There comes a point in every climber’s life when climbing becomes too fun.
In order to combat how fun the sport is climbing engineers developed the aggressive shoe. What is the aggressive shoe? Some might describe it as a torture device created to make sure that toenails are properly clipped. Others describe them as a miracle. I once heard a climber say that after wearing an aggressive shoe, they were able to climb a full grade higher.
What is an aggressive shoe?
An aggressive shoe is a climbing shoe that is designed to help the climber utilize their toes. It is shaped such that the toe bends down (with a kind of ballet pointe feel). Since it does bend down it can rub on the toes. In a good fitting climbing shoe the toes are already scrunched a tiny bit. Now they are scrunched and forced down. Until they break in it is truely a painfulful experience where you’re toes (for me it was my 3 smaller toes on each foot) feel like dying.
Why the frick-frack would anyone want an aggressive shoe?
Well it is frick-fracking awesome. Imagine having just the tip of your toes on a small crimpy toe hold. Now imagine being able to actually put weight on your feet and off of your fingers! Surely they don’t work that well. Well they do! Try them on side by. Then get just the tip of the toe on a ledge (for this exercise I used a ladder and just had the tips of my toe on them). Then unleash the inner ballerina! Your heals fly up! It is hard to describe something that feels so beautiful.
Don’t they hurt?
It hurts a lot. Especially at first, and especially if you are walking in them. They are not meant to be walked on. I repeated DO NOT WALK IN THEM. I’m not sure if they need to break in, or if your body just gets used to hurting. They work great, but it is no wonder people take them off on the way down because they can’t even wait to be lowered to the ground wearing them. The first time I hopped off the top off a boulder route wearing them I almost cried.
“I’m a beginner, I will just skip the middle step and start out with aggressive shoes”
Bad idea. For most people. Maybe it could work out for you. It takes a level of commitment for it to be worth the pain of an aggressive shoe. For beginners especially, they get the pain, but don’t get to reap the benefits until they get to more advanced routes.
My first summer climbing I did not have my own climbing shoes. My friend let me borrow his. Turns out they were freakin’ aggressive! I only made it halfway up the wall before I couldn’t take it anymore. I loved climbing even back then, and it was not worth it.
Have you made the jump to an aggressive shoe? We would love to hear how the transition was for you! Let us know in the comments. 🙂