Footwork is the foundation of a solid climbing repertoire. If your footwork is lame, your upper body has to do all the work. Unfortunately, upper bodies are weak sauce compared to those big meaty quads and glutes down below. Climbing harder means climbing smarter. No matter how bulging your biceps, following these simple tips to improve your footwork will yield near immediate results.
Look At Where You’re Going...with your feet
Good footwork starts with identifying your target. You can’t expect to have raptor-like precision if you blindly flail around like a fish on a hook. Foot-Eye coordination is extremely important in climbing. Pro Tip: Always look at where you're putting your feet, even when you're not climbing.
In a climbing gym, the amount of noise your feet make as you ascend the wall is a tell tale indicator of your level of footwork mastery. If you sound like an elephant flattening a Buick, take note! A climber with good technique won't make any noise with their feet. Practice climbing slowly and silently. This will require more focus and precision, leading to better foot placements and less slippage.
Trust and Commit
"Trust your feet," is one of the most common phrases in rock climbing beta because it's a problem for almost everyone. 'Hold shopping' and bouncing are common in climbers who haven't learned to commit. Unfortunately, half-hearted placements usually fail because the climber hasn't put enough weight on the foot to create the necessary friction to stay on. The key to improvement is self awareness and focus. Pick a hold, put your foot on it, and without any bouncing, move up. Don't hesitate, just go. If you have access to a slab wall, try climbing without your hands at all. At Origin, we actually have a dedicated No-Hands V1 problem just for this!
Buy Better Fitting Shoes
Floppy, baggy, burpey, loose, or shoes so tight that you can’t think about anything except how much pain you’re in, are not going to help you climb better. Find a shoe that fits snuggly, with absolutely no extra space anywhere around your foot. Your shoes should be on the fine line between uncomfortably snug and painful. Acute pain is not great, but neither are bedroom slippers. Learn to balance between tight and painful and your shoes will work miracles for you. This isn't always just a matter of size however. Take every opportunity to try on different styles and brands. Even if you're happy with your current pair, it's good to have a few pairs (for different styles of climbing and to help them last longer). Don't focus on brand marketing or what your friends think, find the perfect fit for your foot and don't worry about what other people are wearing.
Focus on Efficiency - Use your Hips and Ankles!
Good footwork is efficient and allows you to move up the wall with fewer moves and less energy. Traversing is a great way to learn movement efficiency. Try not to match hands and feet each time you move. Instead, cross your feet and hands over and under each other to the next hold in a fluid continuation of movement. You’ll have to move your hips, knees, and ankles more, rotating your body in new directions and using different parts of your shoe. It’s just like dancing!
Still looking for more help with those twinkle toes? Sign up for Intermediate Technique with Andy Raether and learn the hi-tech footwork we can't fit in a blog!
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