/ What grade do shoes make a difference at?
I've been climbing with a better climber this year, and my max grade has gone from top roping S to seconding VS 4c. I've just felt that on some climbs with a lot of edging on small holds, my feet are getting properly worked over as I try to keep them rigid to stop them creeping off holds. What I'm wondering is, is this a good 'training' thing that will make me a better, stronger climber, or, given that I really don't have any great climbing aspirations in terms of grade, I should just buy myself a second stiffer pair to make edging routes easier?
I'm expecting half the responses to be along the lines of 'I/my mate/Johnny Dawes can climb E5 in winklepickers, don't be so soft' and the other half to be 'shoe choice is crucial from Diff upwards', but I thought I'd ask for some feedback.
Grades are irrelevant, shoe choice makes a difference at any grade. I find that if my shoes are comfortable and fairly stiff that I climb much better. (Being over 14 stone though they probably flex more than they would for the wiry european who designed them).
I actually think this is a really good question. People often underestimate the difference string feet make, especially in soft shoes. An expert climber will early be able to climb hard grades in crap shoes, but lower grade climbers will definitely benefit from the right shoes. In your case, stiff shoes will definitely make a difference on rock with predominately edgey holds, while softer shoes will be better at smearing. Most important of all though is fit. You need something that fits like a glove - not too tight but definitely no spare space. The best shoes on the market won't help if they don't fit right.
If you are noticing a problem and can afford new shoes then I would go ahead and get them. Just make sure that that you don't get them too small that they are too painful to wear.
For me it went: baggy shoes meant I couldn't climb as hard as I wanted, then new shoes were excruciating but I could climb harder, then realised I could then climb nearly as hard in the old, comfortable baggy shoes. Nowadays I buy something between the two extremes.
From personal experience, E1 upwards.
I think in Dave Mcleod's book he says having crap shoes will teach you crap technique (paraphrasing).
My advice would be borrow some and see how much difference it makes. It's probably worth it if you can afford it.
I think what you've done is a good approach. A basic pair of stickies, like the ones you have, are a good bet until you really start to think they're holding you back. Subtle nuances of this shoe and that shoe are just noise until you get basic technique nailed, which for most takes a season or two.
As for grade (my opinion), the first real climbing grade, where you have to think and move is VS, not too many people can second 4c on their first outing. So if you are consistently following VS, maybe its time to upgrade. Lots of people will scoff at that, but wtf do they know, they're already experienced climbers and have long forgotten what its like to find VS hard.
> I think in Dave Mcleod's book he says having crap shoes will teach you crap technique (paraphrasing).
Did the old Al Evans get replaced by an alien? I used to quite look up to him.
My view is that the most expensive technical shoes are a completely
pointless on lower/midgrade groud. But on the hand it is much easier and more fun to climb an route wearing half-decent pear of shoes that fit well.
For those grades you should be able to find a pair that suit everything, that are comfortable, and last a long time (Evolvs are bad for falling apart; if they fit Scarpa Vantage might be a good choice). Decathalon will do something stuitable (bear in mind that my mate climbs Font 7a in their technical shoes).
Whatever you do, don't get sucked in to buying the most technical, aggressive down-turned shoe in the hope that they will help you climb hsrder (or worse, make you look/feel like 'serious' climber, especially indoors).
Just go something pretty cheap that fits well and wear them for everything (except maybe an old knackered pair for indoors - don't want to wear out the sunday best in practice.
I got up to VDiff in walking boots then switched to trainers which made things much easier.
My first shapeless, baggy rock boots got me up to VS. I've only ever owned one pair of shoes that fitted well and edged (no pun) up through several more grades.
I now only wear sloppy, comfy shoes with no detrimental effects on grades or bunions.....
With respect, Al, the OP is asking at what grade does it make a difference - not what could elite climbers get up things in 50 years ago.
It could make a difference at any grade if you end up with shoes that are uncomfortable and too tight, but assuming they fit I'd say better shoes start to improve climbing for technical moves around 5a - at least for us average punters
You had plimmys? It was clogs round here mate
I'd say shoes make a difference from the word go, and are probably essential when you get to 3 or 4 grades below your best on-sight grade.
I struggle to remember because it was such a long time ago (that I switched to better shoes) but would guess maybe E1 upwards.
I reckon go for quite a basic shoe which feels comfortable but with good laces/velcro so you can get them reasonably tight.
> Did the old Al Evans get replaced by an alien? I used to quite look up to him.
I look up to Al greatly for the brilliant routes he put, and I love reading his tales from days of yore. But I do find his continual shock and disgust that climbing is a bit different now to how it was a few decades ago rather odd - what else is still the same as it was in the 60s anyway?
What harness or shoes would you recommend? Which guidebook is best? Would pads be useful for certain routes? Is the top pitch worth doing, or shall I do another route? Does the old peg scar take any microcams, and would large cam fit in the break? In today's climbing, the answers to such question are easily available on the internet, so it's purely common sense to ask.
Given how may new climbers there are in the sport, modern methods and the internet together do a great job of keeping accidents to a minimum. I would loved to have experienced new routing at Gogarth, etc and it's far greater achievement what I do on these (now)classic routes. But less of the Four Yorkshiremen act when someone asks a perfectly sensible question, the tone of these discussions could be more pleasant and convivial!
Crap shoes will embed crap technique. Beginner shoes with a rigid sole and sloppy shoes are equally counterproductive. Get a decent pair with a snug but not overly tight fit. You'd be looking at £80-90 (post discount) but it's money well spent regardless of grade.
There is part of me that thinks I should stick to the floppy shoes and improve my foot strength; I sometimes keep worn out tyres on my MTB so I get used to sliding about on them, and then enjoy the grip more when I put on a fresh pair. That said, life is short and if a stiffer pair makes some routes more pleasurable because I'm not building up a load of lactic acid in my big toe, then why not?
I may have a slightly skewed view on this because it is my max grade at the moment, but I'd agree with the above (think it was Jonny2vests?) that VS is where I feel I'm now 'properly' climbing. Rather than just toddle up looking for the foot and handholds, I find I'm having to pay attention to where my weight is shifted and think a few moves in advance.
> I look up to Al greatly for the brilliant routes he put, and I love reading his tales from days of yore.
Exactly. All that stuff about monkeys at Trowbarrow has to be worth a book someday.
Don't drink and post Al!
Don't know much about them but they look fairly decent. If they fit well I'd say go for it.
At the risk of staying on-topic, the best answer to your question may be "near your limit", i.e., if you're climbing VS, then above S. It will vary person to person. An E6 climber probably wouldn't care what was on his feet if he was climbing a VS and vice-versa (one will cruise it and the other won't get off the ground).
I'd look at foot placement technique and shoe tightness first if there are problems edging on small holds on VS. Developing smearing technique rather than edging may well pay huge dividends in the future anyway ;-)
. . . oh dear, I've done it all wrong for so many years. So much wasted money on shoes, when all I needed were arms. Looking at your latest climbs I'd say legwork was the key to most of them, as it is in most climbing - but not in your opinion
crap shoes->good shoes 1/2 grade
and then later on at your limit
good shoes->"excruciatingly uncomfortable really good shoes tailored to your style" another 1/2 grade.
Bear in mind: your pleasure goes down as the pain goes up and that when you climb frequently to get the most benefit out of the shoes they hurt more.
Try not to overshoot the pain threshold - modern shoes don't stretch a lot so will be as uncomfortable (or more) on day 50 as they are on day 1 while your pain threshold usually lowers over the same period. Aim for a better fit over all the shoe rather than super tight - you can't put power down through sore toes. Don't go too technical too fast.
> Crap shoes will embed crap technique. Beginner shoes with a rigid sole and sloppy shoes are equally counterproductive. Get a decent pair with a snug but not overly tight fit. You'd be looking at £80-90 (post discount) but it's money well spent regardless of grade.
Rock and Run currently have Boreal Jokers and Evolv Defys in their 'entry-level' category - both of which I've climbed E3+ and 7a + respectively quite comfortably!
Whether they fit or not is important
On paper they seem great. Seems to be the same rubber as my first pair of La Sportiva Katanas. Performed nicely and reasonably durable compared to some other brands.
The important thing is if they fit your feet though, so you will just need to try them on. You may want to check out reviews from people who have them already to get an idea of how much they stretch so you know how snug a fit to go for in the shop.
If they are thicker and stiffer than your current shoes it may take a short while to get used to having a bit less sensitivity and feedback from your feet.
I find wearing a decent/well fitting pair of shoes encourages better footwork.
Also, so much of climbing is in the mind, so if you believe that having a stiffer shoe is going to improve your climbing, then chances are it will have the desired result.
I chose soft snug fitting shoes (Evolv Defy mainly) for years partly because that's the type I prefer for general low stress climbing and partly in the hope of developing stronger feet. I probably did get strong feet but now I go for stiff supportive shoes in part because my feet are now pretty tender and in part because my climbing has changed and very small edges are now the norm not the exception.
What grade? The one you're stuck at.
I hope you're joking! If you're serious, I bet you'll climb two grades harder if you change your outlook.
I reckon £60 is a waste of money. For an extra £90 you can get something like Five Ten Anasazis (if they fit - they don't really work for some people - but there are other similar things around that price range). If you're doing VS, sure you can do it in poor quality shoes but why not give yourself the best chance and embed good technique? You want precision, feel, stickiness and support. You will get much more of that with something like the Anasazis.
You mean for a extra £30.
I had a pair of these. I thought they were the first pair of shoes that seemed to make a noticeable difference in what I could "stick" with my feet and was singing their praises....but then they proved to be not terribly durable :-(
Johnny2Vests's answers are spot on. Try Boreal Jokers or Scarpa Vantage. You will get no advantage from some £100+ 5.10 superhero shoes.
Simond Vuarde Tech also stretch a LOT. I bought mine as my first pair that actually HURT in the shop, allowing for some stretch so that they would "only" feel "tight" compared to my years of comfort shoes. Within 4 weeks, I had resorted to wearing socks (and not thin ones either) with them just to pad them out!
Taurig, why not branch out and try on a variety of shoes before making a purchase; you might find a pair other than the Simonds that will fit and feel better. After all the more you try on the better idea you have of what you are looking for and what the market offers.
If you visit a specialist outdoor retailer or climbing centre-based shop, will benefit from not only a increased range but also hopefully helpful and knowledgeable staff with a passion for climbing, to help aid your choice. If in London, visit Ellis Brigham, Snow + Rock and Cotswold, all in Covent Garden; but for the best range and advice try any of the shops in the Castle, Westway, Mile End and the Arch climbing centres.
As for models, here is a selection from reputable, specialist manufacturers, that should see you comfortably through to the intermediate grades and perhaps, beyond:
Scarpa - Helix/Thunder/Vantage
5.10 - Spire/Coyote(and VCS)/Stonelands
La Sportiva - Cliff/Mythos
Evolve Defy/Boreal Joker/Red Chili Sausilito
Though as most others have noted, fit is imperative - no dead space especially in the toes and heel, good support under the arch and instep; and try to match the shape of your foot to the correct shoe. The width of your foot is important, some shoes are lasted wide, some narrow; the Urbanrock website gives a breakdown of this per model but any good salesperson should be able to look at your feet and make immediate recommendations. Bananafingers and Rock+Run also provide an valuable online source of advice and reviews but you really do want to try shoes on in person before purchasing. If you are a woman, buy women's climbing shoes; the female foot is far slimmer (even wide female feet!), especially around the heel than the male's, and thus the lasts on which the shoes are designed take this into account.
However, just as good shoes suited to your grade do make climbing more effective, throughout the grades; the same if not more, can be said for better technique and a higher strength to weight ratio!
Good luck and have fun shopping!
I wouldn't call Evolv Defys entry level shoes - seem pretty good to me!
Thanks all for the shoe suggestions. I have to say, my first pair if shoes were in fact Scarpa Vantages so I have tried a stiffer shoe, but I stopped using them as they were bought too big and didn't fit my foot shape at all (wide forefoot, narrow heel). Top tip: dont buy your first pair of shoes hungover on Sat afternoon when all the shop assisstants are too busy to help!
I'm not in your league, Al, but I started off in plimmies or big bendy boots.
I told myself that once I could lead (Northumberland) VS that would be the time to acquire my first pair rock boots.
My first pair were secondhand Galibier PA's.
Back then you had a choice of PA's, Masters or EB's. I learned the error of my ways and very quickly moved on to EB's.
Nowadays the choice is mindboggling - it's very much down to personal taste and comfort depending very much on the type and style of routes people do.
It's probably not worth getting expensive shoes for indoor walls -- in my experience you knock hell out of them in no time!
I reckon rather than thinking of a specific shoe, go in to good local shop and try on a wide range of shoes, and sizes of shoes.
Practice standing on edges etc, and go with what feels right to you. Everyones feet and stiffness preferences differ. Snug, but comfortable i go for.
I find a shoe that feels right to me makes a big difference to enjoying my climbing day at any grade.
I agree with your sentiment that his post is ridiculous (although i'm pretty sure he was joking). I'd put the explanation slightly differently though and say the point of handholds (generally) is to balance your body in such a way that you can use footholds to push up on. Very little of your upward momentum comes from your arms on any climb - the notable exception being any move that is footless.
And my legs never get pumped...life is not fair
I got a really tight pair a couple of years ago and I found they pushed me from 5/5+ to 5+/6a at the time. But I found climbing no fun when my feet were in pain from being crushed, so I went back to a looser pair and dropped back a bit grade wise, to catch it up later with improved technique and strength instead.
A joke/troll? Presumably.
Wow! Are you real or are you just playing to a stereotype?
Maybe just in a bad mood when you posted it?
In my mind this was a useful question and most of the opinions and advice posted here haven't just helped the OP. I'd like to add my own thanks to those who gave this the proper thought and benefit of their personal experience.
I, too, climb in a pair of (loose and floppy) £40 Simonds and have progressed to 6a+/HVS 5b happily in them. When I bought them I needed the flexibility and ease of getting into and out of them. Was finding some toe-chip 6b's a little tricky in them last night and was pondering this question myself.
Despite their lack of performance on tiny footholds they are utterly superb for smearing when in a spot of bother.
My mind is made up - time to try on a new pair with a less roomy interior and a slightly stiffer sole, methinks.
Always find these debates interesting.
It is possible to bash a nail in with a spoon if you don't want to buy a hammer, it is cheaper - it's just more awkward. Similarly, you could climb up most things in wellies if you put your mind to it OR wear something designed to help. How much help you need depends on what you're climbing so with shoes, if you climb constantly on overhangs, you get some down turned shoes to help you out. If you're generally on slabs you get something floppier for smearing. After that you worry about what things fit like and in an ideal world people could even buy some shoes as they look nice or they just want them... imagine. I tend to stay on indoor overhangs and have a downturned shoe so I pull into the wall on my feet. I'm under no illusion that they're not actually crap on slabs though as they really are.
Maybe you could have said E6 there if you'd had better shoes back in those good old days? ;)
He makes a very good point. Never underestimate the pioneers etc.
Seriously, what was the point of this post? Apart from to remind us all (yet again) that you climbed quite hard back in the day with far less technical gear than we have now and are now somehow superior to us all because of that.
I understand you put up some great routes back then but that doesn't give you the right to reply to peoples honest questions in such an arrogant way.
> He makes a very good point. Never underestimate the pioneers etc.
No he doesn't, at all, in any way shape or form.
> I understand you put up some great routes back then but that doesn't give you the right to reply to peoples honest questions in such an arrogant way.
You forgot to to add insulting/rude/obnoxious to arrogant.
One day Al Evans will make a useful comment and it may well be ignored because no one will be able to take anything he says remotely serously.
Does so. So there.
We were (are) punters, puntering around on stuff which was very punterish, and yet we were being told by someone who most definitely knows what he's talking about, that shoes were making a difference.
So it seems that decent shoes make a difference at any level. Yes, very good climbers may be able to cruise up E numbers in their trainers, but then I'm sure Bradley Wiggins could beat me on a shopping bike - that doesn't mean I don't benefit from having some carbon bling (or at least, that's what I tell my conscience).
And, of course, by someone who is retained to sell shoes.
My take would be that obviously shoes make a difference at any level – whether they’re worn out, the wrong size, etc, and that whether or not they actually fit your feet makes a vast difference to comfort and hence the concentration you can give to the task at hand and the enjoyment you can derive from it.
However, once you have a properly fitting pair of shoes, the difference between modern rock boot A and modern rook boot B is very slight indeed and only likely to be felt at a really very high level (assuming that both modern rock boot A and modern rook boot B fit your feet properly).
If you are wearing any kind of modern rock boot that isn’t actually drawing blood from your feet, and you’re struggling with your footwork on anything much below 8a/E6, then by far the larger part of the problem is almost certainly crap footwork rather than crap equipment.
I reckon your climbing will advance much quicker if you can actually trust your shoes though...!
Somewhere on UKC there is a post about a well known Lakes climber who did his walk-ins wearing climbing shoes, but then climbed in standard hill boots because he said that you can stand on more narrow foot holds with boots as opposed to climbing shoes, as narrow as the rim of a pint glass. Mind you I don't know if he meant a straight pint glass or a tankard type. All the old VS's were done in boots and more.
> Does so. So there.
Well you've spotted something no one else has. Illuminate
'never underestimate the pioneers etc' How, in relation to the OPs polite request for technical advice, is that 'a good point'?
Sounds pretty spot on advice to me and matches much of my experience.
> You forgot to to add insulting/rude/obnoxious to arrogant.
> One day Al Evans will make a useful comment and it may well be ignored because no one will be able to take anything he says remotely serously.
That, and a few other things said on this thread are completely out of order and unjustified. I do say things that the more intelligent people can take tongue in cheek and are a bit sarcastic, but your comments are totally out of order.
Good, well fitting shoes will make a difference at all grades. If you have poor technique, the benefit of good shoes might be swamped by your technical deficiency and seem to make little difference. If you have good technique, the benefit of good shoes will be more apparent and possibly the critical factor in success whatever the grade.
> That, and a few other things said on this thread are completely out of order and unjustified. I do say things that the more intelligent people can take tongue in cheek and are a bit sarcastic, but your comments are totally out of order.
Ohhh, I'm not clever enough to read the subtle humour in
"Jesus Christ, I hope this is a troll, we all climbed in Woolworths plimmys in my day and some of the routes we did are still E4 even now. get real, any modern shoes are going to be great, almost perfect compared to the stuff we, and Joe and Don and even Ron used to get up things in, wake up and learn how to climb."
How stupid of me. And that in response to a beginner asking for advice on shoes. And we're out of order? And why would the routes that are 'E4 even now' be surprising? Are you expecting a downgrade?
Now maybe Johnny Woodward might not have fallen off quite so many times if he'd fast forwarded a year or two and worn Fires, but almost all modern shoes are so good that you can't really blame them for holding you back. There are so many other things to make gains with, many of them free.
And yes, I know there's no way out of this without sounding like an old fart. I'm 49.
An Al Evans groupie
That makes less sense than Al's post. He knows shoes make a difference, he's asking at 'what grade do shoes make a difference'. And he's not blaming modern shoes for anything, he's a beginner, JW on BG is irrelevant. And 49 isn't old.
Come off it Al, there was no sarcasm whatsoever intended in your first post. It was every single one of insulting, rude and obnoxious. Next time before you hit post, consider first whether you are aiming to make a positive contribution to the thread or just slagging people off for not having been around climbing in the 60's. No respect at all for you.
The OP (good-humouredly, to his credit) stated his position thus:
'I've been climbing with a better climber this year, and my max grade has gone from top roping S to seconding VS 4c.'
It's almost certain that the OP will make huge gains through better technique (including footwork). This isn't meant as a put-down; quite the opposite. In the 80s, I saw someone who could climb F8b (then cutting edge) and still had crap footwork. Better footwork is the way forward.
Almost any shoe nowadays is better than the best shoe 30 years ago. I've climbed F7b outdoors in crap shoes. I've climbed F7c indoors (admittedly easier) in crap shoes.
Good footwork is the way forward. It takes effort. It takes time. But, when you have it, you have it for a lifetime.
Al, I think you are missing the point: Joe, Don and even yourself were op climbers in your day. Its like comparing my climbing with Caff now - he could climb anything I could in wellies and not notice. You need to compare us with the also rans from 50 years ago.
The OP is a BEGINNER Al, what has any of that got to do with his question?
Despised? Live by the keyboard, die by the keyboard.
The thing that matters most is fit. Don't buy shoes too tight. It doesn't help enough at any of the grades I climb at except making it hard if they hurt.
I do, now, have different shoes for different things. NOt because I am rich but if you have two pairs of shoes it takes twice as long t wear them out. I therefor have a softer pair for slabs and a firmer pair for limestone edging.
we were being told by someone who most definitely knows what he's talking about, that shoes were making a difference.
Correct me if im wrong but isn't Mr Gresham sponsored by / works for a shoe company? Im with Al Evans all the way on this one, if you blame your shoes then its definitely your footwork that's the Elephant in the room. People need to put the Mansized tissues away and stop self pleasuring over shoe adverts.
Apart from Al, I'm probably one of the few contributors to this thread who was active (nearly) 50 years ago. I can assure people that, back then - also ran or not - if you didn't have neat, precise footwork, chances are you'd die.
Leading VS in big boots with crap/no protection meant that rubbish footwork (which nowadays an awful lot of people have) wasn't a viable option.
These days everyone's looking for a technological quick fix. Why? Because it's the path of least effort. I'll go for skill acquisition every time.
Why not have both?
Of course it's possible to climb hard routes (whatever 'hard' means) in crap shoes. Especially if you're a good climber! And of course it isn't necessary to have Anasazis on a V Diff. But the fact remains that poor quality, badly fitting or worn out shoes will engrain poor technique and that will definitely at you back - even if you then get good shoes late. The real question is not 'at what grade doe shoes make a difference' but 'what is the long term impact of having poor shoes'.
Yes but good shoes facilitate good footwork.
Yes, have both. But which one engages your attention most? From what I can see, with most people, it's the tech quick fix.
I see people at the crag with shoes unimaginable to previous generations (even the 1980s) making fundamental mistakes, such as leaving their shoes on when they're belaying (on the ground!), not wiping muck off their shoes before starting boulder problems, etc.
They might as well be climbing in wellies!
But the fact remains that poor quality, badly fitting or worn out shoes will engrain poor technique and that will definitely at you back - even if you then get good shoes late. The real question is not 'at what grade doe shoes make a difference' but 'what is the long term impact of having poor shoes'.
You actually have this the wrong way round, wearing less than ideal shoes make people better at foot position and balance to optimise the poor grip that their shoe provides. The long term impact is that you get even better at footwork when they get a snug well fitted shoe.
"Correct me if im wrong but isn't Mr Gresham sponsored by / works for a shoe company?"
Yes, but he also has his reputation as a coach to protect. Climbing with poorly fitting footwear engrains poor footwork. He doesn't want that.
I went on his coaching course in Font when I was 17, with a pair of Evolv Defys. On the first night he inspected everyone's footwork, (as a naive 17 year old) he could have easily told me that I needed some new shoes and took me to the decathlon nearby to buy some shoes made by his sponsor. He didn't, he said my shoes fitted well.
Surely the long term impact is you learn to climb ineficently because you are over compensating for your rubbish shoes
The overcompensation becomes ingrained and sub-conscious. It cant be switched on and off like that.
Ive always believed that specificity in training gets the best results.
> I see people at the crag with shoes unimaginable to previous generations (even the 1980s) making fundamental mistakes, such as leaving their shoes on when they're belaying (on the ground!), not wiping muck off their shoes before starting boulder problems, etc.
Yes. Beginners tend to to do that. They did it in the 60s too, and long before you were climbing. So? Even if he treads in every puddle from here to Stanage and tries to campus up a Diff chimney, WTF has that got to do with his question?
Some of the responses to this thread are truly astounding. He's not 'blaming his shoes', and comparing him to Fawcett / Dawes / Brown FFS is hardly useful or relevant.
As far as I can see, the only mistake he made was not posting it in the beginners forum, behaviour there tends to be far less tw*ttish.
I do sometimes use approach shoes or big boots when seconding S or VS but I find that I end up pulling on my arms too much to compensate for my sloppy footwork! And I do sometimes use technical ( = painful) modern shoes for bouldering - at places like Pex Hill.
My preference for general use shoes is Boreal Ballet Gold - high ankle, stiff soles, so totally unfashionable.
COMMENT FOR OLDER READERS: Someone should bring EBs but with sticky rubber!
That's interesting. I see people on routes up to F7a doing it too.
And you know this because???
For your information, in the 1960s (and before) very few people stood around in rock shoes... because very few people wore rock shoes.
By 'his' are you referring to the OP? Because I have been trying to help him.
> Apart from Al, I'm probably one of the few contributors to this thread who was active (nearly) 50 years ago. I can assure people that, back then - also ran or not - if you didn't have neat, precise footwork, chances are you'd die.
> Leading VS in big boots with crap/no protection meant that rubbish footwork (which nowadays an awful lot of people have) wasn't a viable option.
> These days everyone's looking for a technological quick fix. Why? Because it's the path of least effort. I'll go for skill acquisition every time.
So what kind of shoes do you wear Mick?
I bought a pair of evolvs because they were cheap in Go Outdoors and they've lasted a long time, but stink!!
The edges and stiffness has gone but I still use them indoors and will do until they fall appart - I don't want to waste my nice 5.10s especially considering the price of them!
I don't think shoes have made a huge difference to my climbing, but then I've always used climbing shoes.
One thing that has made a difference is watching good climbers footwork. I met John Dunne at the wall the other night and the contrast between his hulking shoulders and nimble footwork was amazing!
If my foot slips or scrapes outside or I make too much noise with them at the wall I give myself a good talking to and try to be more accurate next time!!
> Al, I think you are missing the point: Joe, Don and even yourself were op climbers in your day. Its like comparing my climbing with Caff now - he could climb anything I could in wellies and not notice.
Caff could go climbing in boxing gloves and roller skates just like his dad!
> That's interesting. I see people on routes up to F7a doing it too.
Ok, not sure what your point is there.
Common sense. Why do you assume they didn't? Did you collect meaningful data, or is it just a warm feeling + a healthy dose of confirmation bias?
Who said anything about rock shoes? You just mentioned 'shoes', and I meant any relevant footwear.
Well your posts come across as yet more back in the day / massively unqualified anecdotes regarding people's skills being on average worse now when actually, there's just more climbers. So there will be more poor ones and more good ones too. Is that not obvious? And the bell curve will of course be wider too, so some will be truly terrible, others will be better than anyone ever was. But the main thing that grips me is why you think 'standards' and people's assumed lack of technique is in anyway relevant to someone asking whether to fork out for new shoes? It's as if you lot are obsessed with measuring willys, it gets quite boring after a while. We all respect you as significant players without that.
What I had noticed is that whilst my soft and and flexible shoes are great for smearing, I was straining my foot muscles to keep them in what I feel is a secure position on (for me) small edges. So I just wondered whether there is a point where you decide, OK, I could strengthen my feet more and work around this, but actually, if I tried a shoe that had better edging performance I could just focus on enjoying my ultimately pointless but fun weekend hobby? As climbs are handily broken down into grades, I thought this would be the most convenient point of reference.
Many posts ago someone said that the difference shoes make a grade at is at your highest grade, which makes perfect sense to me. Through a lack of strength and skill, I'm confident I'm putting in just as much effort on a VS as someone else on an E5 at their limit. So yeah, at your personal sharp end, I can see small things making a big difference, as you don't have the capacity in reserve to compensate.
As I thought, there are a few 'back in my day' responses, which I have no beef with! I just find it interesting that there can be such a derogatory view on employing technological advances. My other main hobby is mountain biking, and over the years the bikes have improved enormously to help ordinary riders get through tough trails that 20 years ago would have been out of bounds to them. And of course, the top end professionals have benefited enormously as well, getting to the stage where the bikes are probably capable of more than the rider is; a great situation to be in IMO. There are those that choose to go back to hardtail or fully rigid bikes for various reasons, but often then personal challenge. However, I don't see any negative opinions from these people towards those that use top end full suspension; it's just a different way of doing things, whatever floats your boat. So, I can understand a certain nostalgia for the old days, but not the distaste at using improved equipment to raise your game and enjoy your climbing more.
One to ponder; if Whillans, Brown, even Collie had had Miuras/Boostics/whatever magically made available to them, do you really think they would have shunned them in favour of plimsols?
With regard to your original question, I think shoes make a notable difference at and beyond E2 but as that is the grade that I would class as my current limit it may be more to do with that. A few years ago when Boreal Aces were in favour there was a route at my local wall that I could not do in the Aces, it was probably about 6c, but could do in a pair of Vectors as these allowed me to get my toes in the pockets. In contrast I have a pair of 5.10 Newtons which are quite bulbous at the toe but these are superb on long mountain routes especially in cracks. And to take that to the extreme there are many cracks that are easier in big boots. The Fissure Brown on the Aig. Blaitiere for example which I have done in both and found it to be easier in mountain boots.
One to ponder; if Whillans, Brown, even Collie had had Miuras/Boostics/whatever magically made available to them, do you really think they would have shunned them in favour of plimsols?
Of course not, nobody in their right mind would, but we did try to climb in crap footwear sometimes just so it was easier when we got the best available on. Joe Brown reputedly did the f/a of Surplomb in the Pass in boots in a snowstorm, I regularly climbed in the wet with socks over my boots and once just to prove I could do it I led an early ascent of Boat Pushers Wall in mountain boots, the point is not to get too fixated on footwear, these days it's all good, that is all I've been trying to say in my answers on this thread. Sorry if I've upset some of you.
By the way Mick Ward is absolutely right about his points on if the sole is not clean then all the technology in the world won't make the boot better. I remember being on Windy Ledge with Tom Proctor and us both using spit to 'squeak' our boot soles clean. It was a regular thing in those days.
When it comes to shoes, all that matters is getting ones that fit right. You should have depending on your experience in climbing shoes a slight bend to maximise pressure on holds, im talking about 5 degree bend not extreme at all. and no Air pockets in them. type of shoe varies sizes and fitting so try a few brands out before buying them. Remember that alot if not most climbing shoes stretch by about half a size.
The only real thing to think about is Lace or velcro. Lace create a better fit generally speaking, but velcro are nice and Lazy, which is what we like.
in terms of grades, there is no shoe that benifits performance, yes curved shoes assist on overhangs, but flat shoes work just aswell, but you maybe need to be abit stronger in your Core. rubber can make a difference though for instance 5:10 is generally soft meaning you need stronger feet, and you feel the holds more in your feet.
Sorry im blabering on abit. basically if the shoe fits you can do anything you put your mind to. Ive seen people climb 7c's in aproach shoes, using perfect workwork. its just a case of going for it, and not blaming your shoes if you make a mistake instead think of your technique.
Hope this helps
I can see where you're coming from any in some cases that will be true, but more often people in clumsy/sloppy shoes will learn to climb in a clumsy/sloppy way, placing their feet incorrectly and not trusting their feet. Partly because they have poor technique to start with, but poor shoes will exacerbate that. Similarly, shoes that have poor grip (probably still better than EBs but that's not the point, we aren't all Ron Fawcetts) will discourage people from trusting their feet.
Muiras for routes; some cheapo - but stiffer - ones for training. I'm not any authority on rock shoes, that's for sure. For me, these seem to work OK. If I went back to climbing on slate, to say E4, I guess I'd need something stiffer and more high performance.
wrt whether the climbers in the 50s and 60s who put up Extremes in Plimpsoles could have done better with better shoes, then yes it would obviously make a difference. However the big step-change came with systematic training, copying facilities like the School Room and the Campus, and the 'cellar dwellers'. In the sixties, John Gill was climbing in what look like Wellington boots, but had adopted a systematic approach to strength and technique which meant his activities were visionary, but would now be looked on as commonplace.
In reply to the OP, wrt shoes. According to the UKC stats, the bulk of climbers are in the D-VS range, and will benefit from a modern, well fitting shoe. It really doesn't have to be aggressive or v expensive. There are medium price boots from red chilli which will take you from where you are now, well into the extremes, without crippling you or your wallet. How far you go is up to you, how often you get out, how often you train etc.
If you have the spare cash, get a stiff pair for edging and a soft pair for slabs. I just looked on Amazon, and for less than 30quid you can buy a pair of retro Dunlop Green Flash trainers which, paired with a Whillans harness was my gear of choice around 1980. How many uKCers fancy that compared to modern gear now?
< Back a day latter. Life got in the way. >
For courtesy's sake, I'll reply to your first two points.
A simple reply to your somewhat dismissive comment. ('Beginners tend to to do that.') It's not just beginners. Can you really not see my point - or do you simply not want to?
You seem to know what happened in the 1960s - and you seem to think I have to 'assume' or 'collect meaningful data' regarding what happened and didn't happen then - while, for you 'common sense' constitutes sufficient proof.
The bottom line is this, mate: I climbed in the 60s. (Did you?) I don't need to 'assume' or 'collect meaningful data' as to what happened/didn't happen. I lived through it. Conversely, your 'common sense' is, I suspect, merely unsubstantiated opinion.
It's pretty obvious that, whatever I say, you will say otherwise. So let's agree on one thing:
I didn't climb in the 60s. But by what mechanism do you think people are less careful now than then? Acid rain?
And do you honestly think you have a meaningful handle on people's relative carelessness over time? In the time I've been climbing (since the mid 80s), I can't say I could make such a judgement, hence my comment that common sense might get you further than 50 year old anecdotal memories.
One thing id say is if you do get new shoes, wear em round house for a couple of evenings before you use them in anger on the crag/wall.
You should then get feeling if they're gonna be too uncomfortable/painful, and they'll still be returnable.
On a side note, i once watched a fella solo a high end 20m HVS barefoot. Ouch.
To all those who have effectively answered "what grade can be climbed in poor footwear", that was not the question. That Johnny Dawes led E9 in hobnails in 1960 is irrelevant. He may have found it easier in modern stickies and most of us will never climb E9 in anything.
I suspect for most people footwear "makes a difference" as they approach grades that challenge them. So I prefer my comfy Miuras on VS and below but will tend to don my tighter, more precise Katanas on trad 5a and upwards. I find that I trust my feet better in the Katanas, which means I use smaller footholds and put less strain on my arms so everything else goes better.
For some people that transition may be at much higher (or even lower) grades.
i agree with that. Hence saying wear them around house for couple of evenings. It'll give you a good idea on longer term comfort, while still being returnable.
Sometimes takes a few hours to realise comfort level in my experience.
Would be duff advice to wear them straight on rock. Then unreturnable. Just check FS shoe ads.
If the shoes are any good they won't be comfortable walking in, especially when they're new.
and the harm of wearing them indoors, thus ensuring they're not uncomfortable whilst keeping them shop returnable is...?
I'd also strongly encourage the use of thin socks as they add tolerance to fit and keep shoes cleaner and stop them stinking; sadly fashion often wins over sense.
Anyhow Moff just yesterday worked the hardest slab she has ever managed ( 5.11b/c ) on warm sun kissed granite in her comfy shoes with socks.
I've a feeling my reply fell into the tw*ttish category for some people. I was neither trying to be dismissive nor rose tinted. I gave an honest answer, shoes help, at whatever grade, and more so closer to your limit. The odd time a particular shoe might be better in a certain situation, but for most of us, most of the time it doesn't make *that* much difference. There are lots of other things that definitely will make a difference, try some of them too. The original poster displayed a lightness of touch and willingness to hear from all corners and I don't see that they particularly needs anyone to get cross on their behalf. But heck, it's a forum.
Taurig, try the shoes, get something a bit stiffer maybe, then you'll find out. Your feet'll get stronger with time in any case. Enjoy your climbing :)
I used to train in assorted sloppy and miss-shapen resoles and boots I could pick up cheap. Now I only train in the same type of shoes in as good condition as I would be happy to climb hard in on rock. I don't want to have to have to adjust to the feel of diferent boots and regain confidence in my feet every time I go outdoors. To me the extra cost is justified.
Assuming you mean: "I've seen people climb 7c's in approach shoes, using perfect footwork", then I would like to see someone climb 7c in approach shoes without perfect footwork! :)
Of course sadly I lack perfect footwork... :(
> When it comes to shoes, all that matters is getting ones that fit right. You should have depending on your experience in climbing shoes a slight bend to maximise pressure on holds, im talking about 5 degree bend not extreme at all. and no Air pockets in them. type of shoe varies sizes and fitting so try a few brands out before buying them. Remember that alot if not most climbing shoes stretch by about half a size.
Unless they're synthetic shoes and/or lined, then they won't stretch at all/as much.
If you get 5.10 rubber on a board lasted shoe though, you won't feel the rock more, and may have sticker shoes.
Probably very true - crap shoes mean you'll be hanging off your arms when you should be standing on your toes.
Are there any truly crap shoes around these days ? I can't think of any (that fit of course) that would stop you standing on your toes.
> Are there any truly crap shoes around these days ? I can't think of any (that fit of course) that would stop you standing on your toes.
Surely the best shoes though are the one's you're having the most fun in?
With the Boreals, I usually wear ONE sock,a relatively new thing, to compensate for different size feet: works really well without having to lose comfort, and it's MUCH cheaper than buying a pair of different size. Looks totally silly.
The reasons? the Bandits have lasted 18 months, cos I'm not using them for warm-ups and easier stuff; the Jokers take a resole without feeling too different, so they are cheaper "per hour of use"; the psychological effect of changing into the "serious shoes" is significant - I think I'll be better, so I am; and I think the Bandits are more precise and feel a little more secure.
If I was only allowed one pair?...Jokers - can wear for hours, last well, resolable (that'll start summat), don't smell as bad as Evolv, and I like blue better.
A lot to be said for this. A pair of tighter, more precise shoes with bette rubber gives you confidence if nothing else.
My two-pence worth - having a higher performance shoe, tight fitting with good rubber is definitely and undeniably going to have a beneficial effect on your climbing, and if you care about climbing you may decide £30 extra for that is worth paying. How much depends beneficial effect depends where you are climbing: Gtitstone - a fair amount; Font slabs - a lot. Swanage trad - not a lot.
People have climbed hard stuff in crap shoes? great! Having good footwork is better than good shoes? Of course.
Personally I prefer to climb outdoors in 5:10 rubber which i think is the best and that gives me confidence. I clean the soles first if i think i'll be smearing.
The best advice (other than the pearls above of course) on this thread is get a pair of standard shoes which will get trashed down the wall, saving your good rubber for the real stuff.
Yes if I were you i'd get a better pair for edging. I cannot see how having your feet rolling around in sloppy shoes will benefit your footwork, which will be less precise.
Well I was climbing in the 60's with crap footwear, and now I'm climbing in my 60's with good footwear, but I'm not getting any better. Maybe its not the footwear that makes the difference. I'm still crap. What should I do?
Try really really hard?
> My two-pence worth - having a higher performance shoe, tight fitting with good rubber is definitely and undeniably going to have a beneficial effect on your climbing
Only once you know how to climb though surely? Before you've got the basics, subtle techy shoe differences are just noise in the system. If they fit, and they are designed for climbing in, they are as good as you need.
Ill fitting shoes will however encourage poor technique and lead to various pains in the feet. By ill fitting I mean too loose and too tight.
And once you've used them for a while ask yourself this, Why?
If you know what you want from your shoe picking the right fit, be it tight or comfy will lead to the highest gains. basically get out and find out. My favourite pair recently have being a cheep cheep pair. Low quality and yet they fit like a treat, support my foot and have power straight to the toe. essentially perfect and the rubber is as good as my foot work needs it to be. it sticks.
We agree then, I wasn't arguing for ill fitting shoes, I said as much. So I'm not sure what you're responding to?
> Try really really hard?
Brilliant! Thanks - wish someone had given me this advice before. Isn't the internet fantastic? I'm off to try really hard today, no time to waste...
If that doesn't work, add another 'really'.
I see. 'However' threw me.
Result: I bought a pair of Red Chilli VCS Spirits and the result is that routes I was a bit scrappy on now feel solid and secure. I can now stand on smaller toe-chips with relative ease, can toe-jam easier and can stand on awkward placements for longer without pain or discomfort. Indoors now seems like a doddle in comparison to my previous shoes.
Instant improvement.....and I climb in the 6 - 6a+ range at the moment.
Just to try it out for a laugh, I recently took my Merrell Chameleon 2 walking trainers to Brownstones and attempted to hit the V0 puzzles there in them. Polished footholds + vibram walking soles + sloppy technique = hilariously bad climbing :) Kudos to those that can do that with confidence.
I know this may sound like flamebait but hear me out: Just because some can (and did) climb well in normal sports or walking footwear doesn't mean I'll want to or that anyone should be made to feel less for needing/preferring/asking questions about modern equipment.
I'm new around here and UKC has been a welcoming, friendly place that I enjoy being around. I think there's been a lot of humour and sarcasm dropped in here that may have been misconstrued or misidentified. I guess we have to sometimes be reminded that in using faceless text communication like this, some of the intent behind our words can be lost and what is meant as an honest or humourous opinion may be seen to be offensive or unkind.
Sorry gang - I'll put my stupid little soap box away now and will back off. I'm happy to talk about this privately if any feel the need - just not at the expense of the OPs thread.
Who is suggesting climbing in walking footwear and where? Good fitting shoes suitable for the climbing you want simply means that beginners don't need expensive technical shoes. More importantly shoes that are too tight can destroy your feet: just talk to a podiatrist.
Climbing in trainers at Brownstones is plain vandelism, please dont do it folks.
Personally I think the Red Chilli Spirit VCR are great shoes. For me they are a good compromise between out and out aggressive shape and acceptable precision and comfort. I'm sure there are many heroes out there that wouldn't categorise these as 'technical' shoes, though.
As for my experiment at Brownstones I will unreservedly apologise and make clear that it was on the V0 arete oin the two-step area where the first foothold is so polished there was no way I could stick to it anyway. Switched out quickly to my rock shoes and climbed the routes in those.
> Personally I think the Red Chilli Spirit VCR are great shoes. ... I'm sure there are many heroes out there that wouldn't categorise these as 'technical' shoes, though.
Agreed - I love these. Less comfy than my Simonds but not to a degree where I can't wear them for any length of time. Certainly not painful, just very snug and with a stiffer sole (and it helps!).
I'll stick my neck out a little and say I couldn't give a rat's backside whether others would categorise these shoes as technical - they help me enjoy the rock more, have improved my ability somewhat and as such are perfect for my needs. I'd certainly recommend them.
So anyway, did you get the shoes? And did they add half a grade?
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