Categories
Bouldering Climbing

How different is outdoor bouldering from indoor bouldering?

A strawberry is to a tomato, what indoor bouldering is to outdoor bouldering.

I mean, sure, they’re both technically a fruit and both are usually pretty sweet— but does that mean that they both go well on a cheesecake? Oh please, no. Not again. My friend had a cake like this in China—a nice sponge cake with cream and fruit on top, and amongst the strawberry, rape, and mango … and a tomato.

So yeah, outdoor bouldering is very different from indoor bouldering in some aspects. If you like the gym vibe, cheer your friends up indoor bouldering is great. If you love the adventure, and being outside plus you’re not afraid of learning to fall, then outdoor bouldering is better. Outdoor bouldering also is very different in how it feels on your fingers – you won’t find a gym where you have rain, mud and snow on the holds. The difference between the two sports; between indoor bouldering and outdoor bouldering, is getting greater and greater all the time. What was once used only for training and practice, has become almost completely unrecognizable, with some problems being as far from anything you would find outdoors as— say, a strawberry is from a tomato.

The roots of bouldering

The roots of outdoor bouldering find themselves used as practice and training for outdoor rock climbing and mountaineering— a way of staying in shape during the offseason and practicing hard moves while having barely left the ground. A great way to train finger strength, stay fit and improve technique by just climbing the hard part over, and over, and over.

It wasn’t long before outdoor bouldering became its own sport, pretty much entirely separated from rock climbing with a rope. No longer just practice for the main event, many people these days considered themselves only boulderers—because, well… they only do bouldering. Some boulderers will spend their entire climbing career on this discipline, never once even wearing a harness. Just climb some ridiculously hard problems, problems which would be near impossible for most rope climber guys and girls to even consider.

This passion for the sport of bouldering gave rise to bouldering gyms; gyms dedicated to the art that is indoor bouldering.

Back in the days

But let’s back up a little.  Back to when bouldering first arrived indoors. It usually had a little section of the corner of the climbing gym. The gym I used to frequent, they had this little cave that was not too much bigger than the inside space of a van. Again, it was to repeat and train on those hard moves, and not many people spent much time in there. Indoor bouldering was used primarily as training for the ‘Main Event’, or even training to get stronger for indoor rope climbing.

Back then, all these indoor boulder problems were set in a way as to mimic an outdoor boulder problem or the crux sequence of a hard rock climbing route. The holds used were fairly similar to real rock, typically designed to imitate limestone features, and were mostly holds to pull down on. Balancey movement on slab style walls and volumes weren’t really a thing. All the bouldering walls were either caves or 45’s. A 45, is a steep wall, overhanging at a 45-degree angle.

As more and more people realized, not only is this indoor bouldering ‘training’ hugely beneficial to one’s climbing game, but it’s also a lot of fun. And with more and more people bouldering, this gave rise to specific bouldering gyms. Dedicated gyms, purely for indoor bouldering.

The sport of indoor bouldering

As indoor bouldering claimed its place in the climbing world as its own discipline, the movement for the problems gradually changed and evolved. It became much more gymnastic; launching oneself around a corner to purposefully fall to the next hold— or using massive half spherical volumes, alien heads and more recently, moving ‘wheel’ style holds. Many modern indoor bouldering problems include movements seen in parkour and free running— something rarely seen in outdoor bouldering.  

Different Holds

The days of problems being restricted to simulate the movement of outdoor boulders have disappeared, as did the restrictive use of ‘outdoor like’ or ‘rock mimicking’ holds. Of course, a lot of the route setters still go for the ‘similar to outdoor’ style, which is great. Just don’t be too surprised when you have to stand on a volume and jump across three more volumes to reach the final hold, which happens to be the shape of a bubble. Just to be clear, holds of these shapes; bubbles and big triangular volumes— they do all exist in nature in some types of rock— but they do not often exist in these sequences and patterns.

Parkour of climbing

If you don’t know what I mean, about the holds and the parkour-ness of it all, take a look at one of the IFSC bouldering world cup events. I remember this one problem, it was the men’s 3rd boulder problem at the bouldering world cup in Vail, 2016. The problem started on a big pentagonal volume. The contestants then made this huge dynamic move, jumping up into a sort-of iron cross position, with both hands outstretched to either side, pressing on the volumes they had just jumped to. These problems were never meant to be like the outdoors. They were set to be unique, and to force the contestants to use interesting and non-conventional movement. The movement we would rarely (if ever) use in climbing of any other form— a rope or not, indoor or outdoor. Some people could (and do) argue, that indoor bouldering has become equal parts climbing, gymnastics and parkour— whereas outdoor bouldering, has remained much the same—just the difficulty of the problems are being pushed to ridiculous new levels.  

Grading systems

Both indoor and outdoor bouldering, use either the V scale or The Fontainebleau Scale (the font scale) to grade a problem’s difficulty. Which system a particular bouldering area or gym uses, is based on location—and worldwide it’s pretty evenly divvied up. All over the US, China, and Australia, the V system is used—whereas all of Europe, South Africa, Japan, and India go for the font scale.   

Given this, you might think then, that a V5 in a bouldering gym in Australia, and a V5 outdoors somewhere else in the world would be similar— they’ve both been given the same grade. But if you climb a problem indoors, especially one at the lower end of the grades, around V0-V3; the outdoor version seems hard as nails in comparison!

If they’re both the same sport using the same grading system, why would the outdoor version of the same grade be so much harder?

In a bouldering gym, a route setter will craft their problem, climb it multiple times, then decide a grade based on not only what they think it is, but what it’s difficulty is in comparison to the other problems in the gym, too. Some say grades are a little softer in the gyms to keep everyone stoked, to keep that feel good vibe. No one wants to arrive at the bouldering gym only to find they are struggling on a V0.

Generally, after the problem is set, it’ll stay up for a few weeks, maybe a month or two, then they will be cleaned and reset as a different problem. There is not a whole lot of time or need to get everyone’s opinion on the grade of this boulder that will be gone shortly anyway.

It’s not necessarily the most important thing either, for the grading to be accurate on a global scale. The importance is more in the consistency of the problems in a gym or area. You don’t want to have two V6’s in a gym, with one far more difficult than the other.  

Outdoor problems: Permanent

Outdoor problems, unlike indoor problems, are permanent. There is no going anywhere for them, and they obviously can’t be rotated or changed (unless a hold breaks, making it easier or harder, and in this case, the grade will change). A boulderer will find, clean and claim the first ascent of a new problem. They get the prestigious honor of naming the problem—and as far as the name goes; the more ridiculous the better. Some current boulder problem names include; ‘Birth Canal’ in Squamish, ‘Pumped full o’semen’ in Hueco Tanks and ‘Hand on poop’ in Dao Cheng.

The climber may grade the problem immediately after having sent it— this is especially the case if the first ascensionist is familiar with the area, as to keep the grades consistent among the area— or they may get a consensus from multiple other climbers before assigning the problem a grade. Over a long period of time, many climbers from many different countries will try the route, and this opens the grading of any particular problem up for peer review.  

The benefit of having the opinions of multiple other boulderers is that you will get a more ‘real’ or ‘accurate’ grade, as opposed to the grades you’ll find indoors, which are often very local to that gym. You’ll have professional boulderers, amateurs and everyone in between, all trying the same lines and agreeing upon the grades. Sure, a V3 in Yosemite might feel like a V6 anywhere else, but as long as the area is consistent, no harm no foul.

Outdoor bouldering: Outdoor experience, Indoor bouldering – gym vibe

The experience of the two sports though is really the biggest difference of all. If you’re bouldering indoors, you’ve got a vibe of a gym. Going hard, cheering others on, sharing beta, getting your sweat on! It’s social. It’s all about pushing it and trying to get better. Go there anytime, rain, hail, snow or shine and crush it. It’s fun, and I can see why a lot of people only boulder indoors.  

Outdoors, on the other hand, you’ve got the elements. You’ve got to travel to the area, you’ve gotta carry your pads and backpack. The end of the day usually results in climbing tape covered body parts, and depending on the rock your climbing, bleeding fingertips. You’ll need to take at least one other person with you, so you can spot each other. You’ve sometimes got ice in the pockets at the top of the boulders, dirty holds, wildlife, uneven landings and your pads blowing away with each gust of Galeforce. Freezing fingertips in spring and autumn are another “plus” you get extra for free if you live in northern Europe or northern America.

It’s only when you really get out and do both, that you’ll realize how huge the difference really is. Like I said—strawberries and tomatoes.

Conclusion: Try both – and see why they’re different but awesome

So, go ahead, try it out, if you never bouldered outside, definitely try it out. Just make sure to pick an easy traverse first, and practice landing first before you try a higher boulder!

If you need some tips for choosing the right pant for bouldering and climbing, read my other article!

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Should I climb every day?

When I first started climbing, around 2 years ago (but who’s counting!?), I tried climbing every day, in every way I possibly could, on anything I possibly could. Climbing gyms, bouldering gyms, outdoor routes, — I was just slightly obsessed.
Once climbing became a part of my life, everything was a climbing wall. A brick building with gaps between the bricks? Climbing wall. A solid wooden table? Climbing wall- just traverse around it. Any number of statues, playground equipment, public sculptures, bridges—literally anything.
Many friends and other climbers asked me this question before, so to make it short: No you should not climb everyday – at least not for extended periods of time. As a beginner your tendons and ligaments need time to heal and rest and get stronger. When you become more advanced, climbing everyday for a week or two is ok, but even then resting is always good for your body.

The age old question

One question that plagues all climbers, new or the grizzled seasoned pro, a question that is a battle between heart, mind, and body…The age-old question of: “Should I climb every day?” Because I really, really want to.
After about a year spent trashing myself, climbing every day; my fingers were destroyed, and I was experiencing some pretty extreme bicep pain. It sort of felt like my bicep muscle was pulling off the bone. I was always sore and my climbing plateaued, but the idea of taking a day off, or heaven forbid— taking two or three days off, was nightmarish. How could I possibly get better by taking days off?!

Resting – the secret weapon of advanced climbers

Any established climber, anyone that’s been pushing themselves for a while will tell you; resting is as important for your climbing as climbing is. Even professional climbers use resting as a tool, only climbing every day during peak periods in a training cycle or on a climbing trip, then usually, taking a decent length break to recover.
One of the worst things you can do for your climbing performance is going too hard, for too long without antiquate rests in-between.

But how much is too much when everyone is different and how do I know when to rest?

Train, climb and rest in cycles.
Though it’s tempting to just jump on the project all day, every day, this can quickly lead to pains and strains, especially in climbers that haven’t let their tendons and pulleys naturally strengthen.

3-days-on, 2-days-off

Working with a 3-days-on 2-days-off cycle, making sure each session is of a different intensity is often a good route to go down. This allows the body to peak naturally and rest adequately. It doesn’t necessarily need to be exactly 3 days on, 2 days off—it could be 2 on, 2 off or 4 on and 3 off. It all depends on what works for you.

Warm up!

The first session can be used as a warm-up, and the goal is to not crush the hardest routes possible; the goal is mileage. Work on technique, and finding ways of not working too hard should always be the goal. Getting into this mindset is also helpful for sending days, as you’re always looking for the easiest, most energy conserving way of doing a crux.

4×4 Circuits – the magic bullet for progression

Implementing 4×4 circuits are a good way of doing this. Choose 4 boulder problems that are between 3-5 grades below your limit. So if the hardest problem you’ve sent is V5, choose between V1- V3. Climb the first problem 4 times, as in, once you’ve sent the first problem, drop back down and immediately climb it 3 more times, then rest for 2 minutes. Do the same thing for the remaining three problems, then rest 5-10 minutes. That’ll complete one set of 4x4s. From here you can either repeat this or choose 4 different problems of the same grade. The goal is 3 sets.

You shouldn’t feel too sore after this session, and you definitely shouldn’t feel any pain during. You should feel good and psyched for tomorrow. Learn to recognize good pain and bad pain. A burn in the arms, legs and abdominal muscles after a session is good, but nagging deep pain in index finger or forearm is bad, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Better general fitness promotes shorter recovery periods.

Including other forms of training, otherwise known as cross-training, can help boost your climbing game and improve your recovery time drastically. Include Yoga practices, Tabata sessions, light running or cycling—anything that will get your heart going and improve cardio. Aerobic workouts have been shown to increase the size of blood vessels, therefore allowing the blood to flow more freely and more easily throughout the body.

If your fingers or arms are ‘bad’ hurting while climbing, STOP!

Building muscles and gaining a sweet six pack is relatively easy when climbing. This is why most elite climbers look like a Greek statue. Muscles generally build fast, and you can notice a physical result both in looks and strength gains within weeks. Unfortunately, not all body parts work that way.
Tendons and pulley take a lot longer to build and strengthen, and injuries to these parts are some of the more common injuries amongst the rock climbing population. They are injuries you really don’t want, as these can take a long time- often months- to heal properly. They are also injuries that are avoidable by just listening to your body. Finger injuries are among the most common injuries climbers are prone to, and
pulley injuries or Biceps Tendinopathy — are not fun either.
So take it slow, and if something hurts in a ‘bad’ way, stop. Talk to other climbers, talk to a physiotherapist, figure out what it is—never ignore it.

Rest like you train.

Remember, even on rest days, you’re still training, just in a different way. And these rest days are just as important as your climbing days. You’re training your body to recover. These days can be spent looking after your gnarly hand skin, eating well (think whole foods), analyzing climbing videos, stretching—whatever you like, just nothing too physically strenuous. The climbing days are for you to do, your muscles and your brain. Rest days are up to your body. Let it do its thing.

Should I rock climb every day? In short, no. Not if you want to be a lifelong climber.

Alex Lowe Peak once said “the best climber is the one having the most fun”, and to me, not a truer thing has been said. When it really comes down to it, we ultimately only climb because it’s fun, and climbing injured and full of pain isn’t fun. To many, climbing is not only a sport, but it’s also a lifelong relationship that is only possible with injury prevention. So have fun out there, avoid injury and you’ll hopefully still be sending when you’re 95! Read my other article on building endurance for more information on proper training regimes!

 

Categories
Bouldering

Do I really need climbing shoes for bouldering? A minimal gear guide.

Bouldering is a pretty minimalistic sport. In terms of gear requirements, it’s like climbings little brother. Wild and strong, always on the move but not with a lot of baggage. Typically people ask me if they really need climbing shoes when they start bouldering. Quick Answer: No, you don’t really need climbing shoes for bouldering as a beginner. But beginner climbing shoes can be really helpful for bouldering too, make it more fun and are not that expensive. And if you climb some harder problems chances are high you will need a good pair of climbing shoes at some point.

Why climbing shoes are still a good idea

You can get climbing shoes for any style, many of them are designed for bouldering. When you chose them, you must usually compromise between some factors like:

  • Tight or lose fit? Tight is better for performance om small holds, loose is more comfortable.
  • Sticky rubber or firm rubber? Sticky rubber is soft and makes shoes wear down faster, but also makes them stick better to the wall. Firmer soles give you better smearing. When you press your shoes to the rock or slab and use friction alone to get a grip, that’s called smearing. Firm soles also last longer
  • Thin soles are sensitive but less durable

If you’re a beginner, don’t spend too much money on shoes. Chances are they won’t last very long anyway as your footwork most likely is not perfect. In terms of fit, they should not cause pain, read my guide on climbing shoes!

Some quick advice: The tighter the fit, the better will they perform. It’s normal to have climbing shoes at least a size smaller than normal street sneakers. So make sure that they fit nice and snug, but not super painful. They will probably flex a little bit so make sure to have no dead space in the front or around your heel!

The stiffer the shoe the less tight it needs to be. If you’re advanced you can get a pair of extremely tight shoes that almost bend around your feet. They will give you extra support on small edges and holds, but it makes it harder to climb on slabs where you need to get a large portion of rubber to the wall. And they can hurt your feet, keep that in mind.

Beginner shoes are usually quite stiff, with a lot of rubber and a flat sole. They’re not super performance oriented, but feel comfortable. I would definitely get comfortable shoes in the beginning, and then buy a pair of performance shoes later on.

Some other non-essential items for bouldering

Besides climbing shoes for bouldering, some other obvious things such as a crashpad and chalk are good to have. If you boulder outdoors you also need some good functional clothes and a brush to clean rock holds. Another nice-to-have thing is a small patch of carpet to keep shoes clean and a tarp for humidity protection of your pad. Also, a guidebook and maybe a compass can be nice. And bring some water and food if your bouldering spot is a little off the tracks.

You should definitely wear loose fitting clothes – not too baggy, but tight jeans without stretch are a no-go. If you go bouldering outside, bring an extra hooded jacket or softshell jacket, as rock walls can get cold. It’s always good to wear an extra layer when you do your warm-up routine. You should get warm when warming up, after all, it’s called warm-up for a reason. When you feel your temperature rising you can start shedding layers until you feel comfortable. Don’t keep them on, otherwise, you will be soaked in sweat which is not good either.

A climbing pad, or bouldering mat, is definitely needed if you boulder outside – it absorbs the shock from falling and will keep you from being injured. Although you still need to learn to fall!

Chalk

Chalk is actually  Magnesium Carbonate or MgCO₃, it’s a white powder that absorbs sweat from your hands. A lot of climbers and boulderers use it, it’s quasi a gold-standard and it serves both a practical and psychological use. Just watch some of the pro climbers religiously reaching into their chalk-bag when they work on complicated routes. If you climb you will notice a lot of sweat on your hands – this can be due to the physical activity but also because of fear. Especially common for new climbers who are not used to the height.

Chalk is great to absorb the sweat and give your hands a firm grip. Chalk itself does not increase friction, but it prevents sweat and as such it helps your hands get a firm grip on holds. Some brands of chalk actually contain a drying agent. It helps to reduce sweaty hands even further if you climb in warm temperatures. But do keep in mind that too much chalk is not too good for your skin. It’s quite the opposite actually, and continued overuse will dry out your hands and harm the upper layer of your skin.

So make sure to wash your hands when you’re done bouldering and use a good lotion to regenerate skin moisture. You can buy chalk as powder, liquid mixed with alcohol and as chalk balls. Chalk balls are round begs of mesh filled with chalk, reducing the number of particles becoming airborne when chalking your hands.

You can also use liquid chalk, which eliminates chalkdust completely.  But it is even worse for your hands’  skin thanks to the ethanol it comes mixed with. It evaporates when touching your hands, leaving a thin layer of chalk in your hands. Good for a base layer of chalk too. Don’t overdo it with the chalk and bring a brush to clean some of the grips if you make a chalky mess. It’s nicer for the climbers who come after you.

Chalk Bag

chalk bag with brush and climbing tape
My chalk bag with my brush and climbing tape

This one is a must, it’s a little pouch to keep your chalk available when climbing. You can hang it to your belt or harness. You can also get a bouldering chalk bag or bucket, they are usually bigger and not designed to drag around with you. Just leave them on the ground, chalk up before you go and good. It’s also a good idea to buy an airtight box to store your supply of chalk in your house: Keeps chalk from dusting your furniture and the chalk itself stays dry.

Clothing

If you climb close to your car you probably need no extra clothing. But things look different if you actually have to hike for an hour to get to your bouldering spot. This becomes important if conditions are cold or humid or both. Don’t forget to bring:

  • A warm cap or hat that covers your ears
  • A pair of gloves if it’s cold – rock can make your fingers numb after only a couple of minutes climbing
  • Breathable base layer with long sleeves – roll them up once you feel too hot. It’s super important to have the base layer made from some breathable material. Don’t just wear a t-shirt unless it’s in the mid of summer
  • Fleece or wool jumpers for mid-layer, which you can keep wearing if it’s really cold even when climbing
  • Down jackets are super light-weight and very warm, but if it rains you must wear an extra layer of breathable protection. Cold and wet down is no good!
  • Shorts are nice when it’s warm, but won’t protect your legs from ticks and insect bites when it’s warm
  • I really like to wear thin socks inside my climbing shoes if it’s cold – it’s uncommon but it works great for me
  • Get some hiking boots for long approaches on rough terrain. They will also keep your feet warm in autumn, spring and winter, give good support to your ankles and last for years.

Brush

A brush is essential to clean boulder problems and climbing routes of excess chalk. You can get them in any color or shape, usually, a plastic or wooden brush works fine. There is a type of brush on the market with a telescoping stock, which helps to reach holds high up in the air. Don’t ever use a brush with metal bristles as they damage the rock destroy holds for climbers who climb the same route or problem later on.

Skin care products

Definitely bring some zinc oxide tape, it will protect your fingers and keep skin in working conditions. Sandpaper or pumice stone can help to minimize blisters and rough patches on your skin: If you remove it, chances are smaller to rip flakes of the skin of when going hardcore monkey style on fat holds. Your skin needs some time to adapt, by the way, so get used to having some amount of blisters on your hands. I had terrible bleeding blisters in the first weeks of bouldering. The easier your routes are the worse it is as difficult crimping finger holds are usually not easy to grip with the full palm of your hand – but beginner holds are. You should also invest some money in a good skin moisturizer or lotion. Another thing you should buy is some climbing tape. It will not only help you if you are prone to finger injuries but you can also use it to conveniently tape blisters.

The boulder crash pad

Relatively new (they became a thing in the 90s), these pads will save you from injury when falling. Before that, even short falls were potentially very dangerous. Since bouldering became really popular in the last years, sales for pads have soared too, as the pad decreases chances of a sprained ankle etc. drastically.

hinge style crash pad
A hinge bouldering mat
taco bouldering mat
A taco style bouldering mat

Since crash pads came by, some harder higher boulder problems were suddenly accessible. It’s easy to stack them or build a field of pads when a problem has a bad landing. They have another nice effect long-term: They minimize wear and tear of your knee, foot, and ankle joints as they absorb a lot of the shock from repeated falls.

Design options like color are endless, but most pads consist of one or more layers of foam which are covered in a hard rubber fabric, making them strong and durable. The hard layer is usually placed on top to spread the load of the impact, which is then absorbed by the underlying foam areas. Pads can be small (1m x 1.5m x 5cm thickness) or large for highball (very high and dangerous boulders) (3m x 2m x 15cm thickness). Most guys and girls I know like smaller pads since they are easier to haul. Make sure to buy a good pad, as the foam does the work and good foam costs more than the cheap stuff.

Pads come in two fundamental shapes: Taco and Hinge. While Taco pads have a whole section of foam which is bent in the middle for carrying, a hinge pad consists of two sections of foam connected with a hinge.

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

What are the benefits of climbing pants?

I was climbing in the gym the other day and one of my friends asked me, being a beginner if climbing pants were any good and had some benefits. So are there any real benefits from wearing pants like Prana or E9? It took me around 3 months to actually buy a pair and I was glad I made the switch from worn out jeans. Benefits of climbing pants include stretchy material, breathable materials, they transport sweat really good without becoming damp and soaked, and they are really durable too. Plus you get an insane amount freedom of movmenet. Let me go into some more detail though, why you need these benefits, and why actually any pants with these features work great as a climbing pant.

Facts – these benefits are measurable and objective

  • Stretchy Material – must have for climbing
    Climbing pants are made from a durable mix of cotton and elastic material. They are usually pretty lightweight, so when you wear them you have maximum agility. They need to be designed that way to allow for a big range of motion, as climbing involves a lot of legs and hip movement. Along with the stretchy fabric, climbing trousers usually come with a diamond gusset. This is an extra patch of fabric in the groin area between the legs. Normal pants just have 4 connecting pieces of fabric here, which is not really flexible. The diamond gusset, on the other hand, is very soft and this makes climbing pants super flexible around your core. This is written from my male perspective though, so leggings are no real choice for me, climbing pants are the most comfortable clothes I personally know.
  • Breathable for long climbing sessions, moisture wicking and protected from the sun
    Good climbing pants are made from mostly cotton – and some addition of an elastic material. This makes them super breathable and comfortable to wear even when it is hot and humid outside or you wear them for longer periods of time. In fact, I wear my E9 pants whenever I have a chance. They are so nice and comfortable that you can wear them at home or when you work out too. Another nice side effect is that this material makes them wick moisture, so they will dry easily and not become soaked so easily. Sun protection is nowadays built-in too, so you can save some SPF as your legs won’t need so much when wearing climbing pants.
  • Durable and resilient
    Climbing pants can take a beating. No matter if you scrape over rock, take a big fall or just wear them when you approach your climbing spot through the forest. Since they are so flexible you will most likely wear them when you belay your buddies too, so all the rope friction and load on your harness will wear off a normal pair of pants real quick. When it comes to abrasion resistance, climbing pants are usually pretty well of too – it’s not easy to rip them. Just try wearing sweat pants try approaching a route through brambles, manzanita or sagebrush – you will be walking around in rags within an hour.
  • Cut for maximum freedom of motion and stay in place when moving
    Climbers love to move around, myself included. I want my pants to have a maximum of freedom. And compared to other athletic gear I own, climbing pants actually stay in place when I buy them in the right size. No annoying riding up my crotch area anymore! And I love the freedom of motion when I have a route where I need to do some high-stepping.
  • Protect your legs from scratching up (if long pants)
    Long climbing pants will protect your legs from scratches, especially when you do outside bouldering on low-hanging roofs or rocks. If you fall upside down (which you should avoid but it can still happen nonetheless), wearing shorts can actually lead to burned legs due to rope burn. This does not apply if you wear climbing shorts, as they don’t cover your lower legs too.

Subjective Benefits – these might be true for you or not

  • Gear loops and cool features for climbing
    My E9 pants actually come with some loops for gear, brushes etc. which makes it really easy to use them with existing gear. Might seem not important, but if you really need to carry something you will love this. Plus they have a little stretchy cord on the height of the ankle – you can use it to make them very tight so they won’t be in the way or hanging over your shoes.
  • Are they helping you climb better?
    Sure they can. But I personally know lots of people who climb in fitness shorts or even regular jeans. It all works – in the end, you need to be a good climber to climb well. I think: Why not wear something that feels good, works good and is designed for the sport? Just because you can run a marathon in FlipFlops and will probably outrun someone who has never trained, doesn’t mean you should ignore good running shoes.
    In bouldering gym or climbing hall, you can probably wear sweatpants and never have a problem as holds and wall are smooth compared to outside. I have been bouldering in Ireland on rocks that were razor sharp and actually damaged my hands etc by just touching them – but my E9 pants held up pretty good.

Alternatives and hacks

  • Climbing pants alternative #1: Levis 511
    Although not being sold and branded as pants for climbers, a pair of Levis 511 will actually work nicely too. They have a good stretch, a cut that doesn’t restrict freedom of motion, deep pockets to fill with stuff and good protection against scraping and abrasion. They will probably last you 100s of sessions too – and they do look stylish.
  • Climbing pants alternative #2: Boulder jeans
    Climbing pants are super nice to have, but they also come with a certain “functional” look, meaning they look super baggy and often flash bright colors. Some of my friends don’t like this look. Are there alternatives to just wearing regular Levis 511s? Lucky enough yes. They basically look like going out pants but also work as climbing pants. They’re also super stretchy and resist chalk, so you can go from crag to work no problem. They’re kind of expensive though, so better get them on a sale.

Tips and recommendations

  • Get the size right (go smaller in doubt)
    Climbing pants tend to be fairly large and bulky, as they need some extra room in the legs etc. So make sure to actually try a pair on before buying them, as most people end up buying them too large. You should also make sure you’re ok with the cut, some people don’t like the extra fabric on legs as it looks kind of “bulky”. If you’re a woman there is an easy way out of it: Climb in leggings.
  • Recommendations for tall, skinny guys
    Most of the climbing brands make pants for people with a smaller frame, as most climbers have. This is true especially for italian or european brands. But if you’re a tall skinny guy, make sure to check out some Prana trousers. They come in tall-guy sizes like 36/32. Try the model Stretch Zion for example, it has good flexibility and is durable too.
  • Some good brands for climbing pants
    Your typical contenders here are E9, Prana and La Sportiva. Other more outdoor focused brands like Patagonia have been making climbing pants, as do suppliers like Vaude. I stick to E9 and Prana and Black Diamond for most of my climbing pants.
  • “I’m female, can’t I just wear a pair of yoga pants or leggings?”
    Yes, you can, my wife goes climbing in leggings or yoga pants without a problem. The only problem she had so far was that she actually destroyed a cheap pair of leggings on a route with sharp holds. This is of course due to the thin fabric and high amount of elastic material in leggings. It can also get cold in springtime wearing only leggings, especially if you live in the northern US or Europe. So keep that in mind if you want to climb with leggings only.

Conclusion: Get one high performance and expensive pant and/or some cheap ones

So it comes down to how much you are willing to shell out. The benefits of climbing pants actually apply not just to climbing pants. I would start with one really nice looking pair, a high-quality one if you take climbing seriously. These you can use on hard routes, in the gym etc. But as I said, you can climb in any flexible and durable synthetic pant with enough freedom of movement. They may be more likely to rip and break, but they also cost only a fraction of the expensive ones. If you go outdoor climbing 1-3 times a week, get a decent pair of E9 or Pranas.
If you just started, go with a cheap pair of target nylon cargo pants. I own several of these, they cost me about 30 bucks and after 2 years of climbing, they still look ok. Make sure to read my article on climbing shoes too!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Should i take my kids rock climbing or bouldering?

Kids love to move around, and a lot of times they have more energy than their parents. Yes, you should definitely take your kids rock climbing and/or bouldering. It’s great for developing general fitness, good balance and teaches them life values such as resiliency, confidence and how to think on their own. It’s also a great and safe adventure, and like a Outdoor and Nature 101 class for them.

And despite of its reputation as a sport for adrenaline junkies, rock climbing for kids is actually a great sport for kids and teenagers. It keeps them fit, agile and teaches them valuable life lessons and skills.

And you can nowadays find a bouldering gym or kid-friendly walls near you pretty easily, so bringing toddlers, wifey and everything else is not a problem. Not convinced yet? Let me give you some more details.

Kids need to learn to solve problems and make their own decisions

Climbing is a sport that needs brainpower. You cannot just go up a route, especially if you have a relatively light body as kids do. So you have to start planning, look at the route and figure out the best way. It’s almost like a puzzle for kids – with moving parts (pun intended).

And for every move they make they need to employ a certain strategy and approach to follow. Sometimes you are not sure where to go next, and when you’re outside in the sun on the rock, wind up your hair and you feel your arms getting tired from holding too long, oh boy, consequences of hesitating are all too real.

I think rock climbing for kids is the perfect way to train them in reacting to and solving problems in a smart, energy saving way by making quick decisions. That’s something you cannot put a price on and the earlier they learn it the better.

It will teach your little ones to be brave and adapt to difficulty – that’s called resilience

Fear is normal and can help you to achieve greatness because it helps you bring out the best in you. But only if you have learned to overcome it you can use it to boost your motivation and success. Rock climbing challenges kids with lots of different types of fear: Fear of failing, fear of the unknown and of course the fear to fall. And they learn to be bold, overcome the fear and adapt. When they start leaving their comfort zone they will come out as stronger, and more resilient human beings.

Climbing teaches your kids to make good and healthy choices and builds confidence

Climbers are rarely fat or chain smokers. Despite some of my friends being individualists and of course roll their own cigarettes when outside, most climbers i know are actually quite healthy. When you climb, your body transforms, you become lean, flexible and muscular. And not the type of bloated mess you get from working out too much, but efficient, enduring muscles which will help you to stay active and agile in your daily life. I know zero climbers who are obese, lazy or weak.

In fact, most older climbers i know are way beyond their age cut in terms of mental alertness, fitness, and agility. And most of them are actively pursuing other sports such as hiking, mountain biking, surfing or yoga, and dancing. Eat well, eat fresh, drink a ton of water and get ripped and strong. It will help you become better at climbing too, and when your kids are following these choices they have a solid foundation when they grow up.

Another thing is confidence – there is something about being able to climb stuff, move in terrain where 90% of the average population is too afraid or not even able to move in. And it will help your kids to grow up into confident adults.

Climbing is a controlled adventure – with relatively low risk

Climbing can be extreme, that’s for sure. Watch Alex Honnold climb free solo and you will get sweaty palms just from sitting in front of your TV. But that’s an extreme example of the world elite climbers – most climbing actually takes place in a controlled environment. Climbing is a safe sport – despite its bad reputation. Beginners climb top rope, meaning the rope is running through the anchor first. This means kids won’t even actually fall if they fail on a route, because there is just no real slack rope when they fall – except for the few millimeters due to the elasticity of the dynamic rope.

And in a bouldering gym, you have thick shock absorbing mats to minimize the risk of injury. If you fall on a bike or get washed hard when surfing that’s actually more dangerous. And it happens more often too. When you become an advanced climber, leading routes etc, falls are longer but then you have some experience too.

No one becomes a good climber without focus and discipline

In a world where media, apps etc. draw your attention it can be a very good skill to be able to focus on one thing. Great minds usually have discipline and focus and climbing is a perfect sport to learn the basics of discipline and focus. If you’re up on a slab, trying to carefully balance every move to not slip you WON’T multitask.

You will be all in the present, focusing on your task. I love this aspect of climbing especially because I have a hard time shutting out stuff in other sports. Climbing forces me to focus on one single task, while at the same time being very existential and it does not feel forced. It’s just natural, and it comes with a rush of adrenaline

Outdoor skills like knots, routes and rappelling are good for other sports too

No matter if you go and sail a boat or backpack through the wilderness of Canada – most of the skills learned in rock climbing can be used in other outdoor activities. By teaching your kids to handle ropes, tie safe knots, be able to rappel down a vertical rock face from a tree and finding their way through rough terrain you will not just give them the basics for climbing. You will also prepare them to camp outside, build shelters and basic navigation. No matter if they go kayaking or skiing – they will have some skills and the right mindset to be ready if they are ever in a life-threatening escape situation. And these skills can be useful for the rest of their lives.

Climbing is cheap

Climbing doesn’t cost a lot, you get four harnesses, a rope and belay device plus some quickdraws for under 500$ if you buy it on a discount. And you can use it for many years. No monthly fees, no costly new acquisitions each new season (looking at you mountain biking). Of course, no one stops you from going stir-crazy and spend a lot of money on climbing vacations and top of the line gear, but that’s the same in any sport. If you just want a low-cost start, climbing is perfect and suited for bigger families as well.

Humility builder and frustration tolerance booster

Like all parents i tend to shower my daughter with attention and positivity- But sometimes kids need character building, they need to fall on their a***es sometimes. Climbing lets them experience failure: They won’t make every route on sight, they will fall and they will need to find solutions to shortcomings they have.

It’s also a great way to let them stay in touch with nature – just remember how you felt when you were exposed on a 30 feet pitch the first time, wind on your skin, all sweaty from working your way up and then the look down, so scary high. How good it felt to be back on the feet after rappelling down, knowing you gave everything. It makes you very humble very quick, and learning to stand up after you failed will teach them a good amount of frustration tolerance which they can use for school and life.

Call to action

Take your kids outside, with you when you climb. You can start when they are toddlers, just let them try out some low hanging holds and footholds for fun. They will love it, it combines very well with their natural tendency to jump and climb around outside. And as shown above, a lot of the skills and traits for good character building come with climbing too. And in the end, it’s just super fun to be outside on a sunny Saturday afternoon with the people you love the most, having a good time. Is there anything better?!

Make sure to check out my article on climbing shoes if you buy shoes for your kiddos!

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

How can i build more rock climbing endurance?

Rock climbing needs strength and puts stress on the fingers and arms. Whether it is on natural rock formations or in the gym on artificial rock walls, sending a route requires you to be in very good shape with your whole body. You need to use arms and legs to balance each other while you find new holds and move upwards. Ideally, you would do this without ever losing balance – ideally! In reality, you will have to make up for lost balance by muscle strength, holding your body in position when shear forces try to drag you off the wall. And this is why rock climbing endurance is essential for good climbing.+

There are two types of climbers: the power climbers and the endurance climbers. Power climbers use dynamic power to climb quickly while enduring climbers take their time and have enough endurance to hold their position longer. Elite climbers are good at both, using endurance and power when needed. If you aim to increase your endurance, here are some vital tips that will improve your agility, mentality, and strength.

Keep in mind, these exercises are for climbers who already have a certain level of skill and endurance, so don’t do them if you’re brand new to climbing, and always make sure to do them fully rested. Never practice endurance when being fatigued – it’s a surefire way for finger injuries!

•    Fingerboard Stretches

The finger stretch is one of the top most effective practices in training for climbers because it is very important to have a balanced finger strength-to-bodyweight ratio. To take your climbing to the next level you need to increase the force on your fingers. Fingerboard exercises build greater finger strength, pump up your arm strength and also decrease your body mass

Start with a full body warm-up by doing a few jumping jacks and stretches. Depending on the type of fingerboard you are using, practice several hanging grips. They should include jug/bucket, crimp, pinch, slopers, pockets, underlying, etc. Hold each grip for 10 seconds.

Depending on how long you hold each grip, rest for the same amount of time. Continue a set of 5 each, three times a week.

•    Minimum Edge Protocol

Excessive finger stretches can be harmful to the finger tendons. Make sure to follow a routine that will sustain your motivation and push you at a stable pace and not injuring you.  For this routine, you will need to use a smooth wooden or resin boards to prevent injuries. You will also require a mount or foot jibs for support if you are a beginner. To start, do 10-seconds hang and hold with maximum effort. Rest for 2 minutes and flex your arms while doing so. Continue the 10 seconds hand and 2 minutes flex for a set of 10 grips in 30 minutes. Focus on training open-crimp grip and half-crimp grip. Once you have mastered this routine and it starts to feel easy after a week or two, increase the 10 to 15 seconds. But always remember to rest and flex during the break.

•    Moving Hang Protocol

Moving hang exercises means hanging and working around the fingerboard. The goal is to help you increase your arm strength plus increase finger endurance.  Make sure that you have a full hand grip on the board. Then create a pattern by moving side to side or up and down, using one hand at a time. This routine also helps training to navigate a route with ease as it builds up endurance while resting – sounds silly, but often times even your rest in a route is using up the energy of the hanging arm. Follow the same cycle for several minutes and rest for 3 minutes between each pattern set. While doing so, explore different grips such as pinches and slopers. Doing several sets of this exercise for 15 minutes will not only help you build greater endurance, but also improve your movements through different terrains of climbing.

•    Repeater

Repeaters are one of the most common and effective ways to build endurance for climbers. It mimics the relax-grip sequence of climbing boulders.  You can practice the following exercise can by adding weight and limiting each set to one minute. Pick about four to seven grip types to train. They include half-crimp, open-crimp, open hand, two-finger pocket, wide or narrow pinch. Each set should comprise of 5 relax-grip intervals where you hang for 7 seconds and rest for 3 seconds.  If you are practicing for maximum weight, you can also add extra weight to challenge yourself further. However, you should not add to much weight to prevent you from completing a set. Rest for 3 minutes between each set for the different grips and repeat for at least three days every week for the maximum result.

•     Maximum Weight “10-13 seconds” Protocol

This exercise mostly focuses on the open-crimp and half-crimp grips. It involves hanging on a broader and more comfortable hold with an added weight that varies from 25 to 100 pounds. You will also need to invest in a good weight belt, plates, and vest. Start with a 10 to 13-second hang with maximum effort. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat set of 5 hangs. In the beginning, focus one set for the open crimp and another pack for half crimp.  Once you have mastered the complete set, you can also target two-pocket or pinch grip. Make sure that the weights meet your capacity to keep the energy going.

•    Frenchies

Frenchie are one of the most common exercises often recommended for any endurance training. But unlike other endurance training drills, climbers use a large hold fingerboard instead of the conventional pull-up bar. To start, position your hand on the fingerboard at shoulder-width, a few inches above your head.

Step 1. Pull up using your best grip to your neck level and hold for five seconds.

Step 2. Slowly lower yourself with arms at a 90 degrees position and hold for 5 seconds.

Step 3. Further, lower yourself with your arms at 120 degrees and hold for another 5 seconds.

Repeat step 1 to 3 without dismounting or stopping to rest.  Continue the cycle as long as you can pull up and hold the lock-in for five seconds.

Rest 5 minutes after each set and aim for five sets per workout at least three times a week.

A full-pad, flat fingerboard would be most effective in gaining maximum result for endurance climbing. But if you are a beginner, start these routines with a pull-up bar or Olympic rings. Rock climbing endurance training is not always easy, but by blending these few exercises on your daily drill with dedication, it will improve your longevity and agility to maintain a stable performance in climbing.

Call to Action

Work on your rock climbing endurance and let me know if you have any other tips and protocols to follow! Also check out why you should probably spend more time in the bouldering gym.

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

How to become a stronger climber? Do more bouldering!

I love bouldering, it’s the perfect training for hard climbs. If you want to become a stronger climber, doing more bouldering is the surefire bullet to do it. And you can do it in a gym during wintertime with your friends. Plus it’s a boatload of fun. Why does it work? You become a stronger climber and also better at climbing by climbing more and harder. Bouldering is the essence of the hardest parts of climbing. It puts focus on these skills without bothering with belaying, gear and other safety-related skills. Bouldering challenges your body with complex requirements – also in terms of which muscles it uses. When you start out you will feel soreness in parts of your body you never even knew existed.

It makes little sense to practice these muscles with isolated strength exercises, like as exercising biceps with dumbbells. The more similar the training is to real climbing movements, the better it works.

If you are a beginner – just focus on bouldering. You won’t need much more for the first two years. But keep a few things in mind: How to successfully set training incentives, what good recovery looks like, and what aspects of training should be included. That way you can do intensive training loads while still recovering and becoming stronger and not injured.

Training stimuli and super compensation

In order for the body to become stronger and not stagnant, you must regularly set a training stimulus that exceeds your current capabilities. Otherwise, the muscles have no reason to get stronger.

Therefore you have to regularly try “too heavy” bouldering and movements so that your muscles get the signal that they have to develop more power (“training stimulus”). If you keep setting the same stimulus you won’t progress. Worst case scenario you become even weaker:  Because most climbers are technically becoming better in the long run, their power sometimes even goes down.

To get stronger, it is necessary to try harder moves than you can already.

Another way to set meaningful training stimuli is variety: Other exercises, trying a different gym or training volume and changes in intensity. Try something different at least every few weeks or at least add something new to your program.

After setting training stimuli, your body then needs a certain amount of time to adapt to the load and build up the required strength – this happens in the regeneration phase after the exercise. To recover well and gain strength your body needs enough sleep, a balanced diet and low stress (in other areas of life).

You will become stronger during your rest periods.

Regeneration and breaks

Without adequate rest periods, it is not possible to build up strength. Reasonable breaks are different for different people. Beginners recover faster from a hard-felt workout than an advanced climber because advanced climbers can take stronger stimuli, and the “repair” will cost their body more energy.

Another important factor is the fact that different power-delivery systems of the muscles take different lengths to recover. Glycogen, the main fuel of the muscles, replenishes within 24 to 48 hours. However, cell damage that occurs as a micro-trauma during hard training may take up to a week or more to be repaired.

A good rule of thumb is to get to know your body well and to respect its signals.

Do you feel well rested after the last boulder session? Or are your fingers and arms still sore? Are you feeling fit and motivated again?

Advanced climbers and experienced trainers can go bouldering with some residual fatigue left, but it is also crucial to regularly take some light units. After a few hard training sessions, you can even take a longer break, so that your body can recover well and repair the accumulated micro-damage. If you don’t, you risk training overload in the long-run.

Why easy sessions are important

Although heavy sessions are important, light units have their place as well. For example, fluid movements, technique consolidation, and stamina work best in longer, lighter sessions.

Stamina is also important for boulderers. I know the routes are short, but stamina works for between the boulders too. More stamina means faster improvement between routes and this ultimately makes you climb more in a session. And climbing more means climbing better in the long run.

I recently learned that a  measurement of the average bouldering times in the World Cup has shown that “on-sight” climbs are a question of strength-endurance rather than of maximum-force because they can take up to a minute. For beginners and advanced users with less than two years of climbing experience, it is important to develop your blood vessels to supply your forearms with blood.

Having good capillaries allows for intense metabolism in the muscles and will directly improve your performance. Sufficient capillarization also helps to prevent sore forearms and pumping, as well as helps your muscles to build up more strength. Sounds good right? So, keep doing longer, 20- to 40-minute sessions with low intensity (ie below the surge limit). You can do this even as an advanced climber to make sure your muscular metabolism stays up.

If you stop making progress

If bouldering alone doesn’t make you better anymore, you need to make a targeted program to become a stronger climber.  Climbers mainly want to improve their relative strength in relation to body weight. Therefore, absolute muscle growth, as is useful in power sports such as weight lifting, is not really that useful for you.

But for your grip strength, hypertrophy training (hypertrophy = muscle growth) is useful, especially for beginners and advanced, because the finger muscles are usually not very pronounced and won’t be really trained by a general fitness regimen.

There are different physical constitutions, genetic predispositions, and individual life situations, as well as a big difference between beginners and experts.  So your exercise plans must be individually designed to work.

Bouldering training – what, how and why?

The focus in boulder training is on finger strength, upper body strength, and body tension. Fingers hold your body on the wall – but only when the rest of the body holds the tension.

As these aspects are interconnected they can be trained together in bouldering. Your overall fitness will be that of your weakest link. If you fail you will fail with your weakest link, so improving weaknesses is very important to make you an overall better climber.

 

Grip and finger training for bouldering

You will gain finger strength from bouldering on small handles, or from interval hanging on the fingerboard. But keep in mind to train to hang with activated shoulders and core while minimizing any movement. Your fingers should be halfway open or hanging completely open.

Only train your fingers when you are recovered and still fresh.

To prevent injuries to the fingers, it makes sense to make them strong. Strong fingers are less injury prone and they will also allow you to hold holds longer. Win-win. Finger training under controlled conditions, like a campus board, allows great strength gains without straining the ligaments and tendons of the fingers as much as a similar training stimulus would in pure bouldering.

As a beginner, you train your finger power mainly by bouldering so keep practicing easy holds and don’t overdo it. Finger injuries suck and take a relatively long time to heal up.

A short session (10 minutes warm up, then 15 minutes training) on the board once or twice a  week can significantly improve your finger strength.

Call to Action

Go bouldering 1-2 per week for the next four weeks and tell me how that has worked out for you. I promise you – you will see a major difference in how you climb!
Make sure to read the guide to find good places to climb too.

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Should rock climbing shoes hurt?

 

The question i get asked most often

One of the first questions i get asked by friends and family members who i teach basics of rock climbing. It’s a justified question that one: When people learn to climb, one of the first things to buy are usually shoes and they obviously need to fit.
In fact, i got asked this question so many times that i decided to write this post, answering the question “Should rock climbing shoes hurt”.
I will also give you tips and advice on choosing the right pair of climbing shoes and tell you some of the stuff you need to know about climbing shoes.
After reading this guide you will be ready to start buying your climbing shoes.

The short answer to the question: No, climbing shoes shouldn’t hurt.
BUT:  
They should be tight enough to make some people feel a little uncomfortable at first. And this is what beginners often describe as “they hurt”. 

Difference between snug shoes and shoes that hurt

New climbers have problems differentiating between snug shoes and hurting shoes. I always tell them the easy rule: Your shoes are too tight and hurt if the pain is so strong that you cannot focus on your climb. If they just feel uncomfortable and twinch or peak a bit when you slip in them – that’s totally fine.

About rock climbing shoes

Your connection to the rock is made mostly by feet and hand. You don’t wear gloves for the hands but you wear shoes. That means your shoes are at least as important as hands and a good grip strength. You can find shoes designed for any style or niche of climbing: Bouldering, crag climbing, traditional climbing or big walls and sport-routes.

My rule of thumb

Start on a neutral, not too aggressive shoe that feels comfortable. I teached friends and family members the basics of climbing and i will always recommend a pair with round toes a neutral shape and medium level of stiffness. You can use them to get used to climbing shoes, and when you feel ready you can make the transition to a pair with lots of heel tension and a downturned shape.
Your first climbs shouldn’t be about enduring pain in the feet because your shoes are too tight. They should be about learning technique, coordination and moves on the rock.
Beginner Tip
Keep your climbing shoes off when belaying or taking a break and chatting. This tip will save your feet on long climbing days.
Only wear them when you actually climb. So remember to bring a pair of flip-flops or easy to slip-in sneakers in your backpack. And of course, don’t wear socks in them!

Why fitting rock climbing shoes are important

Your rock climbing shoes are your contact point with the rock. Since the 50s when people where climbing with mountain boots or barefoot and today lies a world of technology advance. Technology of climbing shoes was a major driving force of rock climbing performance and style. And wrong type of shoes can not only hold you back but also destroy your performance gains. So make sure to keep these three points in mind when choosing your shoes.

Types of shoes

It’s your choice: The can be neutral, moderate and aggressive. We’ll discuss pros and cons in a minute.

Features of the shoe

If you like laces or straps, linings and rubber reinforcements. All these influence the performance and feel of the shoe.

Fit of the shoe

They should be snug but not painfully. Find the right fit and it will help you climb longer, harder and more difficult. Plus it’s a wonderful feeling to find bomb traction on tiny footholds or smears (smearing is when you use the surface friction of your shoes sole because there are no good footholds).

The three types of shoes explained

1. Neutral

Perfect all-day shoes. These will let you go flat on your toes, and they are a great choice for beginners because they feel comfortable. But even if you’re experienced: I always keep a pair of neutral style shoes in my backpack for all-day climbing and when im climbing easier climbs. If you’re doing multi-pitch climbs its also good to have a backup pair of neutral, feet friendly shoes.

Pros:

  • Awesome all-day comfort
  • Medium-to-stiff midsole, with thick rubber sole for support
  • Flat profile is perfect for slotting into cracks

Cons:

  • You don’t get as good a feel for the rock like with more aggressive shoes. It’s because of the thick stiff soles – they are not designed for maximum sensitivity.
  • Due to the relaxed fit they are not that good for very difficult overhanging climbs. Don’t worry about this too much: You can definitely do overhanging routes with neutral shoes. If you fail overhanging climbs, chances are way higher it’s because of your technique and strength then due to your shoes

2. Moderate

Moderate shoes have a slightly downturned shape. This shape is called camber, and it makes them good when you climb technical stuff. They are the swiss-army knife of climbing shoes: You can do slab routes, crack climbs, long pitches and overhanging sport climbs with them.

Pros:

  • The Downturned shape gives your feet a strong and more powerful position. It will help tackle difficulties and cruxes. (A crux is the most challenging part of a climb)
  • They have more rubbery and stickier soles. Soles are not as thick as neutral shoes.
  • Still more feet friendly than aggressive shoes

Cons:

  • Not that good for very overhung climbs or hard boulder problems
  • Hurt more than neutral shoes
  • Sticky rubber and thin soles mean they won’t last as long as neutral shoes

3. Aggressive

The pro stuff. Lots of downturn and heel tension. This type of shoe gives your feet a very strong and powerful position. Which means you can climb the hardest overhanging climbs with them. The asymmetric shape curves toward your big toe, which will give you incredible focus and power over the toe. You can use this power to find precise placement on even the tiniest holds. But they can hurt – if you are a beginner, stay away from them, these shoes take time to get used. Even experienced climbers usually only wear them for single-pitch sport climbs or at the gym when tackling boulder problems.

Pros:

  • Very downturned shape means a strong, powerful position for overhung sport climbs, boulder problems or hard gym climbing.
  • Sticky rubber and thinnest soles: More grip and feel than neutral or moderate shoes.

Cons:

  • Feet can hurt after a while. This is normal. You will get used to it.
  • The pronounced downturn won’t fit into cracks as good, and can make smearing difficult.
  • Sticky rubber and thinnest soles war down fast

Climbing shoe features explained

A variety of climbing shoe types and brands

Climbing Shoe Closures

Laces: 
Very versatile. When you rest and your feet are hot, just open them. For difficult climbs, strap them down, crack down at the toe and make them even more performant.

Strap

These hook and loop closures are super convenient. Great for bouldering and gym climbing, and super fast to slip out off between climbs.
Only downside: Straps can get dirty quickly and won’t work until you clean them. So keep them clean.

Slip-on

Greatest sensitivity and a very low profile. They are good for training too: Without a stiff sole your feet get strong quickly. Also good for thin cracks because of the low profile. But you need to be careful when trying them: They must fit your feet good, as there are no means to adjust them

 

Conclusion

Rock climbing shoes shouldn’t hurt, but they also have to be tight. Hope this guide is helpful to find a good pair of climbing shoes!

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