How to Break in Climbing Shoes

Updated Sep 5, 2023
How to Break in Climbing Shoes

Climbing shoes are an important part of rock-climbing supplies, giving the climber grip and support for vertical surfaces. But new climbing shoes can be uncomfortable and need breaking in to fit perfectly. Here’s how to do it.

One way is to use plastic bags filled with water. Put on socks and the shoes, then fill two bags with water and put one in each shoe. Make sure the bags take up the whole inside, including the toe box. This works especially well for synthetic and leather uppers, as they stretch when exposed to moisture and heat.

Another method is to soak feet in hot water or take a hot shower while wearing the shoes for about 15 minutes. The heat helps soften the material and mold it to the foot shape. Then wear until dry, keeping the shoes snug. Or, use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. Use low heat and aim the airflow evenly.

If shoes are still too tight, try a climbing gym. They often have shoe expanders that use controlled pressure to expand the uppers. It’s a gentle way to stretch them to a more comfortable size.

Understanding the Importance of Breaking in Climbing Shoes

To ensure optimal comfort and performance when climbing, it’s crucial to understand the importance of breaking in your climbing shoes. This is especially essential when dealing with new shoes made of different materials like leather or synthetics. In the sub-sections that follow, we will explore the benefits of breaking in climbing shoes, highlighting various techniques such as using plastic bags or the hot shower method.

Benefits of Breaking in Climbing Shoes

Breaking in climbing shoes can give several advantages that climbers should know about. It’s important to understand how essential this process is, as it can hugely affect one’s performance on the rock. So, what are the benefits of breaking in climbing shoes?

  • Improved Fit: Breaking them in helps mould the shoes to your feet, which leads to a more customized and comfy fit. This improved fit gives better accuracy and control during climbing.
  • Increased Flexibility: New climbing shoes can feel stiff and restrict movement and flexibility. But, by breaking them in, they become more flexible, giving improved sensitivity and adaptability on various terrains.
  • Better Performance: When climbing with properly broken-in shoes, overall performance will rise. The increased comfort, fit, and flexibility enable better footwork and technique implementation.
  • Reduced Pain and Discomfort: New climbing shoes often cause discomfort in the beginning due to their tightness and lack of conformity to your feet. Breaking them in slowly reduces pain points by allowing your feet to adjust.
  • Lengthened Lifespan: Breaking in your climbing shoes before using them intensely can increase their lifespan. This process allows the materials to adjust gradually, preventing premature wear and tear.
  • Enhanced Confidence: Wearing correctly broken-in climbing shoes offers a feeling of safety and confidence on the wall or rock face. Knowing that your footwear is supportive and comfortable allows you to concentrate more on technique and reaching your goals.

On top of these benefits, there are certain special points to consider when breaking in climbing shoes.

Finding the perfect balance between breaking in shoes enough to be comfortable without sacrificing performance requires some experimentation. It’s essential to find the right balance where your shoes offer optimal support while still conforming well to your feet.

To attain this balance, try the following tips:

  1. Gradual Break-in: Start by wearing your new climbing shoes for shorter periods and gradually increase the time spent in them. This gives your feet time to adjust to their shape without subjecting them to long durations of discomfort.
  2. Stretching Exercises: Doing stretching exercises while wearing the shoes helps speed up the break-in process. You can flex and extend your feet or perform toe curls to encourage better conformity between your feet and the shoe’s shape.
  3. Wear Them Around the House: Put on your climbing shoes at home while walking or performing light activities. This will help the breaking-in process by allowing your shoes to conform to your feet in a more relaxed environment.

By following these tips, you can make sure to get the most out of breaking in your climbing shoes. This will ultimately enhance your climbing experience. Remember, the goal when it comes to choosing and breaking in your climbing shoes is finding comfort, fit, and performance.

Put your climbing shoes through some tough love and break them in like a heart that’s been broken one too many times.

Methods for Breaking in Climbing Shoes

To break in climbing shoes effectively and find the perfect fit for your feet, explore different methods. The Plastic Bag Method, The Hot Shower Method, and The Sock Method are solutions to break in climbing shoes comfortably. Each method offers its unique approach to stretching, molding, and adjusting the shoes to enhance your performance during climbing sessions.

The Plastic Bag Method

  1. Put a plastic bag in each climbing shoe, so it covers the whole inside. This creates a wall between your foot and the material.
  2. Put on the shoes with the bags and lace them up tight. Walk around for 30 mins or until the material starts to soften.
  3. Take off the shoes, remove the bags, and try them on. If they’re still tight, do Steps 1 and 2 again.
  4. This method helps you gradually adjust the shoes without much discomfort or pain. It’s a simple and effective way to break them in.
  5. It may not work with all types of shoes or foot shapes. If uncertain, visit a gear store or ask experienced climbers for advice.
  6. Give this method a try to get the most comfort and performance out of your climbs! Have perfectly fitting shoes that will make your wall experience even better.
  7. Plus, it’s a great way to use those plastic bags without suffocating your neighbor.

Steps for Using the Plastic Bag Method

The Plastic Bag Method is a great way to break in climbing shoes. Here’s how:

  1. Put a plastic bag over the shoe, covering it completely.
  2. Use your hands to shape the bag around the shoe for a snug fit.
  3. Wear socks over the bag-covered shoe for extra comfort.
  4. Wear the shoes around the house or for light activities to stretch them to your foot shape.
  5. Gradually increase your climbing duration and intensity while wearing the shoes.

Note: This method may not work for all types of climbing shoes. Ask a professional or the manufacturer for specific instructions that’ll suit your footwear.

Fun Fact: Professional climbers and outdoor gear experts recognize the Plastic Bag Method as an effective way to break in climbing shoes (Source: OutdoorGearLab). If you’re looking to break in your climbing shoes, forget the hot shower method – just wear them to bed and let your dreams do the work!

The Hot Shower Method

Try The Hot Shower Method to break in your climbing shoes. Here’s how:

  1. Clean and dry your shoes.
  2. Get the hot shower to a comfy temp.
  3. Wear socks, step into the shower with shoes. Let the water hit them.
  4. Stand under hot water for 10 minutes.
  5. Towel dry, wear until totally dry.

This method works great for leather shoes. Be careful with synthetic materials.

Pro Tip: Rubbing alcohol or shoe stretching spray after towel drying will help maintain the shape of the shoes and quicken the drying process.

Watch out in the shower – slipping in wet shoes is no fun.

Steps for Using the Hot Shower Method

Try the Hot Shower Method for better performance and a comfortable fit on the rocks! Here’s how it goes:

  1. Fill a basin or bathtub with hot water. Put your climbing shoes in and let them soak for 10 minutes.
  2. Wear the wet shoes while they’re still warm and damp. This will help mold the shoes to your feet.
  3. Do some light climbing or bouldering with your wet shoes on. This will help the shoes conform to your feet’s shape.

Using the Hot Shower Method can reduce the break-in period for new climbing shoes and improve overall comfort. The hot water helps stretch out any tight spots, resulting in a more comfortable experience. So, don’t miss out on this opportunity to enhance your comfort, performance, and enjoyment while scaling new heights on the rocks!

The Sock Method

The Sock Method has a step-by-step guide. Follow these steps:

  1. Start with thick socks that you’d usually wear for climbing.
  2. Put on your shoes; they should be snug.
  3. Walk for 15-20 minutes to let the material fit your feet.
  4. Sit and flex your toes.
  5. Take off the socks, replace with thinner socks or go barefoot.
  6. Put the shoes back on and practice indoors or on easy routes.

Pro Tip: Use a hairdryer to warm up the shoes before walking in them or flexing with feet. Be cautious not to overheat.

Break in the shoes and you’ll have comfort and performance during climbs. Enjoy the newly molded kicks! Put on socks for your own personal sauna.

Steps for Using the Sock Method

The sock method is a popular way to break-in climbing shoes. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start with thin socks that fit your feet well.
  2. Put on your shoes over the socks and secure them.
  3. Wear them for around 30 minutes to let them shape to your feet.
  4. Remove the socks and keep wearing the shoes.
  5. Increase the time of each climbing session over time.
  6. Check your shoes often and address any issues.

A unique detail to consider is that some climbers use socks made for climbing or special shoe inserts for better shoe customizing. Pro Tip: Rubbing alcohol on problem areas speeds up the break-in process, without damaging the materials. When your shoes become more flexible than your retirement plan, you know you’ve broken them in!

Tips for Breaking in Climbing Shoes

To break in climbing shoes and ensure a comfortable fit, follow these tips. Start with a proper fit, ensuring that your climbing shoes are the right size and shape for your feet. Gradually increase the intensity of your climbing sessions to allow the shoes to mold to your feet. Use suitable socks and footwear to enhance the break-in process. By following these steps, you can optimize the performance and comfort of your climbing shoes.

Start with a Proper Fit

Size matters when it comes to climbing shoes. Measure your foot size with a ruler or measuring tape. These shoes should be snug, but not uncomfortable. Try on multiple pairs to find the perfect fit. Your toes should be curled slightly without pain and your heel should be secure.

Once you find the one, don’t rush into intense climbs right away. Ease into it with easier routes. This allows your feet and shoes to adapt. Don’t forget to try different brands and styles until you’re comfortable.

Incorrectly fitting shoes can lead to discomfort and injury in the long run. So prioritize finding a proper fit for an enjoyable experience. Start with something easy, like reaching for the remote control. Work your way up to scaling your neighbor’s house!

Gradually Increase the Intensity of Climbing Sessions

Ready to break in your new climbing shoes? Start easy! Begin with simple climbs that don’t push you. As you get more comfortable, try routes that require more skill and strength. But don’t rush it – be patient and take breaks if you feel pain. Wear them around the house first and always match your socks!

It’s a tried-and-true practice. Gradually increasing intensity means you’re safe and your shoes will perform optimally. So, lace up those shoes and go slow. Your feet will thank you!

Use Suitable Socks and Footwear

When breaking-in climbing shoes, suitable socks and footwear are a must. Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Choose socks made of moisture-wicking material to avoid sweaty feet and blisters.
  2. Opt for shoes that fit snugly – not too tight, not too loose!
  3. Look for shoes with supportive soles that promote a natural foot position.
  4. Consider the type of climbing you’ll be doing when selecting footwear.
  5. Think about pre-existing foot conditions or injuries, and get shoes with appropriate support.
  6. Experiment with lacing techniques to find the most comfortable fit.

Breaking in takes time and patience. Gradually increase duration and intensity, allowing your feet to adjust.

Pro Tip: Speed up the break-in process by wearing them around the house or during light activities like walking or bouldering.

And lastly – don’t forget to take them off before entering fancy restaurants!


Met James in Yosemite Valley in 2013. He had bought a pair of tight velcro closure climbing shoes. Tried many methods, but none worked. Eventually used blow dryer. Warm air made material flexible. Perfect fit! All feet shapes/sizes different, so find own best way to break in shoes correctly.

Snug fit & enhanced performance in climbing. Break-in process lets shoe mold to foot shape. Optimum comfort & grip on rock. Leather & synthetic materials need diff stretching methods. Plastic-bag & hot-shower methods popular. Important to break-in shoes properly for successful climbing. Choose right technique for your shoes!

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs on How to Break in Climbing Shoes:

1. How do I break in new climbing shoes?

A: To break in new climbing shoes, start by wearing them around the house or during short climbing sessions. You can also try the plastic bag method by slipping plastic bags over your shoes and wearing them for a few hours to stretch them.

2. Can I stretch climbing shoes made of leather?

A: Yes, leather shoes can stretch. You can wear them with socks to help stretch them or use the hot shower method by taking a hot shower with your climbing shoes on to help loosen the leather fibers.

3. How can I stretch synthetic climbing shoes?

A: Synthetic shoes can be stretched by wearing thick socks or using the plastic bag method. However, keep in mind that synthetic uppers may not stretch as much as leather shoes.

4. Should climbing shoes be a half size smaller than your street shoe size?

A: Climbing shoes should fit snugly but not painfully tight. It is common for climbers to go down about a half size or even a full size smaller than their street shoe size for a better performance fit.

5. Can I use a hair dryer or hot water to speed up the break-in process?

A: It is not recommended to use excessive heat, such as a hair dryer or hot water, as it can damage the shoe material or cause them to mold. Stick to the natural break-in methods mentioned earlier.

6. How long does it take to break in climbing shoes?

A: The break-in process varies depending on the shoe and individual. It can take a few climbing sessions or a couple of weeks for the shoes to mold to your foot shape and become more comfortable.

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About the Author

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, climbing, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while.

Safe Travels,

Derek and Ashley


Know Nothing Nomads

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