Are Your Climbing Shoes too Tight?

I just read this article from evening sends about shoe sizing and the damage of wearing shoes that are too tight. It seemed well worth sharing.

When I started climbing, I was very confused on what the right fit for shoes would be. I heard people saying tighter was better. I knew people who wore shoes at least a size lower than their normal size, and some of these people continued downsizing as they got used to the pain. When I tried on shoes with a nice snug fit, I was told to be weary of expanding sizes as I broke them in. It seemed like if the shoes fit you well, they weren’t going to stay the right size.

All this was a concern for me and I’m sure plenty of you out there, because I just didn’t and still don’t have the money to keep buying new shoes to play around with them. I wanted to try to get it right initially. This is very challenging when trying on a shoe isn’t necessarily the only concern. It could fit great, but then will it perform great? I tried on one pair of shoes to find myself thrilled by the fit. I instantly purchased them even though they were a large sum. I went to the gym and slipped off everything because the rubber was terrible.


Selecting the right shoes can be extremely frustrating. Many people try to find ways around it. People purchase shoes from places with great return policies so they can really test them. People try to wait around for shoe demos. You can also do what I did and try to win comps to get free shoes as a prize. There are ways to save money. You can get them used, try to win them, try to really test them, etc. It still can be a challenging process.

During my time of trying to wear other people’s shoes, going through shoes I won or found at a bargain store, and just sucking it up and buying different kinds, I started to wonder about this tight fit. People told me the pain wasn’t a big deal and that some people are just more sensitive than others. Everyone agreed the tight fit and uncomfortable feeling was necessary. Could this be bad for your feet though?

I love how the writer of the article posted above mentioned it being like foot binding. I heard from someone that it was common and normal that a climber’s foot would start shrinking. They said it was because most people don’t work out their feet, but climbers do. This causes the feet to become more toned and fit, thus dropping a size or two. It didn’t seem unhealthy the way it was explained. I did notice that my shoe size did change. The shoes I used to wear were way too large and I had to start getting smaller ones.

Was this because climbing shrunk your feet or just because it gets you more used to a snug foot size? I wasn’t sure at first, but now my smaller size of shoes is starting to feel large like my original size, and I’m more inclined to believe shrinking does happen.

I also have noticed foot problems and pain developing. Where I used to be able to wear a friend’s aggressive shoes for a day with just some mild irritation, I now couldn’t put on those shoes without full pain. My mom noticed my feet one day and said it just didn’t seem healthy. Are climbers sort of like ballerina’s then? Are we destroying our feet and smashing our toes to become the best?

cool move

A couple years back, I tried a pair of mad rocks because I could get them for free from committing to a year membership at the gym. I tried the contact 2.0s were are super sensitive and soft. I got a fit that is reasonable. My toes touch the end, but they don’t hurt unless I wear them for too long. My feet feel much better and my footwork is just fine, except that soft shoes are not particularly strong on tiny edging holds.

This has my thinking that getting a stiffer shoe might help with edging, but why downsize? I can climb just as well in shoes that just fit me right. I don’t think I climb better in tight ones because the pain stops me from being able to feel what I’m doing. Instead of feeling I’m on the hold, I just feel stabbing pain when they are too tight. For me it made sense to resist going too small. It doesn’t seem to help.

Another thing had me thinking about shoe sizing in another light, and that was ankle injuries. The article I’m sharing mentions how having shoes too tight can actually increase your chances of ankle injuries. This was something I hadn’t thought of but it makes sense. In the warrior’s way clinic, I learned the tighter and more rigid your body was on a fall, the more likely injury was to occur. If your shoes are in super tight, wouldn’t that have the same effect? It is interesting to think about. However, the thing I worried about was getting shoes off. The first time I hurt my ankle, it was in a pair of scarpas and the way the shoe is designed, you can almost completely pull the top off. This is due to the velcro set up. Well I had hurt my foot really bad that time and one of my concerns was getting the shoe off. Luckily, it being the kind it was, I could just peel it right off without moving my foot much.

This had me wondering what would have happened if I was in a really tight shoe that was more slipper like, and not as easy to peel off. The second time I hurt my ankle was in my mad rocks, but they weren’t too tight. They were a snug fit and though it took more work than the scarpas, they came off nice. I still can’t imagine getting off a shoe that was a couple sizes lower than my size while being hurt.

Anyway, it had come to my mind after all these things, that it just wasn’t worth it to wear shoes too small. I always tried to find the best snug fit, but I refuse to go beyond that. I think this will be better for my feet and reading this article was nice validation that I’m doing the right thing. I wanted to share this opinion because I don’t think it is out there as much. However, I think there are plenty of people that want to resist the too tight it is painful idea.

I understand finding the right shoe can feel like a nightmare. It seems best to find one you could walk around in and hike because it isn’t comfortable enough, but one that is comfortable enough you aren’t cringing in pain just from having the shoes on. Snug but not too small, seems the way to go.



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