How to Clean Climbing Shoes: A Guide for Freshness and Grip

Introduction and Preparations

Why did the climbing shoe blush? Because it saw the boulder crack!

Getting a Grip on Maintenance

Hey there, fellow adventurers and climbers! If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably shared a few memorable moments with your trusty climbing shoes. Those moments involve scaling vertical walls, conquering challenging routes, or clinging onto a boulder like a gecko. But after all the sweat, dirt, and exposure to extreme elements, it’s time to show your climbing shoes some love with a thorough cleaning. In this guide, I’ll take you through the essential steps to ensure your climbing shoes stay fresh, sticky, and ready for the next big adventure.

Preparation is Key: Setting the Stage for Shoe Cleaning

Before you dive into the nitty-gritty of cleaning your climbing shoes, let’s talk preparation. Like gearing up for an ascent, cleaning your shoes requires some planning. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Gather Your Gear: Get your hands on a soft brush, a dry towel, a bowl of warm water, paper towels, and rubbing alcohol.
  • Choose the Right Spot: Find a clean and well-ventilated area to work on your shoes. Avoid extreme heat and direct sunlight, as they can harm the materials.
  • Be Gentle: Climbing shoes are sensitive creatures. Please treat them with care and avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive brushes.
  • Mind the Soles: Different climbing shoes have different sole materials, so it’s crucial to know if your shoes are made of rubber or synthetic compounds.

Deep Cleaning and Maintenance

The Initial Steps: Brushing and Wiping

Now that you’ve gathered your gear and set up your cleaning station let’s start with the basics:

  • Dust Off the Dirt: Begin by giving your shoes a gentle but thorough brushing. Use a soft brush to remove dirt, dust, and debris from the exterior. Be especially mindful around the crevices and seams.
  • Wipe Down the Surface: Take a dry towel and give your shoes a wipe-down. This will help remove any remaining dirt and give you a clearer view of areas that need extra attention.
  • Check the Insides: Remember to inspect the inside of your shoes. If they’ve been through some particularly sweaty sessions, consider using a dry towel to blot excess moisture.

The Detailed Cleaning Process: Tailored to Your Shoe Type

Synthetic Climbing Shoes:

If you’re the proud owner of synthetic climbing shoes, here’s how to give them the spa treatment they deserve:

  • Prepare a Cleaning Solution: Fill a bowl with warm water. You can add a mild detergent if your shoes are filthy. Avoid using harsh chemicals that could damage synthetic materials.
  • Gently Scrub: Dip a soft brush into the cleaning solution and gently scrub the exterior of your shoes. Pay extra attention to any stained or soiled areas. Use circular motions and a light touch to avoid damaging the material.
  • Wipe and Rinse: After scrubbing, use a clean damp cloth or paper towel to wipe off the cleaning solution. Then, rinse your shoes with clean water to remove any remaining soap residue.
  • Air Dry: Allow your synthetic climbing shoes to air dry in a cool, shaded area. Avoid direct sunlight and extreme heat, as these can affect the integrity of the materials.

Rubber Sole Climbing Shoes:

For those of you sporting classic rubber sole climbing shoes, the process is slightly different:

  • Dampen the Brush: Moisten the soft brush slightly, then gently scrub your shoes. Use the damp brush to remove dirt and grime from the rubber soles.
  • Rubbing Alcohol Trick: For stubborn stains or sticky residues, dip a cloth in rubbing alcohol and gently dab the affected areas. This can help break down the gunk without damaging the rubber.
  • Wash and Rinse: If your rubber sole shoes are exceptionally dirty, you can hand wash them using mild soap and warm water. Gently scrub the soles and rinse thoroughly.
  • Air Them Out: After cleaning, pat the soles dry with a paper towel and let the shoes air dry. This is especially important to prevent any moisture buildup that might lead to an unpleasant smell.

Tackling Odors and Enhancing Longevity

Now that your climbing shoes are clean and refreshed, let’s address a common concern: shoe odour.

  • Keep Them Dry: Always allow your shoes to dry completely after climbing. Moisture buildup can lead to bacterial growth and unpleasant odours.
  • Use Baking Soda: Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda into your shoes when not in use. This can help absorb moisture and neutralize odours.
  • Wear Socks: While climbing barefoot might feel more natural, wearing moisture-wicking socks can significantly reduce the buildup of sweat and odours.

Conclusion: Your Adventure Awaits

And there you have it, climbers! A comprehensive guide to cleaning your climbing shoes, tailored to their specific materials. Remember, giving your climbing shoes regular attention enhances their performance and prolongs their lifespan. So, next time you’re ready to conquer the crags, you’ll do so with fresh, comfortable, and odour-free shoes. Until then, keep exploring, reaching for new heights, and enjoying the thrill of the climb!