By Ian King, Misty Ambassador and owner of Onsight Resoles
This might seem counter-intuitive, but the best thing you can do to extend the life of your shoes is…buy more shoes…
Think about it, your climbing shoes is the most expensive part of your rack. Yeah, ropes are expensive. So are harnesses, trad gear, and even crash pads. But they all last years, even when used 2-4 times a week. Good climbing shoes on the other hand cost between $100 – $200 dollars a pair and wear extremely fast compared to the rest of our gear.
I get a lot of customers thinking they shouldn’t need a resole because they just got their shoes 2-3 months ago. Trust me, any driven climber can wear through the soles of their shoes in 2-3 months.
Tommy Caldwell actually told me once he would get about 120 pitches out of a pair of TC Pros before considering a resole. However, on the hardest pitches of the Dawn Wall he was only able to do around 20 pitches in a new pair before the edge of the sole broke down just enough that they couldn’t be used for the most difficult edging sections. He still got plenty of use from these pairs on other pitches of the route—just not the pitches with the tiniest of edges. Maybe you can relate with your hardest project?
By the time my beloved TC Pros needed their 4th resole my crack climbing habits had worn through the side rands or the shoe and a standard toe cap repair wasn’t going to do the trick. So I decided to get fancy and do a full rand replacement because I wanted to push my cobbling skills and at this point I’ve had these shoes for 6 years and I really love them. It’s no telling how many climbs we’ve been on together but they’ve touched rock in like 10 states at this point. Why stop now? #fullrandrepairs #newtechniques #wornwear
Think of it this way, you bought a brand spanking new car and you drive it a lot and you drive it hard. Do you expect your tires to last a long time just because your car was expensive? I doubt it.
The same goes for your shoes.
They are expensive because they’re fine-tuned machines that aren’t easy to make. Not because they are supposed to last forever. Certain parts of most climbing shoes are crafted by hand, not machines. This is what you’re paying for—not long-lasting rubber on the bottom of the shoe. We want our rubber to be soft and sticky so we stay on the rocks. Unfortunately, soft and sticky isn’t going to equate to long-lasting.
So what can you do to save money on shoes?
Build yourself quiver of shoes, rotate them out, and send them for a resole before—not after—the rubber completely runs out.
This might mean you buy 4 pairs of shoes this year, instead of buying 2 pairs and climbing in them until they are completely trashed like you normally do. Yeah, you’ll spend 2-3 times what you normally would upfront, but then you can save tons over the life of those shoes by resoling them.
You can save even more by getting them resoled all at once when Onsight Resoles is in your area, or save on shipping and time when you send them to a mail order resoler all at once. You’ll end up getting 4 pairs with fresh rubber for approximately the cost of one pair brand new, and most shoes can take 2-4 resoles with no problem as long as you take care of them.
What are other advantages to buying multiple pairs of shoes?
- You can break them in as you get the chance by rotating through them.
This means you can break them in on your warm ups or at the gym and get several pairs to their sweet spot just in time for the sending temps when all of your hard projects go down.
- You can also change up the rubber on your shoes.
Perhaps you like La Sportiva shoes but prefer FiveTen C4 rubber. A resoler can make that happen. Maybe Evolvs fit your foot but you prefer Vibram rubber. That too is a possibility!
- Finally, having multiple pairs of shoes will save you a lot of frustration when it’s time to resole or when your size/model becomes unavailable in the US retail market.
Climbing is blowing up so fast, shoe manufacturers and resolers are having a hard time keeping up. Rock shoe manufacturing and resoling isn’t a speedy process. This is why you have to wait 6 weeks for some mail order resolers and why major retailers run out of popular sizes of models for months at a time. Having multiple pairs of your favorite shoe can keep you from having to demo another shoe just because stores are all stocked out of your favorites for the next 2 months.
What are some other tips to take care of/get the most out of your rock shoes?
- Let them air out after climbing in them. I prefer to clip them to the outside of my pack to dry out instead of letting them stay soggy and stinky inside my pack. This not only keeps the smells down but also lengthens the lifespan of the rubbers and fibers of the shoe.
- Don’t walk around in your rock shoes! This not only wears out the rubber faster, it stresses out the midsole, which is where you get the stiffness in your shoe. Walking around in your rock shoes will make them dirty, greasy, and slick feeling due to the chalk on the gym floors and the dirt, mud, and grime at the crag funking up the sole rubber. Just don’t do it!
- Don’t leave your shoes in your car, or at least keep them out of direct sunlight. The sun and heat will cause delamination of the materials and can cause your shoes to fall apart.
- Be gentle when putting them on! Don’t crank down on the Velcro straps. This friction will wear out your strap material faster. Ask anyone who’s ever broken through their strap on their La Sportiva Solutions. The same goes for laces. Chill out and use some finesse!
- Use your old shoes at the gym. Gym climbing will wear out shoes fast, and unless you’re in a competition, what’s the point in tearing up your $170 pair of shoes just to send the pink route in the corner? Unless I’m trying to break in a brand-new pair of shoes by climbing a couple of pitches indoors, I always encourage people to use their oldest shoes that have been resoled the most indoors. Save the newer, more valuable pairs for your proj!
- Don’t drag your toes! Toe dragging will damage the rand rubber, which is on top of the toe of the shoe. This becomes a more costly resole repair. Sometimes toe dragging happens on a send when you’re absolutely redlined on your rig. That’s forgivable. However, if you find yourself toe dragging a lot, consider working on your technique and even backing down the grades a bit until you’re strong enough to send with better footwork.
I hope this helps you get more life and better performance out of your climbing shoes. Be safe out there, and check my website or Instagram to find me on the road for your resoling needs!