Ask Crux Crush: Fear Of Falling
Dear Crux Crush,
I am a Swedish girl that is able to keep up climbing with the guys (mostly because there are not too many girls to climb with). I have one little problem with my climbing. I am sooooo scared of falling! I don’t know why because I am not afraid of heights. So, I wonder if you girls have some nice tips or exercises to share?
Fierce (and Afraid)
Honestly, the best thing we can recommend for falling is to fall. Often times when I go out to the crag, I can’t really get my head straight until I’ve taken my first fall – and then it’s like, “ok, the rope’s got me, the system’s safe, I trust my belayer – climb on!” To do some warm-ups on falling, find a route where the falls will be totally safe. We recommend selecting an overhanging route where you’ll fall into the air, and the falls will be “clean” (i.e. not taking a cheese grater falling down a slab, or hitting any ledges).
Then climb up, and once you’re 4-5 bolts up (or whatever you deem a safe distance, being cognizant of ledges, etc.), fall just at your bolt, which would be almost the equivalent of a top-rope fall.
Next climb up a foot above the bolt, take another fall, and continue this exercise until you’re all the way to your next bolt, or just below it. Keep in mind, this takes a good belayer, so make sure you have someone you trust, with experience, and who will give you a “soft” catch, meaning that they won’t resist your fall, just yanking their hand down on the brake, but will actually go with the fall and jump up a little bit or give you a little slack to land (in the air) softly.
A good belayer and climbing partner can teach you a lot – so find an experienced climber you trust, and then start taking some falls on him/her. The more you fall, the less you’ll be afraid. Hope that helps!
Ask Crux Crush: Are My Shoes Too Small?
Dear Crux Crush,
I have a total newb question that you can hopefully help me out with. It’s silly, but my shoes are really freaking painful. I know this is “normal”, but it’s keeping me from enjoying climbing. When I described the pain to the salesperson, they just said “sounds like they fit”, and it just made me feel like a wimp. I just can’t get my mind off of how much discomfort there is and it is legit affecting my desire to stick with it. Is it the worst thing if I just get new ones that are a tad looser?
The pain is happening in both feet, around the toes, and the heel, and the seaming around the opening of the shoe. Any wisdom you have would be very helpful. I want to love climbing but these darned shoes are making me never want to do it.
Squished on The East Coast
This is a question that many new climbers ask. They hear that a climbing shoe is supposed to be tight and uncomfortable, but it’s hard to know where the line is between a good fit and just plain torture for no good reason. And honestly, sometimes climbers can be a little snobby about how much they can “downsize” a shoe, and how much pain they are willing to endure, so it can definitely make you feel wimpy as a newb. Yes, climbing shoes should be snug, however, there’s no need for it to be painful. Sometimes a shoe is either plain too small or not the right shape for your particular foot.
The bottom line is if it’s so bad that it’s making you not want to climb, you’ve got the wrong shoe (at least at this point while your foot is still developing calluses and muscle). Many people start off with a shoe that is perhaps a tad roomier, and the more you climb, the more accustomed to the shape and size of a climbing shoe you get. Certainly, the right fit in a shoe will improve your technique, but for the type of climbing you are doing when you first start, it matters more than you are just getting up on the wall, enjoying it, and wanting to go back.
That’s why it’s also good not to spend too much money on your first pair because you will probably soon be replacing them. Here are a few tips to consider:
1) Try lots of different shoes to get a sense of how the different brands run, as well as both men’s and women’s shoes. If you have wider feet, you may prefer the fit of some men’s shoes, which generally have a wider toe box. Check out shoe demos at your local gym, which will allow you to try different shoes side-by-side, and actually climb in the shoe (it’s hard to know if the shoe is right just by putting it on).
2) Make sure that you are taking your shoes off in between climbs. This is good for your feet, and also for the life of your shoe. We see a ton of climbers in the gym padding around in their shoes, or even getting on the treadmill in them (ouch), so I want to save you from that common newb faux pas. Climbing shoes are not meant to walk around in.
3) Lastly, listen to your feet. It’s really important to remember that everyone’s feet are different and that all the shoe brands vary slightly, so you may not like the same shoe your friend swears by. You can actually do damage by wearing shoes that are the wrong fit for your foot (for example developing bone spurs from too-tight shoes, which then can only be removed by surgery-yikes). So take the time to find out what works uniquely for you.