Downturned shoes bad for toehooking?


Original Post
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

I know...what?  ...but hear me out!  I've been working on a roof boulder problem lately.  During my first session on it, I was wearing flat lasted shoes (Pinks), as I was prepping for a trad trip.  I worked out the beta, which involved a fair number of toe hooks and bicycles, so I decided to hop back on it the next session wearing a more aggressive shoe with ample toe rubber (Blackwings), expecting it would be easier...but I got totally shut down!  NONE of those sweet toe hooks would stick.  My analysis is that the flat toe shape gave me a narrower toe profile, making it easier to fit in the thin space of plate-type holds.  Conversely, the bent/curled toe shape forced by an aggressive shape gives you a higher profile.  There's also a surface area issue, as you can get more of your foot in contact.  I've often wondered why some companies make flatter lasted shoes with toe patches (e.g Tenaya Oasi, Scarpa Vapor V, new 5.10 Anasazi Velcros), but now I'm starting to wonder if this might be a better idea.  What do you think?  Is this situational?

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
Ted Pinson wrote:

I know...what?  ...but hear me out!  I've been working on a roof boulder problem lately.  During my first session on it, I was wearing flat lasted shoes (Pinks), as I was prepping for a trad trip.  I worked out the beta, which involved a fair number of toe hooks and bicycles, so I decided to hop back on it the next session wearing a more aggressive shoe with ample toe rubber (Blackwings), expecting it would be easier...but I got totally shut down!  NONE of those sweet toe hooks would stick.  My analysis is that the flat toe shape gave me a narrower toe profile, making it easier to fit in the thin space of plate-type holds.  Conversely, the bent/curled toe shape forced by an aggressive shape gives you a higher profile.  There's also a surface area issue, as you can get more of your foot in contact.  I've often wondered why some companies make flatter lasted shoes with toe patches (e.g Tenaya Oasi, Scarpa Vapor V, new 5.10 Anasazi Velcros), but now I'm starting to wonder if this might be a better idea.  What do you think?  Is this situational?

I think it's an excuse to buy more shoes!

:-) OLH

caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,415

Maybe it isn't the shoes that are bad at toehooking. 

Ryan Bowen · · Bend, Or · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 85
caughtinside wrote:

Maybe it isn't the shoes that are bad at toehooking. 

Only the poor craftsman blames his tools

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

So I'm able to do the move easily with one pair of shoes but not another, and your conclusion is that I suck at toe hooking?

Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,834
Ted Pinson wrote:

So I'm able to do the move easily with one pair of shoes but not another, and your conclusion is that I suck at toe hooking?

obviously. haha
To your point tho, if the route has bad toehooks, then the downturn will cause a bit of an issue. But, I'd offer that if you can't do the toehooks with down-turned shoes, there's probably better beta. 

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Oh, I'm sure.  I'm always humbled when a stronger climber suggests seemingly simple beta changes and all of a sudden a problem feels a million times better.  Being that the problem was hard for me, I'm sure there was better beta, but this was what worked for me.  I was just struck by the fact that a move generally associated with bouldering (which is associated with aggressive, downturned shoes) actually felt easier with a flat lasted shoe, which I thought would be an interesting point of analysis.

Ryan Bowen · · Bend, Or · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 85
Ted Pinson wrote:

So I'm able to do the move easily with one pair of shoes but not another, and your conclusion is that I suck at toe hooking?

not at all. It's just a great saying. The right tool for the job makes all the difference a lot of the time.  

Now I could throw on every pair of shoes in the world and still suck at toe hooks. My conclusion is that every shoe is made improperly. 

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15
Ryan Bowen wrote:

Now I could throw on every pair of shoes in the world and still suck at toe hooks. My conclusion is that every shoe is made improperly. 

Pretty funny. Same way I've noticed all my climbing shoes don't work properly. No matter how much I eat.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Lol I'm not saying downturned shoes are poorly made or that my shoes are the reason I suck at toe hooks.  I'm simply saying that a tool which is traditionally thought to be for one purpose seems to actually work better (for me) than a specialty tool for its purpose, which I found surprising.  If I found it easier to pound a nail in using a rock I found on the street than a hammer, I wouldn't conclude that hammers are poorly made or that I suck at pounding (that's what she said).  Two different shoes, same climber, same problem...different outcome.  

What I'm wondering is whether other peoples' experiences match mine, in particular more experienced/stronger boulderers, and if they can provide any insight into this.

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 70
Ted Pinson wrote:

Lol I'm not saying downturned shoes are poorly made or that my shoes are the reason I suck at toe hooks.  I'm simply saying that a tool which is traditionally thought to be for one purpose seems to actually work better (for me) than a specialty tool for its purpose, which I found surprising.  If I found it easier to pound a nail in using a rock I found on the street than a hammer, I wouldn't conclude that hammers are poorly made or that I suck at pounding (that's what she said).  Two different shoes, same climber, same problem...different outcome.  

What I'm wondering is whether other peoples' experiences match mine, in particular more experienced/stronger boulderers, and if they can provide any insight into this.

The said down-turned shoes, do they have rubber on the instep or only on the toes? 

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Hey Nivel,

Mostly the toes.  There is some instep coverage, but definitely not as much as a Solution or Instinct.

You bring up a good point, although the Pink has much less rubber:

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 240

Do you still have those pinks, and can you TODAY do the toe hook in pinks, but not in solutions? Hard to compare experience from last year to now, there are too many confounding factors, in addition to the shoes... You got weaker, forgot the precise beta, the rock got more polished, the weather/humidity was different, etc. 

How long have you been wearing the solutions? Are they your go-to shoes, or something you wear only rarely? 

I think some moves/steps are legitimately easier in some shoes than others, and ultimately you are the judge of which ones work better for you, and you should just use the ones that work to send that route/problem. It might be harder to pull up/in on your toe, because it is down turned. Ei it isn't about the rubber on the toe, but about your bility to flex the foot up.

But otoh, I've had this argument with people on more than one occasion, where they said, oh the toe of your shoe is smaller, that's why you are able to use that pocket, I can't fit into it... Yet if you put the shoes side-by-side there is no appreciable difference in height/width of the toe.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

Ted, Lena has a point.

My profile picture now is my recent success finally topping out the same route I got 90% of the way up in cheap sneakers, with the bright green laces!

I'm getting my second pair of climbing shoes soon. Trying on stuff, I commented to the clerk that edging was important to me. Without thinking, I rocked my right foot almost entirely off the ground, onto essentially a bare foot, 3/8" inside edge on the flat concrete floor, full weight, no hands, arms flapping around in conversation. Then I realized what I was doing and fell over, lol!

All this to say, we are all different as climbers, and different even from our own past and future performances. Yes, the shoes make a difference, but it's the climber who can think and experiment how to apply that tool. Sounds like you found something useful for you, chase it down and go for it!

Best, OLH, soon to own 971 men's miuras. Watch out, Lynn Hill!

Bryce Adamson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 53

Could you just be more used to the pinks? I've always had anasazis, but last year I picked up a pair of downturned evolvs on clearance. At first I thought the Evolvs were terrible at everything--and were painful to boot, but as I've slowly worn them in and gotten to figure out how to use them I can now boulder in them pretty much as well as in my beloved Anasazis.

On the other hand, Five Ten is apparently coming out with an Anasazi next year that has a big patch of rubber on the toe, that I'm pretty interested in seeing when they come out.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Yeah, I think that will be my perfect shoe, lol.

Lena: yes, I still have the Pinks.  I should probably mention that the second go was only about a week or so later and, sadly, this is a gym problem, so humidity probably wasn't a factor.  Also, I got back on it with the Anasazis and the toe hooks were easy again.  I definitely put more use into the Anasazi last (Pinks and Tans are my go-to shoes), but I'm used to using aggressive shoes (have owned Shamans, Solutions, HiAngles) and usually boulder in them, although lately I've switched to Anasazis because honestly I don't feel like the downturn is necessary, at least in the gym.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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