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Climbing with really bad feet


Original Post
Debbie Higgs · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

I have rheumatoid arthritis, which has BADLY managed by feet. My toes and my metatarsal pads are basically eaten up. Despite this, I'm an active hiker and yogi, and looking to challenge myself with something new. A have a feeling climbing will be more accessible for me than some other sports...although I do anticipate some amount of challenge due to my messed up feet. I won't be able to do any gripping with my toes. I am wondering what I could look for in a climbing shoe that could help me compensate. Are there any climbing shoes with a hard toe, kind of like a ballet shoe? Any ideas welcome!!

ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235

All climbing shoes have relatively hard toes, i never really used ballet shoes but I would assume most climbing shoes have toes that bend less than most ballet shoes. Some will be harder than others so try on a few different types and see which works the best for your toes.

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 250
Debbie Higgs wrote:

I have rheumatoid arthritis, which has BADLY managed by feet. My toes and my metatarsal pads are basically eaten up. Despite this, I'm an active hiker and yogi, and looking to challenge myself with something new. A have a feeling climbing will be more accessible for me than some other sports...although I do anticipate some amount of challenge due to my messed up feet. I won't be able to do any gripping with my toes. I am wondering what I could look for in a climbing shoe that could help me compensate. Are there any climbing shoes with a hard toe, kind of like a ballet shoe? Any ideas welcome!!

I'm sorry about your arthritis, sounds like you are making the best of it. At this point it is too early to be shopping for climbing shoes though. Go to the gym, and try it out. They will have shoes for you, and rental shoes are generally pretty stiff, and relatively comfortable. You might find that standing on your toes is just intolerable, and that would be the end of it. But if you find that you can climb, and are enjoying it, then start shopping. There are shoes that are stiffer and comfier than others, and I'm guessing that's what you would need, eventually.

ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235

You can always try avoiding standing on your toes and try standing more on the ball of the foot. Not ideal for all climbs but it would probably work on some routes and maybe take pressure off the toes.

Debbie Higgs · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Thanks guys! Yeah I am interested to see how well I'll be able to compensate with other parts of my body. It should be a fun challenge! 

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483

One thing to keep in mind is that even for the shoes which are flat lasted your toe will be compressed to some degree. Climbing shoes have a "sling shot" rand which pushes forward from your achilles to drive your toes into the front of the shoe. Some models have less tension on the heel than others, unfortunately many of the more rigid flat shoes also have high rand tension as they are designed for standing on very small holds on vertical walls (TC pro, Anasazi Blanco).

While the sole is not as stiff, you might find the relaxed tension from sportiva mythos or scarpa force X helpful. Definitely rent shoes first to see how your RA responds though.  

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20

First, you need to try it, see if you like it.
Custom made rock climbing shoes are also an option. They are not going to be cheap, but they will fit your feet way better.
If going with regular climbing shoes, something like carbon fiber sole insert would likely take the  pressure off your toes.

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

Where will you be climbing? I think that ra will limit you to somewhat overhanging routes with good holds and ample footholds. And well fit medium stiffness shoe would do fine on that terrain. Vertical routes have very small holds and will really hurt both fingers and toes. The steeper stuff is more athletic and less tweaky on the joints.

The red River gorge or most climbing walls are a good bet.

Good luck, there are quite a few of us autoimmuners still cranking.

edelweiss · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

Try climbing shoes that are a size or two bigger, so you don't scare your feet right away. Wear socks at the beginning, it will give you some cushioning. It may be painful, but once your toes become stronger, you may benefit from climbing and arthritis will bother you less. Staying active is the universal panacea. Stretch your toes before climbing. Start slow!

Brian H · · Anchorage ak · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 30

I have the TC pros because I've messed up my toes over the years and pointing on the big toe kills.  They definitely make it more bearable.

Pil Jungli · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 60

If your toes hurt too much or don't feel great in the shoes try one thing, put your heel and try to step over on it or even pull on it when it's steep. Because of your yoga practise and flexibility heel hooks will work a treat. 

Michael Diep · · vienna, va · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 0

Hi Debbie,

The cartilage in my right big toe joint is jacked up and it hurts to bend the toe upward 365 days of the year.  I found that my toe hurts a lot in relaxed shoes and that I have no pain when I use tight & downturned shoes.  I typically avoid smearing with my right foot or resting on small chips.  It took me a long time to figure out what works and what doesn't work for my bad toe, but now it doesn't bother me and I don't think I'm doing any long term damage either.  I use Scarpa instinct vs.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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