There comes a time when every climber asks themselves how to clean climbing shoes.
It’s one of those tedious tasks that we all hate, but our friends and family are starting to complain. At one point, my climbing shoes became a health hazard and a risk for everyone in a 12-mile radius.
Once you get your new climbing shoes, you’re going through all that pain to make them mold to your feet perfectly. You know the agony you’re going through, as well as the inability to keep them on your feet for long periods of time.
As a climber, I must say that it’s an excruciating experience. You’re excited about those new shoes that will help you climb your projects and higher-ranked boulders. But, you also know that it will take time for them to actually feel comfortable on your feet.
However, because of the fact that we usually don’t wear socks with climbing shoes, and the constant sweating, those shoes become smelly in a matter of weeks.
You’re scared that the water may damage them, and you don’t know what you can use to clean them properly. For now, you just know that your friends are running in the other direction when you’re trying to take them off.
Good that you’re here! You’re at the right place and I’ll give you some advice on how to clean your climbing shoes without ever damaging them.
You’ll be able to climb your next project in no time!
Why do climbing shoes smell so bad?
Every climber knows the struggle. You start questioning how to clean climbing shoes once you can smell them before you even take them out of your backpack.
That’s when you feel the urge to yell at the top of your lungs and ask whoever’s listening why do they even get to this point. You had them for a few months now, but it has gotten so bad that it’s unbearable.
Well, considering the heat that they’re constantly exposed to and the fact that you’re sweaty from climbing, it creates the perfect grounds for bacteria.
I mean, you wash your clothes after getting sweaty because they smell. Can you imagine how your shoes are continuously wet with sweat? It’s just going to get worse from here on.
It’s no secret that these are some of the smelliest shoes that anyone has ever encountered. So let’s try and fix this!
How to clean climbing shoes?
Every brand recommends its own ways of cleaning its product. This means that you should definitely consider what brand of climbing shoes you actually have before embarking on this endeavor.
You don’t want to ruin them! These things are expensive! And with all the other gear that you need, you don’t want to waste your money by having to buy new shoes every couple of months.
For example, La Sportiva says that you should just wipe them with a wet cloth. Scarpa recommends that you wash your shoes, even if it’s just with water. Evolv on the other hand says that you shouldn’t wash your shoes at all, which simply sounds impossible.
Other brands have their own methods, and you should definitely take into consideration the model of your shoes as well as the brand. Don’t create a bigger issue for yourself because you were a little bit too lazy to do some research.
There are a few methods that you could use when it comes to cleaning your climbing shoes. If you did your research regarding the aforementioned things, you and your shoes should be safe.
So let’s talk about the ways you can clean them before your next big project.
1. Wipe them down with a wet cloth often
One of the easiest ways to clean your climbing shoes is to simply wipe them down after use. This will definitely get rid of any magnesite that’s left on them, as well as dirt and mud.
You can even use wet wipes or antibacterial wipes on the inside to get rid of the sweat, so it doesn’t start smelling in the first place.
This is reasonably practical as you can do this every time you’re done with your training, and even though it is tedious, it’s still better than walking around with hazardous shoes.
2. Use a nice spray
Using an antibacterial spray is also recommended. You won’t have to wonder if you’ll get a fungi infection, nor will the smell get worse.
If anything, they’ll smell better as well as become much healthier for the skin on your feet. Considering that you’re putting them on without any socks, you’ll feel much better.
3. Wash them with water
One thing you can definitely do is wash them with cold water. This is probably the best way to clean them thoroughly.
You can fill up your tub with cold water and soak them until you think that it’s enough for them to release all the bacteria. The issue here is that you can’t use warm water or otherwise they will lose their shape.
4. Use mild soaps
Clean water alone won’t be able to get rid of the smell, nor will it be able to clean all the dirt that’s stuck to your climbing shoes. Therefore, you should try using mild soaps to clean them. You can even put them into the cold water while soaking your shoes.
By mild soaps I mean soaps that won’t damage the texture of your climbing shoes or the color. Normal dish soap or hand soap will do wonders.
5. Brush them thoroughly
Using a clean toothbrush will definitely be the answer to all of your problems. You’ll be able to get into every single nook in your shoes so that you can clean the magnesite, dirt, and mud that’s been stuck there.
Also, brushing them will make the soap more foamy, so it will get rid of the weird smells much easier.
6. Air dry them (out of direct sunlight)
Once you embark on the journey of cleaning climbing shoes, you also have to consider the best way to dry them.
Putting them in a dryer will bring early retirement to your shoes. I can guarantee you that much. The heat will make them lose their shape completely.
Just like putting them in direct sunlight can only create bigger problems. I know that you want them to dry as quickly as possible, but you need to take into consideration that you won’t be able to use them at all if you ruin them.
So, be patient, and put them in a fairly dark, airy space where they’ll chill until they’re dry.
7. Stuff them with paper so they retain their shape
You’ve spent how many months waiting for them to mold to your foot? How many bloody blisters did you have to deal with before they fell into the right shape?
Washing your climbing shoes and not drying them properly will make you wish for the bad smell back because you can at least still use your shoes.
Use whatever paper you have on hand to stuff your climbing shoes. Don’t overdo it, because then they’ll be too stretchy, which is also not favorable.
Just use an appropriate amount for the shoe, and try to mold them into place before you put them down to dry.
The drying process may take a couple of days, depending on your shoes and your climate.
How to prevent them from becoming too smelly again
Possibly the best thing you can do after you learn how to clean climbing shoes is to understand how to prevent them from getting that smelly again. So, we gathered some tips that won’t take too much time, but are extremely helpful.
1. Dry off any sweat before putting them on
This is definitely not a tedious task. Before you put your climbing shoes on, make sure that you wipe down your feet and dry any sweat that may be on them.
This way, once you put them on, you won’t bring already smelly feet into an environment that creates bacteria better than anything.
2. Air them out after using
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been climbing in the gym or if you’ve been embarking on some adventures outside. Just air out your shoes, please.
I promise you that it doesn’t smell nearly as bad freshly off your feet as when you put sweaty shoes into your backpack and let them marinate like that.
3. Don’t leave them in your car or backpack
Talking of airing your climbing shoes, don’t leave them in an enclosed space! Especially if it’s hot outside.
You’re doing all of this research on how to clean climbing shoes and then you go out of your way to leave them in your car. I know that it’s more convenient this way, but it’s too hot in your car for them.
Also, the space is closed, which will only allow the bacteria to develop even more and make the smell much more prominent.
4. Wash your feet often
I don’t mean to offend you, but be honest: how often do you wash your feet? No, I don’t just mean after the training, but also before you even leave the house.
Please, just wash your feet.
You can wipe them down before going for a climb, but nothing beats freshly washed feet that smell nice already.