Footwear in rock climbing: current practice

R. D. McHenry, G .P. Arnold, W. Wang, R. J. Abboud (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Many rock climbers wear ill-fitting and excessively tight footwear during activity. However, there is insufficient evidence of the extent or harms of this practice.

Objectives: To investigate footwear use in rock climbers with a focus on issues surrounding fit.

Methods: A cross-sectional study with active rock climbers of over one year of experience completing a survey on their activity and footwear.

Additionally, the authors quantified foot and shoe lengths and sizes alongside demographic data.

Results: Ill-fitting and excessively tight footwear was found in 55 out of 56 rock climbers. Foot pain during activity was also commonplace in 91% of the climbers. A mean size reduction of almost 4 UK shoe sizes was found between the climbers' street shoe size and that of their climbing footwear using a calibrated foot/shoe ruler. There is an unfortunate association of climbers of higher abilities seeking a tighter shoe fit (p< 0.001).

Conclusion: With the elucidation of footwear use amongst rock climbers, further investigation may aim to quantify its impact and seek a solution balancing climbing performance while mitigating foot injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-158
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


  • Foot injury
  • Footwear
  • Rock climbing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Podiatry


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