1 October 2009

On choosing the right fit for rock shoes

Paul sent through a mail with questions about choosing different fits of rock shoes for different climbing objective, as well as using other options such as wearing socks. Basically his question was whether it’s best to choose different shoes for different jobs or if one can do everything.

The answer is really to choose the best shoe for exactly the type of climb you are trying, especially thinking about where you are going to fall. Paul asked about specific climbs of mine, such as Rhapsody, which has a jamming crack followed by a face climbing crux.

It’s nice to have the toes a bit flatter in a very slightly bigger shoe for shoving them into jamming cracks without it getting too painful to even want to carry on. Socks can help pad things out too, increasing comfort, protecting your ankles if the crack is big enough for getting the whole foot in, and more importantly for keeping your foot held firmly inside the boot when twisted (you lose a lot of the foot power if your feet are shifting about inside slimy sweaty shoes, yuk!).

On Rhapsody, the choice is simple - use a tighter face climbing shoe, because the jamming part is easy compared to the face climbing that follows. Thats where you are going to fall on the route, and anything less that total precision with your feet is going to cost you.

Paul also asked about a multipitch project of mine - to free the Original Longhope route, where there is an E10 pitch after 18 pitches of trad adventuring. In this case, the choice is a little tougher. Too tight and your feet will die by the time you get to the hard pitch. Too baggy, and you just wont be able to stand on the tiny edge at the crux. A simple compromise is the answer and being disciplined with taking the shoes off at every belay, even if it’s only for 15 minutes or so. For this route I’ve been going a euro size bigger than my sport climbing size. NB I also have a super small pair that only come out for bouldering ‘send attempts’ to get every last drop of force.

But a well fitting shoe should handle 90% of situations without being a significant disadvantage.

The best all round rockshoe in the world in my opinion is still the Scarpa Stix in my opinion. They just seem to excel at absolutely everything. Some of my friends went off them in the shop because they feel weird on the foot (agressively turned down) before they’ve been worn. What a shame because this only lasts one session. The Stix are getting harder to come by in the UK because Scarpa are shortly releasing a new generation of shoes. So my recommendation might come too late for some at least.


Anonymous said...

I've been using the Scarpa Mago for a year and they are great. How would you compare the Stix to the Mago? Is there something that the Stix does better? Thanks.

Dave MacLeod said...

For my feet at least, I feel more sensitivity but can also deliver more power through the foot in the Stix. One thing the Stix do a lot better is toe hook. But it's possible these feelings come down to my foot shape rather than anything else. The more different shoes you can try, the more likely you are to find the perfect one.

Anonymous said...

Would another option for the likes of your Longhope project (a lot of easier pitches and just one very hard one) not be to just take 2 pairs of shoes on the route? They don't weigh that much surely?


Anonymous said...

I had a pair of the mago's which I loved and then I got a pair of stix which I loved even more! I find them so much more natural for my feet than any flat pair of shoes I have ever had. I am now experiencing a slight problem though. My left foot is nearly a whole size bigger than my right and so the knuckle on my left big toe is very tightly pressed against the top of the stix, so much so that I am starting to get a lump there. Would this be resolved by getting one size bigger shoes or are all the toe boxes that height. Is there any other way of getting round this as apart from that I have no problem with this size. Hope that makes sense!

Thanks so much