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A Rock Climber’s Guide to the Basics of Climbing Footwork

Last updated January 24, 2022| Learning

Rock climbing is an amazing sport. It takes a lot of skill, determination and patience to become proficient. And the only way you can get those skills is by practicing.

But more importantly, rock climbing is a sport that relies heavily on the feet and good climbing footwork is the foundation of a successful climb. If your footwork has sloppy technique, it can cause injury or lead to falls off of climbs. For this reason, it’s important for rock climbers to have a solid understanding of how their feet work when they are climbing, as well as what techniques will give them the best chance at success while also preventing injury. In this article, we’ll cover some basics about footwork in rock climbing so that you can start building an arsenal of knowledge about how your feet should be used on every climb that comes your way!

A Rock Climber's Guide to the Basics of Climbing Footwork

Climbing Shoes

If you’ve ever gone rock climbing, then you already know that your choice of footwear isn’t just important for comfort; it can also make a huge difference in the effectiveness and efficiency of your footwork.

You wouldn’t go run a marathon on regular shoes, so why would you risk your life hoisting yourself up rock faces with inappropriate footwear?

The rock climbing shoe has evolved from a good idea during the days of simple pitons and basic rock climbing to the necessity it is these days. Modern rock shoes are shaped for precision fit, feature sticky rubber soles and offer increased support and sensitivity on rock, so you can trust your footwork in rock climbing.

Rock climbing shoes are a footwear item that should be considered an investment, as its quality will impact your climb greatly. A faulty pair of rock shoes can make even the simplest rock climb seem challenging and dangerous. If you are serious about rock climbing, treat yourself to rock shoes made by quality manufacturers like Black Diamond, Scarpa and La Sportiva.

Make sure to check out our extensive climbing shoe buying guide:

The rock climbing shoe is designed to offer a custom fit for the rock climber. The rock shoe has a softer sole, allowing you to feel slight changes in rock surfaces and even use features like small ledges as effective footholds. Rock shoes are grippy on rock, but still allow tight footwork so you can easily maintain balance and stability when rock climbing.

Make sure you spend the right amount of time trying on shoes and getting the exact right fit for your feet. You want a small bit of room but not too much, or you won’t have the sort of control you need over the surface. If your shoes are too small you’ll be putting your toes directly on the edge of each rock you try to step to.

Also, make sure to keep your climbing shoes clean at all times. This way, you will always have the best traction available for rock climbing and your shoes will last much longer.

Clean the pair after every use, toss dirt that builds up on the sides of the soles, and brush away any deeper stains and interior dirt with a shoe cleaner or brush.

A Rock Climber's Guide to the Basics of Climbing Footwork - Climbing Shoes

Physical Strength and Flexibility

It’s no secret that rock climbing can be physically taxing. It requires a ton of upper body strength and strong footwork, along with a lot of flexibility.

There are certain rock climbing techniques that require great physical strength and some rock climbing moves that need tremendous flexibility. Rock climbing requires not only the technical rock climbing skills you’ll learn in rock-climbing classes but an abundance of strength and agility as well.

To climb, you’ll need to be a moderately strong person and have enough leg strength; this can be worked on through exercises like leg presses or cycling. Before anyone starts climbing they should consider bulking up some more so that their foot strength will come slightly faster.

Stretching and achieving a suitable level of flexibility is important as well. You want to make sure that you can handle the agile moves and stretches you’ll be performing with your feet. Not all rock climbing techniques are going to require a great deal of flexibility, but many rock climbing moves will.

You can maximize the effectiveness of your rock climbing footwork by working on your overall strength and reaching for that new level of flexibility. More advanced rock climbers are often more than happy to offer advice.

Some rock climbing moves can take a lifetime to master, requiring you to move with agility, power and precision. To become an advanced rock climber, you’ll need to have rock-solid balance in rock climbing when moving your weight upwards, as well as downward and sideways.

A Rock Climber's Guide to the Basics of Climbing Footwork: Physical Strength and Flexibility

Looking For Footholds

Knowing where the footholds are is one of the most important factors of basic footwork, which will improve your climbing skills. Before starting your climb, you can already easily find some of these from the ground and they give you a helping hand for starting routes. Not knowing about them may mean slipping off the climb because of exhaustion or bad handholds along the route.

Plan out footwork before you take the next step. Carefully pay attention to footholds and their placement in order to keep your balance while climbing up a mountainside. Ensure that all footholds are stable as you put pressure on them so they do not release. It may be necessary to brace yourself with one of your hands or feet in order to rock climb properly.

Once you know where to set your foot and what a good foothold feels like it’s a lot easier to get up the rock face. At that point, your climbing shoes will do a lot of the work for you, as these are specially built to seek out those footholds and hold them well. Knowing how to find a good foothold and where to set your foot makes the entire process much easier.

A Rock Climber's Guide to the Basics of Climbing Footwork: Footholds

Final Thoughts

Footwork is a crucial element of rock climbing because it can make or break the entire climb. The rock climber needs to be aware that rock shoes are an important investment, and should take steps to ensure they have the right fit before starting on their route. In addition, when looking for an appropriate foothold, climbers need to use all senses in order to find one that will hold them securely while still allowing them agility along with stability as they move up the rock face. Finally, by following these tips you’ll be able to build physical strength and flexibility so that your footwork becomes more powerful over time!

For beginners, footwork is a crucial skill to master. Once mastered, it becomes second nature and provides any climber with a much better climbing experience!

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