race. Gimmie the cheap, decent quality velcro slipper and that's all I needs.
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.

Blue Ridge Mts, Shenandoah River
Dec 6, 2018 - 08:56am PT
"New" shoe technology from La Sportiva, the "no edge" shoe series which is basically making a shoe like it's half worn out and selling it as a smedging (smearing/edging) machine.

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!!
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