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When To Replace Climbing Shoes

Updated By Angel on 10th Nov 2023

A well made pair of shoes should last until the rubber runs thin, which can then be refreshed with a resole. How long climbing shoes last is entirely based on how frequently you are using them, how good your footwork is, and how soft and thick the outsole rubber is.

It can be hard to let go of a good thing, especially when it comes to your favorite pair of climbing shoes. But the sad truth is all shoes will wear out eventually. So how long do climbing shoes last? And how do you know when it’s time to buy new climbing shoes?

How Long Do Climbing Shoes Last? 

When to replace climbing shoes

The biggest factor that determines how long climbing shoes last is the outsole rubber. A quality pair of shoes should last until the rubber runs thin. This is entirely based on how much climbing you are doing, how good your footwork is, and how soft your shoes are. Even then, the majority of climbing shoes have the capacity to be resoled, so if you play your cards right, your shoes can last years even with frequent use.

Be aware though, like everything in life, there are exceptions to the rule. If you are climbing over three a week in a pair of soft shoes like the Scarpa Veloce or the La Sportiva Futura, you will be lucky if you reach your 6 month anniversary before your whirlwind romance is over. If you are climbing less than twice a week with a pair of durable climbing shoes, then expect to see your shoes make it to their 1st birthday, or even longer, depending on how often you plan on wrestling with rocks. 

But the underlining factor with all shoes is your footwork. If you are a gumby scraping your feet on every hold (no judgment – we have all been there), then you will certainly wear through your rubber a lot faster than a veteran crag rat with laser-precision foot places will. Inevitably, all good things come to an end, and when your shoes begin to start looking, and feeling, sloppy it’s probably time to start thinking of a resole. Just because the outsole of your shoes has lost its stickiness, certainly doesn’t mean you should throw your shoes out!

Even with a quality pair of shoes, early retirements can happen due to other issues like a broken closure system, rips in the upper, or delamination of the outsole. Whatever the reason, in this guide, we will share with you a few tips on how to get the most out of your shoes and what to watch out for as your climbing shoes start to age.

The Wear Of Rubber

Typically, the limiting factor on the lifespan of a climbing shoe is the outsole rubber. Unless you’ve got a pair of no edge climbing shoes (we’ll get to those later), straight out of the box, climbing kicks will have a nice sharp edge on the toe box. 

Over time, the sharp edges will start to round out and the bottom of the shoe will start to lose friction. This is perfectly normal, just like your car tires, the rubber will naturally wear down after repeated use. If left unattended long enough though, you will eventually wear through to the rand, which is essential for the tension, shape, and structural integrity of your shoe.

Climbing Shoe Toe Cap
These shoes definitely should have been resoled long ago

Here’s the trick; Many dedicated climbers will have a rotating cast when it comes to their climbing shoe quiver. They’ll keep a pair for their hard attempts and projecting, while they might also have a pair of training shoes that they do their endurance laps in. The peek window for optimal performance with a shoe will typically be right after the break-in period.

The shoe has had time to mold to your foot but is still nice and precise. Once these shoes start to break in, they become the training or warm-up shoe. This maximizes your use by conserving the rubber on the high-end pair and putting in the real mileage with the older ones. This way, you’ll always have a set of fresh sharp shoes.

At this point, it’ll be up to you as to how long you hold onto an old pair. There are some ways you can improve their grip, but eventually, a hole will wear through completely if not resoled. You’ll probably want to avoid having to smear with your bare feet.

How To Take Care Of Climbing Shoes

Practice Better Footwork

How clean your footwork is will massively impact the lifespan of your shoes. If you are dragging your feet along the gym wall like an industrial sander, then expect to be disappointed when the inevitable damage starts to show. Here are a few pointers that your shoes will thank you for:

  • Work on the precision and quality of your first foot placement. Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, repositioning and adjusting your feet grind away at your precious rubber.
  • Avoid dragging your feet along the wall as you traverse. Dragging your feet – or even more commonly ‘bouncing up’ moves – are easy traps to fall into but ones that will leave you with sloppy technique and trashed shoes.

If you think your footwork needs some work, then the video below of Tom Randell from the Wide Boyz might teach you a thing or two.

Proper Shoe Care

Honestly, we are all probably guilty of not looking after our climbing shoes properly. By far the easiest way to destroy the performance of your expensive handmade shoes is walking around excessively in them – especially with aggressive climbing shoes.

Think about it; intricate slip-lasted climbing shoes and clever design technology; La Sportiva’s P3 Platform, Scarpa’s Power Connection Band, or any other tension system you can think of, are being stretched out as you stroll carelessly around the gym. Aside from only wearing your shoes whilst you climb, there are plenty of other tips and tricks you can use to squeeze some extra life out of your shoes. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Never leave them sitting in direct sunlight or in hot environments for extended periods of time. Apart from the inevitable melting of the glue that’s holding your shoes together, exposing the rubber to excessive sunlight can warp the shape and reduce its stickiness. Always store your climbing shoes properly.
  • After use, make sure to let them dry out. This helps keep the bacteria at bay. Brownie points if you use Boot Bananas.
  • Clean your climbing shoes. This will keep them smelling fresh, free of bacteria, and climbing at their best for longer. On a similar note, if your feet look worse than Frodo’s after three Lord of the Rings movies, then you should probably give those dogs a wash too.
  • Wear socks. Yep, you heard me. It might look a bit rookie but it’s going to keep those shoes looking and smelling fresh.

A well-timed Resole

How to resole climbing shoes

Resoling climbing shoes is the best way to extend the lifespan of your favorite climbing shoes! Resoling is when the worn-down outsole is replaced with a new layer of rubber. This has many benefits; from reducing waste, saving money, and avoiding the break-in period a pair of brand-new shoes require.

For the best result, you’ll want to get your shoes resoled before the rand is exposed. While most places do offer rand replacement, it will cost you more and will reduce the number of times you can resole the shoe. La Sportiva’s No Edge shoes will function similarly, though the design of the rubber is a bit different. The sole will wrap all the way around the toe and the rand will be hidden well beneath. The drill is the same, however, try to get it redone before the outsole rubber wears away and the rand peaks through.
 

How Many Times Can I Resole My Climbing Shoes?

How many times can you resole climbing shoes

If resoled early enough, a shoe can be resoled up to five or six times. Realistically though, you are more likely to resole once or twice before retiring them for good.

Why’s this? Well, as our friends at La Sportiva said, the process of resoling is a pretty invasive process (it does involve sanding off the old rubber and glue after all). On the first resole you will find the shoe will still work great but after a few more times, performance is going to start to dip and the fibers of the material uppers will stretch and soften as they age.

How Much Does It Cost To Resole Climbing Shoes?

The average cost to resole climbing shoes is around $40. This price increases depending on how extensive the damage is, with additional services like toe caps, rand repairs, and closure straps that could push the final bill toward the $70 mark.

Signs It’s Time To Upgrade Your Shoes

Closure systems

How long do climbing shoes last

 Beyond rubber wear, occasionally climbing shoes do break down elsewhere. A common point of failure is the closure system. The La Sportiva Solution for example, famously suffer from snapped straps. As do other shoes across all the shoes brands. Luckily, your local resoler should be able to fix minor stitching issues.

Delamination

How to take care of climbing shoes

 Another common defect found in climbing shoes is rubber delamination, especially cheaper climbing shoes. If, after minimal use, you notice the sole is splitting and peeling away from the rand, you’ll want to consider returning them to the retailer. A good retailer should recognize this as a defect and offer a warranty return.

Delamination can also be caused by neglecting your shoes and leaving them in extreme heat. Direct sunlight, hot cars and tropical climates can all reap havoc on the glue that secures the outsole rubber to the bottom of the shoe.

Time to level up

 A lot of climbers aren’t beginners for long. Once you’ve established your basic technique and start to venture into thinner and/or steeper terrain, you’ll quickly start to notice the lack of performance your beginner shoes offer. Beginner bouldering shoes often have a rounded toe box and a flat last.

While this is great for comfort, it can make balancing on small edges or pulling into pockets a little tricky. These types of shoes also tend not to be very stiff or sensitive. They certainly suffice for the beginner climbing terrain that a rental shoe would cover, but eventually, you are going to want a shoe that is a little more sensitive and really allows you to really get a feel for how solid your foot placements feel. At this point, consider upgrading to an intermediate pair of shoes, and keeping your ones as a back-up.

Is It Time To Replace Your Shoes?

How long climbing shoes last entirely depends on how well you look after them. Take good care of them, both on and off the wall, and a quality pair of climbing shoes will go the distance, especially with the help of a strategic resole or two. Knowing when to resole or replace climbing shoes is an important skill that will ensure you always have the best tool to help you climb to your highest ability.

So, treat your shoes kindly to maximize their life; and just because your favorite pair may not be the high-performing sending machines they once were, that doesn’t mean you have to chuck them out! Give them a second life by having them resoled, or reserve them for those easier warms. You’ll be climbing in comfort in those perfectly broken-in babies.

If you think it’s time to retire your beloved climbing shoes and treat yourself to a new pair, make sure to take a look at some of our awesome shoe reviews as well as our favorite places to buy climbing shoes.

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