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October 7, 2010

Hi Folks,

My friends and I have been working on a new route lately. Based on our time on it on toprope, it's likely going to go at something above my normal top-end 10b! I've been climbing it in my years-old Aspires or Tradmasters, and I figured that I better get a pair new shoes if I'm actually going to try to climb that hard. I certainly dated myself when I mentioned Aspires and Tradmasters, but on top of that I have multiple pair of Aces in my basement (one of which had been resoled over a dozen times), a couple of pair of Evolv's and 3-4 assorted others! Unfortunately none of these have enough of an edge left to actually assist me in this kind of climbing.

So have you shopped for climbing shoes lately? This morning I headed out to the local climbing shops (basically IME and EMS here in the north country) to check out the latest & greatest. You gotta understand that I'm not exactly up to date with climbing gear these days, and especially not as it pertains to shoes. Over the past bunch of years I've settled into guiding where I'm in my shoes all day and more moderate climbing in general. Nothing where I need serious performance and assuredly nothing where I would want to cram my long suffering feet into something where I'm going to want to take 'em off after every pitch. I've heard great things about a number of the new breed of shoe and had some hopes that I would be able to find something good on sale.

Unfortunately that wasn't going to be the case. At least a part of this was my fault... How could I think I would get any kind of selection at the end of the rock season? I guess I should be happy that there were 4-5 models that were available in anything close to a size I could get on my foot. And I'm not going to go into the gruesome details, but the sizing thing in climbing shoes is completely out of control. The difference between sizes from brand to brand is totally bizarre, not to mention the fact that they bear absolutely no resemblance to real-world shoe sizes. Even so, how can one manufacturer's 11 feel like a 9 and another's like a 10.? Folks, what is the point of even putting a standard size number on a shoe if it's not even going to be close? They might as well put a #1 on whatever is their smallest size and go up from there.

In addition most of the shoes I tried were anything but comfortable. For the life of me I can't understand how or why anyone would want to cram their feet into some of the shoes I tried on. What I felt must have been close to the pain my mother used to feel when she was wearing some of the high heels I saw her wearing when I was a kid. I pay a lot of attention to how my shoes fit and how my feet feel in them. I ride literally thousands of miles on my bike, do what is probably a couple of hundred miles of hiking every year and the last thing I want is a shoe that's uncomfortable. My current pair of road cycling shoes are the top of the line, $400, Pearl Izumi shoe and they fit like a glove. They are light and tight, with a very stiff carbon fiber sole and I can ride 100+ miles and do 10,000' of climbing in a day. Heck, 3 years ago I rode 12 consecutive days in the Pyrenees and never even got a hot-spot! My Nepal Top mountaineering boots are totally comfortable, yet I can hike in them all day, day after day, plus climb the hardest ice and even 5.8 rock. So why can't rock climbing shoe manufacturers make a comfortable high-performance shoe? You got me...
While it sounds like I didn't find a single rock shoe I thought I could live with, or more accurately IN, that's not exactly true. I was very impressed with the La Sportiva TC Pro, the Tommy Caldwell model. Trying it on a small climbing wall it really felt as if it would edge very well and was something close to comfortable. I didn't much like the olive drab color, but I could live with that. The sticking point, so to speak, is the price. At $170 MSRP, that's an awful lot of jack for someone who's on Social Security. I'm going to have to think about this for a day or two, and probably need to run it by the wife as well. Let's just hope that our new climb doesn't get pinched before I justify a new pair of climbing shoes...

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Remember - climb hard, ride the steep stuff, stay safe and above all BE NICE,

Al Hospers
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire

Mountaineering /n./ slow walking uphill while not feeling very well.
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