So, you bought your first Climbing Shoe here's how best to look after them and Best Practice.
If you’re graduating from trainers or rental shoes to your own first pair, well-fitting climbing shoes should help bring better footwork and more confidence in trusting your feet to smaller edges - with a commensurate improvement in your climbing ability overall. They’re not an absolute guarantee of entry to Shauna Coxey’s realm, but hopefully you’ll find that things feel easier, or at least more attainable.
It is worth considering your shoes more specifically as climbing equipment, rather than just being a part of your outfit. Climbing shoes aren’t cheap, and it’s good to try to look after them to maximise your investment. Most importantly, don’t walk around in them unnecessarily – as well as wearing down the rubber this tends to bed chalk, gravel and general detritus into the sole, which then effectively becomes a low-friction layer between the wall and the rubber, reducing their stickiness and performance. It’s also not great for your feet to be constricted when they don’t have to be. Your toes are likely to tolerate the required tightness much more happily if you just wear the shoes when actually climbing, then let them spread and relax in between. If you can’t bear the prospect of going barefoot some flip-flops or hut slippers could be a useful addition to your kit bag.
Even with diligence a little muck is inevitable, so it’s worth getting into the habit of giving the soles a quick wipe with your palm, perhaps with a drop of water too. ‘Squeaking’ is the long-established practice of spitting on the soles and rubbing them together to get rid of any smuts and expose fresh rubber, for maximum grip on that crucial attempt.
And for everyone’s sake, at an indoor wall at any rate, it is particularly considered good form not to wear climbing shoes into the toilet and then back to the routes…
Maintenance and cleaning:
Climbing shoes have a reputation for getting stinky, but this is not an inevitability. With a bit of attention this can largely be avoided, or at least minimised, even with those materials that are prone to retaining smells. Assuming you are reasonably diligent about your foot hygiene, the key is to minimise the retention of moisture in the shoes when not in use. Try to air your shoes after each session and store them dry, rather than
keeping them tightly wrapped in a plastic bag or
left to fester in a locker. A sunny windowsill – accommodation and season
permitting – should generally suffice, or an airing cupboard, so long as it’s
not too humid. But it’s best to avoid too much heat – leaving your shoes on a
radiator could cause brittleness in their materials and may damage glue. And
try not to leave shoes (or any of your climbing equipment, for that matter) in
the sun for prolonged periods, as UV light can degrade materials over time.
Adding something like a Boot Banana, or giving the shoes an occasional spray with an antibacterial liquid, can also be worthwhile, reducing the likelihood of smell-causing bacteria taking hold in the first place.
In most cases, well-used climbing shoes can be revitalised with resoling Given their expense, and the moral/environmental value of endeavouring to minimise unnecessary waste(not to mention the difficulty in recycling/repurposing), it is certainly worth giving thought to this, rather than simply wearing them to destruction. It is best not to leave this until the last minute, however, structurally speaking; it will be easier for the resoler to do a better job if there aren’t gaping holes to patch up. Usually the process involves stripping off the worn front section of sole and replacing with fresh, crisply-edged rubber. If this is done before the wear creeps above the original line of the sole/rand join it needn’t affect the feel and performance of the shoe significantly. But if holes wear right through to your toes, or higher up on the rand, it may be necessary to add an additional toe patch, which will likely make things feel a bit less precise.
If given attention at an appropriate time it is certainly possible for your shoes to last through several cycles of resoling and wear. They may not retain their full original performance, but they should still be perfectly serviceable, and can be designated as a back-up pair, or a more comfortable option for when you don’t need to be giving full beans on a long-worked project.