“My shoes are painfully tight. Is that good?”
Unless your shoes are brand new and you know they will stretch a half or full size, they shouldn’t be painful. However, there are nuances. The tightness of your shoes should be determined by what type of rock and routes you intend to climb. I have five pairs, all for different types of climbing. For instance, if you are in Yosemite to climb cracks all day, then you don’t want a super-tight shoe; rather, you want your toes to be flat to fit in cracks, and flat toes are comfortable toes. On the other end of the spectrum are shoes for steep sport routes, the gym and bouldering. Fit these with your toes slightly buckled, but still strive for comfort. Once even a tight pair of shoes is broken in they should be comfortable. If you notice that your shoes are tight, they hurt and you look forward to peeling them off, then they are too small.
Wearing rock shoes that are too tight can cause foot problems, from bone spurs to bunions, and even damage the joint of the big toe, resulting in the painful and lifelong condition of Hallux Limitus, or even worse, Hallux Rigidus, where you lose all flexation in the joint.
This Gear Guy question appeared in Rock and Ice issue 248 (February 2018).
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