by Brad

April 9, 2021

How Climbing Shoes are Made

A climbing shoe is a unique footwear solely to climb rocks. A standard climbing shoe has little, if any, padding, a smooth and sticky rubber sole extended with a rubber rand for a snug fit.

Making guesses on how are climbing shoes made? What are climbing shoes made of? Keep reading to find out how climbing shoes are made.

How Climbing Shoes Are Made

For every climber, whether aspiring or professional, this unique pair of shoes is a requirement.

The two main common methods explaining how climbing shoes are made:

  1. Board-last construction;
  2. Slip-last construction.

Very few manufacturers produce board-lasted. Massive current production is the slip-lasted type.

Slip-last construction creates a variety of kicks. Morning-wood stiff high-top climbing shoes to noodle-soft slipper.

How much are rock climbing shoes

The Last

For a perfect fit, they build a climbing shoe around a last (high-density polyethylene).

This dictates the overall shape and fit. Last determines the forefoot width, heel width, forefoot width, overall volume, downturn degree and asymmetry, and toe box shape and depth.

Due to variations in last shapes, a comfort-oriented last is flat and mimics natural human foot. A highly asymmetric aggressively downturned looks like an eagle talon.

How Are Climbing Shoes Made?

Here are two main methods:

1) Board-last Construction

It’s an ancient method of making climbing shoes. Because of lack of versatility, this traditional method is no longer common. In this type, the footbed is glued to the board (full-length midsole). To the bottom of the last, the board is attached.

Over the top of the last, the reassembled upper is slipped. Round the edges, the upper is tightly wrapped, then the midsole glued in place. Tight wrapping plus gluing makes the midsole an integrated part.

To a footbed, the upper is connected to enclose the last. Notice the difference between this type of shoe and the slip-lasted is how the footbed is secured.

Here, the stiff midsole secures the shoe while the other has no midsole, and the upper is directly sewn to the footbed; then, the sole and rand rubber are glued onto the upper.

How should fit climbing shoes

2) Slip-last Construction

The slipping of the sock onto the hard plastic comes as the final step. Hence, the name slip-last. The steps begin with a last in the shape of an ankle and foot. Last is the basis of everything. Before making the shoe, the most appropriate last is chosen. Last determines the shape of the shoe.

So, a wide range of lasts is key for different shoe designs and shapes. Just like shoes, lasts have different sizes. For the entire process, before the rubber is applied and ground down, a shoe rests on a last.

For perfect changes in the last’s shape, the person making the shoe spends hours melting plastic shavings while building up the sides.

Next, they apply glue to the shoe, cure it and finally attach the rubber rand. To compress the shoe and get a tight seal of the newly attached rubber, special machine technology is used.

This is done with the sole on. Hand grinding comes last. Hand grinding ensures a perfect finish and a smooth edge on both the rand and the sole.

What Are Climbing Shoes Made Of?

No idea what are climbing shoes made of, here’s a quick one.

1) Lined Leather

Shoes with lined leather have a mixture of synthetic materials and leather. Not the perfect choice for good at aeration. However, their comfort when wearing is unmatched. The climbing shoes can stretch to almost ¾ the original size.

Lined leather has more skin-to-skin contact for comfort. However, be sure of some stinky smells.

How small should be your rock climbing shoes

2) Unlined Leather

Unlined leather shoes are purely made of leather and can stress up to full size depending on the frequency of wearing them.

Unlined climbing shoes are the most breathable and the most comfortable. Always go for a size that your toes barely touch the end of the shoe and not pushing out.

It is normal to have discolored feet after a climbing session because the shoe color will bleed onto your feet. We have covered that topic in our article on how small climbing shoes should be.

3) Synthetic

This type has the lowest breathability compared to the others. With poor ventilation, the shoe increases the probability of stinky sweaty hot feet.

Rock climbing is a fun activity for all ages. But, with the wrong shoes, rock climbing will prove to be the worst draining activity. Always equip yourself with the proper shoes to ensure comfort.

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About the author 


Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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