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Constant friction, pressure or small twisting movements on the rock put a lot of strain on climbing shoes on the sole. For this reason alone, it is worth equipping yourself with high-quality climbing shoes whose rubber compounds are more durable than others. There is one thing a passionate climber cannot afford: to slide down.
Here are the most important Tipps to keep a healthy sole and how to make your climbing shoes sticky again:
- Clean your climbing shoes often with warm water
- Rub the soles on one another just before climbing
- Remove the top rubber layer with sandpaper
Tiny details when climbing and a good grip of the sole are decisive for the success or failure of a climbing tour. Sometimes even about survival. So let’s take a look in detail at what you can do for your climbing shoes to get the sole back in shape as your grip declines.
The Problem: Worn Soles on Climbing Shoes
Despite excellent rubber compounds on high-quality climbing shoes, wear and tear cannot be prevented at certain points. Even the highest quality performance climbing shoes show signs of wear after a few months. The softer the rubber compound on the climbing shoe, the more likely it is to be the case. But this also means that safety on the rock is no longer 100 percent guaranteed. Of course, the owner could now exchange his climbing shoes for new ones and use an already worn-out model only for warm-up before climbing. But that’s expensive fun in the long run.
There are also several ways to improve the grip of a climbing shoe sole. Our tips have been described by experienced climbers and are now being used successfully by others. Not only is it possible to get heavily used climbing shoes back to a better grip, but the soles can also be patched or re-soled under certain conditions. The best condition for the long preservation of shoe quality is buying high-quality climbing shoes and their good care. If the aged rubber sole feels slippery due to friction, you should do something about it.
Important Rules to Maintain Grip
The first and most important advice for keeping the grip on the soles of climbing shoes as long as possible is to clean them every day after each use. It doesn’t matter whether your climbing shoes have been stressed during indoor or outdoor use.
In indoor climbing gyms, experience has shown that climbing shoe soles wear out faster and more strongly due to the rougher surfaces than on outdoor trips. Everywhere you go you’ll find dirt, chalk chunks and dust, floor wax or residues of cleaning agents. These leave their marks on the soles of your climbing shoes. Even dust particles not visible to you can reduce the grip of the climbing shoe soles.
For some climbers, it is enough to wipe the soles on the clothes before the next climbing tour. Then rub the soles of both shoes together to increase grip. It is even more effective to rub the sole of the other climbing shoe with the toe of one shoe. It creates some kind of eraser effect. Some climbers can actually use it for a while – but the trick does not work in the long run and not in nature. If the shoes have not been cleaned for several uses, this is due to a lack of grip. At the latest during the next climbing tour, every careless climber regrets not having cleaned his climbing shoe soles thoroughly enough.
In an emergency, the tardy climbing fan can help himself with some spit before climbing. The spit is put into the palm of the hand. Then use it to rub the dirty soles clean until the desired eraser effect is achieved. This ensures that the sole of the climbing shoes gets a better grip again. In the climbing gym, you should rather use a rough, slightly moistened cloth. Scrub and rub the rubber sole with it until it becomes duller and stickier again.
However, the correct and effective cleaning of climbing shoe soles is to wash the rubber soles with warm water. The most important part of cleaning is getting all the dirt particles that have dug themselves deep into the sole. When you see what kind of gunk you can squeeze out of the cleaned soles, you know what can’t be done well enough with makeshifts like spit or wet rags. After drying, the rubber soles on your climbing shoes are as grippy as when you bought them. In addition, the faster you clean the soles, the better the result.
In case of heavy dirt, you can also put alcohol on a cloth and clean the sole with it. But be careful: alcohol is a solvent.
Worn Rubber Shines and Becomes More Porous
Every use, whether in the indoor climbing gym or on outdoor climbing routes, does not only add dirt, but also abrasion and fissures to the rubber. It also provides for oxidative processes. This makes the rubber behave similarly to suit pants that are worn for years: it looks smoother and shinier on the surface. Every climber recognizes the reduction in grip by this signal. However, a lack of grip on the sole can be fatal. Therefore, the sole surface must be maintained to provide the necessary grip on the rock again.
It should be noted that the sole rubber only shows a lack of grip on the surface. With fine sandpaper, you can remedy it. With the sanding of the top layer of rubber, the climbing shoe sole looks almost like new again. The only question is how often this additional wear of the soles is feasible. Sooner or later a new climbing shoe will have to be purchased because the sole abrasion is too great after several climbing adventures and sandpaper paper treatments.
The qualities of certain rubber compounds, the frictional behavior of a certain climbing shoe sole and the exchange of tips on how to get the worn soles back to grip as quickly as possible are not a much-discussed topic among climbing fans for nothing.
Are there Climbing Shoes with Soles that don’t lose Grip?
All climbing shoe soles have one thing in common: they wear out, become smoother and less grippy. No matter which rubber mixture is invented, no matter which manufacturer has put his effort into it: No one has yet succeeded in inventing the perfect rubber compound that beats everyone else by far.
New climbing shoe soles are wonderfully dull, grippy and sticky. But rubber is relatively porous. This also makes it possible for dust and dirt particles to settle in the rubber surface. That makes them less grippy. Instead, the sole appears smoother and more slippery on the surface. This effect occurs surprisingly quickly – for example when trying new shoes on for the first time. While you are still sticking to the carpet during the first steps, you will feel how the soles become gradually less sticky with each step.
What also affects the grip of the soles is sunlight. The life and grip of a rubber sole can be considerably increased if the climbing shoes are never placed in the sun or stored to hot. The fact is that the rubber compounds on climbing shoe soles are made flexible with the help of plasticizers. UV rays and heat damage the plasticizers. The rubber compound becomes porous and brittle due to heat. It loses its frictional force.
In addition, the adhesives used can also dissolve under the influence of heat. This also detaches the sole from the climbing shoe. Some climbers have already regretted storing their climbing shoes in the trunk of their car in summer.
What to do if the Sole Rubber shows Cracks?
Apart from the fact that worn rubber soles become increasingly slippery, they can develop small cracks. The climbing shoes can lose their shape because they are kept on even during a break in climbing.
One mechanical problem is the formation of dandruff in the rubber. These occur mainly below the big toe. In some climbing shoe brochures, the product copywriters sell this as a development to the “Mega-Grip”. The fact is, however, that the scales are actually micro-fine cracks in the sole rubber. Most climbers enjoy the excellent grip that this provides. The only stupid thing is that the micro-fine cracks in the rubber increase and deepen with every step, with every sharp burr and every turn. Sometimes you discover a crack or a hole under the big toe.
Thinner and softer rubber compounds are particularly frequently affected by dandruff and crack formation. The only thing that’ll help here is a repair. In order to prevent this, the sole should be sanded at the scaly spot with fine sandpaper with a grain size of 100* to a maximum of 300* before a crack is formed. This can take a while with very fine sandpaper. But the work is worth it because the grip of the climbing shoes improves noticeably. The rubber looks like new.
You can achieve a similar effect with a wire brush. If there is too much pressure on the brush, however, the abrasion is sometimes too much.
Emergency Repairs and Resoling – Good or Bad?
Climbing shoes with soft rubber soles are less resistant than harder ones. Often really good climbing shoes get thrown into the trash before their time or are only used for climbing with high temperatures. This not only increases the mountains of waste by one more item subject to wear and tear but also causes an unnecessary waste of money. Good climbing shoes can be repaired as well as re-soled. It is worthwhile, with well-climbed and high-quality climbing shoes, to deal with both possibilities.
If an expert repair is to be carried out, various specialist companies are available. The specialists in this field are able to make the climbing shoe look almost as good as new. Also, the grip is back as it should be. You can get addresses from climbing gyms. These usually have to offer a soling service that can be used cost-effectively.
Some climbing shoes are resoled five times and are still suitable for indoor use. The costs for a new sole are usually in the range of 20 or 30 bucks. If the edge rubbers are also renewed, you have to pay another 15 bucks. In addition, there are shipping costs. The end result is qualitatively similar to the grip on a new climbing shoe. In addition to new soles, shoe disinfections, reductions in the size of excessively extended climbing shoes, alterations to certain foot problems or repairs to cracks are possible. The sooner the repair is ordered, the longer the climbing shoe will last and the cheaper the repair is.
Do-it-yourself emergency repairs can be done by anyone on the go with a handy repair kit* containing rubber patches. The vulcanizer and the sandpaper are included in the set as with the bicycle repair kit. Any repair or re-soling of a rundown and worn climbing shoe makes sense if it is done early on. It guarantees a good grip, protects the foot and offers more safety when climbing. So it is not always necessary to buy a new climbing shoe!
Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on climbtheearth.com 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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