Modern Rock Climbing Shoes

OLD STYLE VS NEW STYLE:

board-lasted

The climbing shoes: we all started climbing in back in the 70’s were by in large the Gratton EB’s board-lasted shoes.  All the hard 5.11 and 5.12’s were put up in those.  See photo of Ron Kaulk below

Since that time many climbers have still been climbing for decades in board-lasted shoes and always will.  I could never understand why other climbers had so much pain until I wanted to get a new pair of shoes and found that all the board-lasted shoes had just about disappeared.  Well, almost all, BUTORA now makes a board-lasted.

BUTORA Unisex Altura WideFit Climbing Shoe, Green, 11Men  BUTORA Unisex Altura Climbing Shoe size 10.5 super tight.  The board-lasted is great but the shape of the shoe is like the TC Pro leaving an extra ½ up past where the round shoe would have stopped leaving even more space.

New climbers complain that they cannot feel the rock, but that’s simply not true.  Climbing with a stiff shoe and feeling the rock is possible if you have done it enough and know what you’re doing, you can tell exactly what it is you are stepping on, how big it is, and when or if your foot is going to pop off.  It’s something you have to learn how to do.  Climbing in tight painful slip-lasted shoes is not only unpractical on long climbs, it’s unnecessary.

PIGEION TOE

But now there another problem, and unfortunately BUTRA did not figure out yet when they remade the old style shoes.  After the board-lasted shoes were discontinued the climbing world made most of the shoes pigeon toed!   How the Hell did that happen?  They now make the shoes so that the toe is not like a normal shoe you find anywhere, but the toe pigeon toes in.  It would be nice if you could get your foot to follow along, but it doesn’t.  As I said, the BUTORA Unisex Altura Climbing Shoe size 10.5 was super tight.  The board-lasted was great but the shape of the shoe is like the TC Pro leaving an extra ½ up past where the round shoe would have stopped leaving even more space.   Other classic examples of this shape and slip-lasted are the shoes below:

EXSAMPLES OF Modernized Shoes

  1. TC-PRO’S: Tried a 44.5 US = 11 same size as what I am used to.  They feel like I am climbing with socks, were as the old Ballet Gold feel like I can cut an onion like a knife, the feeling is completely different, even with socks on I can cut an edge better.
  2. Brand New Boreal Ballet US10 / US11 For this shoe I had a similar problem.
  3. FIVE TEN GRANDSTONE US 10.5: For this shoe I had a similar problem.
  4. BUTORA Unisex Altura Climbing Shoe size 10.5 super tight. The board-lasted is great but the shape of the shoe is like the TC Pro leaving an extra ½ up past where the round shoe would have stopped leaving even more space.

TC-PRO’S:  Tried a 44.5 US = 11 same size as what I am used to.  They feel like I am climbing with socks, were as the old Ballet Gold feel like I can cut an onion like a knife, the feeling is completely different, even with socks on I can cut an edge better.

Brand New Boreal Ballet US10 / US11 For this shoe I had a similar problem.

FIVE TEN GRANDSTONE US 10.5:  For this shoe I had a similar problem.

Now, I have normal foot, and the normal shoes all have that same dome shape in the toe.  So, there was an extra ¼ of space, especially if you wore a thin sock.  Unless you wore them super tight till your toe nails fall off, but you don’t have to do that to get a good edge.  But now with the pigeon toe you have additional dead space of ¼,  a total of 1/2 , and this is completely unacceptable.  The shape makes a bad thing worse. I need to find vintage shoes in order to climb well.

THE RE-SOLE PROBLEM

Now there is another problem, the new slip-lasted flexible shoes cannot be resoled, note the video of Tommy Caldwell’s  TC Pros … he can’t re-sole any of them .

BD Crash Pads, Episode 3: Tommy Caldwell’s Training Routine

https://youtu.be/JQ2k876YuPw?t=90 .

I think one of the reasons that climbing shoe manufacturers all went this way is so they could sell more shoes, if you cannot resole a shoe you are forced to get a new one.

STRAINGHT HEAL

One new improvement I will however note, and that is that the new shoes have a heal that narrows toward the top.  This makes it so that your toe does not see-saw and loosen up as you step down on the toe of the shoe.  The Old Style Boreal Ballet was a perfect shoe, it had the board-lasted as well as the heal tightening feature.

See below the old style Boreal Ballet:

However, not too long ago I did use a pair of Rencia Precision Spain shoes, very similar to the EB’s on a 5.13. I found that they actually worked better then then the Boreal Ballet Gold. But that maybe because the edge of my Boreal’s need to be re-soled. So, the tightening heal I think does help, but it’s not as important by far as the shape of the toe. In other words, if you can get a good fit then you can get by without the heal tightening feature of the new shoes. It’s the toe shape and board-lasted however are essential to gain an advantage in my opinion, especially when it comes to long climbs where you cannot take your shoes off.

Recently I tried a “new” unopened old style Asolo EB tyle UK 10 EUR 44 US 11, these maybe board-lasted I believe which makes them stiff.  They seemed like a good shoe but the size was too big.

Ironically, a company called Fronteer (https://fronteer.us/collections/all) did remake the EB Gratton’s——–but they are not for rockclimbing.  They are merely a sneaker.

Recently I tried a “new” unopened old style Asolo EB tyle UK 10 EUR 44 US 11, these maybe board-lasted I believe which makes them stiff.  They seemed like a good shoe but the size was too big.

VTG Asolo Axis Mens Size UK 10 EUR 44 US 11 man Hiking Suede Blue Climbing Shoes

I also tried the old Boreal Fire, they were a good shape, but they were more soft like a slip-lasted, so they did not work:

OLD BOREAL:  I tried a 10.5 Boreal and they bend too much, like a slipper, they appear to be some kind of slip-lasted.

Vintage La Sportiva Climbing Shoes 255 Blue Yellow Italy Size EU 44.5 US 11.5 in transition to the modern shoe. This shoe is also pigeon toed.

CONCLUSION

What I would recommend is that we have a remake of the Boreal Ballet Gold in all sizes as well as the old style EB Gratton. I think the only reason were discontinued is because the new generation thought they could climb  better in shoes if they were painful, and the climbing shoe manufacturers took advantage of it, and knew they could make more money with shoes which could not be re-soled. I think if climbers could try both the board-lasted shoes in comparison to what they have now they would be very surprised. But, like I said, they do take experience to know how to use them. Like ridding a bike, your feet do not need to be on the ground, you can feel the road with the wheel.  I think we are so far off what is actually the best that it is ridiculous.  Instead we are following the foot of a few odd ball shaped supper climbers whom we have made an idol of.  We have lost track of what really works and why for better reasons.

One time I tried to climb in socks, I was able to lead Somthing Interesting 5.7 at the Gunks, but I could not imagine doing anything harder in those.

If you have these two styles around, give them a try and let me know what you think in the commet box below.

We want to know:

  1. if you can find a 1/2″ of space in the pigeon toe vs 1/4 space in the round toe foot.
  2. In the old style does your foot slip up in the back 1/8″ or is the modern heal painful after a few pitches.
  3. How long can you stand on a small hold with your board-lasted vs your slip-lasted shoes.
  4. Do you know anyone in the shoe manufacaturing business who could remake board-lasted shoes like these.

DJP

PS

Other information about bord-last construction shoes:

https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/106677011/crack-shoes-what-should-i-get

https://www.summitpost.org/phpBB3/few-questions-about-climbing-shoes-t61446.html

How Climbing Shoes are Made

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *