The 5 Stages of Breaking In Your First New Pair of Climbing Shoes

 In Climbing

For any climber, getting new climbing shoes is a big deal, but there’s always a special level of excitement when it’s your very first pair. Finding the perfect shoes can be a challenge; there’s the never-ending research, the epic quest to find a store that carries a particular model, and the all-important question of Velcro versus laces. But then comes the day that you make the choice, the money changes hands, and you finally have the box sitting in front of you. All yours. These are going to be your new babies, your most trusted companions. Right?


The guy at the gear shop said something about a break-in period, whatever that means, but how bad can it really be? You tear through the box and put your new kicks straight into your gym bag. On second thought, you clip them to the outside – gotta show these babies off! At the gym, you revel in the smell of new rubber, the crispness of the edges. You stand at the base of your project, feeling invincible as you visualize sticking to every single tiny foothold. You grip the start hold eagerly and place your feet on the nearest toes chips, pushing off in an excited rush.  

And then reality sets in.


You’ve been betrayed. Instead of sending ultra-hard, you have been reduced to a limping mess, waddling pathetically around the gym. It shouldn’t be physically possible for shoes to hurt this much. Or be this tight, for that matter. You glare furiously at your feet. You’re a climber and your shoes are supposed to be part of you. But no, under that gloriously shiny new facade lies a vice grip with a heart of darkness. These aren’t shoes – these are instruments of torture.


Okay, calm down. It might just be a high gravity day. Maybe it won’t hurt so much if you try something a little less footwork-intensive. Truth be told, you probably should have warmed up a little more. It’s only been, what, fifteen minutes? Maybe the rubber needs to warm up. It might even soften a bit. It’ll probably help if you take them off between climbs too – that’s what everyone else does anyway, right? Maybe?


It’s useless. You’re convinced that you’ve sentenced your feet to a rubber-bound purgatory from which there is no escape. Is it possible to get blisters from broken dreams? You take the offending shoes off for the hundredth time. There’s no going back now, not with just enough chalk and scuffs to make them unreturnable. Visions of chucking the new climbing kicks into the nearest dumpster dance through your head, accompanied by the soundtrack of your hard-earned money being unceremoniously flushed down the toilet.


From the depths of your despair, you muster the energy for one last try. Gritting your teeth against the agony in your toes, you pull through the first move on your project…and the second…and the third, before popping off. Was that…progress? Is the pain slightly less intense or are your feet just going numb from lack of circulation? Regardless, a glimmer of hope is born, stoked along by your buddy’s reassurances that it will get better. You leave the gym carrying the extra weight of your severely thrashed ego. Tomorrow is another day and maybe, just maybe, the shoes will ease their foot-crushing fury.


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