If you’re hitting the crags or the gym hard, your climbing shoes are bound to show signs of wear and tear. Just like your car tires take a hit with every spin, the rubber on your climbing shoes bears the brunt of every step, every hold, and every daring move you make on that vertical playground.
The lifespan of that trusty rubber depends on a few factors: how often you climb, the finesse of your footwork, and the ruggedness of the rocks or the grit of the gym walls you’re tackling. Even if your foot placements are so spot-on they could win an award, wear and tear is inevitable. The usual suspects for the first signs of wear are the toes, sides, and ball of the foot.
As time goes on, dirt and chalk sneak into the grooves of the rubber, playing down the friction and making your shoes less effective.
And it’s not just the old, war-hardened shoes that suffer. Even the fresh, right-out-of-the-box pairs can feel like they’re skating on the holds.
But don’t fret, there are ways to resurrect that grippy feel depending on the age and adventure-level of your shoes. Here’s a rundown of some go-to methods to bring back the stickiness to your climbing soles:
How To Make Your Climbing Shoes Sticky Again
Craving for that fresh-out-of-the-box grip again? The way I see it, there are five options when it comes to adding more friction to your footwear.
1) Warm Them Up
By far the easiest way to gain some extra friction is to warm your rubber up. All climbing shoe soles are made of a rubber compound that will become stickier when heated. If it’s a warm day, leaving your shoes out for a bit will definitely help with friction, just make sure not to leave them in direct sunlight or the glue will start to melt and the rubber will warp.
the best way to warm your shoes is to rub the soles against each other for a minute or two. The rubbing will generate friction, which creates heat and makes your soles more malleable and sticky.
So, if you are looking for an easy win for extra friction, next time you’re getting frustrated with your footwork, why not give this a shot? I guarantee you’ll be able to feel the difference.
2) Clean Them
Whether you bought them yesterday or 5 years ago, your climbing shoes will always benefit from a wash. This is my favorite option when trying to revive some of the friction in your climbing shoes. Providing you clean them properly, you won’t do any damage to your climbing shoe by giving them a gentle scrub, is a massive bonus.
If you are doing a lot of outdoor climbing, then I would strongly recommend giving your soles some T.L.C. after every second or third trip. Even if you are just climbing in the gym, after a couple of sessions you may start to feel that your shoes will benefit from a good scrub.
With a scrubbing brush and a bucket of warm water (not too hot so that it will mess with the glue) start to scrub the soles of your shoe. You will quickly see the amount of dirt that has accumulated on the bottom of the shoe. When doing this I tend to keep them pointed down, so the dirt and water runs off the tip of the toe.
Once you have scrubbed the entire sole of both shoes, set them in the sun to dry or with a towel. Job done.
3) Sand them
If your climbing shoes are on their last legs, the chances are that cleaning your shoes isn’t going to help much. The good news is that there’s another quick fix that you can try. If you have some sandpaper lying around – you’re in luck – because these can be pretty handy tools for adding some grip to an old pair of shoes.
Be warned, this is an old-school trick I learned many years ago, and a method I wouldn’t recommend for new shoes. Really, I would only employ the sandpaper method if I want to squeeze the last bit of life out of a very slick pair of shoes. Gently rough up the entire sole until you start to see the shiny surface disappear. You will see the rubber become darker and fresh.
The idea here is that you are gently removing the surface layer of rubber, which may have become slick from dirt, grime, and rubbing against the wall. It does work, but it’s an invasive method that involves deliberately wearing your rubber down to get a fresher feel, which can have an impact on their lifespan.
4) Resole Your Shoes
When there’s no saving severely worn-out rubber, then there’s really only one option left: a resole. Resoling climbing shoes is a great way to breathe new life into your beloved climbing shoes. A resole not only helps reduce waste and minimize your environmental impact, but it can also work wonders for your old shoes. If you think you have the ability and patience (which I definitely don’t) you could try fix your shoes yourself. If there is only slight wearing to your sole and rand, you can use some strong shoe glue to do some patchwork. If it’s anything more serious than that, I suggest leaving it to the pros.
5) Buy New Ones
If all hope is lost and your shoes have gone through multiple rounds of resoles, then it might be worth taking a look at getting some new shoes. If you are tempted to treat yourself to a new pair of climbing kicks make sure to take a look at some of our shoe reviews, there is something to suit every budget and climbing style.
Why are my new climbing shoes slipping?
If you have noticed that your new climbing shoes slipping, you certainly aren’t alone on this, it’s a common issues with new shoes. From my experience, there are two reasons why new shoes can feel slippy.
1. Your shoes haven’t been broken in properly – The most likely reason new climbers are finding a lack of grip in their climbing shoes. New rubber sometimes needs a little bit of use to get rid of the layer of grime that can build up during manufacturing. After a couple of burns on the wall, you should notice that the top layer or rubber will wear down, leaving you with a fresh rough layer underneath.
2. Your shoes use cheap rubber – If you have bought a pair of budget climbing shoes, then there’s a good chance that the rubber might not exactly be the best quality. Climbing shoe rubber is not created equal. Some compounds offer noticeably better levels of friction than others. The most sought-after compounds include Vibram XS Grip 2, Trax SAS and Science Friction. Cheap shoes tend to use cheaper rubber to keep costs down.
What Method Are You Trying?
When it comes to making your climbing shoes sticky again, you should definitely try a few of these tricks before writing your shoes off. It’s not always easy to find somewhere that will resole your shoes, it might be easier just to buy a new pair. If you are in the mood for new climbing shoes, make sure to take a look at some of our shoe reviews.