How to get the most out of your climbing shoes

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It’s bound to be your favorite pair of rocker shoes It will eventually begin to disintegrate into smelly perforated soles. If your shoe is too far away, it’s time to fish out another $150 and begin the painful, slow process of cracking a new pair. But instead of wearing life out of your shoes and throwing them in the trash, there’s another option: Remake them when they’re 80 percent off and give your shoes a whole new life.

Refinishing involves replacing the sole of the shoe, possibly the rand if necessary, and restoring the shape of the shoe as closely as possible. Climbers can get half a dozen slippers from one pair if they take good care of their shoes. Depending on how many shoes a climber would otherwise purchase, the decision could save several hundred dollars over the course of a year.

climbing Tony Bobo, co-founder of The Rubber Room, met his wife, Nan. Established in 1999, the Rubber Chamber has identified more than 4,000 shoes last year.

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Bobo started fixing shoes in 1981. Nan met in a shoe repair room with Wheeler’s shoe repair owner at the time. When the store occupant later decided the shoe repair space was essential for retail, Puppo and Nan bought the company and moved it across the street.

Not much has changed in The Rubber Room over the past 21 years. There are two sizings made: half single and half with rand fix. While the sole, as the name implies, is the bulkier rubber on the bottom of the shoe, the rand is the thinner rubber on the top and sides. Some rand toe tractions may wear out before the sole, but in most cases the sole will wear out first. However, about two-thirds of the scales need a rand fix.

“We hope people don’t run out of wealth,” Bobo says. “And surely if they did, they would stop as soon as they saw the material show through the rubber. You’d be amazed at the shoes we see here. You can stick several fingers in the hole you saw in one shoe the other day. Shoes don’t work well when they have holes in them.” Rubber climbs way better than leather or toes.”

To repair the sole and rand for both shoes, the price will be $60 plus shipping. If the rand is intact, $40 per pair.

According to Puppo, some people really dominate with one foot, so one shoe almost always needs a rand fix. Other people have very good and precise foot movement and won’t need a rand fix until after half a dozen sizes. However, the others will run out in a couple of months.

“The biggest difference as to whether or not the rand needs to be fixed is the movement of the feet, and perhaps the style of climbing,” Bobo says. “It seems like a lot of gyms have issues with a lot of toe fixation now. So this is weakening the upper part of the shoe even though the climber is not dragging his toes. Over the past two or three years we have seen a lot of that.”

In addition to choosing whether or not to repair the chains, climbers will also have to choose the type of rubber used to re-sole. The rubber chamber offers Vibram XS EDGE, Vibram XS Grip 2, 5.10 Stealth C4, 5.10 Stealth Onyx and 5.10 Stealth HF (high friction). Here is a quick detail:

  • Vibram XS Edge: Solid rubber, great for edges and extremely durable
  • Vibram XS 2 Grip: Not as hard as the tip and very sticky. Popular in medium to high-end shoes
  • 5.10 ONYXX Stealth: comparable to Vibram XS Edge
  • 5.10 Stealth C4: comparable to Vibram XS Grip 2
  • 5.10 Stealth HF: Soft and sensitive rubber great for steep climbs or inclines

After all boxes are ticked and their shoes mailed or delivered, customers should expect to wait six to eight weeks for their shoes to be returned. It’s easy to have at least one pair of shoes spinning so the climb continues uninterrupted.

In addition to the waiting time, customers should consider that while a shoe can do a lot to get your shoes back, your shoes won’t feel as if they are new out of the box. “Once the upper part of the shoe has been flexed a thousand times, the initial, hard feeling in the upper part of the shoe will never return,” Bobo says. However, the retraction of the shoe can be restored.

Clusters of whatever, or why we really climb

Whether climbers decide to go for a sole or fully wear their shoes, they should do what they can to take care of the most important piece of their gear.

Puppo’s number one shoe care tip, other than owning the feet well, is to take the shoes off between attempts and allow them to dry. “Shoes with very closed toes won’t have any airflow into the toe box. If a climber doesn’t let the shoes dry, the leather on them will kind of loosen,” Bobo says, adding that it might help to squeak your shoes the old-fashioned way with a toothbrush and a little bit of water.

Puppo’s final point: “Your rocker shoes are your tools and should be treated as such.”

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