April 16, 2021

How to Make Climbing Shoes Sticky Again

by Jullie

Do you often use your climbing shoes at the gym or on adventurous rappelling trips? There is a high probability that you may end up wearing out the rubber of their soles sooner or later. However, it depends upon the frequency of your trips and time spent in rappelling activities. 

After a while, it happens to all of us, whether beginners or seasoned rappellers. You may lose your grip as shoes become less sticky with time. Let us learn how to make climbing shoes sticky again.

Some specific areas of climbing shoes are under more pressure. The ball of the foot, sides, and toes are the first ones to go. Fine chalk and dirt particles start filling the rubber grains of soles. It leads to reduced friction, thereby becoming less effective for outdoor sports. 

But don’t lose heart! You can fix the damage to recover your expensive pair of climbing shoes. Here, we have compiled a few effective methods. You can try some of these solutions depending upon the age of your shoes or your usage.

Table of Contents
How to make rock climbing shoes sticky again

How to Make Climbing Shoes Sticky Again: My Favorites 

It is possible to use quick-fix solutions on relatively new or rarely used climbing shoes. The following two methods will help improve the grip quickly.

1) Controlled Warming

Warming them up is the easiest method of making them sticky. All you have to do is to leave your climbing shoes out in the sun for a while. The logic behind this quick-fix is that rubber becomes stickier upon heating. There is a rubber compound on all climbing shoe soles.

It will help gain friction on a sunny day, but please don’t leave them in the sun for too long. The rubber may warp, and the glue may melt if you expose them for too long. Learn more about the best climbing shoes rubber comparison guide.

There is one more way to warm your shoes up with controlled heating. You may rub the soles together for a couple of minutes. The rubbing action will generate enough heat to make them stickier. 

2) Washing and Scrubbing

Giving your rock climbing shoes a nice wash will always help. You could revive the friction even if you bought them five years ago. The best part is that washing does not damage your climbing shoes.

Make climbing shoes sticky again

We suggest regular rappellers wash their shoes after every 2-3 trips. Rappelling involves a fair amount of risk, and using rappelling shoes with reduced friction may increase the risk further. If you ever feel that your shoes are losing grip, a good scrub will immensely benefit you.

You will require a bucket of warm (not hot) water with a nice scrubbing brush. Please ensure that water is not too hot, or it may damage the glue. Once you scrub the sole, you can quickly notice the accumulated dirt. Keep your shoes pointed down while scrubbing. The dirty water will run off the toe point. You can use a towel or dry them in the sun.

3) Creating More Friction

If these quick fixes don’t last long, perhaps your shoes are on their last legs. But the best thing is that there are other ways to fix them. The next category of methods involves sanding or cutting to create more friction. It consists of roughing up the rubber when it appears too smooth. 

But there is a minor issue with this quick fix. If you overdo the roughing, the sole may quickly wear down and ultimately wear through. We recommend using this method only if your shoes are on their last legs. Also, use them as a last resort for rappelling, as you run the risk of reduced grip when you need it most.

4) Sanding

You will need a metal brush or sandpaper to roughen up the rubber sole. These tools can quickly add some grip to an old pair of climbing shoes. You can start by gently roughing up the entire sole.

The moment you see the shiny surface disappearing, you do not need any more sanding. You can notice the fresh and dark rubber underneath, ensuring a better grip.

How to make rappelling shoes sticky again

5) Cutting

It is an alternate method of reviving an old pair of shoes. If a metal scrubbing brush or sandpaper is not readily available, cutting some new tread will get similar results. You will need a small razor blade or a sharp knife. 

You can start by cutting a cross pattern. Beware! You must be careful with this method. If you happen to dig the tread too deep, it may damage the mid-sole by cutting through the lower part.

6) Resoling Your Shoes

Use this technique only if you have enough patience and the ability to resole your climbing shoes. You can try doing it yourself. Frankly, I don’t have that much patience. Nevertheless, it can be helpful in situations where there is not much wear. You can try some patchwork by using strong glue. 

You can also take help from a mountaineering shop or a local climbing gym. But it is challenging to find someone who can resole the shoe. Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, it is better to try yourself, provided you have the time, skill, and patience.

7) Buy a New Pair

If there is no hope to revive the friction or if the shoes often cry for help, perhaps it is time to dump your old shoes and buy a new pair. I strongly advise trying all the other methods before deciding to buy yourself new shoes. 

Who knows, you might be successful and save some money. Still, if all hope is lost and you feel tempted to treat yourself. We have something for every climbing style and budget.


You just learned methods about how to make climbing shoes sticky again. You may try some of these solutions before giving up on your old shoes. 

If you decide to resole, you may not be able to do it yourself or find a suitable person for doing the job. In that case, it is better to buy a new pair. If you are into rappelling or sport climbing, I would recommend looking at some of our climbing shoe reviews. 

The rankings on rappellingequipment.com are curated to save you time by aggregating the best reviewed products from the most reputable companies. We may receive a commission if you buy something using a link on this page.

About the author 


Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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