Climbing shoes are temperamental creatures. Too much heat and the rubber can warp. Too much water and they can fall apart. Careless technique and clumsy foot-dragging will leave your shoes with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese.
So what can we do to keep your climbing kicks happy? Sure, clean footwork and correct shoe care are essential, but properly storing your climbing shoes is an easy win in the endless game of shoe preservation.
Proper climbing shoe storage does more than just keep those funky odors at bay, it can also maintain the stickiness of your precious rubber, as well as preserve that beautiful downturned camber of your aggressive shoes.
Yet sadly, no matter how hard you try, eventually we all have to resole, or replace, our shoes. So how do we delay the inevitable? Here are a few tips on how I store my climbing shoes, and what you can do to help prolong the life of your own shoes.
How Do I Store Climbing Shoes To Maximize Their Life?
Your Gym Bag – Pack It Wisely
Within the endless black hole known as your gym bag, your climbing kicks need prime real estate. They should never live at the bottom of your bag with heavy hardware squishing them and warping their shape.
They should live on top of your pack above everything else, and ideally, in a separate shoe bag to protect them from the chalk and dirt that will inescapably find its way in. If you have shoes with velcro, close the straps neatly to prevent dust and dirt from getting trapped.
Remove them from your pack the moment you get back, and never store them wet. Let them air out in a garage or any well-ventilated, cool, place around your house.
If you have a long way to travel home from the gym or crag, consider strapping them outside the pack to let them air out. Be considerate though; if you don’t like the way they smell, the chances are others won’t either!
Keep Your Feet Clean And Dry
A well-ventilated gym bag is great, but the main culprit causing the stink in the first place is the sweat and bacteria from your feet. Giving your feet a good scrub before a climb could minimize the number of bacteria getting into your beloved shoes.
Scrub with an exfoliating sponge, and be sure to keep those toenails clean. Bacteria love to hide in nailbeds. It might be hard for you to keep your feet dry for long or hard climbing days, but a light dusting of climbing chalk goes a long way. It worked for your hands, didn’t it?
BONUS TIP: Try wearing climbing socks! Yes, it’s a little weird, and you’ll look like a gumby, but it’ll keep the bacteria out of your shoes and minimize the sweat.
Never Leave Them In The Car
Whatever you do, don’t leave your shoes in the car for extended periods of time. Vehicles are little heat-trapping ovens, and shoes don’t like heat. Excessive heat can weaken the glue that holds your shoes together, which will ultimately lead to delamination and other unwanted structural weaknesses. Also, I am sure doubling up your climbing shoes as an air freshener won’t exactly give you that ‘new car smell’ you were hoping for.
Think about a climbing gear storage rack in a small area of your non-heated garage where your shoes, harness, ropes, and other equipment get to enjoy the cold winters free from bacteria.
Find Your Perfect Home Storage Solution
Leading on from the last point, don’t just let your climbing shoes rot away in your gym bag or car, instead, designate some time and effort to organize your climbing gear. This helps with everything from ventilation to organization and life preservation.
Personally, I am a big fan of utilizing pegboards for climbing gear storage. Of course, they look awesome, but more importantly, they are really functional. Paired with a couple of shoe keepers or a spare carabiner and this is a perfectly acceptable example of how to store climbing shoes.
If your budget, or landlord, isn’t impressed with your idea of drilling a couple of pegboards into the wall, there are still plenty of other storage options available. Personally, I use plastic storage boxes to keep my climbing shoes well organized. There are also plenty of fashionable shoe containers that can showcase your prized kicks, rather than throwing them in the back of your cupboard.
Utilize Odor Fighting Accessories
Suffer from a bad case of funky feet? Climbing shoes are notoriously smelly; they absorb our sweat and provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Stuffing with newspapers whilst storing can help absorb some of the moisture, as well as maintain the shape of your shoe. Like newspapers, Brilliant Activated Charcoal shoe inserts can help absorb moisture and reduce the funk. As a bonus, charcoal bags are made of sustainable bamboo that will completely biodegrade in our landfills.
The rubber can lose its stickiness as dirt, chalk, and dust start to coat the soles. Rubber can be cleaned with rubbing alcohol and a soft brush. For maximum effect, try some Tension Shoe Spray, as this will reoxidize the rubber and restore its original grip.
If all else fails and they still smell like an absolute nightmare, consider a shoe odor neutralizer like Boot Bananas. There’s a reason why it’s a hot favorite with bowling alleys and climbing gyms. Not only do they mask the odors, but they are also antibacterial. It’s a shortcut, but it sure beats having your climbing buddies run from you.
Bonus Tip: If your shoes have mud or dirt on them, clean them gently with a damp cloth and light disinfectant.
How Will You Store Your Climbing Shoes?
Properly storing your climbing shoes is one of the easiest ways to prolong their life and more importantly, save your hard-earned cash.
Despite all your best efforts, the time for resoling your shoes will inevitably come. Check your shoes regularly for damage and send them in before the rand is damaged. Not only will this save significant costs, but some resolers may not be able to fix damaged rands.
Good luck with your shoes and take care of those babies!