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Rock-Climbing Shoes: A Survey of Attitudes and Practices

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  • 1 Arizona College of Podiatric Medicine, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ. Dr. Page is retired.
  • | 2 Professional Rock Climber, St. George, UT.
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Background: There is a paucity of literature regarding rock climbing footwear. Rock climbers anecdotally voice numerous complaints regarding their current footwear. In an effort to improve existing rock-climbing footwear, implementation of a survey tool assessing the attitudes and practices of rock climbers was undertaken.

Methods: A Web-based survey was developed to assess the demographics, attitudes, and practices of individuals active in rock climbing, with a focus on footwear.

Results: Forty-five of the 417 respondents were male and 55% were female. The average years climbing was 7, with a majority of respondents in the 18- to 34-year-old category. The majority climbed 5 to 10 hours/week. Eighty percent identified as intermediate or advanced climbers. Climbing shoes were an average of 0.83 size smaller than the climber’s street shoes. The more elite the climber, the greater the mismatch. Overall satisfaction with current rock-climbing shoes was 88%; however, as the age of climber and number of years of participation increased, the level of satisfaction decreased. The most frequently reported problems with shoes included inconsistent sizing between brands and poor heel fit. The most commonly reported locations of pain were the toes and heel.

Conclusions: The authors concluded the following: 1) a surprisingly high satisfaction with current rock-climbing shoes was reported; 2) the difference in size between climbing shoes and street shoes was less than expected; 3) more shoe fitting problems were experienced by those with the most experience in climbing and those who spend the most time climbing; 4) the most common locations for experiencing pain were the toes and the posterior heel or Achilles tendon; 5) higher than expected satisfaction levels with climbing shoes contrasted with the very high number of specific complaints and recommendations for improvement; and 6) because of the increasing popularity of rock climbing, foot care providers should learn about the various types of climbing and the shoe gear needs that result therefrom.

Corresponding author: David W Jenkins, DPM, Professor, Arizona College of Podiatric Medicine, Midwestern University, 19555 N 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85308. (E-mail: djenki@midwestern.edu)