Whether or not you should walk in climbing shoes is something climbers have been arguing about for ages. Some climbers take off their shoes after every route/problem and others wear them all day long. What gives, who is right?
Well, the answer mostly depends on the climbing shoe in particular.
Comfortable beginner or rental shoes can be worn all day long. There is no problem with this as these shoes are usually made from durable, stiff rubber and don’t have any type of asymmetry that can be ruined by walking in them. However, if you have expensive, downturned performance shoes, you should avoid walking in your climbing shoes as much as possible.
This is because the downturned shape of your climbing shoe can quickly lose its shape when walking in them. Besides, these climbing shoes should be tight enough that walking in them simply isn’t comfortable.
Should you walk in climbing shoes?
Climbing shoes should only be walked in if you don’t care about the lifespan of the shoe. So by all means, keep your beginner shoes on in the climbing gym. But if you want to preserve the lifespan of your more expensive, asymmetric climbing shoes, you should take them off after each boulder problem or route.
Reasons walking in climbing shoes is bad
Not convinced yet? Here is a list of reasons why you should take off your climbing shoes when walking around at the climbing gym or crag.
Climbing shoes are uncomfortable
Unless you are on your first pair of climbing shoes, your climbing shoes are likely tight enough that they aren’t comfortable whenever you are wearing them. So why put yourself through that? Take off those climbing shoes when you are not climbing! Your feet will thank you!
Walking lessons their lifespan
Climbing shoes have a layer of rubber at the bottom of the shoe to help you with edging, smearing, and so forth. Through constant use, this rubber is usually the first thing to wear out in a climbing shoe, requiring you to either get it resoled, or purchase an entirely new shoe.
This rubber is not designed for walking and when you walk in your climbing shoes, you are wearing out the rubber.
While it might not wear out as quickly while walking on mattresses in the climbing gym, the rubber will definitely wear out fast when walking outdoors.
Walking ruins their shape
Aggressive, downturned climbing shoes are uncomfortable to wear but damn they perform well when climbing. The downturned nature allows you to really claw down in those steep overhangs. Wouldn’t it be a shame if your expensive, performance climbing shoes lost this benefit?
Well then, don’t wear your climbing shoes when you are not climbing!
The downturned shape is designed for climbing overhangs, not for walking around. Every step you take, you are slowly wearing out their shape.
Look at this pair of La Sportiva Solutions. They look glorious, don’t they? But at their price point, you have to take care of those puppies!
If you have asymmetric shoes just like solutions, you should not climb in them to preserve their downturned shape.
Your feet breathe less
One last reason to take off your climbing shoes when walking is that walking will make your feet even more sweaty and smelly.
Why not let them breathe while you aren’t climbing? Take off your tight climbing shoes and let them breathe while you are walking around, socializing, or belaying. Your feet will thank you at the end of the session and your climbing shoes will be much less smelly in the future.
Should you walk in your climbing shoes when breaking them in?
If you are in the process of breaking in your climbing shoes, you should avoid walking in them. The break-in period is already painful enough, walking in tight climbing shoes is much too painful. But aside from that, walking will ruin their shape before you are even climbing in them.
If you are breaking in your shoes, wear them in front of the TV, read a book or wear them while you work. You can also wear them while climbing of course, which is the best way to break in climbing shoes.
When should you not wear climbing shoes?
As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t wear climbing shoes when you aren’t climbing. Here are some other times you should not wear climbing shoes.
❌ Don’t wear climbing shoes when walking around the gym
As this article has made abundantly clear (hopefully), walking in climbing shoes should be avoided to lengthen the lifespan of the shoe.
❌ Don’t wear climbing shoes while you are belaying
Climbing shoes are super uncomfortable and when you are belaying someone, the last thing you want to be is uncomfortable. You can belay barefoot at the climbing gym or in your approach shoes if you are outdoors. Some climbers even bring slipper, crocs, or other footwear to use while they are belaying.
❌ Don’t wear climbing shoes when going to the bathroom
I hope this one is clear enough but you should never ever wear climbing shoes to the bathroom of a climbing gym. Even if you walk in your climbing shoes (e.g. you are wearing rentals), you should take them off and wear your street shoes when you go to the bathroom.
Bathrooms are nasty places so you don’t want those germs to get all over your climbing shoes which you will use to step on holds (including handholds).
If this one came as a surprise to you, I would also like to remind you to wash your hands after going to the bathroom at the climbing gym. Nobody wants those germs on the handholds.
How to correctly wear climbing shoes
You should put your climbing shoes on before attempting a boulder problem and take them off right after your send. This way, you will prevent wear and tear of the shoe and preserve the lifespan, your shoes will keep their downturned nature much longer, your feet will be more comfortable and you will have less stinky feet!
To quickly get in and out of climbing shoes, we recommend that you get shoes with a velcro strap instead of laces.
Climbers take off their climbing shoes not just because they are uncomfortable, but also because it will increase the lifespan of their climbing shoes. If you want to do the same, you should always take off your climbing shoes when doing anything but climbing.
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