Gear Spotlight: Five Steps to Choosing Climbing Shoes & Harness

Gear Spotlight: Five Steps to Choosing Climbing Shoes & Harness

Over the years our climbing department has grown incredibly. Back in the day you would be lucky to find even a single pair of consigned shoes in the entire shop. Although you probably still won’t find a full rack of cams at 2nd Tracks, we can get you the essentials at the right price. If you’re looking to get your first pair of shoes, a harness, or crash pad we’ve got you covered. We have a large inventory of lightly used rock shoes, new and used harnesses and new essentials like ATC’s and locking biners. We round the climbing department out with plenty of accessories, chalk, salves and even a used guide book selection.

We would love to take your used climbing gear in on consignment, please bring it in! However, the item must be in great (safe) condition for us to sell it. We will cut the webbing off of cams if their is any doubt that it’s no longer safe and will accept no slings, no old ropes and nothing the is functionally irrelevant. 

We get a lot of folks wondering how to fit a harness or shoes, so here’s Five Steps to Choosing Climbing Shoes & Harness-


  1. Fit is the most important thing to keep in mind – You want to be in the middle of your size, meaning the harness isn’t almost too small or maxed out. The harness should sit above your hips and synch down snugly.
  2. Padded or Webbing? We often sell harness that are made from just webbing, these are designed for ski descents where your wearing your harness over many layers of clothes that will act like padding. For rock climbing you’ll want something more comfortable.
  3. Gear Loops – If your just starting out, go with 4 gear loops. As far as gear loops go, it’s rare to find a harness that doesn’t come with the standard 4 loops, however some ultra sporty models save weight by only having 2. If thats what you need, you are probably not reading this post. Finally, some big wall harnesses feature extra heavy-duty gear loops for holding lots of gear, not many people need harnesses like these.
  4. The Closure Mechanism – Your harness will be designed in one of two ways shown below. The more modern zip-lock style, or the traditional buckle that will require you to double it back,. failure to double back these older style harnesses can cause them to loosen as you move. No bueno!
  5. The Leg Loops – on your harness will be either fixed or adjustable. Personally I like the simplicity of fixed leg loops but adjustable will probably be more comfortable for most people. The leg loop closure system will feature the same types mentioned earlier, and the same applies for the legs always em double back!

Sizing your first pair of climbing shoes is a little tricky, it’s kinda like ski boots in the sense that there not really supposed to be comfortable. Having said that, wearing shoes that are painful, especially when your first starting out, is crazy. Never fear, we can help you understand the finer points of picking out some climbing shoes

Climbing Shoes:

  1. What will you climb? – Different types of climbing call for different shoe choices, and though the differences between climbing styles may be nuanced to the beginner climber, shoe choice is critical for certain types of climbing.
  2. Sizing – Everyone has their own preferences here, ranging from slipper sized to doll sized. I have known plenty of climbers who had to brake in their shoes in the bathtub because they couldn’t get them on unless they were wet. In general it’s a good idea to size your shoes a little tight at first (about one size down from your street shoe, which is usually bigger than your foot anyway). It will feel very tight at first, but within a few climbing session almost every shoe will stretch. When you move up in difficulty you will probably want a tighter shoe, but try something thats bearable right out of the box before getting crazy with tight shoes.
  3. Downturn – Shoes come in two basic flavors; flat and downturned. When crack climbing, you’ll want your toes to be flat in the shoe, this will make a huge difference when your twisting your feet in a crack. If you plan on sport climbing, a more down turned shoe will be ideal. When your toes are curled and pointing down you will have a much easier time grabbing holds with your toes and preforming other moves like toe hooks and heel hooks. For your first pair we recommend you go with a snug fitting, slightly downturned shoe. As you progress, you’ll probably want to upgrade, but shoes like these will be a good intro.
  4. Stiffness – Stiff shoes will work better in places like Little because the will allow you to stand on the slabby granite edges more easily. More flexible shoes have more “feel” to them. It’s a balance, and the choice is yours.
  5. Care – It’s beneficial to remove your shoes as soon as your done climbing to keep the rubber clean and allow the shoe to maintain it’s original shape. If you trudge around in your nice, downturned shoes they will flatten out. Extended use will ware out the toe area of your shoes, and eventually they will become unusable. If you catch these holes before they blow all the way through the shoe, you can have your shoes resoled by a professional company. Usually my shoes go through two or three resoles before they truly are done. It costs around $50, depending on the amount of ware, and greatly extends the life of your shoes.
The difference between a flat stiffer shoe, and more sensitive down turned shoe at a glance. ( – photo)


For a more in depth selection of climbing equipment check out IME just East of our Millcreek Store, a long time local business that is one of the best climbing shops in the Valley. These guys also have encyclopedic knowledge of the local area so don’t hesitate to ask for some beta! Oh, and bring beer (not gas station beer, these guys are professionals)!


Leave a Reply