Articles ยป Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Rock climbing shoes can get wet and they’ll still perform perfectly fine on all of your adventures.

Water won’t damage your climbing shoes, but if you’re wearing leather shoes than you may see some of the dye leak out and end up on your feet. Leather shoes will also stretch a little bit when they get wet. But the high quality rubber on your shoes still function perfectly fine even if they’re wet.

If you’re looking to go deep water soloing, then your shoes are definitely going to get wet. You don’t need to stress about it and it’s perfectly fine for your climbing gear to get wet. Bring an extra pair of shoes so you can rotate between the two pairs. One pair can air dry while you rest and take another attempt, then switch out the pairs for your next go. But I would recommend bringing some liquid chalk so your hands can stay dry!

Take a look at our list of the best climbing shoes on the market to find your next favorite pair of deep water soloing shoes.

How Do Climbing Shoes Perform When Wet?

The purpose of rock climbing shoes is that they help us stick to the wall while we’re climbing.

Thanks to the high quality rubber outsole, the shoe generates a lot more friction than regular tennis or running shoes. With a climbing shoe, you can literally smear on the wall and use that as a foothold while you’re climbing.

The problem with water is that it will act as a lubricant and make everything slippery. We’ll lose a lot of friction if our shoe is soaking wet and we try to climb. We’ll feel our foot slipping and we’ll have a tougher time climbing. If our rubber is wet and the rock is completely dry or vise versa, you’re going to have a tough time sticking to footholds on the wall.

Check the weather forecast before you embark on a multi pitch climb

But the good news is that if your shoe and the wall are both wet you won’t slip as much as you think. Which seems counter intuitive at first.

In my experience I’ve found that I’ve been able to climb just fine on days when it’s drizzling and my climbing shoes and the wall have a similar amount of moisture on them. I don’t know the exact science behind this, but climbing shoes tend to perform just fine when they have similar moisture as the wall they’re pressing against.

If it starts raining the next time you’re out climbing, don’t pack it up just yet. You may climb better than you think if everything is a little wet. And some rock will dry out quicker than you think.

Is Climbing Shoe Rubber Slippery When Wet?

Any time you introduce water to your climbing shoe rubber you’re going to notice that they just aren’t as sticky when everything is perfectly dry.

In fact, representatives from Vibram and La Sportiva do state that the rubber used on shoes is just as sticky dry when it’s wet.

What you need to watch out for are the features on the wall. If you’re climbing on hot and dry rock, then a wet shoe is going to be perfectly fine.

But if there are any leaves or there is lichen and moss growing on the wall, then you’re shoe is going to behave much differently on these materials. Keep your eyes on your feet and take note of what you’re standing on. Even holds that are covered in chalk are going to feel slick and you may slip right off a chalk covered hold. Keep a brush on hand just in case you need to remove excess chalk.

Will Water Damage My Climbing Shoes?

Water won’t damage your rock climbing shoes.

If your shoes get wet and you properly dry them then you won’t have any issues with them. Modern climbing shoes are durable and tough, your leather shoes may stretch a bit if you get them soaking wet and then stand in them. Synthetic climbing shoes won’t stretch as mut, but they’re better known for developing a bad stink.

However, if you get your shoes wet and you don’t properly dry them you may run into some trouble. You’ll run into mold growing in your shoes and probably get a bad smell lingering on your climbing shoes.

What Should I Do If My Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Seeking shelter in a cave during a rain storm

Here are a few tips on what you can do the next time your rock climbing shoes get wet:

  • Evaluate how wet they are, if it feels like you can continue climbing go for it. Pay attention to how your feet feel on the wall and if you notice any slipping.
  • If they’re too wet, take them off and let them air dry. Try to keep the shoes out of direct sunlight because the UV rays from the sun can damage the shoe material.
  • Open the shoe tongue as much as possible. If they’re velcro shoes, undo all the straps and get as much airflow inside the shoe as possible.
  • Stuff the shoes with dry towels or newspaper to help expedite the drying process. The fabric will soak up extra moisture.
  • You can wear socks if you want to continue climbing. The socks will help soak up extra moisture that may be trapped in the shoe. Make sure your socks are dry before putting them on!

Are Climbing Shoes Waterproof?

Rock climbing shoes are not waterproof.

The materials and fabrics that go into these shoes are not good at repelling water. In fact, they do a great job at soaking up water. If you’re doing a lot of outdoor activities, it’ll make your life a whole lot easier to get used to rain and moisture. It’s just a fact of life that at some point you’re going to get rained on.

If you’re climbing in the alpine or deep water soloing, then you’re shoes are probably going to get wet. Do your best to not get too frustrated about it and take the time to let your shoes dry and air your feet out.

Can Climbing Shoes Get Moldy?

Yes, climbing shoes can get moldy.

Mold will grow on wet surfaces any time there is a lot of moisture and there isn’t airfloor to cycle out moist and humid air. If your shoes get wet and you just throw them back into your climbing bag, you’ve just introduced a great opportunity for mold to grow in your shoes.

If your shoes do get moldy, you can quickly clean them by mixing rubbing alcohol and water. Then take a towel and soak it in your mixture. Take your time and wipe down the entirety of the shoe and scrubbing away every part that has mold. This will take some time and elbow grease and you want to make sure you cover every square inch you can.

How To Prevent Mold From Growing In Your Climbing Shoes

  • Air dry your shoes when they get wet
  • Store your shoes properly when you aren’t climbing. Keep them in an open environment where air can flow inside the shoes.
  • Don’t store them in the bottom of your climbing bag where they won’t see the light of day

One of the best tips to deal with funk in climbing shoes is to not stuff them to the bottom of your pack until the next time you climb. Keep them outside of the bag and let them breathe a bit before packing them away.

Do You Wear Climbing Shoes When Deep Water Soloing?

Yes, you can wear climbing shoes when you’re deep water soloing.

It’s also possible to go rock climbing barefoot, but I like to bring a few pairs of shoes when deep water soloing. That way you can have a pair of shoes drying while you climb and cycle out your wet shoes with your dry shoes.

Another thing to keep in mind is the type of water that you’re falling into when you’re deep water soloing. If your falling into salt water, you’ll want to give your shoes a fresh water bath after getting them wet with salt water. Salt is a very abrasive substance that can cause premature wear and tear on your shoes.

Some people recommend wearing water shoes when they deep water solo, but we much prefer the feel of our climbing shoes on rock vs. water shoes. One advantage of wearing water shoes is that they are designed to get wet while our climbing shoes are not.

How to Dry Climbing Shoes

Here are some tips to dry your climbing shoes:

  • Loosen the laces and velcro straps as much as possible and keep them out in fresh air. You want to get as much air flow circulation in the shoe as possible.
  • Take a dry towel and wipe down the outside and the inside of the shoe. I like to dab and compress the towel around the shoe to help soak up as moisture as possible.
  • Stuff your climbing shoes with dry washcloths and leave them in for a few hours to soak up water that’s hard to get inside the shoe. You’ll need to change out the towels every so often with fresh ones for the best results.
  • You can purchase a shoe dryer for around $20 off Amazon that will expedite this process. This is a great option when you take your shoes home for the night and they’re still wet from your day of rock climbing.

Can I Wash My Rock Climbing Shoes?

Yes you can wash your rock climbing shoes.

We like to soak the shoes in warm water and add a mild detergent. After they soak for a bit, we’ll take a soft brush and then scrub dirty spots on the shoe. It’s incredible how your shoes will look brand new after doing this. If you combine this with a rubber resole you’ll have nearly brand new shoes for half the cost!

We don’t recommend to wash climbing shoes in a washing machine since it’s easy to wash them by hand. But many climbers throw their shoes in the wash with no problem whatsoever.

Cleaning climbing shoes is a great way to keep your shoes looking fresh and remove any bad smells. Synthetic shoes are known for developing a strong funk, so giving them a good scrub every now and then will keep them smelling like roses.

Can Velcro Climbing Shoes Withstand Water

Velcro will stick even if they’re soaked. It is a myth that they don’t work as well when they are wet. Velcro has nylon on it and there are plenty of pieces of scuba diving equipment that have velcro and they hold up perfectly fine for deep sea dives.

Don’t stress too much if your velcro shoes get wet. If it feels like they aren’t sticking as well as normal, give them a few minutes to dry out and try again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I leave climbing shoes outside?

You can leave rock climbing shoes outside but keep them out of direct sunlight and keep them covered so they don’t get rained on overnight.

What happens if my shoes get wet while I’m rock climbing?

Don’t panic, if your climbing shoes get wet while you’re rock climbing you can take them off to air dry real quick or keep climbing. The water won’t do any additional damage to the shoe.

What do I do with wet climbing shoes while I’m deep water soloing?

Bring a few pairs of climbing shoes so if one pair gets wet while you’re climbing you have a second dry pair you can wear. I like to have an old pair on tap that I can wear and don’t mind if they get beaten up.

Can leather climbing shoes get wet?

Yes, leather climbing shoes can get wet and they will still climb just as fine. But they may stretch out if they’re soaked and you continue wearing them while they’re still soaked.

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Rob developed ORB to help himself categorize and find all the outdoor gear he needed at great prices. He loves writing about the outdoors and climbing. Rob is a certified Single Pitch Instructor through the AMGA.

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