Effective Footwork in Rock Climbing

Effective footwork is the key to enjoy progress and rock-climbing. Almost all books on the subject of rock-climbing technique make this point. Small improvements in footwork can provide large improvements in ability to progress and technical difficulty. Footwork can improve an overall climbing endurance where using less forearms and flowing smoothly and quickly can be obtained. This gives one more energy to spare figuring out Crux moves in real time. These are the most basic elements of footwork: maximizing weight on the feet, quiet footwork, and agility. More advanced topics such as counter pressure and maximizing direction of force on hand holds are not addressed.

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The first step in improvement is to set up a feedback loop: you have to be aware of your footwork to make adjustments. Climbing is a very complex movement centered sport. Your climbing is affected by your mood, your energy level, your skill and the specific type of rock and movements required of the climb. The key to increase your awareness is to set up exercises that reduce or eliminate any other factors so that it is a very direct relationship between your footwork and your climbing. Read as many books as you can on technique.

Assume the position - this is a very basic exercise for beginning climbers. Stan feet shoulder width apart, facing a wall in place both palms flat on the wall as if under arrest. Do not clench handholds. Now lift either foot as if to place it on a higher foothold. What happens? If you have your hips centered between your feet you cannot lift a foot without some help from your hands. If you cannot get enough friction from your palms on the wall you will fail. To lift your foot with confidence, you have to shift your hips so your weight is on the stationary foot before and waiting the foot you intend to move. This is not simple. When most climbers are climbing they shift their weight onto the stationary foot before moving the other. The result is that they must hang from their hands while they move their feet. It's a small amount of effort, but it adds up with every step.

The patriot - this is an exercise in the natural progression from the last. Pick a climb wall within your ability. Whenever you move a foot from one foothold to another, first lift and find a static stationary position with the foot flagging not on any foothold. Jockey around and feel for the balance point where your weight is on the stationary foot. Take your time and strive to put the last weight on your hands. You're working towards a fluid climbing style where you shift your hips before lifting a foot. Your movement and balance changes from front on climbing to back steps, to lay backs, to twist locks on overhangs. It is an excellent warm-up activity.

Quiet feet - having quiet feet is an important component of good footwork. What are quiet feet? Feet that don't scramble around looking for their final resting place on a hold and feed to keep movement on a hold-down to a minimum. In many cases quiet feet alight on exactly the right place on a hold in exactly the right attitude and do not move until they moved to another hold. They do not smack into the wall and slide down to a foothold. Quiet feet do not slouch on a hold, rolling about leaving rubber smeared everywhere. They are similar to a hummingbird hovering to drink nectar. Quiet feet are often accompanied by an active climber who locks the feet onto each hold with precision and scams the climb ahead with this much attention to where the feet will be placed as to the hands.

Acquiring quiet feet - try to exaggerate your quiet feet as much as possible especially in warm-ups. Silent footwork is trying to climb while making absolutely no noise with your feet, tiptoe. One touch is when you place your foot on a hold and do not move it around. If you need to change his position on the hold, castigate yourself and then lifted off the hold and replace it in the new position. Strive to eliminate even this in favor of finding a position that would serve your movement on and off the hold. You need to wear the softest slippers you can find as you can feel every hold with your feet and toes.

Agile feet - there are many different ways to help you climb and footwork agility is a simple as discovering new ways to use your feet to progress. Attitudes - on a straightforward face climb, try it three times in succession. First face the body to the left, using the inside edge of your left foot and the outside edge of the right foot. On the second climb, face your body to the right and use the inside edge of your right foot and the outside edge of your left foot. On the final climb, face the wall and use the tips of your toes to climb. This will strengthen your foot muscles.

Footwork eliminator- this is a game that can be played alone or in a group. The first climber climbs the route and should not make an extreme effort to use a difficult sequence. The journey from easy to difficult is the point of the exercise. Note which holds were used for the feet and count them. The next climber must use exactly one fewer foothold. If holds were used for both feet and for hands the next climber can still use them all for hands but one hold that was used for feet must be eliminated. This process continues until the climber cannot successfully use one fewer foothold. One by one climbers are eliminated from the game. The game ends when one climber is left. That climber buys everyone a beer. The game improves footwork by training. Balance- good footwork is a question of balance and maximizing the weight on the feet and minimizing the force on the hands. The simplest of all exercises is to climb with minimal use of hands. On low angle walls or slabs, try climbing without hands at all. At first you may be able to only stand on holds without hands but need them to move between rests. Keep working on your balance. At local gyms there are usually low angle slabs with huge holds. You can use it as a part of your warm-up routine on every workout. If this doesn't work try climbing or traversing with one finger in each hand.