Purchasing a new pair of climbing shoes isn't an easy decision. A new pair of shoes can cost $200 and potentially needs replacing within a year. So instead of purchasing a new pair, the climber in question will dilly dally, convincing themselves session after session that they should hold off on buying new ones. That is until after weeks of doing this, the rubber is peeling off the sole of their shoes, and their big toe is poking out of the end. Okay, this isn’t always how it goes down, but we've seen it happen. When rubber is peeling off, and toes are poking out, the situation calls for a new pair of climbing shoes. But what if you don't want to toss the shoes until you're trying to revive them from the grave? There are many factors to consider as your shoes approach the end of their life, and depending on where you stand regarding each aspect, the timing of a new rock climbing shoe purchase for you may be earlier or later than your gym buddies.
Below is a list of climber personalities. After you identify where you fall, see the suggestions on the replacement timeline for your climbing shoes.
1. The Interventionist - Resole don't Replace
So you're an interventionist. You don't need the satisfaction and excitement of purchasing a new pair of climbing shoes. After each climbing session, you check the soles of your climbing shoes. If they show signs of thinning rubber but no holes, you'll intervene before catastrophe strikes (aka a hole forms). Instead, you box them up and send them off for resoling. This option saves you a solid chunk of change but requires rentals or a pair of backup shoes while your favorite team is off getting a makeover.
If you've never been an interventionist but want to start, it only works before the rubber completely wears through. A good time for resoling is when you begin to see the toe-box rubber peeling so that you can see two layers of rubber. In this condition, the re-soler has enough shoes to work with for an adequate patch-up job.
2. The Shoe Shuffler - Buy, Rotate, Buy, Rotate
The shoe shuffler. This climber is okay with spending money on new climbing shoes more frequently than their fellow climbers. Before rendering it unusable, they'll mark a pair as outdoor or competition climbing shoes. Then, they'll purchase new ones (look out for those deals) and wear the new shoes for most of their training. Over time they'll accumulate enough shoes in decent condition to rotate through the pairs, thus elongating each shoe's life.
The climber's goals dictate when to move a pair of shoes into a specific use category. If they move the shoe to the 'competition only' category, the rock climbing shoes likely have all rubber intact but have been broken in. If the climbing shoes get shuffled to the outdoor climbing category, they may have moderate wear but enough rubber so as not to slip off holds. These shoes might be an unpreferred pair as they will likely become dirty outdoors.
3. The Grave Digger - The shoes will live a complete life.
The gravedigger is a simplistic climber. They've accepted that unless they have angelic footwork, they'll blow through the shoe's rubber or laces at some point. But until that day comes, they will stay true to one pair of shoes. Only after their friends and other climbers comment on the sorry state of their climbing shoes, or they can see multiple toes poking out, will they toss them and purchase a brand new pair.
4. The Practical - Buy, Use, Bye
The practical is similar to the grave digger but, as their title implies, more practical. They view climbing shoes without functioning rubber or broken laces/straps as not worth keeping. Rather than paying for multiple resoles for the same pair of shoes, they prefer to buy brand-new ones and not deal with the hassle of shipping them off and using different shoes in the interim. So, being the practical person they are, the shoes get thrown away once the toe rubber splits or the velcro breaks. No one will necessarily comment on the decrepit shoes because the wear isn't as extreme as the grave digger. Still, the shoe's owner will notice the shoe's performance decrease, such as repeated foothold slips.
Nothing regarding rock climbing shoes is as straightforward as it seems. But we hope this breakdown of climber personalities helps identify when you may want to consider buying new shoes. If you fall under multiple personas, you have options on when to buy new climbing shoes, all of which can be the right choice! If there are any unanswered questions or comments you would like to share, please drop them below! We value your feedback and thoughts and would love to hear from you!