If you’re a beginner rock climber, you may have heard the debate about whether or not to wear socks under rock climbing shoes. Some climbers swear by it, while others believe it’s unnecessary. So, what’s the answer?
As with many things in climbing, the answer depends on a variety of factors, including personal preference, the type of climbing you’re doing, and the fit of your shoes.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of wearing socks under rock climbing shoes, as well as provide some tips for choosing the right socks and shoes for your climbing adventures.
The Pros and Cons of Wearing Socks Under Rock Climbing Shoes
Wearing socks under rock climbing shoes has both advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider:
- Socks can provide an extra layer of protection for your feet, reducing the risk of blisters and hot spots.
- Socks can help absorb sweat, keeping your feet dry and comfortable.
- Some climbers find that socks improve the fit of their shoes, making them feel more snug and secure.
- Wearing socks can reduce sensitivity, making it more difficult to feel the rock and make precise movements.
- Socks can bunch up or shift inside your shoes, which can be uncomfortable and affect your performance.
- Some climbers find that socks interfere with their ability to use certain techniques, such as toe hooks.
Types of Socks for Climbing
If you decide to wear socks under your climbing shoes, it’s important to choose the right type of sock. Here are some options to consider:
1. Thin synthetic socks
These socks are designed to be lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying, making them a good choice for climbers who want to reduce friction and moisture without sacrificing sensitivity. Look for socks made from materials like nylon, polyester, or Spandex, which can provide a snug, stretchy fit.
2. Thick wool socks
If you’re climbing in cold or wet conditions, thick wool socks can provide extra warmth and insulation. Look for socks made from merino wool, which is soft, breathable, and moisture-wicking. However, keep in mind that thick socks can reduce sensitivity and affect your ability to feel the rock.
3. Toe socks
Toe socks are designed to fit each individual toe, which can help reduce friction and blisters. They can also provide extra grip and dexterity, making them a popular choice for climbers who use toe hooks or need to make precise foot placements. However, toe socks can be less durable than other types of socks and may not fit all foot shapes.
Choosing the Right Climbing Shoes
Before you can decide whether to wear socks under your climbing shoes, you need to make sure you have the right shoes for your feet and climbing style. Here are some things to consider when choosing climbing shoes:
Climbing shoes should fit snugly, without any gaps or extra room in the toe or heel. This helps improve sensitivity and control, as well as reduce the risk of blisters and injuries. Try on multiple pairs of shoes to find the one that fits your foot shape and size best.
There are three main types of climbing shoes: neutral, moderate, and aggressive. Neutral shoes have a flat sole and are designed for beginners or climbers who prefer comfort over performance. Moderate shoes have a slight downturn and are good for intermediate climbers who want a balance of comfort and precision.
Aggressive shoes have a pronounced downturn and are designed for advanced climbers who need maximum power and sensitivity.
3. Closure system
Climbing shoes can have different types of closure systems, including lace-up, Velcro, or slip-on. The closure system affects the fit and adjustability of the shoe. Lace-up shoes offer the most customizable fit, while Velcro and slip-on shoes are easier to put on and take off.
Tips for Wearing Socks with Climbing Shoes
If you decide to wear socks with your climbing shoes, here are some tips to help you get the most out of the experience:
1. Choose the right size
Make sure your socks fit snugly, without any excess material or bunching. If your socks are too loose, they can shift inside your shoes, affecting your performance and comfort.
2. Experiment with different thicknesses
Try out different types of socks and thicknesses to find the one that feels best for your feet and climbing style. Some climbers prefer thin socks for maximum sensitivity, while others like thicker socks for added cushioning and warmth.
3. Make sure your shoes fit well
No matter whether you choose to wear socks or not, it’s essential to have well-fitting climbing shoes. Make sure your shoes are snug but not too tight, and that they provide enough support and grip for the type of climbing you’re doing.
4. Check for bunching or shifting
During climbs, it’s essential to monitor the position of your socks inside your shoes. Bunching or shifting can lead to discomfort, reduced sensitivity, and a compromised grip. Take a break if needed and adjust your socks and shoes.
5. Practice without socks
If you’re not used to wearing socks under your climbing shoes, it’s a good idea to practice without them first. This can help you get used to the feel and sensitivity of your shoes and improve your footwork and technique.
When to Avoid Wearing Socks with Climbing Shoes
While wearing socks under climbing shoes can be beneficial for some climbers, there are situations where it may not be the best option. Here are some scenarios where you may want to skip the socks:
1. Technical or slab climbing
For climbs that require precise footwork and sensitivity, such as technical or slab climbing, socks can reduce your ability to feel the rock and make accurate movements. You may want to skip the socks for these types of climbs.
2. Competition climbing
In competition climbing, every second and move counts. Socks can slow you down and affect your performance. Most climbers choose to skip the socks for competitions.
3. Hot and humid conditions
In hot and humid conditions, socks can trap moisture and lead to sweaty and uncomfortable feet. It may be better to wear shoes without socks in these conditions.
Related: Why Do Rock Climbers Not Go Barefoot?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some frequently asked questions about wearing socks under rock climbing shoes:
1. Can you wear cotton socks with climbing shoes?
Cotton socks are not recommended for climbing because they retain moisture and can lead to blisters and hot spots. Instead, choose synthetic or wool socks that are designed to wick away sweat and reduce friction.
2. Do toe socks help prevent blisters?
Toe socks can help reduce friction and blisters between toes, but they may not prevent blisters on other parts of the foot. It’s essential to choose the right socks and shoes for your foot shape and climbing style.
3. Can socks affect the fit of climbing shoes?
Socks can affect the fit of climbing shoes by adding extra material and reducing sensitivity. However, some climbers find that socks improve the fit of their shoes and provide a more secure and comfortable feel.
4. Should you wear socks with bouldering shoes?
The decision to wear socks with bouldering shoes depends on personal preference and climbing style. Some boulderers prefer to wear socks for added protection and comfort, while others prefer to go sockless for maximum sensitivity.
5. Do socks affect your ability to use toe hooks or heel hooks?
Socks can affect your ability to use toe hooks or heel hooks by reducing sensitivity and increasing material between your foot and the rock. However, some climbers find that socks improve their ability to use these techniques by providing added grip and cushioning.
If you’re new to using toe hooks or heel hooks, it’s a good idea to practice without socks first to get used to the feel and technique. Once you’ve gained confidence, you can experiment with socks and see how they affect your performance.
In conclusion, the decision to wear socks under rock climbing shoes is a personal one that depends on individual preferences and needs. Socks can provide added comfort, protection, and warmth, but they can also reduce sensitivity and affect your ability to use certain techniques. Ultimately, it’s important to choose climbing shoes that fit well and provide the support, grip, and sensitivity you need, whether you decide to wear socks or not.
As with any gear choice in climbing, it’s essential to prioritize safety, comfort, and performance. Take the time to experiment with different combinations of socks and shoes and seek advice from more experienced climbers if you’re unsure. With the right gear and technique, you can climb with confidence and achieve your climbing goals, whether you prefer to wear socks or go sockless.