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The Complete Guide: How To Break in Climbing Shoes

Getting a new pair of climbing shoes is one of my favorite things to do. I feel like a child on Christmas morning when I receive my new shoes.

I can hardly contain my excitement as I toss the box open, stick my grubby toes into the fresh footbed, and edge forward on anything that is strong enough to support me.

After a short while, the excitement fades as my feet experience that familiar throbbing feeling as the break-in period approaches.

There is always a break-in period, regardless of how well a climbing shoe fits or what material it is made of.

Taking climbing shoes to break in means adapting them to the shape of our feet over time.

Your new shoes will stretch slightly as you use them, and your feet will mold to them as natural forces are applied through climbing.

This will create a custom-made fit, made just for you, thanks to the natural forces applied by climbing.

If you love climbing shoes as much as I love them then this article will be very helpful for you.

In this article, we will discuss how to break into climbing shoes and much more related to this specific topic.

So let’s not waste any further time and take a look at our first main topic that is,

How To Break In Climbing Shoes:Break In Climbing Shoes

Step One: Get the Right Size:

There will always be some discomfort associated with breaking into climbing shoes.

Considering you’re using your feet to stretch climbing shoes, you should expect some discomfort. However, this shouldn’t be a painful process.

It is likely that you are wearing the wrong size shoes if you experience severe foot pain.

I usually buy a few different sizes when I buy climbing shoes online. By comparing the fit to one another, I am able to make an educated decision on sizing.

When you have something to compare to, you can make a much more informed decision.

Step Two: Plastic Bags & the Pre-Break In:

If you have sized your climbing shoes for performance fit, it can be hard to even get them on your feet when they’re brand new.

The good news is that there’s a trick we can use to get around this problem. A plastic bag is the only thing you need.

Your new best friend is about to be this unsuspecting climbing shoe stretcher.

As a result of the plastic, even tight shoes are easier to slip into with our sticky feet.

The best way to do this is to place your entire foot in a plastic bag or, better yet, to tear off a small section of it onto your hand.

By placing it around your heel, you ‘shoe horn’ it into your shoe. By placing it around your heel, you ‘shoe horn’ it into your shoe.

I like to wear my new climbing shoes at home before putting them through a full gym session.

When fitting the shoes, I sit down and manipulate the heel cup and uppers for no longer than five minutes at a time, making sure there are no dead spots.

When you’re about to break in a new hiking boot or sneakers, it’s common to wear them inside.

However, when it comes to climbing shoes, I wouldn’t recommend walking around too much in them.

That beautiful downturned camber can be destroyed by excessive walking in climbing shoes.

This ‘pre-break in’ ritual is worth doing because it’s a great way to ensure you’re happy with the shoe’s size and shape before it’s time for you to commit to the shoe from the start.

Step Three: Get Climbing:Get Climbing

By climbing in your climbing shoes, you will be able to break them in correctly. There is nothing strange or secret about this.

To get used to your new shoes, start climbing on some easy routes that have some big jugs, pockets, and smears to learn how to manipulate them.

Forefoot movements are enhanced significantly by these big holds, compared to small edges and crimps.

For the first few sessions, you may feel slightly uncomfortable, so ensure you take off your shoes regularly.

At least for the first few sessions, you might prefer to wear socks.

Step Four: Rinse and Repeat:

In a couple of climbing sessions, repeat step three – you will soon be able to find a pair of perfectly fitting climbing shoes.

You’ll be able to move from the big holds to the smaller edges after the first session.

It won’t take long for you to complete those pesky projects in these kicks.

How Long Does It Take to Break in Climbing Shoes?Break in Climbing Shoes

In the end, how long you wear a shoe and what material it is made of determines how long it takes the shoe to stretch.

In general, climbing shoes become significantly more relaxed after three to five climbing sessions.

A synthetic climbing shoe’s break-in process may take a little longer than a leather climbing shoe’s.

Because synthetic climbing shoes aren’t made of the same materials as leather, they’re not as durable and don’t conform as quickly as leather shoes.

Do Climbing Shoes Stretch?

When it comes to the material of the upper, climbing shoes typically fall into three categories: synthetics, leathers, or hybrids.

Your shoe will stretch to a certain extent as a result of this, so it’s important to understand these factors at the time of purchase and during break-in.

It is common for leather to stretch from half a size to two full sizes since it is a natural fiber.

As opposed to synthetic shoes, which are less compromising and usually do not go beyond a half size, leather shoes tend to fit true to size.

It is also important to check whether the shoe is lined on the inside. A leather shoe with lining will have a very limited stretch capacity, about a half size.


It is important to remember that your shoes won’t stretch lengthwise. It is the upper material of your shoe that stretches in width and volume, not the rubber sole and rand.

How to Stretch Climbing Shoes?Stretch Climbing Shoes

To be honest, you should avoid stretching your shoes forcefully. Climbing shoes are extremely tough, and strong.

In order to direct power throughout the shoe, they are designed to create tension. These shoes only look good but in general, they are very hard and complex.

Forcing them to stretch will compromise the shoe’s delicate balance. In the event of a dire situation, desperate measures must be taken. 

No matter whether you made an ill-informed purchase, grabbed a steal on a half-size down deal, or purchased something online that you cannot return.

Whatever the reason, don’t panic if you can’t break in using your usual method.

Option One: The Plastic Bag Method:

Do you remember that plastic bag we talked about earlier? As far as stretching climbing shoes go, this is still the best option.

Instead of forcing the shoe to conform to your foot, this method allows the shoe to stretch naturally.

You will get the best results for your foot shape if you stretch your climbing shoes this way, although it is one of the most time-consuming and painful methods that can be used to test your climbing shoes.

Option 2: The Freezer Method:

Climbing shoes are commonly stretched using the Freezer method. You can do it pretty easily as well.

Put some ziplock bags inside your shoes, and fill up the bags. Let the water expand in your freezer after you fill the shoe with water, but leave some space for expansion in the bag.

Water freezes overnight, expanding, causing the shoe to stretch as it expands.

Using this method produced abundantly clear results after we experimented with it ourselves.

Firstly, if you buy the cheapest possible zip lock bags, as I did, it is very easy to split them.

Water caused the red uppers of my Moccasyms to darken when those cheap bags inevitably split, and now they look 20 years old.

Option 3: The Heat Method:

Several people have mentioned using heat to stretch climbing shoes, which is contrary to all climbing shoe knowledge.

When your shoes are a bit warmer, the material, whether leather or synthetic, is more likely to stretch.

Climbing shoes are naturally vulnerable to excessive heat, however. There can be melting of glue and a warping of rubber caused by heat.

Keeping your climbing shoes in proper storage and out of direct sunlight is critical to their longevity.

Here’s how you can stretch climbing shoes with a hairdryer if you’re willing to risk damaging them.

A hairdryer is traditionally used to heat shoes. Wear them while allowing them to cool down once they are warm.

It worked significantly better to wear the shoes while heating them with the hairdryer than to preheat them. Just make sure your feet don’t get burned! Rather than melting our glue, we’re going for toasty.

Option 4: The Water Method:

With hot water, climbing shoes can be stretched further. Take your shoes off and soak them in the bathtub or shower for about 5 minutes.

When you are finished wearing the shoes around the house, keep them on for a short while.

Once they feel like they’ve started to dry slightly, take them off and stuff them with socks or paper. Keep the socks in the shoe until you go climbing in them.

What Is the Best Way to Stretch Climbing Shoes?Stretch Climbing Shoes

Truth be told, it’s pretty difficult to transform a shoe that’s too small into one that fits perfectly.

Therefore, if there are no other alternatives and you are desperate to stretch climbing shoes, using the methods discussed above is your best option.

A plastic bag and some good old-fashioned brute force are the best ways to stretch a climbing shoe. If your shoes are just a little too small or don’t fit right, this is certainly the best way to break them in.

It is better to use the hot water method or hair dryer method if you feel your shoes are only a little bit off.

If you want extra stretch in your climbing shoes then you can use the freezer method it works perfectly.

Because the shoe isn’t being stretched around your foot, the areas that stretch with the ice method might not be the ones you wanted.

Make sure you dont get adventurous at the time of stretching climbing shoes because harsh experiments on these shoes will result in damaging the overall look of these shoes.

The Importance of Breaking Into Your Climbing Shoes:Breaking Into Your Climbing Shoes

If your climbing shoes fit you like a second skin then it’s a perfect size. A well-fitting climbing shoe should feel as if it is tightly hugging your foot; however, a new shoe can cause discomfort and stiffness. It is necessary to break in the shoes in this case.

If you want to break shoes in properly, you must ensure that the process is done correctly.

These are the reasons why it is important to break into your climbing shoes. 


Your new pair of climbing shoes need to be tight but comfortable also. Rubber content, upper material, and inner lining determine the fit and stretch of the shoe. You should have a snug fit after breaking in climbing shoes.

There should be a minimum amount of dead space in your toe box, although you should avoid overly bent toes.

There should be no excessive rubbing on your feet, and the shoe should fit securely at the heel. It doesn’t matter what kind of shoe you wear, your climbing shoe should still fit comfortably.


There are various styles of climbing shoes for different levels of climbing ability, but all of them are built with a performance fit. Performance varies depending on the brand and style.

Also Read: How To Repair Rubber Boots: 6 Tips Fix Cracks and Leaks

Wrapping It All Up!!

So I hope that finally, you understand how to break in climbing shoes properly with the help of our article.

If you still have any problems let us know in the comment section we will make sure to provide you with the right solution.