How to Break in Climbing Shoes

Every person knows the awful feeling of wearing a brand new pair of shoes and having it hurt your feet with every step you take. It is no secret that a new shoe will rub on your heels, feel uncomfortably tight and pinch your toes. You might wonder why they hurt now but did not in the store.

The answer is quite simple. Most, if not all shoes need some time to adjust according to your feet. This time is known as the break in period. This is true for all types of shoes, including climbing shoes.

What are Climbing Shoes?

Climbing shoes are specialized athletic footwear that is specifically designed for the activity of rock climbing. The general design for climbing shoes tends to have little to no padding which helps them achieve a tighter fit and a smooth yet sticky sole made of rubber.

They also have an extended rand made of rubber. While these shoes make activities such as walking or hiking extremely difficult, they serve their purpose very well. Usually, rock climbers put on the climbing shoes just at the base of the mountain they are about to climb.

The fit of these climbing shoes is supposed to be very tight as it supports their feet, allowing the climbers to utilize footholds in the mountain effectively. Since most rock climbers prefer to skip wearing socks during the actual activity, the tightness from a brand new shoe can cause problems such as blisters or rashes.

How to Break in Climbing Shoes?

The following methods listed are guaranteed to help you break in your pair of climbing shoes for a more comfortable climbing experience. 

Method 1 - Whip Out Your Trusty Hair Dryer

For this method, all you are going to need is multiple pairs of socks and a hairdryer. The best part about this method is that you will achieve results in around half an hour.Step 1: Take a pair of socks from the ones you have chosen. Roll each sock tightly into a ball and fill the toe of your climbing shoes. Add more tightly rolled balls made of socks to the shoes to fill them up completely.

Make sure to maintain the pressure on your shoes, and pack your climbing shoes with socks as tightly you can. This is going to ensure that your shoes stretch the most.

Step 2: Take your hairdryer and set it to medium heat. Now hold it approximately 6 inches away from your climbing shoe and start to heat it. Make sure to move the hairdryer continuously so as to not apply heat on only one spot. This will also help to heat the entire climbing shoe evenly.

Do this for a minute, and then turn off the hairdryer. You should now touch the shoe to feel whether it is warm or not. If the shoe does not feel warm to touch, then you can go ahead and heat the shoe for another half a minute or a whole minute. Now, check again.

Step 3: Now that your shoes have been warmed up, the heat will help stretch the material of the shoes slightly. If you want you can use your fingers to help the material stretch by manipulating it. Once you are done with that, you can go ahead and push the balls of socks further inside the climbing shoes.

This will make room for you to insert more. Now you are going to take some more socks, roll them tightly into balls and pack them inside your shoes until they are filled completely. 

Step 4: Once you are satisfied with the amount of socks you have inserted, set the climbing shoes aside and let them cool down. The socks inside are going to help stretch out your shoes due to the pressure applied on the inside of the shoes by socks.

Come back after a while, and check to see if the shoes have cooled down. Once the shoes are cool to touch, take the socks out of the shoes, and put them on to see if the climbing shoes feel better to wear. You can do this by simply wiggling your toes inside the shoes, or taking a walk. If you think the shoes have not stretched enough, you can repeat the process again after a few hours. You can also implement a different method.

Method 2 - Have You Tried Freezing Your Shoes?

You read that right. This next method involves freezing your pair of climbing shoes to obtain a much more comfortable fit. Since water expands while it freezes, this technique works. If you fill your shoes completely with water when they're still at room temperature, the water can freeze as well as expand, forcing the shoe to stretch.

Step 1: First things first, you are going to need a couple of plastic zip-lock bags. Fill them with enough water from the tap so that the plastic bags take up the entirety of the space inside your climbing shoes.

Now remove any excess air from the bags and seal them up. Be careful not to leave any room between the plastic bag and the insides of your shoes. This is crucial to ensure that the water stretches out your shoes as much as possible.

Step 2: Using your fingers, make sure that there is no extra gap between the plastic bag full of water, and the insides of your shoes. You should definitely add more water to the plastic bag if required.

Now place the zip-lock plastic bags inside the climbing shoes, and lace them up. If you have successfully tied the laces on your climbing shoes, the plastic bags full of water should now be completely secure.

Step 3: Now the next part might seem a bit bizarre but bear with us. After you have ensured that the plastic bags filled with water are secured inside the climbing shoes, you are going to put your shoes in the freezer.

Keep them inside for a minimum of 8 hours. You can even leave them in the freezer overnight but make sure to take them out after a maximum of 12 hours. As anything more than that might cause damage to your pair of climbing shoes.

Step 4: If it has been a minimum of 8 hours or a maximum of 12, you can go ahead and take your climbing shoes out of the freezer. Now, you are going to put them in the sink, or over a towel, and let the ice thaw.

Leaving them for around half an hour is enough time to let the zip-lock plastic bags now full of ice to thaw so that you can take them out of your climbing shoes. 

Although it is possible, to take the plastic bags out of your shoes immediately after you take them out of the freezer, it is best not to do so as there are chances of the hard ice damaging your shoes.

Step 5: If you had set your climbing shoes aside for around half an hour to thaw, the ice should have softened at this point. You can now go ahead and remove the plastic bags from your shoes.  Throw away the water, and clean the plastic bags so you can reuse them again.

Step 6: Let your shoes thaw completely. Now put them on to see if it feels more comfortable than before. 

Method 3 – Go Take a Shower

If neither of the above mentioned methods has worked as desired, and you want to stretch them even further, you can repeat either of them as desired. You can also use alternate between the two.

However, if that is not helping you achieve what you want either, you can simply go take a shower. Do remember to bring your climbing shoes with you.

For this method to work, all you have to do is put on your pair of climbing shoes that you want to break in. Lace them up as you feel comfortable, and take a hot shower with the shoes on. When the shoes are on your foot, make sure they are completely immersed in hot water.

It's also a good idea to wiggle your toes to start stretching and molding the material. Move around your house while your shoes are still wet. Continue to wear them until they begin to feel dry.

To speed up the drying process, stuff the shoes with newspaper. Go climbing in your shoes before they're even fully dry. This will help them mold to your foot even more, particularly in the position your foot will be in while climbing. After you've finished climbing, stuff them with more newspaper to dry them out the rest of the way.

Final Words

There you have it! Three unique methods that are extremely easy to do, and are guaranteed to help you break in your climbing shoes for a much more comfortable fit.


Read: How to Choose Cycling Shoes. 

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