How to Clean Rock Climbing Shoes: Wash & Care Guide

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A good, reliable pair of climbing shoes is essential when climbing. Very worn out climbing shoes can be slippery and no longer offer you a good grip. Since it is not easy to find the perfect climbing shoe, you should take care of your climbing shoes so that they last as long as possible.

In this article I will explain how you can wash and repair your climbing shoes and protect them from premature wear.

Smells and Odours Removal – Washing Climbing Shoes

Climbing shoes get regularly stressed and quickly become dirty or start to stink. Especially with frequent use this will be unavoidable and regular cleaning will make the climbing shoe last longer and protect you from stench.

Avoiding and Removing Odours

Shoe Deo Spray*

Climbing shoes do not normally have good ventilation. The moisture is trapped inside the shoe. In addition, many climbers climb barefoot in their climbing shoes. Such a humid and poorly ventilated environment is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. And then your climbing shoes stink.

The best way to remove the smell is to keep it out in the first place. If you let your shoes dry in fresh air immediately after climbing, the bacteria have no chance and no odour will develop. That’s why I always hang my climbing shoes on my backpack, for example, when I walk back from the climbing route to the camp or the car. By the time I get there, they’re usually dry.

If the shoes are very damp, you can support the drying process with some newspaper or kitchen paper.

Before you wash your climbing shoes, you should take harmless measures. You can use special shoe powder* or sprays* to remove the smell. Or you try a proven household remedy, baking soda. Bacteria don’t stand a chance against baking soda and your climbing shoes stay dry with this type of treatment. But be careful when using it and make sure you hit every corner of the shoe.

How to Wash Rock Climbing Shoes

If the stench can hardly be fought, washing the climbing shoes is the last resort. –> How to Clean Rock Climbing Shoes: Wash & Care Guide

Climbing shoes should not be washed in a washing machine. There are a few models that can handle this type of cleaning, but generally there is a high risk of ruining your precious climbing shoes. The detergent, the spinning around, the complete soaking of the shoes and the temperature damage the sole, weaken seams and can attack the adhesive.

Instead, you should wash them by hand. Lukewarm water and a gentle brush are usually sufficient. The water must not be hot! High temperatures not only attack the rubber of the sole, but also dissolve the adhesive.

If the smell is really bad, a non-aggressive antibacterial detergent could help. Wash the shoe until the sole is clean and no more dirty water comes out of the inside of the shoe.

After washing, let the climbing shoes drip off properly. Then you can dry them roughly with a cloth. It is best if the shoes dry in the air. If you want to speed up the process a little, you can dry them with a hairdryer at a low temperature setting. Stuff the inside of the shoes with newspaper to avoid shrinking.

Finally, you can spray some antibacterial spray into the shoes to prevent new bacteria from growing in the first place.

The result will rarely be an odourless shoe like after buying it. The more carefully and often you clean the climbing shoes, the better the result, of course.

However, to achieve the longest possible lifespan, it is better to find a sensible balance between a little smell and washing too often.

Climbing Shoe Care and Prevention

To avoid premature replacement or repair of your climbing shoes, you should protect them from damage and excessive wear from the outset. Prevention is cheaper and easier than the cost of a new pair or a new sole.

Here are a few tips to protect your climbing shoes:

  • Avoid sun and high temperatures: Direct sunlight or a hot trunk can deform the rubber of the sole or melt the adhesive.
  • Clean feet: If the day is very warm and you have walked with sandals to the climbing route, you should pay attention to clean feet before putting on your climbing shoes. This also applies if you generally climb barefoot in your climbing shoes, but still walk barefoot through the area before climbing.
  • Avoid odour: When you return home after a climbing session, you should take your climbing shoes out of your backpack so that the moisture can evaporate and no unpleasant odour spreads throughout your equipment.
  • Rubber sole washing: Dirt is the biggest enemy of the rubber sole of your climbing shoes. With every step a small part of the rubber is loosened and new dirt accumulates on the sole. All these small particles of dirt and rubber between the sole and the rock act together like sandpaper. Fortunately, this problem is easily solved: Each sole can be cleaned of dirt and grime with simple, lukewarm water and a not too hard brush. If you do this regularly, after every climbing session, your sole is optimally protected against premature wear and tear.
  • Use only for climbing: There are very comfortable climbing shoes in which you can also walk or hike. You should not do this, however, because the sole will wear out prematurely and the dirt that you collect on the sole will give you less support afterwards when climbing.
  • Bag for transport: To transport your climbing shoes optimally, you can use a simple bag. This protects them from sunlight and dirt.
  • The right climbing technique: How much the rubber sole of your climbing shoes wears depends on how you move your feet on the rock. Place your feet precisely and avoid slipping on the rocks. The toe region is particularly affected by this.

Repairing Climbing Shoes

Shoe Goo for damaged rubber*

If your climbing shoes have been damaged or the sole has been worn over time, it is time to repair them and replace the sole if necessary.

Small repairs can be done with special glue, Shoe Goo* for example is very suitable. Pay particular attention to the following, quickly worn areas:

  • The front part of the climbing shoes in which the toes lie.
  • The transition between the sole and the rest of the climbing shoes.
  • The ball of the foot.

To restore the grip on worn areas that have become too smooth, you can roughen them up again with coarse sandpaper. Be very careful and remove as little material as possible from the sole to avoid premature aging.

Resoling Climbing Shoes

If only the soles of your climbing shoes are badly damaged or worn out, new soles are probably better than buying you new shoes all together. There are also kits with which you can resole your climbing shoes yourself, but I would recommend that you have the resoling done professionally. In most climbing gyms resoling of climbing shoes is offered.

Final thoughts

Climbing shoes stink. But they don’t have to stink from 20 feet away. If you stick to a few tricks and preventive measures, you can avoid the worst smell.

If it should happen that you can’t smell anything other than your stinking shoes when climbing, you should wash them. And it’s not that difficult.

Proper care and prevention of premature wear and tear can significantly prolong the life of climbing shoes. This way you will have something of your loyal companions for a very long time!

Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.

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