April 9, 2021

How Climbing Shoes are Made? (8-Step Process Explained)

by Brad

A climbing shoe is a unique footwear solely to climb rocks.

A standard climbing shoe has little 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.


Table of Contents
How Climbing Shoes are Made
How Climbing Shoes are Made? (8-Step Process Explained)

Whether aspiring or professional, this unique pair of shoes is a requirement for every climber.

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 slippers.

Here are two main methods of making climbing shoes.

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.

The upper is tightly wrapped around the edges, 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 is glued onto the upper.

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 an ankle and foot shape. 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.

Before the rubber is applied and ground down, a shoe rests on a last for the entire process.

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.

Special machine technology is used to compress the shoe and get a tight seal of the newly attached rubber.

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.

How Climbing Shoes Are Made: The Complete Manufacturing Process

This is the eight-step process of how climbing shoes are made.

  1. First Step – Select the Last Shape Design
  2. Second Step – Pick the Upper Material and Lasting Method
  3. Third Step – Midsole Attachment
  4. Fourth Step – Rand Attachment
  5. Fifth Step – Rubber Outsole Fitting
  6. Sixth Step – Machine Pressing
  7. Seventh Step – Drying and Final Polishing
  8. Eighth Step – Testing and Revisions

1. First Step – Select the Last Shape Design

Climbing shoes are built around a last (high-density polyethylene) for a perfect fit.

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 the natural human foot.

A highly asymmetric, aggressively downturned looks like an eagle talon.

Climbing shoes are not simple.

People think that climbing shoes are made with a simple process because they do not know how are climbing shoes made.

A company designs the Last Shape for the climbing shoes before they fix the first piece of material.

The shoe’s last shape is an object that consists of wood or plastic materials.

The last shape will act as the base object to make the climbing shoes.

The climbing shoe design comes from the last shape.

The last shape can determine the shape, size, and width.

Climbing shoe manufacturing companies make different types of last shapes to meet people’s demands.

The differences in the last shape design create inconsistencies in the shoe shape of different companies.

2. Second Step – Pick the Upper Material and Lasting Method

Once the company technicians finalize the last shape, they will put the first layer of material to build the shoes.

This material is known as the upper material.

Most companies were using leather-based upper material before.

Companies are also using synthetic upper materials for durability.

The leather-based upper material is perfect as it is breathable and fits the climber’s feet.

The stretchability of the leather is also a disadvantage.

Most manufacturers use hybrid material instead of pure leather.

Some shoes get out of shape due to the high stretchability of the leather.

You will not find breathability in synthetic materials.

They do not stretch and last for a long time.

Top athletes use shoes made with a combination of both materials.

Once comfortable with the upper material, you can select the lasting method.

The old method is known as the board method because it involves the use of a board a the bottom of the shoes.

The technician used the board at the base and fixed all the other parts of the shoes around it.

The new method is known as the slip-lasted method.

It involves making a sock-like structure with the upper material and slipping the sock on the last shape to construct the shoes.

3. Third Step – Midsole Attachment

The company technicians attach the midsole to the upper material after they fit the upper material on the last shape.

The midsole is the part of the bottom of the shoes.

Companies choose midsole material wisely as it can affect the shoes’ size, rigidity, and edging abilities.

One company can make more than one shoe model with different midsoles to fulfill the needs of athletes.

Many climbers prefer a hard midsole to help with the edging.

If an athlete has to climb boulders, he will prefer the soft midsole.

You need more sensitivity and grip when climbing boulders.

A soft midsole can enhance your ability to feel the boulder’s surface.

It is hard to do it when you use stiff midsole material.

4. Fourth Step – Rand Attachment

You can learn about the rand attachment to know more about how are climbing shoes made.

Once you are satisfied with the fitting of the midsole, you can attach the rand.

Rand is responsible for many functions in the shoes.

Shoe structure maintenance is the most crucial function of the rand.

Ran can also protect the shoes from abrasion at specific points near the edges.

The edge of the shoe near the toe can face more abrasion as the climber center most of his weight on this part.

Rand also helps technicians attach the outsole to the shoe’s bottom.

You will not lose the shoe’s structural integrity when you use the high-quality rand.

Rand creates tension in the shoes also.

You will not feel edges rolling when you stand on the sharp edge.

5. Fifth Step – Rubber Outsole Fitting

The outsole is the bottom part of the climbing shoes.

It is the part you see on the bottom of the shoes.

Most companies use glue to attach the outsole to the shoe.

All companies do not use the outsole with the same material.

Some researched different outsole materials to find one that suits their company shoes.

Some acquire the outsole material from high-quality outsole manufacturers.

Evolv and Five Ten manufacture the outsole for their shoe.

La Sportiva and Scarpa get their outsole material from the high-performance range of Vibram.

Companies use different types of rubbers to make the outsole.

They mix soft and hard rubbers to manufacture the outsole.

It will give durability and flexibility to the outsole.

6. Sixth Step – Machine Pressing

When the technician attaches the outsole, the shoe may not appear in shape due to empty spaces in shoe parts.

You need to remove these spaces to make shoes more durable.

The machine pressing method can help you with it.

The technicians use a pressing machine to press all parts of the climbing shoes.

It ensures no empty spaces in the shoe parts and that materials fix together.

The seamless appearance of the shoes is also due to the machine pressing.

7. Seventh Step – Drying and Final Polishing

There are different types of glue in the market.

Strong glue material needs some time to dry.

Shoe manufacturers allow climbing shoes to dry for many days.

There is a different waiting time for every type of glue.

Once they ensure the glue binding, they polish the shoes to make them shiny.

Polishing also increases the durability of the surface material.

8. Eighth Step – Testing and Revisions

Many ask about the waiting time.

They want to know why the company keeps shoes for many days as shipment also takes some time.

They want to test the shoes before sending them to the customers.

It is impossible to check the durability when the glue is not dried.

The development team tests the shoes at the start.

It goes to the athletes also for testing because they can give more information about the shoe’s structure and comfort.

The company tests a new model of shoes for years before sending it to the market.

A company may have to make many revisions before finalizing the design.

Shoe manufacturing is a time-taking process even with technological advancements.

What Are Climbing Shoes Made Of?

Let’s take a look at the materials needed to make climbing shoes.

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.

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 do not push out.

It is normal to have discolored feet after a climbing session because the shoe color will bleed onto your feet.

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

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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