Want to send harder routes climbing? Tackle new problems when bouldering? Well, you need to know how to use your lower body, specifically how to edge. If you can place your feet properly, your arms will have less weight to hold, and finding the right position for your feet is half of the game. But what is edging? It’s when you place the side of your foot, either from the big toe down or from the pinky toe down on a narrow step of rock, often not ticker than a finger. Edging is a great tool for any climber or boulderer. It helps you to not only send harder routes but also to preserve energy on long climbs. Read on to learn it, i also added some really helpful videos to get you started, credit goes out to the guys who made them!
Becoming an efficient climber or boulderer means you know how to place your feet. This means not only to put them softly and quietly but also knowing how to make use of small footholds. Most beginners don’t know how to efficiently use and trust their feet, which is usually showing when they try out footwork heavy routes – notice how shaky your legs sometimes get when trying a new route? This is a lack of trust and confidence in your own feet. Give it some training and time, and you will become ultra-confident in your feet, trusting shoes and footholds. That’s when you will become balance and elegant too.
What is edging exactly?
Edging is a type of feet position when climbing. It’s called edging because you place your feet on tiny narrow edges of rock, often thinner than 3 fingers.
Typically you need edging when you try to place your feet on a foothold that’s too small to fit your whole foot. You basically have two options here: You either decide to use the tip of your feet, which is usually the area around your big toe, or you employ the edging technique.
In some scenarios, the big toe makes more sense, typically for pockets and corners. But if the step is narrow and stretched, like a stair, edging can become really valuable. Especially if you are working in a turned position. You can use either the inside edge or the outside edge of your shoe. Inside means, your big toe gives you stability on tiny holds, which is preferable to the outer edge. But the inside edge might face in the wrong direction, depending on where you want to move next, then you should use the outside edge.
How to edge correctly?
As I said, most times, you’ll want to use your inside edge. As it is where the big toe is, it’s stronger and more stable. You can put a lot of pressure on your feet this way, even when the edge is tiny, thanks to the excellent grip on climbing shoe soles. This makes inside edging perfect if you want to go vertically up, preparing the next move and stabilizing yourself after reaching for a new handhold.
The outside edge is better to be employed when you want to traverse a route. As it is naturally weaker, it means you cannot really use it to stabilize yourself or position for vertical movement. Outside edging is therefore usually consisting of small, quick steps.
Both types of edging need you to have a lot of feet and ankle strength to keep your heels up in the air under tension. Otherwise, there won’t be enough pressure on the tiny part of the foot that actually rests on the edge. You’ll also need balance to keep yourself positioned perfectly. All these skills need constant work to be learned.
Things to keep in mind when Edging
Keep these following footwork tips in mind when edging:
1) You should always keep your feet directly under your body’s moment of inertia, which is usually below your core. If you can, try to find footholds that are placed directly under you, even if they might not be as big as another foothold to your right or left. You can maintain your balance much easier this way, and better balance means less force needed to hold yourself. Remember that a lack of balance when climbing will usually be counteracted by employing more force on your arms as you need to hold yourself. Do a pullup if you don’t believe me. If you cannot stay balanced, your arms and endurance will suffer.
2) Once you set place your feet on an edge,e keep them there. Unless you positioned them completely wrong, chances are good that you will save more energy by not fiddling around with the position then you would gain from slightly bettering the positioning. Do drills to learn correctly, placing your feet at the first try.
3) Keep your heels high enough, so that you have enough pressure on the edge. IT might be harder on your calves, but the plus of friction will make it easier for your arms to hold you as you have a stable foothold.
Further tips to improve your edging game.
1) Don’t forget your hips. Most beginners keep their hips at a distance from the wall, as it feels safe. But this actually pushes you away from the wall and puts a lot of stress on your muscles.
2)Bring your hips close to the wall instead. It will not only help you put more weight on the feet and keep your arms straight and relaxed but also minimize the chance of getting peeled off the wall. And it closes your shoulders on your back, which makes the angle you need to pull from to make a powerful move with your arms better suited and more comfortable to grip.
3) Look at the edge – your eyes and brain are a powerful tool. You should analyze potential footholds with some scrutiny, as you will find places to do a quick rest etc. And try not to search only for chalk stains, as there are a lot of good edges that most people will never use with their hands.Doing this, you can preserve a lot of power and arm strength by using edges to find good resting points.
Climbing Shoes – What are the best climbing shoes to edge?
Some shoes work better for edging, and some don’t. Aggressively downturned shoes tend to not do very well on edges, as they don’t have a lot of contact face with the rock. Really soft shoes are not doing good on edges either, as they make it harder to grab the rock with your feets’ edge. If downturned and soft shoes don’t work well, what does then? A really stiff and flat shoe. You can use them perfectly on tiny edges, as they will absorb a lot of pressure, relieving your feet of some of the forces, and giving you a stable foothold.
My conclusion on edging
You need good climbing shoes, but also enough training in terms of foot placement. Once you have these things down, and you can put enough pressure on the edge, it all comes down to rock quality and cleanliness of the route.
Go out, get some good shoes, maybe borrow from your buddies, and head out to a local bouldering rock with an edge. Then work on the technique until your feet burn, rinse, and repeat. Once you become better at edging it’s a game-changer. Every tiny narrow edge will give you new ways to attack old problems, and you will very likely be able to send more challenging routes.
And using a tiny surface to do a powerful move to reach a new crux just feels so good. It’s a feeling of maximum use of the resources. And after all, that’s one of the things climbing, and bouldering is all about right? Solving problems efficiently and effectively with what you have at hands – or in this case, feet.
If you enjoyed this article, read some more about how to climb in cold weather, what your climbing shoes should fit like, and why bouldering is a great way to train rock climbing.
Feel free to also leave a comment if you like!