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Gear upkeep is one of the most important practices of safe climbing, and repairing damaged equipment can save your life on the rock. With that in mind, how do you know when to resole climbing shoes?
Why Do You Need to Resole Climbing Shoes?
The quick and easy answer for when to resole climbing shoes is, “before you think you need to.” Climbing shoes are definitely not a pair of shoes you can wait until your toes are poking through to get new ones.
But fortunately, you can repair them by getting a new sole put on. It’s important to resole your climbing shoes when the sole has worn through but before the layer below is damaged.
The parts of your climbing shoe
To know when to resole climbing shoes, it helps to know more about the parts of climbing shoes. The main part that you climb on, the grippy rubber, is the actual sole. And when you climb, you leave behind rubber on the rock. You’ve probably noticed black residue on well-traveled holds both outside and in the gym.
You’ve probably noticed a pretty clear seam around the edge of your shoe that separates the rubber on the bottom of the shoe from the rubber on the sides. The rubber on the sides and upper of your shoe is the rand. In terms of knowing when to resole climbing shoes, the rand is one of the most important parts.
The rand keeps your toes pointed, letting you get onto small toeholds much easier. You also shouldn’t be able to climb on it, so it’s a great litmus test for when to resole climbing shoes.
There are a lot of other different parts of climbing shoes as well. Pretty much, if it exists on an everyday shoe, your climbing shoe has it as well. But only the sole and the rand have a bearing on when to resole climbing shoes.
When to Resole Climbing Shoes
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So, as we mentioned, the sole of your climbing shoe is covered in grippy rubber. Take a look at a new pair of shoes or a part that you don’t use much, such as the arch. You’ll see deep grooves in the rubber. That is what causes friction and lets you stick to the rock.
Of course, where there’s friction, you’re going to have wear. When you climb, you rub the grippy rubber on the sole of your shoe off onto the rock. As time goes on, you’ll see the rubber on well-used areas, like the toe, go smooth. It will affect your climbing, and you’ll see that you’ll start to slip more on smaller holds.
When this starts to happen, you may think about when to resole climbing shoes. Chances are you’ve already noticed this change happening in your own shoes.
Resoling means protecting your shoes
Earlier we mentioned the rand, the rubber that holds down your toe to make climbing easier. At the front of your shoe is a very noticeable seam between the two. This is the best indicator of when to resole climbing shoes.
When the seam starts to wear away, or you eat through the sole to the rand beneath, you should stop climbing on your shoe.
If you were to keep climbing on your shoes at this point, you would end up with a damaged rand. This is much more difficult to repair or replace than the sole, and may even necessitate a replacement.
It really is as simple as looking for how much of the outer rubber sole still remains on the shoe. If it’s getting slick, has any holes or nicks in it, or is wearing thin, go ahead and go for the resole. Don’t let the rand, and definitely don’t let the cloth, show through!
The resole process
Part of understanding when to resole climbing shoes is understanding how the process works. It isn’t really something you can do in a home workshop with a weekend and some elbow grease. In fact, there are only a handful of shops across North America where you can send your shoes for repair.
The most advisable method for resoling your climbing shoes is to send them to a trusted repair service. It will cost you less than a new pair of climbing shoes, and you have a few options.
If it’s only the sole that needs repair, a half-sole repair will do the trick. Most of the time, it’s only the front portion of the sole that you need to repair since that is where the vast majority of climbing happens.
It saves you a lot of trouble because your heel is most likely still intact. The shoe repair company will take off the damaged part of the sole and replace it.
If you’ve gone too far climbing and need rand repair, this is also possible. However, this process often changes the shape and fit of a climbing shoe. It could end up leaving your favorite shoe just a little bit different.
When you’re considering when to resole climbing shoes, think a little ahead and make sure you do it before you need to.
How to resole your climbing shoes
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As we mentioned earlier, there are only a handful of companies in the United States that can resole climbing shoes. There are a number to which you can send your shoes. You can also look for one that is close to you, although chances are that you will have to mail your shoes in.
This process takes about a month, usually, including sending in your shoes and the return. When thinking of when to resole climbing shoes, make sure you don’t have any big climbing trips coming up! It can definitely take longer than this.
Overall, the process will probably cost less than $50 or so. It’s cheaper than getting a new pair of shoes, even if it might put you out of commission for a little bit.
It’s possible, as well, that you might want to try and fix your shoes up yourself.
If you really want to, we can’t stop you. But there’s a reason you have to mail your shoes in. The process is so specialized that you can’t just take your climbing shoes to any cobbler to get them fixed.
Should you go down this route, you’ll need to have climbing shoe rubber on hand. That’s on top of tools including a cutting tool, a rubber mallet, and a shoe repair kit. But if you go this way, prepare yourself to make mistakes. Proceed with caution.
Replace vs. repair: How to decide
In any case, there will always come a time when to resole climbing shoes means to prolong the inevitable. It may be hard to admit, especially when they’re a particularly pricey pair or have seen you through some intense routes.
But even resoling can’t last forever. Climbing gear is meant to save your life, and it can’t do that if it’s worn to nothing.
If you have worn through the rand, for starters, your shoe may be beyond repair. If you can see the cloth upper through the rubber, you may be better off getting a new pair altogether.
And, if you’ve put more money into resoling a pair of shoes than an upgrade would cost you, consider going for a new pair. You probably climb enough to warrant getting a better set. Plus, you’ll be supporting your favorite brands and maybe even upgrading your climbing.
But, if you really love a pair of shoes, or if they aren’t too worn, resoling is a great option. It’s less expensive than a new pair of shoes, and greatly extends a pair of shoes’ lifespan.
The Next Steps for Resoling Your Climbing Shoes
Answering the question of when to resole climbing shoes isn’t that difficult. It all comes down to proper attention to your climbing gear. Watch the toes of your shoes for signs of wear. Make sure that the rubber isn’t wearing through so that the rand stays intact and undamaged.
Fortunately, this is a pretty easy process. You should check on your shoes every time you use them, just while you’re putting them on or taking them off. Take a minute to give them a good brushing.
Keeping them clean will keep the rubber useful for longer. But you’ll be able to feel when your shoes start to lose effectiveness. That will be the best indicator of when to replace climbing shoes.
Repair, or replace? What do you do when your shoes are in the shop? Make sure to add a comment and let us know!