Climbing 101: What is Cutting Feet (and how to Prevent it)

Cutting feet is the act of both feet cutting loose while climbing or bouldering. Cutting feet usually occurs during an overhang where the climber is climbing hands first and using their feet as an afterthought. As a result, their feet will cut loose from the wall.

Climbing hands first on any other type of wall isn’t punished like it is during overhangs. If you don’t have good foot placements, you are not going to send that overhung boulder. Unless you are strong enough to campus it, of course.

How to prevent cutting feet on overhangs

To avoid cutting your feet, you will have to maintain body tension.

Body tension describes one’s ability to keep their feet on the wall and apply downward force through foot placement. Body tension is often broken by a climber by a climber aiming for a far-away hold without applying force through their feet, as a result, the feet come off the wall.

Keeping your feet on the wall and maintaining body tension is a result of both strength and skill in climbing. Experience is necessary to be aware of your body while climbing and core strength is vital to keep your feet on the wall.

In other words, your ability to maintain body tension isn’t going to change overnight. You will have to train muscle groups (primarily your core) and be mindful of your foot placements.

👉 Check out our Core Workout for Climbers

Rockentry has a really good video on body tension. He demonstrates what it looks like to break body tension as well as how to maintain body tension.

Is cutting feet bad?

While it is most commonly a result of sloppy footwork and flawed body tension, cutting feet isn’t always bad. Sometimes, it is next to impossible to keep your feet on the wall, and cutting loose is your only option. As long as your core can handle the extra pressure and you can manage to get your feet back on the wall and finish the climb, there is nothing bad about it.

That being said, you should avoid cutting your feet as much as possible as it will drain a ton of energy.

Watch the pros to learn how they prevent cutting feet

One tip I cannot recommend enough is to watch climbing professionals and see how they prevent cutting their feet on the wall. Climbers like Ashima Shiraishi, Janja Garnbrett, Adam Ondra, and Seo Chae-Hyun are phenomenal at keeping their feet on the wall at all times.

If you aren’t doing this already, I recommend you watch the IFSC competitions on YouTube. Especially the lead competitions are great to study footwork, and body tension.

The 2022 Innsbruck Women’s Lead Finals had an overhang portion where the climbers were forced to cut feet.

Janja Garnbrett briefly cutting feet and regaining momentum during the crux at 2022 Innsbruck Women’s Lead Finals | Screengrab from IFSC

You can find the replays of IFSC competitions on the IFSC YouTube channel as well as cut versions of the competitions on the All Climbing Youtube Channel (recommended).

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