Beginner Climbing Gear FAQs

Posted by Daniel Butler on
We get asked a lot of questions, especially by people who are new to the climbing scene about how to buy, use and care for their gear. Below are the answers to some of the questions we get asked most often.

Should I wear socks with my climbing shoes?

When buying a climbing shoe, one of the aims is to remove as much of the dead space in the shoe as possible. Having a sock in the climbing shoe adds to this dead space and also affects how well you can feel the footholds. For this reason, the majority of climbers will go barefoot in their climbing shoes to maximise their performance. However, some climbers do decide to wear socks to prevent their shoes from becoming smelly and to add to the comfort of the shoe. If this is the case, it is recommended that you wear thin socks and size your shoe accordingly when purchasing it. Also worth noting is that if you're buying climbing shoes for a kid who is still growing then sizing them with socks can give you longer life as they can initially wear them with socks and then without once their foot grows a little more. 

Which is the best rock climbing shoe?

The best climbing shoe is always the one that fits your foot and suits your needs at the time. Some climbing shoes put your feet in positions and under strains that they would not naturally experience and whilst these shoes may offer seasoned climbers a higher performance, they are usually not appropriate for beginners. Your feet have to build up a tolerance to deal with the shape of the shoes and your toes must build up enough strength to cope with these added strains. Beginner shoes are designed to keep the foot in a more natural position whilst also strengthening the feet in these ways. It's also worth noting that different models of shoes have different widths, lasts and overall volume which is why we carry a number of different models aimed at the same climbing "purpose". Hence the best climbing shoe for a newer climber is generally whichever of the beginner shoes fits you most snugly.

How tight is right for my climbing shoes?

A small amount of discomfort in new climbing shoes is usually acceptable as they will stretch to become comfortable but pain is not acceptable. However, this distinction can often be hard to make. For your first pair of climbing shoes it is a good idea to ask for staff assistance in sizing them up accurately. Whilst tighter shoes perform better, going too tight can make your climbing unenjoyable. When first wearing new shoes, they will take a little bit to wear in and during that period if you can wear them for 15 minutes at a time then you are doing pretty well. Keep in mind that when starting out climbing, climbing for a long time is going to make you a better climber, not having tight shoes. So don't push it too small because that's what your friends do. Firm but fair is a good rule. 

How long do rock climbing shoes last?

Climbing shoes themselves usually last a few years but the rubber on them wears down much more quickly. The period over which the rubber wears down can vary from a couple months to years with major factors including: type of rubber, abrasiveness of the wall, how often you climb and how precise your footwork is. When the rubber does wear down, they can be resoled to give them some extra life. This is also much cheaper than buying a new shoe. Most climbing gyms and shops are drop-off points for this resole service. For a more in-depth look at how long climbing shoe rubber lasts and when to get a resole click HERE

Can I use my rock climbing shoes outdoors?

All climbing shoes can be used both indoors and outdoors. Where they are used will affect the rate at which the rubber on them wears down but all of the beginner shoes are equally suited to all environments.

Why should climbing shoes be tight?

Climbing shoes should be tight for three main reasons. Firstly, taking up the whole volume of the shoe helps to maintain its rigidity when standing on smaller holds. Secondly, all shoes stretch slightly with use and getting them slightly tighter will ensure that the shoes don’t stretch to become too big. Finally, having a slight curl to your toes puts them in a position where they are able to exude more force on a hold, especially smaller ones. The aim though is to find a climbing shoe that is firm over your whole foot and not especially tight in one spot and loose in another. 

How do I care for my climbing shoes?

Climbing shoes don’t need much care beyond storage and usage considerations. They will last longer if they are taken off between climbs and not used to walk around in. They will also smell less if they are stored in a dry, well ventilated area. It is best to avoid getting your climbing shoes wet as this can cause them to change their shape. If they do get wet though you should try to dry them slowly to avoid large amounts of stretching. It is also best to avoid leaving them in places that can get hot, such as in the car as this can cause the rubber to delaminate.

How should I wear my chalk bag?

There are two main styles of attaching your chalk bag whilst climbing. Most chalk bags come with a thin belt that allows you to clip it around your waist. These belts are great because they hold your chalk bag higher on your back, making it easier for you to reach with both hands. Having it on a belt also stops it from twisting upside down which is especially important when climbing on roofs or scraping in chimneys.  The second most common method is using a carabiner to clip it onto your harness. While this means the chalk bag is a bit more awkward to get into, it does ensure that it doesn’t slide around the body as much and remains fairly stable although it can twist occasionally. If you are unsure which method to choose then make sure you keep the belt when you buy a chalk bag and give each a go.

How long do climbing harnesses last?

The life of a harness is very dependent on how often it is used. All harnesses should be inspected before use but are given a shelf life of 10 years as part of their certification. If used regularly, this period will be significantly shorter. Exposure to UV light or chemicals can degrade the nylon and cause them to weaken without any visual cues. The main area of wear is the tie-in point and belay loop at the front. Many harness models have "wear indicators" in these points which will often present as red material or stitching being exposed when it's time to replace it. Harnesses also wear down in other areas by rubbing against the climbing walls. Whether it has wear indicators or not, a good way to think about it is – if you are worried about the integrity of your harness, then it is time to get a new one.

Should I get a climbing package?

Climbing packages provide a way to purchase all of this introductory gear in one go at a reduced cost. They are a good idea for someone who has decided that climbing is something they are going to stick with. For more info click HERE

Which climbing chalk should I get?

Chalk comes in three main varieties; loose, in a ball and liquid. Although the majority of climbers use loos chalk,  It is generally a good idea to start with the chalk in a “chalk ball” as these are far cleaner than loose chalk and more cost effective than liquid chalk. They will also allow you to gauge how much chalk you really need. If you need more chalk it might be worth considering chunky loose chalk or even powdered chalk for more hand drying power. Normally liquid chalk is reserved for boulderers or sport climbers trying to send their hard projects as one application usually stays dry longer than an application of chalk powder, hence it helps you get through a hard section without having to chalk up. At the time of writing this however because of COVID protocols, most gyms are requiring all customers to only use liquid chalk. This is mainly because liquid chalk leaves less residue on climbing holds and in the air so it is thought to slow down any contaminated spread. So if you plan on climbing in a gym check the gyms guidelines, it is possible that you will have to use liquid chalk only. 


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