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Why did high top climbing shoes stop being made?

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 Madajo 13 May 2020

Hi, question is basically in the thread title. Why did manufacturers move away from high top climbing shoes? I've still got scars on my ankles from the odd scrape from climbs. I know there's more coming onto the market but these kind of shoes are definitely still a minority. Is there some kind of drawback that I'm not aware of from never having worn them?

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 Tom V 13 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

They were far too sensible.

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 ianstevens 13 May 2020
In reply to Tom V:

More like far less mobile around the ankle. 

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 MischaHY 13 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

Ankle flexibility is actually a really important feature in climbing, especially friction based. A high ankle limits this which is not advantageous. For me ankle protection is unnecessary unless doing a lot of wide crack climbing in which case you'd be best placed using something like this: https://www.singingrock.cz/hadinky

Or this:

http://www.obrworks.cz/18-hadinky-ochrana-kotniku.html

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 Madajo 13 May 2020
In reply to MischaHY:

I did wonder about ankle mobility, but I thought the soft fabric wouldn't interfere that much. Makes sense really

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 elliptic 13 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

Back in the late 80s when low-top shoes first became a thing there was an immediate trend for chopping down older high tops - I butchered a couple of pairs of blue-and-yellow Scarpa Rockstars that way and it was definitely an improvement. Prior to that with EBs it wouldn't really have worked as the heel fit wasn't good enough, properly shaped heel cups putting tension in the rand were needed first.

It didn't take long after that for the manufacturers to drop most of their high top designs as hardly anyone bought them any more. Boreal Ballets and La Sportiva Kaukulators were the only ones I remember us stocking by the mid/late 90s and we didn't sell many compared with the truckloads of Lasers and Dominators and Anasazis.

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 Toerag 13 May 2020
In reply to elliptic:

The Sportiva TC Pro would seem to prove that a high performance high-top can be made though.

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 Iamgregp 13 May 2020
In reply to Toerag:

Boreal, 5.10 and a couple of other manufacturers still make a high top too.

I've seen a couple of people wearing them, usually they're older trad types who've never taken to low rise shoes or people who are in to crack/big walling.

I'm sure there will always be a small but dedicated market for the hi top!

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 baron 13 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

As Tom V said, far too sensible.

Along with wearing socks.

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 elliptic 13 May 2020
In reply to Toerag:

That's an interesting design - downturned and slip-lasted just with extra ankle covering.

Part of the problem with traditional high tops is they were invariably board-lasted so felt really clumpy and insensitive once you were used to modern slipper style shoes (especially indoors on plastic). I still have a pair of Aces stashed away (low cut version of Ballets) which were a high-end shoe in their day but the stiffness and thickness of the sole needs totally different foot technique.

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 MischaHY 13 May 2020
In reply to Toerag:

TC Pro is a sneaky one though because it's barely higher than a modern shoe at the back but rises slightly more around the sides meaning you get the protection with little ankle restriction. 

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 Darron 13 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

I suspect (as with most clothing changes) the chief culprit is fashion. Expect high tops back at some stage.

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 Madajo 13 May 2020
In reply to elliptic:

Boreal have re-designed both the Aces and Ballet rather recently, I'm thinking of trying some Aces when I can get to an outdoors shop. That was partly the inspiration for this post. Thanks for the anecdote. For something as over-marketed as climbing shoes, the manufacturers never mention why most shoes are low cut. 

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 Martin Bennett 13 May 2020
In reply to Iamgregp:

> Boreal, 5.10 and a couple of other manufacturers still make a high top too.

> I've seen a couple of people wearing them, usually they're older trad types who've never taken to low rise shoes or people who are in to crack/big walling.

> I'm sure there will always be a small but dedicated market for the hi top!

Oh yes - older trad types like Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold. See "Free Solo". Mind you I'm an older trad type and remembering how much I'd liked my Boreal Ballets bought some TC Pros. However, surprisingly (!) I found I couldn't wield them in the  manner of Alex and didn't like them.

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 Martin Bennett 13 May 2020
In reply to MischaHY:

> TC Pro is a sneaky one though because it's barely higher than a modern shoe at the back but rises slightly more around the sides meaning you get the protection with little ankle restriction. 

As was the Boreal Ballet, my favourite shoe of the 80s.

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 top cat 13 May 2020
In reply to MischaHY:

At what grade does it start to make a difference?  Got to be well above E2?

High tops don't have to be laced tightly all the way up.  You can have ankle protection and flexibility.

Most folk on multi pitch crags would be better off with comfort and protection.  I'm bemused by folk climbing classic VD / severe routes in top end slippers and having to carry trainers to wear on stances and descents.

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 nniff 13 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

One thing I didn't like about them was that if you wanted a snug fit around your foot, the laces were too tight around the ankle.  At one stage, my shoes had two pairs of laces, which was plainly daft.  The height of the ankle part started to come down once new EBs were found to be very wanting.  the Hanwag Crack Specials (yellow and reds) were very high, Asolo Canyons less so, Chouinard Contacts less again with Boreal Fires about the same.  Then there were the Kamet (maybe Sportiva?)  donkey feet, which were low at the back and high at the front.  And then we were into Aces, the green Scarpas and a whole host of slippers

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 Tom V 13 May 2020
In reply to top cat:

I think the main advantage of high tops is the protection given to ankles when descending rocky scree filled gullies but since  that only occurs in a certain type of climbing is isn't seen as useful as it once was.

As to the disadvantage, for the ordinaty climber I suspect there is none: just look back at footage of some amazingly difficult routes being done in high top rock boots.

I don't think they give a fraction of the advantage offered by sticky rubber.

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In reply to Martin Bennett:

I have various slippers but none come close to my Boreal Ballet Gold for all day comfort - canvas-lined luxury. Been resoled a few times but the uppers seem bombproof. At my grades (older trad!) they can't be beaten for mountain rock.

Post edited at 14:54
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 LastBoyScout 13 May 2020
In reply to elliptic:

> Back in the late 80s when low-top shoes first became a thing there was an immediate trend for chopping down older high tops - I butchered a couple of pairs of blue-and-yellow Scarpa Rockstars that way and it was definitely an improvement.

I've still got a pair of those in the garage - haven't worn them for years, but they were the first pair of rock boots I ever owned, bought on sale in Outside in Hathersage. Still regret not paying the extra £10 for the Masters, though

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 barry donovan 13 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

ron fawcet seemed ok putting up lord of the flies

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 MischaHY 13 May 2020
In reply to top cat:

> At what grade does it start to make a difference?  Got to be well above E2?

That's an oddly specific example. Why did you choose E2? I'm just curious. 

> High tops don't have to be laced tightly all the way up.  You can have ankle protection and flexibility.

This is rather like saying lacing a walking boot loosely makes it the same as an approach shoe, which it definitely doesn't. I see what you're getting at though. 

> Most folk on multi pitch crags would be better off with comfort and protection.  I'm bemused by folk climbing classic VD / severe routes in top end slippers and having to carry trainers to wear on stances and descents.

This is undoubtedly true, although it's also true that many people would be vastly more confident and better off with a slightly stiffer, slightly more technical shoe than the vast slippers that they're currently wading around in because someone told them they have to be comfy. Even when climbing very easy multipitches I still tend to wear something with a reasonable level of stiffness and performance because it means I climb far better, save energy and move faster, all of which gives me a better safety margin. 

My girlfriend once bought the Scarpa Helix to do some trad climbing as our gear got left at the wrong airport. She fitted them properly and then subsequently spent the whole trip raging about how crap they were, because they were so soft and had no edging capability but perversely also poor smearing ability. Scarpa describes these as ideal for trad climbing. https://www.scarpa.co.uk/climb/helix/ 

I'm not sure where the idea comes from that a trad/multipitch shoe should be soft and rubbish, or that a stiffer, more effective shoe has to be uncomfortable (they don't), but I find it quite perplexing. A climbing shoe is probably the only bit of gear that will actually improve your performance so it's worth making sure you've got a decent one. If it's a bit tight you can also pull the heel off at belays.

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 MischaHY 13 May 2020
In reply to Martin Bennett:

> As was the Boreal Ballet, my favourite shoe of the 80s.

Entertainingly you can still buy it. https://www.alpinetrek.co.uk/boreal-ballet-climbing-shoes-bf/ 

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 Iamgregp 13 May 2020
In reply to Martin Bennett:

To be fair I did say older trad types OR people who are into crack/big wall

I know those guys wear TC Pros, they're named after Tommy Caldwell ffs ;)

I've seen Free Solo.  3 times at the cinema.  1 of which was the UK Premiere...  Yes I'm a f*cking geek!

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 McKEuan 13 May 2020
 Iamgregp 13 May 2020
In reply to Darron:

I'm not so sure that they will.  I hear what you say about fashion, but there's functionality involved here too.

For example football boots had a high top for a long time then became low rise when players found they benefited from greater ankle flexibility.  Can't see those ever changing....

Like I say though I think there will always be a few models on the market, but I'd expect the majority to continue to be shoes for ever more.

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 Rob Parsons 13 May 2020
In reply to MischaHY:

> Entertainingly you can still buy it. https://www.alpinetrek.co.uk/boreal-ballet-climbing-shoes-bf/ 


That's the 'Ballet Gold' rather than the original Ballet, and in any event is end-of-lined now: that shop only has a couple of sizes left.

They're now replaced by the new Ballet.

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 Iamgregp 13 May 2020
In reply to McKEuan:

"The General" hahahahaha!

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 GHawksworth 13 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

you can still buy new and current versions of many high top (or more medium top now) shoes. The reason you don't see them is because shops tend not to stock them for the reason of not being fashionable.

I own a pair of maestro mids and love em. when i looked at getting them, I also found the Boreal Ballet which is current (it's on their website still), 5.10 anasazi guide although with their adidas overhaul and stock inconsistencies they may be hard to find, evolv grandmasters came back either last year or the year before. Obviously the TC Pro which seems to be for US trad climbers what beanies are for british boulderers.

There may be a resurgence, yet and I'm all for it

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 HeMa 13 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

Bah...


high top, or lowcut climbing shoes are for sissies...

http://www.borealoutdoor.com/en/products/details/ninja-invernal-guetre

(I recall they were also called Ninja Cumbre some years ago... or something like that)...

In all essence Boreal Ninja Slipper with a proper Supergaiter built in...

Nice, protective, comfy and WARM.

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In reply to top cat:

Usually, the reason to wear trainers for the descent is not comfort or lack of, it's because walking around in your climbing shoes trashes them, and because smooth rubber on grass is deadly.

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 petegunn 13 May 2020
In reply to Alkis:

Also shoes are expensive and many can only afford to buy one set of shoes at a time.

I wouldn't buy a non technical comfy shoe if I was mainly into bouldering, doing an occasional route. 

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 Tom V 13 May 2020
In reply to Alkis:

People descended in their  specialised climbing footwear from at least the advent of the original PA.  They weren't so concerned about damage to the rubber and as far as I know, not too many slipped to their deaths on wet grass.

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 top cat 13 May 2020
In reply to Alkis:

> Usually, the reason to wear trainers for the descent is not comfort or lack of, it's because walking around in your climbing shoes trashes them, and because smooth rubber on grass is deadly.

That's why I have heel units on my stickies.  I'm nowhere near grades that require heel hooks so opt for safety on the descent.

I wear them all day, and walk off / between routes in them.   When they wear out I resole .. Used to replace when they were available to replace

And two laces per shoe is the way to go.I

YMMV, as always...

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 GrahamD 14 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

I used to love my Ballets on longer mountain routes.  I remember one Picos trip where we were doing the longest routes we could find and happily walking off in them.  In retrospect, probably as technical as wooden clogs but perfect for that mountain environment. 

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 Andy Farnell 14 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

There's always these: https://www.scarpa.co.uk/climb/maestro-mid/

Not fully hi-top, but with a slight down turn and some ankle protection they may well be the closest modern shoe to the old boots. But with better fit, rubber and performance.

Andy F

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In reply to Tom V:

I've slipped a fair distance because if it, not a risk I'm willing to take anymore. Also, comparing the sole of climbing shoes I do walk in (usually shoes I don't care about) and climbing shoes I refuse to walk in, there is actually rather a large difference in wear and wear patterns. Plus you can pretty much guarantee they will lose stick, as the sole gets pretty uniformly covered in crap. 

Post edited at 09:26
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In reply to top cat:

> That's why I have heel units on my stickies.  I'm nowhere near grades that require heel hooks so opt for safety on the descent.

> I wear them all day, and walk off / between routes in them.   When they wear out I resole .. Used to replace when they were available to replace

Up to a certain grade I use use my approach shoes these days, for that reason.

Resoling has gotten expensive enough that I just do my best not to wear out the sole on nice shoes.

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 Rob Parsons 14 May 2020
In reply to GrahamD:

> I used to love my Ballets on longer mountain routes.  I remember one Picos trip where we were doing the longest routes we could find and happily walking off in them.  In retrospect, probably as technical as wooden clogs but perfect for that mountain environment. 


Ballets were great, very precise, and very versatile.

As for technical - were those Ballets that Johnny Dawes was wearing in the film 'Johnny Dawes & The story of Indian Face' which appeared here recently, in which he repeated the crux of the route? Yes, I believe they were.

(Yes, I know, 'it's the man in the boots, not the boots on the man' and all that. But still.)

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 Snyggapa 14 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

Stu Bradbury hand makes ankle protection and other stuff for off-width fanatics 

https://www.facebook.com/seacliffguiding/photos/a.402140450181608/919914051737576/?type=3&theater

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In reply to MischaHY:

> Ankle flexibility is actually a really important feature in climbing, especially friction based. A high ankle limits this which is not advantageous. For me ankle protection is unnecessary unless doing a lot of wide crack climbing in which case you'd be best placed using something like this: https://www.singingrock.cz/hadinky

> Or this:

I used to leave the top few holes on my Fires (Furays) undone, and never felt it affected them, so got the protection without feeling constricted.

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 Stu Bradbury 14 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

Hi There, I agree with you, re: high tops & ankle protection, it depends what you want to climb...With shoes you do get far more options re: Shapes/sizes/Fit/sensitivity/flexibility/board lasted or slip lasted etc ...And even with Sportiva' TC pros  you don't get the same sensitivity...peoples climbing styles have changed over the years eg: Sport/climbing wall/Bouldering as opposed to trad climbing & cracks etc...

If you climb mainly Jam cracks & grit etc its good to have some ankle pro.

As a self confessed Wide crack addict....Jam & Offwidth I produce/ hand make to order "Widecraft" Ankle pro, which you can wear with your personal choice in rock shoes, that way I find you can have the best of both worlds I produce them in Leather or Rubber & have options of Lace up & slip on (£30 plus post)

If you or anyone else is interested then please get in touch & I will send you pics etc Contact me via fb Stu Bradbury, or my  "Widecraft" Offwidth inspiration fb page or via my website www.wall-crawler.co.uk

All the best. Stu

Post edited at 13:16
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 Iamgregp 14 May 2020
In reply to Alkis:

I've never understood people walking around in their climbing shoes.

Presumably they travel to the crag/wall/whatever in their climbing shoes, so have another pair of shoes with them. 

So with them they've got one really super expensive pair of shoes that are great for climbing but crap for walking, and another pair of cheaper shoes that are crap for climbing but great for walking so why on earth would you do everything in the one, more expensive pair?

Just doesn't make sense to me, it takes seconds to change your shoes...

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 Stu Bradbury 14 May 2020
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

I also hand make these to order in Cornwall ("Widecraft") in leather or rubber, lace up or slip on if anyone is interested please look me up  (Stu Bradbury or "Widecraft" Offwidth inspiration  on fb)

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 Baz P 14 May 2020
In reply to Iamgregp:

Not if your arthritic and still can't reach the velcro straps that you got instead of laces. 

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 mp3ferret 14 May 2020
In reply to Madajo:

Fashion - plain and simple.  Same reason most jackets don't cover your arse any more.

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 nufkin 14 May 2020
In reply to mp3ferret:

>  Fashion - plain and simple.  Same reason most jackets don't cover your arse any more.

That's only an issue if you do your hillwalking with just chaps on your lower half, though

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 JimR 14 May 2020
In reply to nufkin:

Back in the day we were doing routes now graded e5 in EBs. Fires were a huge game changer allowing one to stand on almost anything. First pair I saw was On Ron Fawcett bouldering about on Stanage when we did Old Friends. He seemed to be able just to stick to anything!  So that was high on our purchase priority, when we got them they were a lot more comfortable with the top 2 sets of eyelets undone which really turned them into shoes instead of boots.

Post edited at 17:07
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 mp3ferret 14 May 2020
In reply to nufkin:

> That's only an issue if you do your hillwalking with just chaps on your lower half, though

This is how I intend to encourage social distancing; once we're allowed back on the hill.

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 krikoman 14 May 2020
In reply to MischaHY:

550 Kč!!!, *

* I have no idea how much this is

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 Frank R. 15 May 2020
In reply to krikoman:

Siri tells me it's around  £18

Clicking around, their textile "nuts" (or "cams", or whatever) for soft sandstone were pretty fascinating!

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In reply to Iamgregp:

> I've never understood people walking around in their climbing shoes.

> Presumably they travel to the crag/wall/whatever in their climbing shoes, so have another pair of shoes with them. 

> So with them they've got one really super expensive pair of shoes that are great for climbing but crap for walking, and another pair of cheaper shoes that are crap for climbing but great for walking so why on earth would you do everything in the one, more expensive pair?

> Just doesn't make sense to me, it takes seconds to change your shoes...


I really, really hate carrying a pair of trainers while climbing. Never had a problem walking off in my shoes.

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In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

We have way too many approach shoes on the market, in comparison descent shoes are the last great bastion of uninvented apparel. 

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In reply to krikoman:

> 550 Kč!!!, *

> * I have no idea how much this is

Lolz. UKC classic moment!  

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