Each rock-shoe manufacturer’s choice of rubber is
akin to a Formula One’s team of engineers matching suspension and tire choice to
a specific track. The nuances of rubber performance are vast, but all rubber is
good. Certainly, some rubber is slightly stickier than others, some is firmer for
better edging, while others still are softer to help “grab” holds … the list
goes on. Shoe design and construction play an integral role in how the rubber works
and wears. Here are a few tips for maximizing shoe performance.
1. Pay attention to your feet and shoes when you are standing
on different types of holds. For edging shoes (generally stiffer) performance gains
can be easily made by beveling the sole inward. Watch the edge of the sole while
standing on small edges—if the rubber spooges out from under the shoe, file
it back 10 to 15 degrees to keep the edge of rubber directly under the weight of
your foot. Squaring off the edge makes for greater precision at the cost of slightly
reduced sole life.
For softer shoes and slippers and steep problems where sticking the move involves
more smear and grab technique, wire brush your soles laterally to increase their
2. If you climb indoors, vary the routes. Doing multiple laps
on the same problems works the same muscles—and rubber. At a minimum, practice
using different foot placements.
3. If your shoe has a flapper, snip it off. Crop the flap, and
you’ll prevent it from “running” or getting bigger.
4. Keep it together. If you have a minor delamination on the rand
(the rubber strip that encircles the shoe) or the sole (toe draggers know what
I mean) re-glue it over night with Barge contact cement. Many experienced climbers
carriy a small tube in their repair kit. Additionally, you can reinforce wear points
and improve friction with Stealth “rubber paint” made from rubber dust and glue.
5. Give your shoes a rest. If you climb every day, have two pairs
of shoes and alternate so each pair has time to dry out and recover.
——Larry “Toolman” Arthur
Feature image by akeg