How to Stretch Climbing Shoes – 4 Quick & Smart Ways

Every new pair of climbing shoes is too tight to put on without discomfort, blisters, or pain in your feet. Therefore, the joy of buying new gear dies sooner as wearing them, as they come, is rather painful. This is because you select one or half-size down when buying a pair of new shoes not to become too loose as they stretch out or break in with time.

So, it is imperative to stretch the shoes to their capacity to make them comfortable and workable climbing footwear. But the question is how to stretch climbing shoes.

Novice and aspirant climbers may not think about stretching new climbing shoes for a while, but it is important to make sure the shoes fit snug and feel comfortable.

This article will focus on the efficient ways and expert tips on stretching your new climbing shoes to reap the most out of your purchase. To have in-depth knowledge of climbing shoes’ adjusting period and process, you should learn about breaking in climbing shoes

Do Climbing Shoes Stretch?

A very common question is: Do climbing shoes stretch? The answer is yes, but the stretching amount varies depending on the type of shoe, the size of the heel, and most importantly, the materials they are made of.

You can categorize climbing shoes by the climber level or the climbing you target. You will have that point covered elsewhere in our guides, offering crucial information on choosing and buying the right size shoes.

Beginner or aspirant climbers may do well with neutral shoes, and in that stage, you can buy the shoes very close to your original feet size. As a beginner climber, you will embark on mild climbing, and so your shoes will break in or stretch out slowly.

When you have passed the novice climbing period and stepped into the next level to escalate overhanging, you need climbing shoes with a downturn in the sole for a good grip under your feet. These climbing shoes should be tighter as you cannot afford your shoes slipping for being loose. And tighter shoes will require initial stretching.

However, any climbing shoe irrespective of the material and type, does stretch but they vary in amount, increment, and duration. If you ask how long does it takes to break in climbing shoes or to stretch out, the answer is 4-8 weeks with the leather shoes taking shorter and the synthetic one’s longer.

How to Stretch Climbing Shoes Quick and Smart Way?

Climbing shoes are made to give climbers the best performance possible on climbs. They are designed to be tight to hug the foot and provide a better grip on the rock but they require to be efficiently and timely stretched out.

This can be done in 4 quick and smart ways and the authority sources will also give identical answers to your inquiry for how to stretch climbing shoes reddit, and the likely forums.

1. Stuffing with Socks Method

There are various methods for stretching climbing shoes, but one of the most popular—and simplest—is to try to stretch them with socks. This method uses the natural elasticity of the shoes and the fabric of the socks to stretch the shoes gradually.

Stuff the Shoes with Socks

To start, take a pair of socks and put them inside the climbing shoes. It doesn’t matter how much you stuff the shoes because the stretching happens gradually. Fill every inch of the shoe, and do not leave any space unstuffed in the toe box.

Warm the Shoes with a Blow Dryer

Now, the shoes need a bit of warming up. Note, I am saying warming up, not heating up. So, please do not buy the disastrous suggestion of putting your climbing shoes in oven to damage them fully. Rather, take your blow dryer to warm the shoes, and hot drying for 1-2 minutes should do. Instead, you can put them under sunlight, not for long, though.

In either method, ensure that the entire shoe is warm. Here also, you should avoid heating the shoes for a long time as excessive heat from anywhere – be it sun or hot dryer- may melt the glue and rubber sole.

Put more Stuff Inside

Yes, a pair of warm shoes will give in. Now, take extra socks and put them inside the shoes to make sure they are stuffed to capacity. To make it fully stuffed, you can use a piece of cloth or paper if socks fall short of it.

Let the Shoes Cool Down

Once it is stuffed to its capacity, please leave it to cool down so long it takes to go normal. When the temperature eases down, take all the staff out of the shoes and wear the shoes. You should feel that cramping or painful grip is no more, and you will feel your shoe snug tight without the initial discomfort.

2. Freezing Up Method

If you want your climbing shoes to stretch up a little bit, the previous method should serve the purpose. But if your target and need are to stretch them to a considerable length, a more rigorous method like the freezing up method is due. And this will take a considerable length of time but will stretch your shoes to the max. Here you go with the steps:

Place Water-filled Bags inside Shoes

You need several sandwich bags or two zip-lock bags and a refrigerator in your home besides your climbing shoes. Fill the sandwich bag with water but not to its maximum capacity. This is to let them fit the shoe shape and fill every inch inside because a bag filled to the max capacity will be stiff not to accommodate anywhere according to a different shape.

Therefore, fill several plastic sandwich bags with water, as said, so that they fit into the inside of the shoes and fill up the interior of the shoes to the last space.

As for the zip lock bag, two will do – one for each shoe. Fill them with water, zip them up, and then put them inside the shoes. They will conform to the interior shape and curve of the shoes.

Freeze Up the Shoes

Now, getting them laced up efficiently, place the shoes in the freezer and let them freeze for at least 12 hours. When the water freezes up into the solid form of ice block, this will stretch the shoe to every direction possible because we know water expands when in solid form. But the shoes will never remain stretched along the length as the rubber sole will bounce back later, or they will not stretch along the length.

Take the Shoes Out and Wiggle the Bags Out

After the suggested period, take the shoes out of the refrigerator and wait for 30 minutes to let the ice melt a bit. Thus, it will now be easy for you to wiggle the bags out of the shoes inside.

Let the Shoes Thaw and Find them Stretched

With the ice melted and the water-filled bags out of the shoes, the wet shoes are not ready yet for you to wear and require 1 hour more to come back to normal temperature. So, put the warm shoes on after they are properly thawed. Now, they should fit comfortably as they are stretched a bit on the heel side and considerably in the toe box area. This is a more a method if you ask how to stretch synthetic climbing shoes.

3. Hot Shower Method or Pre-climbing Shower

Veteran rock climbers suggest the hot shower method or pre-climbing method to successfully stretch out your climbing shoes. However, you should maintain a sequence of tasks to reap the max result out of this soaking and stretch-out method.

Put on Shoes with Socks

Yes, this time too, socks are crucial not to stuff the shoes, but you will put them on and slide your foot inside the shoe. Now, lace up the shoes as they should. Socks will ensure maximum stretch on top of providing safety padding to your feet.

Soak the Shoes in a Hot Shower

This suggestion may sound a bit weird, but the pro climbers tested it to be effective. So, turn the hot shower on and go under it with your shoes on and make sure that the fabric of your shoes and sole are soaked profusely with warm water. Ensure your shoes get fully wet from fabric down to the rubber sole before turning the shower off and getting out of here.

Walk Around with The Shoes Put on

The warm water will start its course of loosening your shoes. But to ensure the max stretching, walk around and wiggle your foot so long and so much possible. Because the longer you walk, the faster and more your climbing shoes will stretch. This is why it is included with efficient walking in climbing shoes methods.

Stretching out or breaking is conforming the shoes to the shape and size of the feet, and when the shoes are wet, they will loosen more to stretch out to their max. But you must be aware of slips as too wet shoes and soaked in rubber soles can cause a nasty slip. This is up to you to decide how much wet your shoes will get.

Keep Dried-up Shoes Stuffed to Capacity

At one point, the shoes will start drying, and the warmer feeling will vanish to signal you that it’s time to take off your shoes. But you should leave them fully stuffed with newspapers, cloth, and the like, especially to the toe box end. This is crucial to prevent the loosening parts from tightening back up.

As for the pre-climbing shower method, you will take shower with the shoes put on and get to climbing without letting them dry and cool down. This should stretch your biting-tight shoes out sufficiently ending up with still a tight but comfortable grip.

4. Shoe Stretcher Method

It takes weeks and sometimes even months to stretch out climbing shoes for the desired comfortable feel. A shoe stretcher can help speed up this process. Shoe stretchers work by expanding the shoe in key areas, such as the heel and toe. You can bag several benefits when using a shoe stretcher, the most crucial being the convenience of stretching the specific shoe spot.

Insert the Stretcher

Insert the shoe stretcher into the shoe, and the shape will tell you how to put it the right way. But determining the amount of stretch is crucial to fix before inserting the expander in.

Start Turning the Knob

Once the stretcher sits conveniently, start turning the knob to begin the process of stretching and keep turning until you are discouraged by the resistance.

Leave the Stretcher to Work its Way Out

It is crucial to decide how long to leave the stretcher inside the shoe. It depends on how much to stretch and what the shoe material is. Considering these two factors, you can leave the tool inside for a night or 24 hours, or 48 hours.

Stretch Your Target Spot

After that period, you should find your shoes stretched to fit comfortably with your shoes inside. You may still find any specific part is still causing the toughest rub or chafe. Suppose, if the issue is still climbing shoes toes curled, target the hole exactly in that block -toe block- of the stretcher and attach the bunion plug to stretch that specific part. That role of the stretcher applies equally well to all the other three methods if need be.


How can I make my climbing shoes bigger?

Depending on the material, there are a few ways to make your climbing shoes bigger or stretch them up one/two sizes up, depending on the material. This article mentions that leather shoes extend 2 sizes up to the max, and synthetic shoes stretch 1-1.5 sizes up at best. You can accomplish it in three different ways that include:

  • Stuffing and blow-drying method
  • Hot shower method
  • Freezing with zip-lock or sandwich bag method

Can I stretch my climbing shoes?

There is heated debate over whether you can stretch your climbing shoes or not. Some people say it’s necessary in order to get the most out of your shoes, while others maintain that it can actually damage the shoes and shorten their lifespan.

So, what’s the truth? Well, the answer depends on whether you need it or not.

The snug fit is important for protecting the climber’s feet from falling into crevices or from protecting them from hitting sharp rocks. The tight shoes also provide a more secure foothold on ice.

If you feel your new shoes are biting tight and causing pain, blisters, and pinching, you should stretch them following the methods discussed in this article. Whatever, climbing shoes must fit snug but should not grip too tight to let your feet breathe while climbing.

How can you tell if your climbing shoes are too tight?

Climbing shoes are an important piece of gear that can make or break a climb. One of the many important things to remember when choosing climbing shoes is that they should be comfortable and not too tight.

Many climbers make the mistake of buying too tight shoes, thinking that they will help them climb better. This is not true.

Too-tight shoes can cause more harm than good by making climbing extremely uncomfortable and painful, if not impossible. They can make your feet curl in the toe box on top of putting blood flow slower than normal. Moreover, too tight shoes can be nearly impossible to slip into shoes besides making your heel too tight to move on.

Should you buy climbing shoes a size bigger?

When you buy a new pair of climbing shoes, you should go for a size down to reap the max benefit. Climbing shoes are meant to fit snugly to have better control over your footwork.

If they’re too big, they’ll be less effective and could even cause injuries from falls from high altitudes as loose-fitting shoes will not provide the grip or snug fit climbing shoes must have. Indeed, you should buy climbing shoes a size smaller, not a size bigger, as they will stretch out over time and fit tight to your feet.

Why do climbing shoes fit so small?

Climbing shoes are notoriously small and tight-fitting. That is the reason why some climbers go as far as to have their shoes professionally stretched while others simply suffer through discomfort. But what is the reason for this tight fit?

To understand why climbing shoes fit so small, it’s important first to understand that climbing shoes are made to provide a tight fit so that the feet can be securely anchored in place on small footholds.

This is in contrast to running shoes designed to be wide and flexible. To accomplish this tight fit, climbing shoes are made of a very stretchy and accommodating material such as leather or synthetic suede.

Are you supposed to wear socks with climbing shoes?

Climbing shoes are designed to grip tight and stick to rocks, and wearing socks with them can make them less effective. However, many people choose to wear socks with their climbing shoes because they provide extra warmth and cushioning to soak the feet’ sweat.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual climber to decide what works best for them.  But if you want your tight-fit climbing shoes to stretch a bit, trying them with socks can prove to be helpful.

Why are my climbing shoes slippery?

One of the key issues climbers faces, while climbing, is slippery shoes. This can be a major problem when climbing, as it can lead to losing your grip on the rocks and risking a fall. So, why are some climbing shoes more slippery than others?

A few factors can contribute to this, such as the type of rubber used for the shoes. Climbing shoes with a harder rubber will generally be more slippery than those with softer rubber. That is why climbers occasionally soak the soles with water to soften them as they get harder with every climbing session.

Other causes of a slippery shoe include the type of lacing system used and whether the climbing shoes have too much padding in them or not.

So, you should buy climbing shoes that are specifically designed with the needs of a climber in mind. When shopping for climbing shoes, you should lookout for a pair that has a comfortable fit and flexible sole. An efficient guide on choosing or buying the right climbing shoes can be a great help in this regard.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, these are the four efficient methods to help stretch your climbing shoes if you don’t want your new climbing shoes hurt. All of these methods are relatively easy and can be done at home. However, you should go for the method involving blow-drying as a last resort, as mistakenly overheating can prove to be disastrous for your costly gear.

If you wonder how to stretch climbing shoes, any one of the four methods will serve your purpose, fit better, and make your climbing comfortable and successful.

Afzall Rahman

Afzall Rahman is a college teacher by profession and is a rock-climbing enthusiast from his early childhood. So, anything on climbing keeps him glued to for hours - be it a movie on or related to climbing, book on or by climbers, article or podcast on climbing destinations, skills, gears, or the likes.

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