Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Gear Guy

Are My Old Climbing Shoes Fixable or a Lost Cause?

How can I recondition my old shoes to get more pitches out of them?

Lock Icon

Become a member to unlock this story and receive other great perks.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

All-Access
Intro Offer
$3.99 / month*

  • A $500 value with 25+ benefits including:
  • Access to all member-only content on all 17 publications in the Outside network like Rock and Ice, Climbing, Outside, Backpacker, Trail Runner and more
  • Annual subscription to Climbing magazine.
  • Annual gear guides for climbing, camping, skiing, cycling, and more
  • Gaia GPS Premium with hundreds of maps and global trail recommendations, a $39.99 value
  • Outside Learn, our new online education hub loaded with more than 2,000 videos across 450 lessons including 6 Weeks to Stronger Fingers and Strength Training for Injury Prevention
  • Premium access to Outside TV and 1,000+ hours of exclusive shows
  • Annual subscription to Outside magazine
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. Print subscriptions available to U.S. residents only. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

QUESTION: I always laugh when someone tells me that I better not get my shoes wet or, “You’ll ruin them!”

Ha! I like getting my shoes wet and have used the technique of water stretching many times, mostly at the crag, where you just wear your shoes into the river and then climb in them.

Very effective, yet to deal with my Barney-Rubble feet and to get into my old shrunken boots I have refined my technique, to wit: I get the expandable wood fake feet you put in fine shoes to keep them from shrinking. Then I cram these into my rock shoes. I then pour very hot tap water over the leather on my shoes, but also any area where you want the shoes to stretch. I let the shoes air dry and the results are significant.

Enough of my wisdom. My question is how can I recondition my old shoes to get more pitches out of them? The rand is not original, and before the water stretching it was already peeling a bit, and the super-stretch exaggerated it. What kind of glue or bonding element can I use to seal back up the rand? Should I just get my shoes resoled and can I even get these old shoes resoled? And yes, I could just go buy a pair of TC big wallers, but my shoes and I have a relationship and, of course, they now fit perfectly. Speak to me!

—Eric Swartling

I, too, use water stretching, but my technique is to wear the shoes in the shower (I offered to snap an illustrative photo, but, alas, the editors said they “got the picture.”)

Now, some people may wonder: “Why not just buy shoes that fit?”

Because for me a shoe that “fits” is a 41.5. Problem is, I have wide, high-volume feet. A 41.5 fits in width and interior room, but shoes this size are
too long heel-to-toe and climb like swim fins. I fit my shoes to length, which is a size 40, and then I water stretch them to get the width and volume I need. I get my shoes wet as I noted, and climb in them, and they stretch almost instantly and as perfectly as if fitted by a master cibattino.

Your vintage shoes (not shown), which, judging by their fetching solid magenta color I think are from the late 1980s, are indeed “boots.” High-topped and stiff. Not unlike the TC Pros you mention you could buy. While the TC’s are fantastic and would be a notch up from what you have, you seem so weepy about your old footwear that I feel obligated to help you keep them on life support.

Use Barge Cement to glue down that delamination. Barge Cement is available from Amazon for about $4 a tube. Reranding and resoling are options, and the price will vary depending on whether you do toe caps only on the rand, and half or full soles. Expect to shell out between $60 and $100 to get those boots in mint condition.

Per longevity, boots from that era were built like battleships, and last a lifetime or 20 to 30 years, whichever ends first. Next!

This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 244 (August 2017).