When Should I Buy New Climbing Shoes? (5 Warning Signs)


Climbing shoes are an essential piece of gear when it comes to mountaineering, and rock climbing in particular. Nevertheless, this type of sport is quite new to me, in contrast to camping or general hiking. As a result, the inevitable question had kept popping to my mind; when should I buy new climbing shoes? I needed the general warning signs so that I won’t spend money on a new pair, while the previous one is in reasonable shape. A few hours of research have brought some results.

There are five cases in which you should buy a new pair of climbing shoes:

  • Most of the front edges of the rubber sole are worn out (more than 80%).
  • The rand is severely damaged.
  • The rubber sole is too thin, loose or soft (due to extended usage).
  • The insole is damaged and therefore compromises your hiking experience.
  • There are extended cracks at the upper part of the shoe.

General Approach to Climbing Shoe Replacement

Climbing shoes are much more than just shoes that protect your feet. They reduce the shocks and impacts on your feet. They also aid the movement of your feet, to minimize the injuries.

On tricky terrain, they can provide you with an excellent grip as well. Without such shoes, you might not even be able to finish your trip. Due to this very reason, it is essential to have the best climbing shoes possible.

The best solution is to examine your climbing shoes from time to time. Rather than waiting for the current one to wear out, it is a good idea to be on the side of caution. That will ensure you are best prepared for every hiking or trekking trip (source).

Today, I will help you understand how often should you examine your climbing shoes. I will also go into the details of the examination process so that it becomes smooth and intuitive for each one of you.

Five Warning Signs That Require a New Shoe

I always like to examine my climbing shoes thoroughly. The examination procedure helps me in finding any faults in advance. As a result, I can buy new ones in time. I will share with you the method that I follow so that you can do the same.

1. Start With The Front Edges

The first step to accomplish is to examine the front and toe of the shoes. Once you do so, it will become easy for you to observe the wear and tear of your last trip on the climbing shoe.

You have to specially monitor the sole rubber to ensure that it is not worn out extensively. By extensively, I mean 80%. In case that is the case, you need to think about getting new shoes.

At the same time, if you observe any holes in the toe rubber, then as well, there is no other alternative but to think about getting a new shoe.

Also, in case there is a problem with the rand as well, it would be wise to get a new one to avoid toes pain when walking down slopes. I will highlight how to check it in the next step.

On that matter, if toes pain is familiar to you, I highly suggest that you read an article I’ve written on why hiking boots hurt your toes. I’ve spent half a day going through all the possible reasons for that and provided my solutions from years of experience.

2. Examine The Rand

The rand of the climbing shoe refers to the rubber strip above the sole of the shoe. It is most frequent for tears and wears to appear in the toe area of the rand. For that reason, you have to examine it pretty carefully.

The causes of such wear and tears can be plenty like:

  • Scraping of the shoe against the rock.
  • The Shoe is jamming into previous cracks.
  • Extensive shoe bending.

The damage to the rand is most visible in the form of scratches or holes. If the rand starts to separate from the upper of the shoe, that is a clear cut indication that it is time to buy a new set of shoes.

If you continue using the same climbing shoe for subsequent trips, the shoe might disintegrate altogether. That, of course,  is a terrible case when spending time outdoors in nature.

I personally scrutinize the rand as it alerts me to the extent of wear and tear which the shoe has undergone. It is generally a precursor to other problems in the climbing shoes as well.

Many people will tell you that a temporary solution is to replace the rand or stick it back to the upper of the shoe. The problem in doing so is that it will never provide you with the strength of a new pair, which is essential to climbing mountains. When you’re out, if the shoe condition deteriorates, you will have to abandon your trip. 

A much better alternative is to spot the problem in advance and buy new climbing shoes. It will help you avoid any accidents or disappointments.

3. Check The Rubber

The rubber at the bottom of the climbing shoes is responsible for providing you with a proper grip. Only when it can adhere to the rocks, you can climb further.

You have to examine the rubber to find out signs of aging. When reviewing the rubber of my climbing shoes, I often ask myself questions like:

  • Has the rubber become thin?
  • Are the edges ragged or lose?
  • Has it become too soft?

These questions let me know instantly about the condition of the rubber. Since climbing shoes are an essential piece of equipment, any problem with the rubber is a trigger for buying new climbing shoes rather than continuing to use the old ones.

Also, worn-out rubber sole might be one of the reasons why you might experience ankle pain. If you have no grip, your feet move freely inside the shoe and smash against the rear edge. I have elaborated on this in a different article where I discussed why hiking boots hurt your ankles.

4. Do Not Forget The Interiors

Wears and tears do affect not only the outer shoe but also the interior parts. Multiple times I have seen problems cropping up in there, which later on extended roughly. Well, I highly suggest that you do not neglect these parts when considering a new pair.

Also, these problems might indicate other external issues of the shoe.

If there are cracks in the insole, or if the shape of it has deteriorated beyond recognition, the shoe would not be comfortable to you.

The discomfort of the climbing shoe can result in improper posture and, therefore, pain in your feet. It may also cause injury under continues usage.

Moreover, when you’re planning on completing a strenuous and somewhat risky climbing trip, you need to be comfortable with your gear to do so. If the shoe in itself is not proper, you might find it hard to progress. It will divert your attention from the trek or hike to the problems within the shoes. Personally, I had seen it hard to focus on previous journeys when my gear was not suitable.

Thus, instead of just checking the exteriors of the shoe, it is essential to check the interiors. In case you notice a problem; it is necessary to choose a more comfortable pair, or possibly a new one.

5. Examine The Upper For Cracks

The upper part of a climbing shoe is the portion that protects your feet from the external environment. It also helps you get that secure, snug feeling. Additionally, the upper can provide you with much-needed comfort.

Hence, it is necessary to examine it as well for any defects to ensure you experience a comfortable hike.

In most cases, if you are using the climbing shoes for an extended period, the upper might wear out or perhaps develop cracks. Unfortunately, there is no remedy for such problems.

Sewing it would compromise the toughness and might end up with further issues. If you notice the mentioned flaws in the upper, I highly recommend that you buy a new pair.

Can I Continue Using a Flawed Pair?

In short, you can. Getting a new pair could be expensive, and some gentle flaws would take time to develop further. Nevertheless, I always follow the mentioned procedure to ensure a proper examination.

In general, I prefer not dealing with low-quality gear. The trade-offs can sometimes be severe. You may suffer from problems like injuries, loss of grip, or even accidents. That is why following this procedure after each cleaning session will help you know when you need to get new ones.

How Long Does a Pair of Climbing Shoes Last?

You might be thinking now; all that is great, but how long do these shoes actually last?

The average lifespan of climbing shoes is between 6 months to one year. Nevertheless, if you take up easier climbs, they can even last up to 2 years or more (source). Regardless, it is always better to examine them from time to time, as I’ve mentioned earlier.

While the mentioned numbers are a bit generalized, there are a few factors that can move them up and down. The two mains are:

Frequency of Use

If you intend to use your climbing shoes merely once every six months, they can last for many years to come. However, if you use them once a month, chances are the lifespan will shorten considerably.

The Type of Climbs

The easier climbs (warm-up climbs as they are known) do not wear out the shoes extensively. If you opt for these climbs, the life span can be pretty high. If you are a regular climber or a hiker and take up strenuous climbs, the lifespan may sometimes be less than a year.

How Often Should You Check Your Climbing Shoes?

Now, that you know how important examining and checking your climbing shoes from time to time is, it is necessary to find out how often you should check them.

The rule of thumb is to check them each time you clean them. This will ensure a proper, and frequently examination, without missing any opportunities.

Then again, you might think about how often you should clean your climbing shoes?

The answer is after each climbing trip. If the shoes get muddy or dirty in between as well, you can clean them with water from a stream or a nearby river.

However, if you are cleaning them during the trip, do make sure that you do not wash the interiors to avoid moisture and blisters. 

There is a proper procedure to check the condition of your climbing shoes, as mentioned above. Do not focus on aesthetics.

How to Make my Climbing Shoes Last Longer?

There are some tips that you always need to follow when it comes to making your climbing shoes last longer. I will go into the details of these steps below. 

Pick The Right Shoe From The Start

That’s right! One of the best ways to increase the lifespan of your shoe is to make sure that you choose the right one in advance. It should be exceptionally comfortable, but at the same time, it should be able to handle the terrain of your climbs. 

Make sure that you pick them so that you can freely bend your toes. If you can’t, that might be a warning sign that they are too small and worn up more quickly.

Also, it is necessary to go through the specifications of the climbing shoe before buying one. Personally, I suggest that you stick with Vibram soles. These I have found most durable with an excellent grip.

Keep Them Clean

If you do not clean your shoes after every trip, the dirt and contaminants will deteriorate the quality of the shoe.

For example, it is crucial to remove all the mud once you get back from your adventure. Acids and different kinds of minerals in the ground might eat through your sole over time so that tears and holes develop more quickly. 

Allow The Shoe to Breathe

You’re likely to wear climbing shoes for hours together during your trip. After that, if you store them away, you’re not giving them the time needed to eliminate the pungent odor and for the reduction of humidity. Both of these are necessary for making climbing shoes last longer.

Only when the odor eliminates naturally, and this shoe has dried up, you can think about storing it away. The drying up step is applicable even when washing or cleaning your pair.

These are the three simple tips which you can follow to make your climbing shoes last longer. There is no rocket science to support it, though. Nevertheless, once you follow these, you will probably postpone any damage and further the lifespan of your shoes (source).

Conclusions

This guide will help you find the right time to buy a new pair of climbing shoes. There are five main things you should examine, which are the front edges, rand, sole rubber, interior, and upper parts. Try to find any tears or holes in these particular areas.

If you find any, estimate their severity. In case they are small, you would probably do just fine with the current pair for a few more months. Nevertheless, when the rubber went to thin, or the different parts start to separate, it is time for a new one.

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