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Keep your feet comfortable in climbing shoes and stay on the wall longer!

Climbing shoes. We all know they are not always a joy to wear. The way they fit and the camber on the shoes for more aggressive styles can have an effect on your feet that makes climbing unenjoyable if you aren’t careful. Continued use of the wrong shoe can lead to issues that have an effect beyond their time on your feet.

Making sure the shoes are snug, but not too tight, is important. This is particularly important in the toe box area of the shoe. Ill-fitting shoes can compress the toes together in ways that contribute to issues like bunions and hammertoes.

A few quick stretches and exercises may be helpful in alleviating some of the discomforts of climbing shoes and preventing future foot pain. When you have a chance to take a break while climbing, make sure you have your shoes off and let them rest for a little bit. While they are off, you can try a few exercises to maintain flexibility and range of motion. Grab your toes and pull them upward to stretch the bottom side of your foot. This stretches all the tendons of muscles that control your toes and also keep your plantar fascia flexible. This would be especially important when wearing aggressive shoes that are keeping your toes and feet pointed down in a position forcing them into the ground and into the wall. Stretching your calves would be a good idea at this point as well. Many muscles in our lower legs cross the ankles and attach to the feet and toes. Therefore, they would benefit from some stretching as well. Stagger your feet, keeping your back knee straight. Lean forward while bending the front knee to feel a stretch on the calf of your back leg. Then, using just your ankle movements, trace the ABCs with your foot to work on the range in your ankle.

To ensure your arch support remains adequate, take a moment to practice. While standing with your heel flat on the ground, force your big toe onto the ground, reinforcing the arch along that side of your foot. This might be a bit difficult, but it helps to train the muscles that are responsible for assisting with arch support.

If you’ve been having recent problems with foot pain, always be aware of how your sport is affecting your symptoms during and after activity. In the case of climbing, it would be a good idea to further limit your overall time with your climbing shoes on and to keep your day in the gym or on the rock wall shorter that day. Depending on the severity of your recent pain, you should also consider whether or not it’s a good time to simply take a break from climbing that day.

Next time you are rock climbing or looking at a new pair of shoes, keep these tips in mind. We all want to go out and have fun, so don’t let discomfort keep you from enjoying the day. Make sure your shoes fit well and put in a little work to keep your feet and ankles flexible. If you are unsure about anything you read in this post and want more info, email me at or reach out on Backcountry Physical Therapy’s social media pages. Be sure to check back on the website for more blog posts and follow us on social media for helpful tips to keep yourself pain-free!

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Dr. Scott Runyon

Backcountry Physical Therapy

We Help Mountain Athletes Not Only Recover From Injuries, But Build Them Back Stronger Than They Were Before, So That Injuries Are Less Likely To Happen Again!