Making your climbing shoes comfortable is really simple! When you get a good pair of climbing shoes, just wear them for a few climbs at the gym or outside on the rocks, and they should start to feel great on your feet. If your shoes feel a little tight at first, don’t worry – I’ve got some easy tips to help them fit like a dream.

I love the feeling of getting a new pair of climbing shoes. It’s like waking up on a holiday morning, full of excitement. I can’t wait to tear into the package, slide my feet into those pristine shoes, and test them on the first surface I find.

But that thrill fades all too quickly when the break-in blues hit. My toes start to protest, squeezed into their snug new home. Every pair of climbing shoes has to go through this stage. Breaking them in isn’t just about stretching the material; it’s about the shoes adapting to the contours of your own feet. With each climb, the shoes slowly but surely begin to form around your unique foot shape, promising a perfect fit that feels like it’s just for you.

Climbing shoes, much like a good friendship, take time and patience to mature. When climbers refer to breaking in climbing shoes, it means the shoes learn the quirks of your feet—the pressure points, the curves, and how you move. Eventually, after what feels like an eternity of patient endurance and stubborn perseverance, your climbing shoes become an extension of you, offering that seamless fit that supports your climbing adventures.


Getting your climbing shoes to fit comfortably doesn’t take magic or guesswork. If you choose climbing shoes that fit right, they’ll naturally start to mold to your feet after just a few climbs. There’s plenty of confusion out there about the best way to soften up new climbing shoes, so we crafted this easy-to-follow guide. Inside, you’ll learn all about how to break in your shoes painlessly. And if you’re dealing with an especially snug pair, we’ve got tips on gently stretching them out too.


Getting the fit right is crucial when breaking in climbing shoes. It’s a bit uncomfortable, as your feet act like a climbing shoe stretcher, molding the shoes for a snug fit. Though you should expect some discomfort, pain is a red flag. It means you might need a different size shoe. So, before you start the break-in process, double-check that you’ve got the right fit.

To begin the breaking-in period, make sure you know how to properly wear your climbing shoes. It’s not just about shoving your feet in and hoping for the best. Wearing them correctly will help to minimize discomfort and prevent damage to the shoe.

If you’re unsure about how to properly get your climbing shoes on, you’re not alone. It can be a bit of a challenge, especially for new climbers. For a quick guide, check out this handy one-minute tutorial from expert Heinz Mariacher. He shows you the right way to do it, ensuring your shoes last longer and feel better on your feet.

Remember, climbing shoes should feel tight but never painfully so. As you use them, they will stretch and mold to your feet’s shape. This ensures a better grip and more precision when climbing. Just make sure to give your feet and shoes time to adjust to each other.


how to stretch climbing shoes

New climbing shoes can be a tight squeeze for your feet, but there’s a simple solution: use a plastic bag. This makes it easier to slide your foot in by reducing the sticky feeling against the new shoe. You can put your whole foot into a bag or just wrap a piece around your heel to help your foot glide in.

You’ll be surprised how easily your foot slips into the shoe with this trick. Before taking new climbing shoes to the gym, it’s good to start breaking them in at home. Slip them on while sitting and keep them on for a few minutes, adjusting the back and sides to make sure they feel right.

It’s normal to wear new boots or sneakers around the house to break them in, but with climbing shoes, you shouldn’t walk around too much. They’re not made for walking, and doing too much can mess up their special shape.

Starting the break-in process at home is smart, ensuring the fit is just right before it’s too late to return them. Remember, once you’ve used your climbing shoes at the gym, you typically can’t return them.


how to stretch climbing shoes

To make your new climbing shoes comfortable, just use them for climbing. There’s no special trick—the best way is to climb in them. When you’re starting off, try easier climbs that have big grips. These kinds of holds help to soften the shoes and shape them to your feet. The shoes stay firmer on small ledges, so big holds are better in the beginning.

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At first, your climbing shoes might not feel great, so don’t keep them on for too long. Take a break and take them off after each climb to give your feet some relief. This will help you adjust to the new shoes without too much discomfort.

If you find that your feet are really sore, you could wear socks with your shoes in the first few times you go climbing. Socks can help make the shoes feel a bit less tight and more comfortable as they’re being broken in.


Breaking in your climbing shoes can be quick and easy—just use your shower. First, slip on your shoes and fasten them tight. Then, hop into a warm shower. Move your toes and bend your feet around to loosen up the shoes for about 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t worry if your feet turn a little colorful; that’s just the shoe dye washing out.

After the shower, keep your shoes on for another 15 to 30 minutes as you walk around your home. As they start to dry, fill them with crumpled newspaper to suck up moisture and help maintain their shape.

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For best results, take them for a quick climb before they dry completely. Then, stuff them with newspaper once more and let them air dry. Repeat if necessary for a perfect fit.


Breaking in new climbing shoes can feel like a journey of its own. Think of your shoes as a loyal pet—they need a bit of time to adjust to you!

Typically, after taking your trusty steeds for a climb about three to five times, they start to get the hint, hugging your feet like they were meant to be together all along.

Now, if you’ve picked synthetic shoes over leather, patience is key. They’re a bit stubborn and don’t stretch as quickly as leather, but they’re tough as nails and worth the wait. Strap in, enjoy the ascents, and soon enough, your climbing shoes will fit like a dream.


Climbing shoes come in three main types based on what they’re made of: stuff that doesn’t stretch (called “synthetic”), stretchy animal skin (that’s “leather”), or a mix of both. Why does this matter? It tells you how much your new climbing shoes will stretch as you break them in.

Shoes made of animal skin can stretch a lot—up to two sizes! But if they are mixed with other materials inside, they won’t stretch as much. Shoes that aren’t made from animal skin usually don’t stretch more than a half size.

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Remember, climbing shoes will get wider, but they won’t get longer. The rubber bottom stays the same; it’s the top part that gets a little roomier.


Climbing enthusiasts understand the importance of a perfect-fitting shoe for a secure and successful ascent. But what do you do when your favorite pair feels just a tad snug? Stretching your climbing shoes can enhance comfort, improve performance, and prevent the dreaded toe-crunch. Let’s explore a couple of effective methods to give your climbing shoes a little extra room.

Method 01: Freezer Method

Utilize the power of ice: This tried-and-true technique involves filling sealable plastic bags with water, placing them into your shoes, and then popping them into the freezer. As the water freezes and expands, so will your shoes, offering a gradual and safe way to extend the fabric.

Method 02: The Heat & Wear Technique

Warm-up your soles: Gently heating your climbing shoes with a hairdryer can make the material more pliable. After heating them for a few minutes, slip on some thick socks and wear your shoes around the house. As they cool, the material will conform to the shape of your feet, resulting in a custom stretch. Remember, patience is key – repeat the process several times for the best results.

Method 03: The Shower Method

Mimic a rainforest hike: By wearing your climbing shoes in the shower, you allow the warm water to soften the material. Walk around in them for about 20 minutes before stuffing them with newspaper to absorb moisture and maintain their shape as they dry. Avoid direct heat sources to prevent damage as the shoes air dry.

Method 04: The Shoe-Stretching Tool

Employ professional gear: Specialized shoe stretchers can be inserted into climbing shoes to target specific tight areas. Adjustable knobs allow for precise stretching, especially helpful for climbers needing more width or length in certain spots. Use cautiously, and always follow the tool’s instructions to avoid overdoing it.

Method 05: The Professional Touch

Seek expert assistance: When DIY methods fall short, consider taking your climbing shoes to a cobbler or a professional familiar with climbing gear. They possess the experience and tools to safely stretch shoes without compromising their integrity or fit, ensuring you get a perfect expansion every time.


I strongly recommend not getting overly adventurous with your stretching experiments, as there’s a good chance you will destroy those lovely shoes you have just spent your hard-earned cash on.

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Struggling with a tight fit in your new climbing gear? Learn how to stretch climbing shoes effectively and avoid the discomfort on your next vertical adventure. Your feet deserve comfort, even when defying gravity. It’s crucial to start with climbing shoes that are snug but not painfully tight. However, if a little stretching is what you need, there are tried-and-tested methods to do just that.

To gently expand your climbing shoes, your feet, a plastic bag, and some exertion are surprisingly effective. This method works wonders for breaking in shoes that are the right size or slightly tight. When you need a minor adjustment, the hairdryer or hot water techniques can provide a quick and targeted solution. But, if you’re in need of a significant stretch, the freezer trick is your go-to option, using the power of ice expansion to increase shoe size.

Be wary, though; stretching your climbing shoes is a delicate process—overdo it, and you risk damaging the shoes you’ve invested in with your hard-earned money. Stick to these methods for a custom fit that will make your climbing experience more enjoyable without sacrificing the integrity of your shoes.