Buying Used Climbing Shoes: Bargain Beta

By: Derek Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023

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When it comes to climbing, few things are as personal—or as pivotal—as your choice of footwear. Climbing shoes are your direct connection to the rock, the tool that allows you to smear, edge, and heel-hook your way to the summit. But let’s face it, quality climbing shoes can cost a pretty penny, and especially for those new to the sport or looking for a specialized pair for a certain type of climbing, the expense can add up quickly. That’s where the used climbing shoe market comes into play. Buying used shoes can be a cost-effective, and sometimes more sustainable, way to meet your climbing needs. In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about buying used climbing shoes, from fit to functionality and beyond.

Pros and Cons of Buying Used Climbing Shoes

Navigating the world of used climbing shoes can feel like a bouldering problem in itself—there are certain moves that make sense and some that don’t. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages can go a long way in helping you make an educated decision. So, let’s start by laying out some of the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Cost effective
  • More sustainable
  • Already broken in

Cons

  • May require resoling
  • Not molded to your foot

Pros

One of the most obvious benefits of buying used gear is cost-effectiveness over new climbing gear. High-quality climbing shoes can be expensive, and opting for a pair of used shoes can sometimes save you up to 50% or more off retail prices. This is particularly beneficial for new climbers who are still experimenting with the sport, or for experienced climbers looking to expand their shoe quiver without breaking the bank.

Another pro is the environmental aspect. By purchasing used climbing gear (likes shoes and trad climbing gear), you’re giving a second life to something that might otherwise end up in a landfill, contributing to the circular economy of climbing equipment.

If you’re a young climber or if you’re buying for a young climber, the constant need to up-size shoes can have a lessened impact by buying used. Not only will you save money, but the used shoes will have a shorter break in period than new shoes, making them more comfortable for the short amount of time you’ll use them.

Finally, there’s the break-in factor. New climbing shoes often require a painful break-in period, while used shoes are typically already broken in, allowing for a more comfortable experience right off the bat.

Cons

While the advantages are tempting, there are also some downsides to consider.

The biggest con is that you’re not the first owner, which means you can’t be entirely sure about the shoe’s history. Was it used primarily indoors or has it been exposed to harsh conditions outdoors? Has it been involved in any heavy falls that might have compromised its integrity? Did the previous owner have athlete’s foot? These are questions that a brand new pair of shoes wouldn’t pose.

Another drawback is that the fit could be molded to the previous owner’s foot, which might not align well with your own foot shape, causing discomfort or performance issues.

Lastly, depending on how ‘used’ the shoes are, the rubber might be worn down, which will reduce the shoe’s effectiveness and may require resoling sooner than a new pair would.

Tips for Finding the Right Used Climbing Shoes

Scoring the perfect pair of used climbing shoes isn’t just about luck; it’s a calculated process that involves several important considerations.

The first thing you’ll want to nail down is your size in different brands and models. Unlike casual footwear, climbing shoes are meant to fit extremely snug, and sizing can vary drastically between manufacturers and even different models from the same brand. If possible, try on new versions of the models you’re interested in buying used, as this will give you a good baseline for fit. Remember, used shoes will be stretched out to some degree, so adjust your size expectations accordingly.

Another crucial factor is the type of climbing you’ll be doing. Are you a boulderer, a sport climber, or a trad climber? Different disciplines may require different types of shoes. Aggressive downturned shoes with a pointed toe box might be excellent for overhangs but could be painful on a multi-pitch trad route. Knowing your primary climbing style can help you focus your search on shoes that will actually meet your needs.

Don’t overlook the condition of the rubber when considering a used shoes. Check for signs of significant wear, especially on the toe and edges, as these are the areas that get the most action. If the rubber is overly worn, you’ll find yourself needing a resole sooner rather than later, which could negate any cost savings from buying used. If you’re buying online, don’t hesitate to ask the seller for close-up photos of these key areas.

Last but not least, consider the shoe’s closure system, be it Velcro, lace, or slip-on. Each has its own pros and cons in terms of adjustability and ease of use. Laces offer the most customized fit but can be cumbersome to deal with, while Velcro is quick and easy but may not provide the same level of adjustability. Slip-ons are the easiest to manage but offer the least amount of adjustment. Think about what matters most to you and let that guide your decision.

Best Places to Find Used Climbing Shoes

Finding the right marketplace for your used climbing shoe hunt can make all the difference. While there are general platforms where used items are sold, your best bet is often to look in spaces where climbers congregate, either online or in the real world. Here’s a list of placing to try searching for used climbing shoes:

One of the most reliable platforms is the Mountain Project “For Sale, For Free, Want to Buy” forum. This online community is frequented by serious climbers, and the used climbing gear you find here is usually of good quality and fairly represented.

Another great place to look is on specialized outdoor gear trading websites like GearTrade.com. A used gear shop can often offer a wide variety of used climbing shoes, from entry-level models to specialized high-performance pairs. The added benefit here is that these sites often have a rating system for sellers, so you can gauge the reliability of the person you’re buying from.

Don’t overlook social media groups focused on climbing. Platforms like Facebook have numerous used climbing forums where you can find a variety of used gear. While these are less formal marketplaces, they offer the advantage of being communities, so you can often get valuable insights from other members about the used climbing gear being sold.

Local climbing gyms can also be a goldmine for used climbing gear, including shoes. Many gyms have bulletin boards where members post rock climbing gear they’re looking to sell. Some even host used climbing gear swap events, where you can physically inspect the shoes before buying. These local options provide the added benefit of supporting and connecting with your local climbing community.

Cleaning & Maintaining Used Climbing Shoes

So you’ve scored a brand new-to-you pair of shoes that fit well and suit your climbing style—great! But before you head to the crag or the climbing gym, it’s important to give those shoes a thorough cleaning.

Climbing shoes can harbor bacteria and fungi, and you want to make sure you’re not inheriting someone else’s foot problems. A gentle wash with soap specifically designed for technical footwear can go a long way. Some people swear by a mixture of water and white vinegar for disinfecting the insides. After washing, stuff them with newspaper and let them air dry, but keep them away from direct sunlight or heat sources as this can degrade the rubber and the glue that holds your shoes together.

Now, let’s talk about maintenance. Used climbing shoes may be more prone to wear and tear than new ones, particularly in high-stress areas like the toe box or the rand (the rubber that wraps around the front of the shoe). Keep an eye out for any signs of delamination or holes starting to form. If you catch these issues early, a minor repair job can often extend the life of the shoes. There are climbing shoe repair services that specialize in resoling and rand repair, giving your second-hand kicks a third (or fourth or fifth) life.

Finally, proper storage extends the lifespan of your climbing shoes, new or used. It’s tempting to throw your shoes into the trunk of your car and forget about them until your next climbing session, but heat and moisture can degrade both the rubber and the adhesive used in the shoes. Store them in a cool, dry place, and consider using a cedar shoe insert to control moisture and odor between climbs.

Conclusion

Navigating the used climbing shoe market doesn’t have to feel like an uncharted multi-pitch. With the right information and a little due diligence, you can find a pair that not only fits your feet but also your climbing style and budget. Remember, the key is to focus on fit, scrutinize the condition, and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. And once you’ve made your purchase, proper cleaning and ongoing maintenance can extend the lifespan of your shoes, making your investment even more worthwhile.

Whether you’re a seasoned climber looking to expand your climbing gear collection or a newbie stepping onto the rock for the first time, used climbing shoes offer an affordable and sustainable way to engage with the sport we all love. So go ahead, do your research, ask the right questions, and then hit the rocks with the confidence that comes from knowing you made a smart choice.

FAQ’s

How many times can a climbing shoe be resoled?

A climbing shoe can typically be resoled 2-3 times before the upper starts to degrade, but this can vary based on the shoe’s construction and how well they’re maintained.
Is it okay to buy used climbing shoes?

Is it okay to buy used climbing shoes?

Absolutely, buying used climbing shoes can be a cost-effective and sustainable option, especially if you’re knowledgeable about what to look for in terms of fit and wear. That being said, you shouldn’t buy any used safety equipment like harnesses or ropes.

How much do used climbing shoes cost?

The price of used climbing shoes can vary widely, ranging from as low as $20 to upwards of $100, depending on the brand, condition, and demand for that particular model.

How do I know if used climbing shoes are in good condition?

Inspect the rubber for excessive wear, particularly on the toe and edges. Check for any delamination or holes in the material, and consider the shoe’s overall cleanliness. If possible, get close-up photos if you’re buying online.

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Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

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About The Author

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers.

Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me.

When I'm not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

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