What is a climbing shoe rand?
Everything you need to know about this clever shoe tech.
Regardless if you are a beginner gym climber or a seasoned alpinist on the big walls of Patagonia, all our climbing shoes share some very important similarities. Some are glaringly obvious, others less so.
Every climbing shoe needs a closure system, for example. Manufacturers have the choice between lace, velcro, or elasticated closures. Shoes also need a material upper, made from leather, synthetic fabrics, or a hybrid of both.
When it comes to the less obvious similarities, almost every shoe (with the exception of some very soft ones) will have a midsole, hidden between the footbed and the outsole of the shoe.
Perhaps the most important component that every modern climbing shares though is a rand.
You might have come across this term while looking for new shoes, or perhaps heard a fellow climber mention it once or twice. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a new concept to you, I am sure most climbers have absolutely no clue what this mysterious, yet crucial, technology is.
So, what is a rand then? And why are they so important for climbing shoes?
I’m so glad you asked!
What Is A Climbing Shoe Rand?
Take a quick look at your climbing shoes right now. Regardless of what make or model you are rocking, I guarantee that there is a lot more rubber on those bad boys than just the stuff you stand on.
The rubber that you can see around the sides, back, and front of your shoe is what we refer to as the rand.
If you take a look at the picture below, you can clearly see where the outsole ends and the rand starts.
What Does A Rand Do?
Rands have endless benefits and functions on climbing shoes. For starters, that rubber you see on the side of your shoes wraps underneath the sole, and acts as the base on which shoemakers glue the rubber outsole onto the shoe.
This allows for a seamless, and strong, connection between the material upper and rubber sole of the shoe. I’m no shoemaker, but I bet we would see far more delaminating soles or ripped uppers if manufacturers glued the outsole straight onto the material part of the shoe.
Manufacturing processes aside, the rand is also a fundamental contributor to shoe performance and the overall durability of your shoe.
One of the main reasons why climbing shoe manufacturers invest so much time and money into developing new rand technology is because they create tension throughout the shoe. These tightly stretched pieces of rubber act like an elasticated band tightly gripping your foot, ensuring the shoe stays laser-precise when you are climbing. This tensioned rubber also helps climbing shoes keep their cambered and asymmetrical shapes, increasing the lifespan of our shoes.
You can feel the rand working its magic when you balance on a small edge and the back of the shoe pushes on the back of your heel. Could you imagine how sloppy your shoes (and footwork) would be without that suction-like fit?
Another reason why a rand is an essential addition to a climbing shoe is because they project the highest wearing areas from abrasion. The gym wall, or rock face, is like sandpaper on the material upper, which can cause significant damage to your precious shoes. The rubber rand will prevent popping a hole on these high wear areas on your first outing.
On a similar note, rands are made of high-friction rubber, similar to the stuff on the bottom of the shoe. This provides plenty of friction for foot jamming and scumming your way up a route. Most rands extend across the top of your toes too, creating what we call a toe rand. Most bouldering and sport climbing-specific shoes stick extra rubber on top of this, to create an extended toe patch, built for sticking the gnarliest of gnarly toe hooks.
Different Types of Rands
Climbing shoe designers have also been getting creative with the rand technology to deliver those amazing benefits we just discussed.
All climbing shoes employ some kind of rand tensioning system, with different climbing shoe manufacturers using their technology to give their shoes the edge in performance and durability.
Here’s a few examples of rands that are being used on our climbing shoes.
The Slingshot Rand
The slingshot rand is, by far, one of the most common types of rand systems used to create tension in our climbing shoes.
A slingshot rand is a single strip of rubber that wraps around the back of your heel and the bottom of your foot. This design helps the shoe stay secure when you apply weight to your toes, helps you stick heel hooks, and also plays a role in minimizing the stretch of the material uppers.
The slingshot rand technology was first developed by Five Ten in 1991 and quickly put to use on the Five Ten Moccasym, released in 1992. This clever design (combined with an asymmetrical shape) was one of the essential components that allowed this slipper to stay secure and is partly responsible for why the Moccs became a hugely iconic shoe, even to this day.
The P3 Platform
La Sportiva’s P3 platform is a more advanced version of a slingshot rand. P3, short for Permanent Power Platform, this design begins under the toes (as opposed to the midfoot) and wraps around the entire foot. This design enhances the benefits of a slingshot, helping power transmission throughout the shoe, whilst ensuring aggressive climbing shoes maintain their downturned camber for years to come.
Bi-Tension and PCB Rands
Scarpa seems to be constantly churning out new rand technology for both their performance and beginner shoe lines.
The Bi-Tension brand is one of their most popular tension systems. It is essentially a reversed slingshot anchored under the toe area, connecting directly to the heel. This design actively pulls power from the toes instead of cramming them forward. This can be found on everything from their all round models like the Vapor V, to their gym specific shoes like the Veloce.
Another rand system Scarpa uses is their PCB tensioning system. The PCB (Power Connection Band) transfers power from the toe to the heel, giving the shoes a blend of power without impacting sensitivity. If you are a fan of the Drago or Chimera, you can see these colorful rands in action on the bottom of the shoe.
Czech Manufacturer Ocun’s patented 3-Force System wraps the rubber strap around the front of the shoe, distributing the weight throughout the foot and providing precise pressure distribution. The result? Higher stiffness and better edging on tiny footholds.
Boreal’s V2 is a modern take on the slingshot rand. Their design uses two bands, instead of the traditional single band of a slingshot, to create tension towards the arch and front of the shoe. By focusing tension in the front, any dead space is eliminated for a more precise fit.
Congratulations, you are now a master of the rand
The growing popularity of rock climbing has done wonders for climbing technology, with manufacturers scrambling to meet the needs of crushers looking for the perfect mix of performance, durability and comfort.
While the rubber rand on your shoe’s upper might look deceptively simple, as you now know, rand tensioning technology is anything but.
Modern climbing shoes now have a multitude of different features and technologies, making a massive difference in comfort, fit, and ultimately, performance.