Do your climbing shoes smell? Are they dirty? If you answered yes to either of these questions, this is the article for you. In it, we’ll cover how to clean rock climbing shoes.
We know the problems, the dirty, slippery soles, the smelly insides, but we also have some tips and tricks for you to help prevent these problems from growing and to put a stop to these problems if they have grown. It doesn’t take much to take good care of your climbing shoes, and it can save you a lot of time and money down the road.
Your shoes are one of the most crucial pieces of climbing gear, so why would you not give them the best care you possibly can? Good shoe care can not only help your climbing, but it can keep your nose happy too! We’ve included some tips for dirty shoes and some tips for smelly shoes, so you can pick what works best for your shoes.
Why is Cleaning Your Climbing Shoes Important?
Dirty rock climbing shoes are slippery rock climbing shoes. This means that if you don’t clean your shoes, or make a very conscious effort to keep your shoes clean, you are more likely to slip and fall while climbing. Rock climbing shoes are designed to give you traction and help you stick to the rock a little bit, but if the rubber sole gets coated in dirt and debris, the rubber isn’t able to perform at its highest level.
In this article, we’re going to give you our tips on what to do when your rock climbing shoes get dirty, but there are some things you can do to help prevent your shoes from getting too dirty, to begin with. The main thing you can do is to only wear your shoes when you are actually climbing. If you are walking the approach to a climb or standing at the base belaying your friend up, wearing approach shoes or sneakers will help minimize the wear on your climbing shoes.
A good pair of approach shoes or close-toed sneakers is crucial to preventing excess wear and tear of your climbing shoes. We recommend that your approach shoes be closed-toe, as it will help keep your feet clean and protected. That way, when you do put on your climbing shoes, your feet will be as free of dirt as possible.
The other thing that you can do to keep your climbing shoes as clean as possible while you’re out climbing for a day is to bring a tarp to stand on when you’re putting on your shoes. If you try to avoid standing directly on dirt with your climbing shoes, you will minimize the amount of dirt that you have to clean off later. If you don’t have a tarp, you can also try to only stand on rocks when you’re wearing your shoes at the base of a climb.
Another easy thing to do to help minimize how dirty and smelly your climbing shoes get is to take good care of your climbing shoes all the time. Make sure that you allow your climbing shoes to dry out completely after a day of climbing to prevent moisture buildup. This will help minimize bacterial growth and keep your shoes smelling as fresh as possible for as long as possible with little work on your part.
What Causes Smelly Climbing Shoes?
A number of things can cause smelly climbing shoes, but the main one is a buildup of sweat and bacteria. The key to solving climbing shoe smells is to take good care of both your feet and your climbing shoes. If you tend to have excessively sweaty feet, it might be a good idea for you to invest in an antibacterial shoe spray like the ones that you might find at a climbing wall. While it might seem a little extra to have your own bottle, properly caring for your shoes and utilizing an antibacterial spray can dramatically decrease the general shoe smells.
Can You Put Rock Climbing Shoes in the Washing Machine?
The answer to this question depends on what type of shoes you have. If you have leather climbing shoes, stay away from the washing machine. The machine will likely harm the leather sides of your shoes. If you have synthetic climbing shoes, you can put them in the washing machine, but only in certain settings. You also should only use gentle soap and a minimal amount, so as to not introduce your climbing shoes to any harsh chemicals.
If you do choose to machine wash your synthetic climbing shoes, make sure you do so on a gentle cycle with warm, not hot, water. Hot water can damage and even melt the rubber on your shoes, so make sure to stay away from hot water. The synthetic sides of your climbing shoe can be washed, but the dye in them is not always able to stand up to the soap and water, so don’t be surprised if you pull your shoes out to find them a little faded in color.
One thing to make sure to avoid in the dryer. Washing your shoes in the washing machine is ok, but just make sure to air-dry them when you’re done. The heat from the dryer can melt the seams and rubber soles of your shoes, causing irreversible damage.
The Most Common Ways to Clean Your Climbing Shoes
The most common way to clean climbing shoes is by hand. We recommend using a soft scrub-brush, a mild detergent, and a basin or tub of lukewarm water. Use the soft brush to wipe off any loose dirt before using any water. Make sure that the water isn’t too hot, as it’ll damage your shoes, but if it’s too cold, it won’t be able to get all the oils and dirt off your shoes.
Use a small amount of mild soap or detergent in the water and submerge your shoes. Slowly work your way over your whole shoe, scrubbing gently with the brush. Make sure you don’t scrub the soft sides too hard, or they might fray. It also is sometimes easier to use your fingers in some of the smaller places on your shoes and use the brush for large areas, such as the rubber sole.
When you’re done scrubbing your shoe, fill the basin with clean lukewarm water to rinse the soap off of your shoe. Alternatively, you can use the sink or faucet of a bathtub to run lukewarm water over your shoes until all the soap is gone and the water is clean. Make sure you get all soap residue off of your shoes as that can also make your shoes slippery when they dry.
To dry your shoes, we recommend leaving them in a warm place with good airflow. You can stuff your shoes with newspaper if you’re worried about them losing their shape, but make sure the change out the paper frequently, so it doesn’t mold. Direct sunlight is not a good place to leave your shoes, as the sunlight can overheat the rubber, damaging it. Leave your shoes to thoroughly dry before climbing in them again.
We mentioned this earlier on in the article, but it can never be overstated that different types of climbing shoes will respond differently to water. Synthetic shoes will change the least after contact with water and heat, while leather climbing shoes may stretch or shrink depending on how you treat them. Please be extremely careful with leather climbing shoes! You still want them to fit when you’re done cleaning them.
Does Cleaning Your Climbing Shoes Help Make them Sticky Again?
Cleaning your climbing shoes isn’t going to restore them to exactly how you bought them, but by taking good care of your shoes and cleaning them regularly, you can extend the life of your shoes and bring some new life back to old shoes. Washing your shoes is not a miracle thing, but it can reduce dirt and debris, which make your shoes feel slipperier, so they might feel sticky again.
What makes your climbing shoes sticky is the special rubber used to make the soles of climbing shoes and what makes your climbing shoes slippery is when that rubber gets covered up and coated with dirt and grim. A common trick many climbers use at the crag to help prevent their shoes from being slippery on a climb is to wipe the sole of your shoe off on the other leg. This removes any loose dirt from the sole of your shoe immediately before a climb, allowing your shoes to perform at their highest level.
Does Cleaning Your Climbing Shoes Help Deodorize Them?
When you’re cleaning your climbing shoes, you can pick specific areas to target with your cleaning. Maybe your shoes have just been through a lot of dirt on a recent climbing trip, so your focus might be cleaning the soles of your shoes. This would be a very different style of cleaning your shoes than if your focus was the general smell. There are some tips and tricks that you can incorporate into your regular shoe care, as well as your shoe cleanings that can help deodorize your climbing shoes.
One of the simplest things you can do is to invest in an antibacterial shoe spray. These sprays are designed to help kill fungus and smell, causing bacteria. They aren’t a magic spray that will prevent your shoes from getting smelly, but they will help limit the bacteria in your shoes.
Another easy way to halt bacterial growth is to freeze your shoes. This can be done in a variety of ways. You could opt to put your shoes in the freezer. We just recommend sealing your shoes in a plastic bag before putting them in the freezer, unless you want to risk them smelly foods. If you live in a cold place, you can also leave your shoes in your car outside overnight or just in your garage. The cold won’t be as much as in the freezer, but it is enough to help limit bacterial growth and, thus, the development of smell.
You can also store your shoes with deodorizers in them. Shoe stores typically sell shoe deodorizers that are made to absorb smells. The activated charcoal ones tend to work best, especially for shoes that get really smelly really fast, such as climbing shoes. Another similar option is to put dryer sheets in your shoes overnight. This won’t work quite as well but may be a more realistic option for some people.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Clean Rock Climbing Shoes
So now that you know how to care for your climbing shoes go out and do it! Caring for your climbing shoes can make you and your feet so much happier. If you implement some of the quick daily tips, it will likely end up saving you time in your shoe cleaning later on. Rock climbing is so reliant on your feet that it just makes sense to dedicate some extra time for some TLC for your feet and your shoes.
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like our other climbing tips here.