Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Is Climbing Bad for Your Fingers?

Climbing is a sport where you need lots of finger strength. The same goes for bouldering and alpine climbing. No matter what you do exactly, your fingers will usually be sore if you’re new to climbing. There are actually findings that show that climbers fingers and hands actually adapt to the short, intense stress climbing exposes them to. Others claim climbing can lead to early Osteoarthritis, so is climbing badly for your fingers?

 No climbing is not bad for your fingers, at least not when done right. Improper technique can lead to injuries, but proper climbing strengthens the tendons in hands and fingers, but over a long period of time. If you’re prone to arthritis, you should take extra care warming up properly and work on your finger flexibility.

Does Climbing Increase Chances to Suffer from Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis comes from wear and tear of joints. As such, it results from improper loads and abnormal stress on the same joints over a long time. This is what happens if you put abnormal loads on your fingers and joints for decades. As of today, there is no clear indication of whether sports activities cause Osteoarthritis or not. In order to find out, studies where undertaken with young climbers. Why young climbers you might ask? If young climbers show Osteoarthritis, that would be a very safe sign that climbing actually can cause Osteoarthritis. The same cannot be said about older climbers, as they can naturally suffer from Osteoarthritis.

Don’t mistake Osteoarthritis with “normal” Arthritis; these two are not exactly the same. Arthritis is usually more severe, and as an inflammatory disease affects the joint capsules first. Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage of the joints first and is usually not so severe. This study compared 27 climbers to non-climbers and found that the answer is likely no, at least for the joints in the hand. The study found out that the climbers had stronger hands, however, and some even thicker bones. Climbing is actually likely to remodel your bones to get stronger to make them more powerful – nice side effect! This study actually found out that non-climbers had a higher chance of Osteoarthritis then climbers, especially on the joints of the thumb finger.

But results are not uniform, this study, written 2 years earlier actually found that climbers were at increased risk, as there were climbers in the study group that had signs of OA and none of the non-climbers had. Another study from 2011 supported these findings, showing that climbers showed signs of osteoarthritis sometimes.

But all of these studies had very small sample sizes and not the best methodology. In my eyes, the study with the best methodology found these results:

The more intensive you traing climbing, the more your body adapts, resulting in broadened joints. Osteoarthritic changes where rare in young climbers.

Is Rock Climbing Bad for Arthritis?

But what if you suffer from arthritis already? Is climbing badly for it? Actually, there are many physiotherapists that recommend climbing when people suffer from arthritis. Climbing is great to improve flexibility in the core and hips. And while arthritis will probably reduce climbing performance, a general regimen of sport and exercises is still good for patients with arthritis. Keeping strong muscles and flexibility is even more important when your maximum range of motion is limited because of arthritis!

Can Rock Climbing Cause Carpal Tunnel?

Carpal tunnel is a condition that causes weakness and numbness. If you ever felt these things in your thumb, index, or middle finger when climbing a longer session, it might affect you as well.

Some people are more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome than others. People that spent most of their time in front of the computer and hack on their keyboard are particularly likely to develop it. Climbers can suffer from it too, as the repetitive pattern of wrist use when climbing increases the chance of developing these problems. Especially when you hold a grip, your wrist flexors are continuously put under stress. When the muscles compress, they can actually compress the nerves, and then you suffer from numbness.

If I’m reading it correctly, it appears to state that climbing does not increase your chances of arthritis. It also states that climbing causes the bones in the fingers to be wider than non-climbers, hypothetically proposed as additional bone deposits due to the rock climbing; not causing any negative side effects, however. Also, it appears that these traits appear in people who boulder a lot and rock climb a lot.

Is Rock Climbing Bad for Your Fingers When you Age? Can You Go Rock When You Are over 50 Without Finger Problems?

Most commonly climbers injure their A2 pulley in the finger. The injuries come in 3 categories from a simple sprain over a more serious sprain to a torn pulley. And the injuries take a long time to recover, especially for climbers of age over 50.

But climbing also strengthens the tendons of the fingers, so if you are careful, and have a disciplined training approach (i have an article about it here), there is a good chance of being in your 60s or 70s and climbing quite well. I actually know a lot of older climbers who are still sending hard routes, are all over 60, and have no problems with finger or hand pain.

Related Questions

How Can I Let My Hands Heal After Rock Climbing?

Skin problems are a typical problem for climbers. If you want to keep your skin in working condition for climbing, there are some easy tips you can follow. They will all help you to climb harder, and more often.

Tip for better skin healing When to do Why it’s effective
Wash hands after climbing After your session Removing dirt and chalk from scratches and wounds will decrease the chance of infection, and help hands to recover
Putting on Lotion before bed Immediately before you go to bed The lotion will recover the natural fatty film of your skin and moisturize it. By applying before you sleep, the lotion has a good chance to be fully effective, and you can use a very thick formula, that would normally interfere with not leaving greasy stains on clothing and work.
File calluses down Whenever you have time Calluses can get compressed and actually increase the change of flappers, read more about it here. So better file them down and keep a minimal thin layer of hardened skin.
Try different chalk brands When training, not on on-sight attempts! Some chalk is more aggressive on your hands than others, give yourself a chance to find the right one by trying out different brands, and see how your skin reacts.
Minimize hot water exposure of your hands Whenever you wash hands or dishes Hot water dries out your skin, read more about it here. Simple turn the water a bit cooler, it will still remove dirt and stains well.

Will Rock Climbing Get You in Shape?

It will get you in better shape than doing nothing. It’s not the Nr.1 sport to burn off calories, but it does burn between 500-900 calories in one hour, depending on how much you rest between routes. It also helps build some muscles in your body and keeps you flexible, although it is no way to build a bodybuilder physique. If you want to get in shape, combine climbing with some dedicated strength training and 1-2 times running per week, and you will be in very good shape quickly!

What Is Finger Tape for Climbing?

Climbing tape or also called finger tape is used to protect the skin and tendons of your fingers to put it simply. If you want to know more about it, I wrote an article about it here.

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Categories
Camp & Hike

How to Carry Food on a Multi Day Hike?

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Reviews

Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw Review: Durable, High Performance Quickdraw for Small Budgets

Around for over ten years, the Black Diamond Positron quickdraw has been updated with new colors and a better and thicker dogbone. They now last even longer. In our Black Diamond Positron quickdraw review, we tested this inexpensive and durable entry-level quickdraw. Bonus: It comes with dual keylocking carabiners.

The Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw was originally released over ten years ago but was continually improved and updated. The newest version offers cool new colors and a better and thicker dogbone, but also comes at 18$ list price. The Positron is a great beginner and intermediate quickdraw with flawless clipping, perfect handling, and great durability plus it’s inexpensive. Only downside: It’s a bit heavy. 

It is a fairly heavy draw with 3.9oz (110 gram, 16cm sling), but as it is reasonably priced, it’s a perfect match for many beginner sport climbing racks. And it’s still a lot lighter than a steel quickdraw. For this test, I tested the Black Diamond Positron quickdraw with the 16cm sling during my 2018 and 2019 Winter and Summer season. I used it during both training and personal sport climbing sessions. While the Black Diamond  FreeWire Quickdraw offers a better price, it it doesn’t come with dual keylocking design, so that’s a point to consider.

Our Verdict In short

The Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw is a high-quality quickdraw, that is made from aluminum. It comes with anodized colors, has a high-quality finish, and has solid gates on both carabiners with key locking noses. In the test, rope abrasion was fairly low, given that there are no defensive mechanisms like steel inserts. While there are lighter quickdraws on the market, this one is still OK for its durability and has a very good price. If you need a long-lived quickdraw for a very good price with two keylocking carabiners they are perfect. The Black Diamond Positron is a great all-round quickdraw for sport and crag climbing. Especially if you are not optimizing your rack to the last ounce of weight.

2016 Product Recall
Some years ago these quickdraws had a product recall. If you have one of the current black and yellow style color configurations shown in my review you are on the safe side. But read more here if you’re unsure: Safety recall from Black Diamond.

Specs

  • Weight of the complete quickdraw: 1
    12 cm version: 107 g (3.8 oz)
    16 cm version: 110 g (3.9 oz)
  • Strength when Gate is closed:  25 kN 
  • Strength when Gate is open:  8 kN
  • Cross load / Minor Axis Strength :  8 kN
  • Gate Opening :
    [Top] 22 mm (0.86 in)
    [Bottom] 26 mm (1.01 in)
  • Dogbone Width: 18 mm
  • Dual Keylocks
  • Straitjacket on lower carabiner to keep in position for rope clipping
  • Straight gate carabiner on top and bent gate carabiner on the bottom
  • Available in 12 cm and 16 cm length sling

 

Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw Review of Components

The carabiners of this CE- and EN-certified Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw have a 3-dimensional H shape, which results in high material efficiency. Both carabiners have a keylock, which is nice to have a snag-free clipping experience. One carabiner is painted with a glossy finish, one comes with an anodized finish.

Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw Review

 

Both carabiners on the Positron Quickdraw are Positron carabiners. The top carabiner is a Positron painted black with a straight gate and 22mm (0.86 in) opening. The lower carabiner, facing the rope, is a Positron with yellow anodized finish, and a bent gate and 26mm (1.01 in) opening.

They’re both  rated to 25 kN (5,620 lbf) closed gate, 8 kN (1,798 lbf) open gate, and 8 kN (1,798 lbf) cross-loaded. The straight gate is a bit rough in performance. Bent gate offers the same kind of gate tensions and springiness like any other high-end carabiner I possess.

It comes in two versions, a 16cm and a 12cm sling version, with the weight of the 12 cm version being 107 g (3.8 oz) and the weight of the 16 cm version 110 g (3.9 oz)

The lower Positron carabiner has no steel inserts at the rope bearing side, but wear and tear was still good during the test with no visible aluminum deposits on my rope.

Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw Review
Lower carabiner with bent

On the bottom Positron carabiner, there is a straitjacket insert that keeps the bottom carabiner in the optimal clipping position, which is a nice feature, although fairly common nowadays.

Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw Review
Upper carabiner without bent

Positron Quickdraws Performance at the Crag and Gym

Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw Review
Both carabiners come with key lock

 

Let’s have a bit more detailed look at performance now. During our Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw review we did both gym and outdoor climbing on sports climbing crags in Germany.

Ease of Clipping: Flawless

This quickdraw clips surprisingly good given the small price— it was never hard to clip no matter what situation. Plus the carabiners have a good size, the sling is nice and thick and stiff. It is a lot stiffer than it was in the past, which makes it easier to clip in hard-to-reach climbing situations. I never found myself fumbling with the gates of the carabiner on the bottom. When clipping the rope, this is a definite plus point.

Ease of Unclipping: Even better

The Positron really performs well in unclipping, thanks to its great keylock solid gate. As there is no notch or nose to catch on bolt or rope, it slides of sooo easy and fast. A breeze when you’re in a steep route. I know there are other models like some Petzl quickdraws, which are even easier. But that’s just because they have wider openings for the rope to go out. If you need easy unclipping, the Positron quickdraw is perfect thanks to its keylock design.

Portability: The Positron are Heavy Quickdraws

Portability is probably the main area where the Positron has some upward potential. As they weight a healthy 3.8 oz in their shortest sling version, they are among the heavier models made from only aluminum. Keep in mind, that Black Diamond actually improved this issue! The older models weighed around 4.2 oz – even heavier!

Other quickdraws like  17cm Petzl Spirit Express only weights 102 and the shorter 12cm Edelrid Bulletproof Quickdraw comes in at 118 g WITH steel inserts.

Why are the Positrons so heavy you might ask. Well, they are both equipped with solid cold-forged gates and they carry a lot of material. The advantage of cold-forging and lots of material is that these won’t wear down fast, making them more durable. So, if you need ultra light-weight onsight carabiners or a trad rack for multi-pitch routes, the Positron is not your first option. But for a typical sports climbing rack for crag days it’s still good enough.

Ease of Handling

Me and all the other testers, aka my buddies, that I exposed to this quickdraw had zero concerns about the handling. Neither did the quickdraws cross-clip on our gear, like some wire gated carabiners have a tendency. They never felt weird to big-handed climbers.

The wide and stiff sling facilitates reaching of a clip, especially with the 16cm version, and the profile is still slim enough to fit your gear loops easily if you carry 10 of them.

Ease of Grabbing

The Positron sports an 18mm dogbone in the current version, up from 16mm in the last version and a meager 14mm in the original version. That’s a third more width, which makes for a huge difference if you need to grab the quickdraw. With the 18mm dogbone, they are still slimmer than the modern 25mm dogbones, but we felt they were easy enough to grab.

Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw Review
Dogbone on the Positron is now a cool 18mm thick and stiffer than in the older versions

Our Performance Verdict

The Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw worked fairly good and like you would and should expect any high quality quickdraw. Most of the time we forgot about their duty, and I personally think this is how a good quickdraw should perform. Clipping and unclipping where good, material quality was nice. And the thick dogbone makes reaching the quickdraw easier than ever before on this model.

Final Thoughts: Our Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw Review Conclusion

As my two seasons of sport climbing season ends, the rope-end carabiners on the Black Diamond Positron Quickdraws show slight wear. The bolt-side of the quickdraw collected some scratches and gouges from bolt hangers. But this is to expect on full aluminum quickdraws.

In the end, the Positron quickdraws work like a high-end quickdraw should work. I can forget about it until I fall, then it catches my fall and I’m happy. Yes, they do weigh a bit more than other expensive carabiners, but they are really durable, have a good quality of construction and easy to grad. And clipping and unclipping were flawless. I can give them a clear recommendation for any sport or crag and gym climbing rack. Trad and multi-pitch climbers should think of some lighter options.

For more interesting articles like our 2020 climbing pants roundup, and our 2020 climbing and bouldering shoes review, keep on reading.

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Top 20 Climbing Huge Whippers

I know you like to browse some good whippers, I do at least. I put together a top 20 climbing huge whippers from different sources like Instagram, Youtube and Vimeo. When I collected these links, I had two rules:

A) Must include a decent fall or ‘whoops’ moment

B) No serious accidents, i.e. as you can see in some of these clips of huge whippers climbers bang arms or feet, etc., but I tried to not include videos where it was obvious that the person got hurt badly. Some videos probably caused a sprained ankle or bruises and cuts thought. But thats part of climbing and bouldering.

C) The clips are not in order, which means they are not rated by the length of the fall or something like that. Just the order I found them in.

1. Chris Sharmas Epic Whipper

Oldie but goldie!

2. Lead Climbing Whipper at Clear Creek Canyon Wearing a GoPro

Good that this climber had his action cam on, makes for a cool perspective!

3. Sick Slowmo Whipper

4. Ethan Pringle on Jumbo Love Whipper

5. Smith Rock State Park Whipper – Grounder

This one sucks. Thanks that he didn’t injure himself more, at least he looks okay. Original here.

6. 40+ foot whipper at Escalante on Trad Gear

Wow, this one is high. Thankfully his belayer catched it!

7. Eagle Falls in Upstate New York – Trad Climbing Whipper

This happens when a cam placed does not hold. Probably due to wet conditions. Thanks to the good belayer and a fixed bolt beneath him this ended well! What a fall though…

 

8. 60+ Foot Whipper on Castleton Tower (trad climbing).

Gear held up…

Weekend Whipper: 60-Footer on Castleton Tower (Trad Fall)

Calling all climbers – send us your whipper videos!

Posted by Rock and Ice magazine on Thursday, August 24, 2017

9. Austrian Crag Whipper

Not bad for a typical day at the crag!

10. Insanely huge climbing gym whipper

Whether this was intentional or not, this whipper is crazy. The climber must have left some clips out and got tangled in the rope too…

11. Trad Climbing Whipper at Joshua Tree (Route: Heart of Darkness)

If you don’t know it, trad climbing or traditional climbing has no drilled fixed bolts but you lay all the safety gear yourself. Can be dicey when you take a fall! This climber was alright except for some bruises.

12. Nasty Whipper on Wonderbar 10d at the Pub Wall With an Upside Down Flip

Thankfully the climber was OK, because he wore a helmet. But the flip at the end shows you how NOT TO fall.

13. Large Whipper with 10ft+ Fall taken on Johnny B Good at The Gallery in Red River Gorge

Nice flip at at the end!

14. Aid Climbing Fall On the lost Arrow Spire

This is how falling looks like when you do aid climbing. The gear slowly looses its hold until it all of a sudden ends in a good fall. Aid climbing means you use gear to help you ascent a route, if you don’t know already.

 

15. Slab slipper on Peak Technique, near Bowden, Northumberland, UK

Wow, why not top rope this piece of slab? That’s quite a fall and he was lucky to walk away from it.

16. Big Fall that Almost Lifts the Belayer on Tanuki, Japan

The Belayer is almost as high up as the climber!

 

17. Matt Reeser falls off Desdichado, a 5.13+ in Eldorado Canyon

Kind of a sideways whipper! He actually sent that route one month before.

 

18. Ben Griffin Takes a High Fall at The End of Sweatpants in Public (5.13c), Cascade Canyon, Colorado

He actually fell headfirst into the cliff and needed staples to close the wound on his head afterward. But he came back and sent the route later! “I decided to skip the last bolt, which I did many times in practicing the route, but the rope got stuck around my leg and knee pad and was unable to release the rope. It really sucked.” he told Rock and Ice later.

19. Boulder Pad Miss – Sprained Ankle

Thankfully nothing more happened to him. Technically not a climbing whipper, but he is like 25ft+ high so I thought it’s worth to include it!

https://youtu.be/9_KsZB9eB0M

20. Huge Victory Whip Off Omaha Beach 5.14a

Oh man, this is a huge whipper from the top of the route!

Conclusion

If you liked these clips and climbing, make sure to read some of my other posts like the best climbing and bouldering shoes of 2020 and my guide to building a quick and easy DIY hangboard setup for your apartment without drilling walls.

Categories
Camp & Hike Mountaineering

How to Avoid Hiking Backpack Back Pain – the Battle Proven Guide

No matter if you go hiking or mountaineering, if you’re on a multi-day hike, there is no way around a heavy backpack. All the things you need to set up camp like a sleeping bag, cooking gear, your tent plus freshwater and food are heavy. And in most cases, your lower back is the crucial part carrying the weight. You don’t need to be especially prone to back issues to profit from these tips on how to avoid hiking backpack back pain. This guide is battle proven and backed by science, so read on for the details!

An ergonomic backpack and some simple rules will lay the base to avoid hiking backpack back pain. This post will be split into multiple parts:

Bio Mechanical Basics: Your Back in Easy Words Explained

Your back consists of the sacrum, and the sacroiliac joint (SIJ), which connects to the spine. The SIJ connects the Sacrum and spine to each other, and as thus it connects back and leg muscles and transfers loads to your legs. This joint is particularly important if you carry a heavy backpack on a hike. In fact, it constantly moves when you walk around with your backpack, and that’s why a blockage in the SIJ causes back pain. Source article found here.

How Back Pain Is Caused When You Hike With a Heavy Backpack on Your Back

On a hike there are some situation that lead to blockage and then back pain: If you step into air because you miss a step or rock, or if you stumble, these things frequently lead to misplaced loads and then blockage of the SIJ. But chronic distress during your normal workday lead to back pain as well. Long static sitting at work, wrong movement when you carry loads, etc. can lead to blockage. Even if you don’t feel any pain in normal life, under load of a back pack these issue pop up.

A heavy backpack causes back pain when weight is placed on your joints in the wrong way. The basics are simple: You want a heavy weight to be evenly distributed on upper and lower body. A backpack has shoulder straps and a waist band. The shoulder straps transfer to the shoulder, the waistband to the legs, via the back. The weight which is transferred to the legs can be transferred through the sacrum or the pelvic bone. Any weight transferred to shoulders will go directly down the line to your SIJ and then the leg muscles.

The SIJ connects your back with the the legs via the sacrum, and any load placed on it directly will be transferred via the sacrum to the leg muscles. But the SIJ is particularly sensitive to displacement of the moment of inertia of loads, as are most joints. In some ways, the SIJ is similar to the conical grinder of a coffee machine: If you place a load on top of it and move it, it cannot move freely, as the gap for free movement reduces.reduced. The consequence is back pain.

Reduce Back Pain by Reducing Weight Placed on the SIJ and Sacrum

Your goal should be to reduce the load to the SIJ. If you want to do this, you have only one option: Put more load on the pelvic bones or waist. Don’t let the shoulder straps fool you: The weight that you place on your shoulders transfer down to your sacrum and SIJ more ore less directly, bio mechanically speaking. It follows the shortest route, and that’s a straight line directly down to your Sacrum. If you ever wondered why your lower back hurts when you wear a backpack without waist band / hip belt, this is the reason. But how to reduce the load on the SIJ? You have two ways that complement each other nicely.

A) Use a Waist Band / Hip Belt to Transfer Load Directly to Your Pelvic Bones and Then Legs

A carrying system that’s useful from a biomechanical viewpoint is reducing load on the shoulders and instead places it on the pelvic bones. This makes sure the weight is directly transferred to the leg muscles, without stressing the SIJ and Sacrum. As a consequence, the Sacrum is not displaced, and the gap between SIJ and Sacrum is nice and wide. This ensures free movement and no grinding (remember the coffee grinder!). To put the weight on the pelvic bone, carrying systems have a waist band / hip belt. This band ideally sits tight on your body, and if you adjust it correctly, the transmission of weight on the pelvical bone relieves the SIJ a lot. You can even have more than half of weight going directly to your legs this way!

B) Pack Your Backpack Right, I.E. With the Centroid Placed Correctly

Another way to reduce load on the SIJ is to pack the backpack right. A backpack that is packed correctly needs to have the centroid as close to your body as possible. If it does, then as much as 70% of the weight can be transferred to your legs directly via the pelvic bone, and only 30% are transferred via the shoulders and SIJ. Obviously, you cannot reduce the amount of weight transferred via shoulders to 0% as you always need them for stability and balance. Follow these tips to ensure the centroid of the backpack sits nice and tight to your body:

  1. Put light items to the ground, heavy items as close to the body as possible, less heavy stuff further away from your body
  2. Light terrain hiking: Centroid of weight close to body and at height of the shoulders
  3. Difficult terrain hiking: Centroid a little below the shoulders, to give more stability when going steep downhill and climbing
  4. Use side pockets to evenly distribute the weight on left and right side

How to Adjust Your Backpack to Reduce Hiking Backpack Back Pain

If you want to adjust your backpack, you first need a good carrying system. So my first advice is to buy a quality backpack. There are many good brands including Vaude, Lowa and Osprey to name a few. If you buy a backpack, pay some attention that the backpack fits your anatomy. What this means: Width of shoulder straps, shape of the waist band / hip belt, length of back piece and length adjustment of the carrying system. You should also pack the backpack with realistic weight, aka if you try it on in the store, bring some gear to stuff, and make sure to loosen all the straps BEFORE trying.

For adjusting the hiking backpack correctly to avoid back pain when hiking, follow this easy to remember sequence:

A) Adjust the waist band / hip belt first, place it on the middle of the pelvic bone on an area known as the iliac crest.
B) Adjust shoulder straps: Carrier inserts should be at height of your blade bone. Don’t make the classic mistake of pulling the straps too tight, as this moves the weight too much over the shoulders and away from your pelvic bone where you want it.
C) Adjust chest strap: Its used to keep the shoulder straps in position.
D) Adjust the angle and stability of the load via the load adjuster straps.

Hiking Backpack Back Pain

Once you have all these adjusted, you are ready to go.

Use Sticks to Avoid Back Pain Both Ascending and Descending

No matter how good your carrying system is and how much care you pay while packing the backpack, if you have a heavy backpack your centroid is shifted backwards. Your bodys natural reaction is to lean forward while walking, which puts you in a bio mechanically problematic posture due to reduced freedom of movement in your SIJ and will lead to back pain in the long run. Ascending only makes this worse.

If you know how to use them, sticks are a great way to reduce the forward leaning while ascending and walking on a plain surface, and also help while descending. Sticks also help you to transfer weight force directly via your arms to the ground, relieving your SIJ. For most hikers they will also be really comfortable as they reduce load on the leg muscles and help utilizing arms while ascending. This leads to more even distribution of stress, and lets you hike longer and with less fatigue on individual muscle groups.

Sticks are also a great way to reduce load on knee and leg joints while descending. They also help you maintain upright posture when descending. Without sticks, many hikers tend to lean backwards while descending, which leads to an unnatural foot position where the heel is absorbing most of the load. This load is then transferred into the SIJ which in turn leads to even more back pain. Sticks reduce this, as they help you maintain an upright ad stable position, where you can naturally roll your feet while descending.

Conclusion

If you want to avoid back pain from your backpack while hiking, make sure to adjust your backpack correctly. Most back pain from heavy backpacks is caused by incorrect load transfer to the SIJ and Sacrum. A properly adjusted backpack transfers as much as 70% of the weight directly to the leg muscles via the pelvic bones, reducing load on the SIJ and Sacrum, and if you follow the steps above you can adjust it yourself easily. If you liked this post, feel free to leave a comment and read on some of your other gear related posts!

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Climbing Mountaineering

Climbing Helmet vs Bike Helmet – Can I Wear my Bike Helmet for Climbing?

Most of you including me have bike helmets, and when I started climbing I was wondering if I can wear my Bike Helmet for Climbing? I figured any helmet was better than no helmet at all. Later an experienced rock climber told me that bike and climbing helmets are actually very different and if you interchange them you give up some protection. Makes sense kind of right? But what if you have no climbing helmets? Can you still wear a bike helmet – it’s climbing helmets vs bike helmet, we’re going to do a little comparison.
The short answer: No, you should not use a bike helmet for climbing, as you will give up some protection. But if you have nothing else, a bike helmet is better than nothing. There are some differences between climbing and bike helmets, read on for the details.
Bicycle helmets have a softer shell, where the climbing helmets usually have a very hard shell. Bicycle helmets are also better protected against impacts from the sides, and they usually have ventilation holes. In this post I’m going to answer these questions:
  1. How are safety standards for climbing and cycling helmets compared to each other? Are they comparable?
  2. Is there a tradeoff in protection when you wear a bike helmet for climbing?
  3. Are there situations where a bike helmet can even provide better protection than a climbing helmet?

Bike Helmets are one-time-use. They are designed for a single ground impact, and they are designed to absorb energy from the impact by crumpling and deformation. This design is needed due to the high amount of energy involved in bike crashes. As a consequence bike helmets are probably the helmets that offer the most protection, aside from actual motorcycle helmets. But after the first crash, they are basically useless.

That’s why a bike helmet will not work perfectly for climbing: Imagine an ascent and you take a fall, bang your head against the wall and the bike helmet is broken and deformed. From now on it will lack protection, but your ascent is not done yet, and even if you descent, there might still be more rocks, etc. falling on your head. At this point, a bike helmet will not give you good protection anymore.

Bike Helmets vs Climbing Helmets – Different Standards of Safety for Different Activities

The different scenarios of protection needed are also visible in the standards used to measure the helmets. The standards are very different in which these helmets are tested and rated. Climbing helmets use the EN 12492:2000 standard, where multiple impacts on a helmet are tested. Small weights 5kg are dropped at different angles on the top of the helmet from a falling height of 2 meters. Another 5 kg striker object with flat shape is then hit on the front, side, and rear, and they do penetration tests. In all these tests there is a maximum of 10 kN of force transferred to the helmet, so climbing helmets are not designed to absorb a large impact.

If you fall with a bike, there are typically larger forces involved (think of more than 10 kN), and the amount of force which is actually transferred to the head must be smaller, which is done by using a crumpling design with physical deformation. Let’s have a more detailed look at the standards involved and how they compare.

There are four main standards: Two for biking, one American which is the CPSC standard, and the EN 1078 from Europe, and two for climbing. For climbing, there is the European standard EN 12492, and the UIAA 106 which is international.

Bike Helmets – CPSC and EN 1078

CPSC in Detail

The American standard CPSC, CPSC stands for Consumer Product Safety Commission, tests bike helmets with a 5 kg headform that is dropped from 2 meters onto a flat-shaped anvil. There is another test on a hemispheric anvil and an anvil, that is shaped like a curbstone from 1.2 meters. These tests are all performed on helmets that have been sitting around in ambient temperate, freezing temperatures and hot temperatures. They are also performed when the helmet was underwater for 4 hours. All in all the helmets have to pass 5 impacts: 2 from the flat anvil and the hemispheric and one from the curbstone.

EN 1078 in Detail

The EN standard, EN means European, has impacts tested from only 1.5 meters, one from a flat anvil, one from a curbstone, and the helmets are also conditioned with UV light, temperature, and aging. This test is thus a little less strict than the American standard.

Climbing helmets – EN 12492 and UIAA 106

For climbing helmets, there are two main safety standards: The EN 12492:2000 and the UIAA 106. By the way, all these standards are not really testing a helmets ability to reduce traumatic brain injury. They only test for protection against direct physical impact. But traumatic brain injury due to acceleration forces is a huge problem in bike accidents, and there are helmet systems to protect against these injuries (called MIPS). This article here goes a bit more in detail about these injuries..

EN 12492 in Detail

For this standard, thez place the helmet on a form shaped like a head and hit with a striking mass of 5 kg. There are 3 different impacts tested, side, front and back, with an angle of 60 degrees. After this test, another strike mass drops onto the helmet which sits on the headform from 2 meters, this mass is hemispherically shaped. Then there is a further test where a flat striker hits the helmet from 50cm on the front, back and sides. In contrast to bike helmets, climbing helmets test for penetration too, with a canonical strike mass of 3 kg that drops from 1 meter. And there is a retention system test. In order to pass the tests, no impact is allowed to transmit a force of greater than 10 kN to the headform.

UIAA 106 in Detail

For the UIAA 106 safety standards, all the tests are identical, but the transmitted forces are lower: Only 8 kN of force is allowed to be transferred. Remember, the lower the transferred force to the head, the less injured you are in reality. Low forces mean no damage to your head!

Short Comparison of the Two Standards

When we compare the different standards, we can see that cycling and bike helmets have higher acceleration forces and thus forces of impact. This might not be apparent, as the safety standard tests for bike helmets call for only fixed mass and distances, while the climbing helmet tests are also talking about transmitted force. But we can calculate the forces of the test for the bike helmets: Assuming a 5kg headform that experiences 250g’s in a  bike helmet test, the F=ma equation yields: 5.0 kg x 250 g x 9.8 m/s-2/g =~ 12 kN.

And what is also visible is that the American standards are a little stricter than the European standards. Why this is, I don’t know. I suspect that there is a reason behind it, but I don’t know. If you want to be extra safe, go with the American standards.

References to read further

Some readworthy references:

Conclusion

Hope you liked this post if you want to know more about other mountaineering stuff have a look at my article about how to start mountaineering, how to find a good climbing mentor, and why you should always wear a helmet climbing.

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

How Hard is Rock Climbing? And How Hard is Bouldering?

Feel free to leave me a comment; I’m always happy to get some feedback!
Categories
Climbing Reviews

Skylotec ClipZ Basic Quickdraws In-Depth Review: A simple, cheap beginner quickdraw

No matter if you sport climb or trad climb, quickdraws are one of the essentials. Finding good quickdraws can be quite hard, and especially when you are a beginner it’s hard to find quickdraws with good value for the money. Our Skylotec ClipZ Basic Quickdraws review shows if they are a bargain, and see why they’re a great fit for beginners and advanced climbers in our in-depth review.

Our Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 5/5

Price: $14.00
ManufacturerSkylotec
Pros:  Durable, fairly lightweight, cheap and easy to clip
Cons:  The gate closure could be a bit smoother, but for the money spent we can live with it

Quick Facts

Skylotec Clipz Basic Quickdraw
Carabiner Material: Aluminum
Bolt Carabiner:Aaluminum, key lock, solid
Rope Carabiner: Aluminum, nose lock, wire
Weight: 102 g
Closed Major Axis Strength: 25 kN
Open Major Axis Strength: 9 kN
Minor Crossload Strength: 9 kN
Gate Type: Upper carabiner solid, lower wire
Bolt Carabiner: straight
Rope Carabiner: wire
Sling Material: nylon
Available Sling Lengths: 12 cm
Test Locations: Frankenjura, Germany and various gyms
Days Tested: 30

Our Verdict

Skylotec Clipz Basic Quickdraw are ideal for beginners and advanced. They come in 12 cm length, and while we tested them we loved how the combined solid carabiner for the bolt and wire carabiner for the rope side saved weight. The wire carabiner is also great in reducing the whiplash effect that happens on solid closed carabiners when you take a fall. Both carabiners have big enough openings, making clipping easy as pie, and the nylon sling is durable and wide enough to grab for it if you need an emergency anchor or hold. If you’re looking for a good, all-round set of quickdraws that won’t break your bank account, the Skylotec Clipz Basic are a great fit!

Excurse: Gate slap or Whiplash
If you don’t know about the whiplash effect, also known as gate slap, it happens when you take a fall and the weight of the carabiner gate opens from the bouncing force. When open, this means the carabiner of the rope side of the quickdraw is open and under load, reducing the possible maximum load to roughly a third of the original major axis strength. A wire closure on the rope side minimizes this risk because the weight is reduced

Analysis and Results from Our Review

What we liked

Let’s dive into the details of the Skylotec Clipz Basic, we put them through a thorough test in and around our local home mountains in beautiful Frankenjura Germany.

Design

We live at a point in time, where carabiners and quickdraws are pretty advanced in terms of technology. If you look at the differences, you will most likely find only small differences like color, weight and so on. Like many other carabiners on quickdraw sets on the market, the Skylotec come with one solid-gate and one wire-gate. The solid gate carabiner has a keylock and the wire carabiner has a traditional nose lock. They come in only one size, the standard 12 cm you find on many port climbing dogbone slings. The sling, also referred to as dogbone, can be replaced when it wears down.

Skylotec ClipZ Basic Quickdraws In-Depth Review

Carabiner Shape

The shape of the carabiner on quickdraws decides how their action goes. Different shapes of carabiners have a different action, and the shape also influences if a carabiner feels very smooth or snappy. The Skylotec Carabiners are pretty normal in terms of length, neither longer nor shorter than standard Edelrid or Petzl carabiners. And while they won’t come in fancy colors or anodized surfaces, but rather standard aluminum they do look nice.

Both the rope and bolt side are snappy and close tight, yet easy enough to clip without effort. The wire gate of the rope carabiner is great if you’re a beginner and looking for easy and reliable quickdraws. And it’s easy to always grab the right side for the rope if you’re still learning – there is only one wire gate and it goes to the rope.

Weight

The Skylotec Clipz Basic quickdraw is a little heavier than some of the other more expensive quickdraws, but still lighter than steel quickdraws.
Find some references down there to compare.

107 g Petzl Djinn Axess, 12 cm
103 g Black Diamond Freewire, 12 cm
102 g Skylotec Clipz Basic, 12 cm
98 g Petzl Spirit Express, 12 cm
63 g Black Diamond Oz, 12 cm

Durability

Durability is something that is not obviously an issue with quickdraws, as carabiners are made from aluminum. But the snapping mechanism and the nylon slings are nonetheless prone to wear and tear. For us, we couldn’t notice any real wear and tear during our tests. Snappyness of the gates remained good during our test, and the slings remained crisp and clean.  Keep in mind that we climbed in the Frankenjura in Germany, where the rock is not as sharp and unforgiving like in other places where granite and volcanic rock destroy textile materials faster.

For the money spent, Skylotecs Clipz Basic quickdraws were durable enough for all our sport and trad climbing needs. After two seasons of climbing on these draws, we can’t discern any wear to the wire rope bearing carabiners surface. And we have seen aluminum carabiners to develop edges and dents after only some days of heavy use. Especially in areas where the rock is more abrasive like granite or volcanic areas.

Skylotec ClipZ Basic Quickdraws In-Depth Review
No visible wear on the plastic insert of the rope side of the sling after 30 days of testing

What we didn’t like so much

The action of the bolt side carabiner could be smoother. We had a set of 10 quickdraws and noticed some of the gates were not as smooth as carabiners of brands like Edelrid or Salewa. That said, we never had trouble clipping in, so the action was not perfectly smooth, but didn’t interfere with climbing performance. It’s just that if you are used to very smooth high-quality carabiners it might feel a bit rough.

Also, the aluminum color without any anodizing or color looks a bit bland – but can we really complain given the pricepoint? We think no!

Who are these quickdraws perfect for?

While we cannot say anything about big wall climbing or long alpine multi-pitches, we think the Skylotec quickdraws are excellent for normal sport climbing at the crag and moderate multi-pitch climbing as well as light traditional climbing. The carabiners are sturdy, and the weight is average.

If your goal is to climb long pitches on traditional routes, or you plan to do heavy and long multi-pitch alpine climbing routes, it might be better to opt for a set of lighter quickdraws.

Bottom Line

The Skylotec Clipz Basic are terrific quickdraws for a very competitive price. If you start out climbing and look for an affordable set of quickdraws that will serve you well for your first seasons of sport climbing or just need a good cheap allround set then they are perfect. They don’t wear down fast and while there are lighter options out there if you are willing to spend more money, the weight is still good. We can absolutely recommend them.

If you liked this review, check out our climbing pants and climbing shoes reviews!

Categories
Reviews

Prana Axiom Jeans In-Depth Review | Climbing and Bouldering Pants

The Verdict from Us

Let’s make it brief, the Axiom Jean are probably the best looking climbing pants we ever tested. Is it a good pant for traditional climbing, outdoor expeditions or long days of sport climbing at the crag? No, we cannot say that. But if you plan of walking from work to bouldering or climbing directly and spend 2 hours doing some easy climbing, the Axiom are your fest friend. Besides looking good, they have a good amount of stretch, an inseam gusset and the cut is really athletic. Which means they won’t get in your way as much as normal jeans will when you go outside cycling, hiking, climbing or bouldering.

Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐🗆 – 4/5

Price $89.00
Manufacturer  Prana
Pros Look very good, can be worn to work, material stretches just right, durable, comfortable with deep pockets
Cons No good insulation when wet, ventilation sub-par, no closable pocket, sizing off

 

While you can get any pair of jeans at Walmart or Target for less than $30, we would still recommend getting these if you are outdoor inclined. The Axiom is very durable, and get take a beating, no matter if rocks or trees are involved. And where normal jeans have no flexibility and lack range of motion these are good performers.

If you want to go on longer climbs or traditional climbing routes outdoors, you should go for another pair of pants, read our review for the best climbing pants 2020.

 

Analysis and Results from Our Review

What we liked

As a pair of jeans, the Prana Axiom Jean sits comfortable, is durable and just looks nice and sharp. Prana told that they are their best selling pair of jeas, and there are several professional pro climbers swearing on them. Their verdict: You can probably not find a better pair of jeans to go climbing in. Why would you do that? Well, of course, because of the looks. But it’s also comfortable to not have to change after work and directly hit the boulders or crags. And once you’re finished you can keep the pants on and go to a restaurant.

Materials used and the Weight

Axiom jeans are made of 98% cotton and a tiny amount of elastic material, 2% spandex. The spandex is the trick, making them nice and stretchy. If you know about jeans with stretch, you know that it comes down to how much spandex you weave in. Too much and the jeans doesn’t look and feel like jeans anymore, while not enough means they are just too stiff. Prana hit the right amount, the Axiom jean feels like any pair of casual jeans but gives you the full range of motion thanks to the spandex and the relaxed fit.

These jeans are not waterproof, so if you’re looking for hardcore outside climbing pants, don’t buy the Axiom. But if you compare it to regular storebought jeans, they will dry faster and easier. Thanks to the thick material, Pranas Axiom jean does a good job of protecting your leg skin from abrasions and cuts on the rock. That becomes very handy if you climb on granite boulders. Even when we wore them day after day, our test couldn’t notice visible signs of damage on the pants.

Fit: Casual and relaxed at the hips

These are no skinny jeans. They are more on the relaxed side, and have some widening going to the cuff. We wouldn’t call it boot cut, but it’s noticeable. Inseam lengths are accurate and precise to the sizing. We found the pants really comfortable, and you can wear them on any occasion where you can wear jeans. Note that they won’t fit your style if you are into hardcore skinny jeans.

With this said, we have to give them our award for the best looking and fashionable bouldering and climbing pant.

Features, Goodies and Pockets

These pants have a couple of noteworthy features, ranging from climbing and bouldering focused or focused on the fashion sense of the wearer. They come with a gusseted crotch area, which is pretty much standard for climbing pants, as the extra material adds a nice freedom of movement. Combine this with the stretchy material and you will get a pair of climbing and bouldering pants that won’t hold you back even if you need to do high steps and heel hooks.

In terms of fashion features you can find rivets with styling on the pockets and some sweet zig-zag stitching on the area of your thighs. The Axiom jean also sports a fake-leather trim sitting on the back pockets. Axiom jean comes with 4 pockets, 2 in the front and 2 in the rear, which is pretty much standard for a pair of jeans.

While the pockets are large and functional, and also sit well on the pant, you won’t find any closable pocket on this pants – a trade off Prana did for fashionability. This is a problem if you have overhanging boulders etc., as things in your pocket might fall out. While we didn’t have this particular problem while testing, as the front pockets are deep and snug, keep in mind it might happen. Outdoor climbing pants usually have this feature, and it’s one of the things that could be improved with an inline closable pouch pocket in the future, while still maintaining fashionability.

 

Prana Axiom in Action

What we didn’t like

The material blend with 98% cotton is definitely not the material blend of choice for bad weather. If you plan to spend hours outside in humid and cold weather, these pants will be like a big wet rock dragging you down. And they won’t insulate at all in this case, as cotton becomes really cold when wet. The material is also not good in terms of ventilation, which makes Prana Axiom jeans not suited for long approaches in autumn or winter conditions. Consider it a good weather bouldering and sport climbing pant.

When it came to durability, they were good and protected. Some people however reported that after only some months stitching began to peel of on the outside seam and the inside seam above hemlines. Prana has a very good reputation for replacing these faulty pants, so we wouldn’t worry too much about it.

The waist fit is definitely large. If you normally wear a 33 waist size, the 33 sized Prana Axiom is probably to wide. From what we observed, they are one size larger than normal pants, so either get a belt or order them a size smaller than you would normally do. It’s not a big problem, but can be annoying if you order only one pair online from amazon and have to send it back due to the off sizing.

A Value Hit?

The price of $89.00 is justified in our opinion. Yes, they cost more than double what Walmart jeans cost, but they offer a lot more value too. Try climbing in Walmart jeans, and you will see what we mean. Prana Axiom comes with features like gusseted crotch and a good stretchy material, that worked for years on climbing pants. And if you compare the price to some Levis or Replay jeans, they are even cheaper.

Other Colors & Sizes

Pranas Axiom jean can be found in Antique Stone Wash or Dark wash. You can get them in sizes from 28 – 38 and even odd sizes like size 33. We recommend to try them on, due to the off sizing. Other option would to order two sizes and return the one that doesn’t fit if your retailer allows for it.

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Bouldering Foot Placement Basics – 8 Easy Steps and 8 Drills

I want to talk about the basics today. Basics as in basics of bouldering foot placement. It’s one of the most underrated aspects for many beginners.

When people start with bouldering, they usually focus on their hands only. If you’re rested and fresh, nailing a route is easy if you have solid upper body strength. And many gyms are very arm-focused too, as they have lots of overhanging routes with huge jugs to grab on the lower grades. But using only your arms will quickly wear you down, and the sight of beginners finishing their session early after 30 min with arm pump is a common one at any gym or crag.

Once beginners start to focus more on foot placement and leg technique, they feel very wobbly in the beginning. And they make many mistakes – sloppy footwork results in bad foot placement. Try to listen if someone climbs, and you’ll quickly notice if she is a master of foot placement. Silent, quick and elegant movement usually tells that someone knows how to use their feet while beginners are often loud and bang the main portion of their soles on the footholds.

I want to dedicate this complete post only to bouldering foot placement and the basics of proper foot placement. Many posts handle all the different topics of bouldering technique, but I think you cannot overrate and over practice footwork, especially if you want to improve your grades. Good foot placement will also save you lots of strength and energy in your arms. So, keep reading to learn how to build your bouldering on a solid foundation, feet first…:D

Put your shoes on and it’s go-time!

Why Is good foot placement important for bouldering?

Climbing and bouldering are very arm heavy sports. There is no way around it, top professional climbers you will see a certain type of athlete dominate, and they all have relatively strong upper bodies. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be a bodybuilder for climbing, that kind of muscle mass is probably more impeding than helping, but compared to other sports, climbers have a relatively high amount of their (overall low body mass) concentrated in the upper body. Why this post then? Why do people tell you foot placement is so important and that it’s the most important aspect in bouldering? When I started bouldering most people told me that my foot placement was more important than what I did with my arms. Here is the answer: foot placement is so important because most people neglect it completely. And if we assume that 60% of bouldering is arms, then you still have 40% that comes down to leg and footwork.

But if you neglect them, you will always be 40% under your maximum ability. Your legs are the strongest muscles in your body by far, and leaving them out means you miss out on potential. Your legs are also much more enduring than your arms, as they are made for holding the majority of your body weight when you walk and stand. If you take walking, for example, your arms are more or less useless while your legs do the work – that’s why they are so strong. Every time you climb a stair, it’s like a little workout for your legs.
By learning correct foot placement and foot placement technique you can achieve your full potential.

Your legs have greater strength, power, and endurance than your arms. To see why that might be, consider the act of walking. While your arms dangle by your side for the entirety of a typical day (assuming it’s not a day filled with bouldering), your legs are carrying your entire body weight around — step after step after step, for thousands of steps each day. In case you don’t believe me yet, just compare the world records for the bench press and squat:

If you have a solid bouldering foot placement technique it will help you save strength and energy in your arms, while using your already strong legs.
There is a famous quote in Better Bouldering from John Sherman where he says that you should let the big muscles of the legs help you reach higher ground, while your arm muscles should actually only do positioning and balancing. I couldn’t add more to this, that’s what bouldering foot placement technique comes down to.

Bad foot placement means your upper body will wear down quickly, you will get forearm pump more often and faster, and your training session length will be shorter. Chances of injury for elbow and shoulder will also grow as you constantly run into the risk of overstressing the small shoulder muscles or elbow joints. Good foot placement will make you tackle harder problems, climb longer and progress faster. That’s why you should work on your footwork technique, and these basics of footwork placement will give you a good starting point.

Know the Different Areas in a Bouldering Shoe

Before we get into our techniques and drills, let’s talk shoes first. Good climbing shoes LINK are the one and only piece of gear that you really rely on when bouldering.
No matter what you think about them, they are your main contact point with the wall and as such you need to understand how they work. For beginners, climbing shoes look like a rubbery mess, but there is intelligence behind the design. If you know how to use which part of the shoe, your foot placement will become more efficient and better. Knowing what to use where will also help you develop a beta for onsighting a project or boulder too, and it’s important to build solid bouldering foot placement and technique.

Toe Section

This is the part where your toes touch the rock. When you climb, you should usually have your weight centered around this area, and try to avoid touching the wall with anything else. Exceptions are heel hooks and side edges. This part of the shoe is not only the most stable part of the shoe, it’s also the most precise area. And when you use it correctly, it allows you to easily pivot and adjust hips and feets. You can also stand on your tip-toes, which is great to keep balance. If you don’t use your toes you miss out on mobility and reach, and also face the risk of slipping. To understand the toe box, lets look at the thee different parts of it.

  • Front
    If you place the front part of your shoe on a hold, this is a frontstep. Frontsteps are the basic moves when bouldering, and mastering them is key to proper foot placement. With the front of your feet you can super precise. Pivoting is very easy when you front step. But there are some footholds, like thin edges for example, where front stepping is not the best idea. On these footholds, frontsteps have a very small shoe-to-rock area, and that makes it slippery. Being perpendicular to the wall is sometimes a problem too, as it pushes your hips away from the wall which makes you spend more energy to hold and limits potential reach. In these cases you should press hips against the wall and utilize the inner and outer edge of the toe box to gain more stable hold.
  • Inner Edge
    If you use the inner or outer edge of your climbing shoe this is called edging, read more the details of it here. Using the inner side of the shoe is a great way to get more contact area on to the rock and increase friction and hold on thin ledges and edges. It also opens your hips and helps you get the hip closer to the wall, which is good for preserving energy and maintaining hip mobility. Close hips are also good to have maximum reach. A disadvantage of this position is that you have less flexibility when maintaining this position, as it impacts your ability to pivot. Inside edging with both feet is called frog legging.
  • Outer Edges of the Shoe
    When you place the outer edge of the shoe on a foothold it uses your small toes. As they are smaller and not as strong as the big toes on the inside of your feet, this kind of edging is not as stable as inside edging. But this kind of foot placement can be used to perform the backstep. If you don’t know what backstepping is, watch the video down below.

Arch

The midsection of your shoe. Generally speaking, try to avoid using this section for footholds. The climbing shoes have rubber here mainly to protect your feet and when you do crack climbing or twisted moves between rocks where you need to lock yourself in position. For normal climbing, avoid using the main sole of the shoe as much as possible. If you watch someone climbing and she or he uses the midsection of the shoe, often with a lot of noise when placing feet, it’s a typical sign of poor foot placement technique.

Heel

This is the back end of your bouldering or climbing shoe. This part of your shoe is used for hooks. Hooks are important for certain moves, but not for stepping on to regular footholds. For most climbers, hooks become important once they reach certain grades of difficulty, as hooks usually require lots of leg strength, flexibility, and core stability.

8 Keys in Order to Build Superior Bouldering Foot Placement

You know which part of the foot to use for certain situations. But now you need to learn the basics needed to have a solid foot placement technique when climbing or bouldering. The aspects presented here are very important and you should keep them remembered. It’s also helpful to think about them before you start your training session to focus on them. My advice is to try and improve single aspects initially.

  1. Use your eyes and look before you place your feet
    Look where you step. Before you do anything, always do a visual assessment if possible. Not only can you identify the quality and potential of a foothold, it will also help you to place your feet correctly. Both things are important.
    a) Identify FootholdsWhen you try hard boulders or climbing routes, identifying a good foothold quick and effortless is priceless. If you cannot do it, you will find yourself in situations where you use a lot of energy just by holding yourself in position and searching for the next foothold. I know i messed up many problems and routes as a beginner because my eye was not trained to identify potential footholds. This skill is especially important when you climb outside, where there are no marked footholds. Good footholds are often hidden under other rock features, and assessing them in terms of weight placement and potential to support upwards movement is crucial.
    b) Watch feet placement
    Keep your eyes on the feet while you place them. It makes a huge difference for good foot placement in bouldering when you keep your eyes on your foot while you move it. Most beginners have only a quick glance at a foothold, and then carelessly slap their foot on it. And they usually pay for it by needing to readjust their feet. You should do it better: Move your feet as slow as necessary while watching them. Eye the exact point of the rock where you want your toes placed, and don’t look away until you place your foot. If you develop this careful attention, you will notice that you slip less and less with time, and soon you will be super confident and precise. You will also be quick once you get started with a route, as you find new footholds effectively and fast
  2. Be precise
    When you place your feet, you should only need one try to do so. This means you place your foot exactly where it belongs at the first try. When you have precise foot placement, you save energy on stalls and re-positioning, as both cost a lot of arm energy. Think about it: While you fiddle around to have your feet placed right, all the energy comes from your arms while you hold yourself in position. And sometimes margin of error on small and thin edges is simply to small to be sloppy, and you take a fall if you mess it up. If you become precise, you will also become elegant and efficient.
  3. Place feet silently
    When you place your feet while bouldering, they should make almost no noise. Noise usually means you had too much momentum and the rock stops your feet, which means you lack control over your movement. Lots of noise mean no control, no noise means good control. If you cannot execute a move fast without making a lot of noise, you need to work on control. Try to climb routes extra silent, even if it means to execute movement slower. Go and climb a lesser grade if needed, but work on that foot placement control. Once you become better and more controlled, you can work on execution speed again.
  4. Trust your feet and legs
    There are many situations where you need to place enough weight on your foot in order to maintain a stable position. If you don’t trust your feet in these situations it will mean you take a fall. Most beginners don’t trust their feet because they are afraid they will slip and fall. And because they lack trust, they don’t place enough weight on their feet, which results in a fall. It’s a vicious circle. But you can break it, by going all in and putting some “blind” trust into your feet. After a while, you will extend your comfort zone easily by increasing the difficulty of the foothold step by step. Keep trying to step on footholds that you don’t tust in a controlled environment, where you gradually decrease the amount of energy of your arms while holding, and increase the placed weight until you have maximum weight on your toes.
  5. Climb with sticky feet
    Sticky or glue feet means that you have the ability to place your feet without readjusting. It’s a consequence of being very precise, to a level where you can place your foot on a hold and it sits almost perfectly – without any readjusting. Constant readjusting burns up precious energy and endurance, and you can easily practice this skill by climbing boulders without adjusting the feet and trying to spend more time before you place your feet and trying to be precise.
  6. Proper hip movement
    All climbing starts in your hip. It’s the single skill most people neglect, and for good foot placement you need good hip technique. Keep in mind to keep your hips as close to the wall as possible and to initiate movement with your hips.
  7. Grab holds actively with your feet
    When you grip a hold with your hand you don’t just lay your hands on them and wait if it works out. You grab and squeeze (but don’t overgrip!). But when it comes to foot placement, many beginners passively place their feet on the foothold and are done with it. What you should do is actively step and grab a foothold with your feet. Activate your muscles, step on your tip-toes if needed and try to really hold and “draw” the hold with your feet. You will notice a big difference regarding the amount of energy needed from your arms to hold a position this way – the more you actively hold a foothold with your feet, the less energy is needed from your arms.
  8. Use the feet to propel upwards movement
    Try to imagine you’re doing a super hard one legged squat when you actually progress vertically. Activate your leg muscles, and don’t just pull yourself up with your arms. Once you feel the burn in your leg muscles you know you are using them correctly.

8 Drills for building foot placement techniques fast

I put together some helpful drills to execute, to make learning proper foot placement easier for you. Include them when you do gym climbing sessions or outside. It doesn’t matter if you boulder or rock climb, they work for both.

1. Drill to train precise foot placement: Corks on Footholds
A great way to practice precision is the cork method. You pick a simple traverse on a nearly vertical or vertical wall and place wine corks on the footholds. Now your goal is to traverse and use the footholds with the cork laying on top of it, but doing it without kicking the cork of the foothold. This way you need to be very precise and gentle when you place your foot. Don’t worry if you are super slow, this is not about being fast. Remember the saying: Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. It’s all about controlling the movement and being smooth.

2. Another Drill to train precise foot placement: One-time placement game
Climb some boulders with imaginary glue on your feet. Once you place your feet, you’re not allowed to adjust them. Try to find the right position at the first try, then commit for the foothold and continue.

3. Drill to train foot placement and body positioning: Tennis ball drill
This drill helps you train how you position yourself on the wall. You need 2 tennis balls and a slab wall. Now hold the 2 balls in your hands and climb the wall, without holding anything. You are allowed to place the ball with your fist for support. Remember to push on your feet to hold position on the slab. You can also use your fists for this drill if you have no tennis balls.

4. Drill for more calve strength: Tip-toeing
If you need more power in the calves and upper feet, deliberately train tip-toeing. Find a level surface and then press up from the ground to stand on the front part of your feet, if possible only the toes. Hold the position for some seconds, do 10 repetitions for 3 sets, wait a minute between the sets. If you build strength in these muscles, it will be much easier for you to maintain a balanced position on a tiny foothold.

5. Drill for switching feet: Warm up with traverse and switching feet
Find a traverse wall, and use it for warming up. While you traverse it, practice different styles of feet swapping. You can use the foot on top of other foot method or any other method. Some good tricks are shown in the video below.

6.Drill to learn trusting your feet: Tape on footholds (Only do in the gym!)
Put some shiny tape over footholds and then climb them. You will only be able to hold onto them if you put maximum pressure on your feet. This way you will build up confidence and trust in your foot placement, as the friction of the footholds is reduced. But don’t do this on difficult routes and don’t forget to completely remove the tape afterward. Please also refrain from this drill on natural rocks!

7. Drill for accuracy and tension: Toe-stabs
This drill improves both precision and tension in your feet. With you standing away, have a friend to point to a foothold near the ground. You can also chose it yourself. Then balance on one leg and try to touch the foothold with your other feet as quietly as possible.

8. Climb outside
Admitted, this is not really a drill that teaches you a certain part of foot placement. But it’s super important to keep climbing outside. Only there you need all the skills, including the vision to read the different foothold types. So go outside and climb on real rock!

How to Study other Climbers for Good Bouldering Foot Placement

Bouldering is a sport where you can learn from others. Reading about great foot placement is good, but watching good climbers is super important too. Next time you’re at your gym, watch some good climbers climbing and how they place and use their feet. You can also watch some videos of professional climbers. Adam Ondra and Alex Honnold are both super controlled climbers with great foot placement. Keep an eye out for these things when you watch other climbers or videos:

  • Which part of the foot touches the rock
  • How do they use their core and lower body to relieve their arms
  • What are they doing with their eyes and head
  • How long do they keep both eyes on the foot when they place it
  • Are they adjusting the foot placement often?
  • What are they doing with their hips to initiate movement?
  • What kinds of rest positions do they use and how do they place their feet when resting?
  • Which part of their foot touches the wall or rock

Conclusion

Foot placement is a basic skill, and like most basic skills it requires hours of training to mastering it. The good news: It’s a linear process, and even if you only spent 2 hours per week on dedicated foot placement training you will quickly notice gains in the difficulty of bouldering you can do.  Training foot placement and footwork will make you a better boulderer and also transfer to sport and trad climbing. Don’t be like many beginner boulderers who only train their arms, but focus on your legs and feet too. Your legs are your strongest muscles, and they are a great tool that will save you energy and let you climb more difficult boulders.