Climbers are expected to have appropriate climbing gear for the kind of climbing activity they are involved in. A complete climb gear should feature stretchable sleeves, climbing leggings, breathable climbing clothing for humid conditions, wind-resistant jackets, and climbing and approach shoes.
Picking the proper climbing rope and climbing cloth is not enough to guarantee successful climbing. It is of great importance to consider the type of climbing shoes, the size, the material used in building them- either leather or synthetic.
There are different types of rock climbing shoes. Some climbers have more than one climbing shoe for different kinds of climbing activities.
The types include comfort shoes (for beginners in climbing), all-around shoes (for intermediate ), performance shoes ( for advanced climbers ), low-volume climbing shoes (originally designed for women), and kids shoes. These shoes also have different closure systems; some are lace, velcro, and slip-on climbing shoes which have no closure system.
The size of the shoe is an important factor to consider because it determines a level of comfort that should be treasured in order not to get distracted or lose focus during the climbing.
A well-fitted shoe is required to prevent problems arising at the foot. This makes it necessary to be mindful of the size of the climbing shoe that we buy, to know when your climbing shoe is too big, and most importantly, how to shrink the climbing shoes.
How to know when your climbing shoes are too big
The sole reason for shrinking climbing shoes is the increase in size. However, not all climbing shoes expand after long-term use. The synthetic climbing shoe does not expand and it retains the size at which it was bought. You can know that your climbing shoe is too big through the following ways;
Slack behind the heel
Your climbing shoe should be a snug fit in a way that there is no space between the heel and the shoe. A shoe with such a structure can be very distracting while climbing.
Excessive space around the toes
The rule of a snug fit shoe also still applies. If you can feel a space above your toes; it is not the right size for you. An uncomfortable shoe is not implied as to the right one here but anyone that has a good grip on your feet is okay.
Readily stretched shoes
Leather shoes can be stretched by using them in contrast to synthetic climbing shoes that remain the same in size. This informs your idea of the kind of shoe to buy. However, a leather shoe feels more comfortable, if it is carefully chosen in alignment with the requirements of climbing and your personal preference.
Why shrink climbing shoes?
Most of the time, climbers prefer tight-fitting climbing shoes and that is why shrinking the shoes is a common thing. Some climbers have new pairs of climbing shoes but do not dispose of the stretched ones. They prefer to shrink and reuse them. However, the inability to afford new pairs of climbing shoes is the sole reason for shrinking the shoes for some climbers.
The materials used in the making of the shoes also determine whether they can be shrunk or not. Synthetic climbing shoes do not expand so it is not possible to shrink them. Leather shoes expand with continual use hence necessitating shrinking to get the shoes back in good shape.
Overestimation of the size of climbing shoes that fit when shoe shopping and loss of weight are also common reasons for climbers to shrink their shoes.
How to shrink climbing shoes
All climbing shoes except the ones made from synthetic materials can be shrunk back to their previous size. Your shoes are probably stretched all ready for you to be here. If you’ve been climbing often with your newly bought shoes, there is a likelihood that you have a shoe with a weakened grip on your feet, and shrinking your shoe may be a rewarding skill provided you have no plans to purchase new ones.
The aim of shrinking your shoes is to achieve a tighter fit with fewer empty spaces. The extent of space you want between your feet and your climbing shoes can determine the method of shrinking you like to choose because the different methods offer varying effectiveness in the shrinking. The under-listed are the common methods for shrinking.
Wash your climbing shoes
This might sound strange but of all the methods of shrinking, you should adopt this first. It involves washing the shoes and air drying them until they dry. There is more of an interaction with the leather material which makes it get tightened. You should avoid putting your washed climbing shoes on before they dry because it may expand beyond how it was before washing. It is one of the best methods of shrinking, however, a shrunken will end up expanding later.
Put the climbing shoes in the heat
This method works well under hot climate conditions. Place your climbing shoes under direct sunlight throughout the day and don’t forget to take them in the night to prevent the moisture from dew which may initiate the growth of mold on your shoe.
Note that not all sources of heat are suitable for this method. Do not experiment with the microwave, the oven, or any other heating source except the heat from the sun. The microwave or oven can melt the rubber soles of your climbing shoes.
Use of socks
I recommend this method if you were not able to achieve your aim at shrinking your climbing shoes with the two mentioned above. It is the easiest of the methods and it saves time. Although it may be a deviation from the traditional fashion sense, it does work well if you do not have the luxury of time to try the other methods. Using the socks may slightly reduce how your feet perceive the rock beneath your feet but it compensates by filling up the empty spaces between your feet and the climbing shoe.
Ultimately, your climbing shoes cannot stay shrunken forever. You may have to purchase a new one when you have shrunken the life and durability out of the climbing shoe you are using. Provided you can afford it, you can get several pairs and alternately use them to increase their span of use.