Learning proper footwork is one of the most useful things in climbing and it will help you move faster and easier thanks to switching the majority of effort to your legs instead of your arms. In this article, we’ll show you how to improve climbing footwork and bouldering footwork.
Why Is Footwork So Important?
Before we head to the techniques, it is important to understand why you should spend time working on your footwork as equally as your upper body. As mentioned above, properly set feet will help you by reducing workload from your upper body and focusing on your legs more, which is a good thing because your legs are stronger than your arms. Also, proper usage of footwork will make it easier to reach for the handles and holds.
Technique Number 1 – Smearing
Smearing is a footwork technique that will provide you with the most surface contact between your climbing shoe and the rock, which will result in maximum friction, so this technique is great when you don’t have a solid hold to step on and you have to rely on your feet for help.
Step in front of a rock and try to place your weight over your big toe to get the most of the friction in that particular area. As you practice and you climb, you’ll learn how to locate and use all the curves, bends, and irregularities that can easily be used for smearing.
Also, practice your heel placement. For instance, if you keep your heel high, the pressure will stay on the front of your climbing shoe which is great for small scoops, but for anything harder than that you’ll need more contact provided by a heel placed low.
Technique Number 2 – Edging
As the name says itself, edging is using the most out of the edge of your climbing shoe. It can be done with any part of your shoe, but most often the front inside part will do the trick. It is great for vertical and overhanging climbs.
For different types of rock pockets or edges, you’ll be using a different part of your shoe – front tip for tiny ones, or if you have to back-step, the outer part of your shoe.
Technique Number 3 – Hooking
The heel can also be used, along with the toes, to hook yourself and pull with your legs. This way you’ll be able to perform more natural movements and control everything better. Besides that, if you find yourself on an overhanging climb, by performing a heel hook you’ll gain more stability, prevent potential swinging, and gain additional reach.
There are a few different indoor climbing drills you can do to improve your overall climbing footwork technique, while most of them can also be used as a way to improve bouldering footwork:
Technique Number 4 – Precision Feet
This drill will help you gain and improve your feet placement accuracy, and the best way to practice is during bouldering. The key is to find the best foothold spot and do your best to place your foot in that precise location. You’ll do it by keeping your eyes on the foothold until you see that the foot is where you want it to be. It may go a bit slow at first, but once you start to get a hold of it, the speed will increase.
Technique Number 5 – Foot Stab
This drill will help you improve your coordination and flexibility. Put your climbing shoes on, get to the wall and, while you stand and balance on your left leg, try to reach a foothold you’ve previously selected. Do it 10 times, then change legs. If you want to increase the level of difficulty and make things more interesting, try to reach more complex footholds.
Technique Number 6 – Blinking
Blinking is a drill that will help you learn how to estimate your foot location and place it properly when and if you can’t see it. Find a foothold and place your foot toward it. Just before you make contact with the wall, close your eyes, and finish your movement with your eyes closed, relying on your feelings only. Once you think you’ve placed it well, open your eyes and check if it is good. Repeat with the next hold.
Technique Number 7– Bad Holds Jib
While in the gym you’ll be able to find great footholds without a problem, that may not be the case in open space, so you may have to try to get the most out of available options. To improve your odds, while in the gym go with the small screw-on jibs, divots, or even waves and other additional features on the surface of the wall. This way you’ll be able to exploit the rock options to the maximum.
Technique Number 8 – Downclimbing
Downclimbing is among the most useful and efficient ways to put your knowledge to good use and see how well you’ve learned all the tricks because you’ll have to focus on your legs and work them first, while your arms will serve as a help instead of the main climbing tool.
Technique Number 9 – Watch And Learn
Although rarely used and often forgotten, watching other climbers and their climbing footwork and bouldering footwork will give you the chance to possibly steal and understand why this aspect of climbing is so important. Also, don’t be shy to ask if you have any questions.
Technique Number 10 – Go Slow
Don’t rush anything and take time to do it right. As you practice, you’ll become faster and faster, but it won’t matter if you rush it and do it wrong.
Here are some additional tips about climbing footwork:
- Wipe the dirt from the shoe soles when you start your rock climb.
- Keep your foot still when you move up with marginal smears or edges to prevent possible slipping.
- Try to use footholds located directly under your hands to limit the loss of stamina.
- Think before your step and try to picture the place where your foot will be. Keep it still until you finish your movement.
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about climbing footwork:
Q: How can I get better at climbing fast?
The best way to improve your climbing speed is to focus on your footwork. This way you’ll take the workload away from your upper body and transfer it to your legs, which will give you the chance not only to be more efficient, but you’ll also gain more speed along the way.
Q: What does edging mean in climbing?
Edging is one of the main footwork techniques and it is done by using the edge of your rock climbing shoe and placing it on the edge of the rock. This can be done with basically any shoe edge, but most of the time edging is done using the inside front part, right beneath your big toe.
Q: What is smearing in rock climbing?
Smearing is a term used to describe the action when you press the sole of your shoe to the rock or slab it to create friction to ease moving up. It may require a bit of practice and it may feel a bit complex and insecure at first, but once you learn it, you’ll master one of the most important climbing techniques needed for your development.
Globo Surf Overview
Learning climbing footwork and bouldering footwork will make your climber’s life way easier and it will give you the chance to constantly develop, and this article will give you a great starting point.