Wondering whether or not you should resole your climbing shoes or just buy new ones? We get it! We’ve included everything you need to know to decide.
When Should You Resole Climbing Shoes?
If you climb in the gym or outside between 1-3 times per week, a pair of climbing shoes will typically last between 3-9 months before a resole is needed.
While this timeframe is a helpful guideline, the best way to determine if you need a resole is to keep an eye on your shoes and be aware of the warning signs.
First, locate the line that separates the rand from the sole. If this line is relatively horizontal and straight, your soles are probably in good shape. With wear, this line will begin to change as the sole thins out from repeated use.
Shoes are ready for a resole once the line between the rand and the sole dips down and the rand is exposed to abrasion. If you carry on climbing past this point, you may damage the rand.
Shoes with a damaged rand will need a new toe cap in addition to a new sole.
When is it Too Late to Resole Climbing Shoes?
If you continue climbing on worn shoes and completely wear through the rand so your actual toes are exposed, the shoe may not be repairable. This kind of significant damage affects the shape of the shoe and is difficult to repair.
You don’t want to resole your shoes too early, but you also don’t want to wait too long. If the climbing surface of your shoes is no longer covered by the sole and the rand is beginning to wear away, it is time for a resole.
How Often Do You Resole Climbing Shoes?
Your need for regular resoles will depend on how well you maintain your climbing shoes and how often you climb. For frequent climbers, it is common to need a resole every 3-9 months.
This also depends on other factors such as if you’re climbing in the gym vs outside or if you tend to drag your toe while climbing for example. This is why you need to simply keep an eye on the shoe for signs of wear.
Types Of Climbing Shoe Resoles
Depending on what kind of wear your shoes have sustained and what your needs are as a climber, there are various resoling options that may be best for your shoes.
The most common of these options is a half shoe resole. A half resole replaces the front half of the sole, which is the primary zone of contact between your shoe and the rock.
A full resole is when the entire sole is pulled off and replaced.
A half resole is the most common type of resole, and it usually costs $30-40 per shoe — before shipping. Most resolers will perform a resole on just one shoe if need be, but if one shoe needs a fresh sole, the other one probably does too.
If your sole is quite worn down and you have started to wear down the rand of your shoes, you may need new toe caps as part of your resole. Upon inspection, resolers will let you know if new toe caps are needed, though you can probably figure it out yourself by looking carefully at your shoes.
If the line between the sole and the rand has significantly receded and the rand is showing notable wear, you will likely need new toe caps. If the existing rand is highly damaged or fully worn through, it may be too late for a resole.
Toe caps usually cost an additional $10 per shoe. To resole a pair of shoes with new half soles and toe caps, expect to pay $65-$100.
You may also be able to choose between various options of rubber thickness for your resole. While 4mm is the industry standard, many resolers also offer 3mm or 5mm thickness.
Remember that the thicker your soles are, the less sensitive your climbing shoes will feel against the rock. Thicker rubber will last longer, but it comes at the price of reduced feel and sensitivity.
Generally, 5mm rubber is a decent option for entry level gym shoes, but isn’t great for trying to perform at your best. Thin 3mm rubber will feel nice and sensitive, but it will wear down a bit faster, which means you may need another resole before too long.
The climbing shoe industry features many different manufacturers, each with their own proprietary rubber sole. When having your shoes resoled, it is possible that the resoler may not have access to the specific brand of rubber that your shoes originally had.
Most resolers have Vibram XS Edge and Stealth C4 rubber, which are two common climbing soles that are found on La Sportiva and 5.10 shoes, respectively. Some resolers may have access to other kinds of rubber, too.
If you have a specific rubber preference, it may require some searching to locate a resoler that has the stuff you’re looking for.
These days, most brands of climbing rubber on the market are high quality and the differences between them are imperceptible to most of us. When in doubt, go with the rubber that your shoes came with originally, or with whatever the resoler recommends.
Climbing Shoe Anatomy
Understanding how climbing shoes are put together will help us understand what exactly happens during a resole. Climbing shoes have all the same basic parts that are found on other shoes.
A leather or synthetic upper forms the top surface of the shoe, while a closure system of laces or velcro allows the wearer to customize the shoe’s fit. On the bottom half of the shoe, there are two pieces of the shoe that are important to the resole process.
What Is A Climbing Shoe Sole?
The sole of a climbing shoe is the focus of the resoling process. A climbing shoe’s sole is the rubber surface that covers the bottom of the shoe. Any time you step on a foothold, you will be utilizing the sole of your climbing shoe.
The lifespan of climbing shoe soles depends on what they are made of and frequency of use.
What Is A Climbing Shoe Rand?
The other important part of the shoe for resoling purposes is called the rand. The rand is a thinner piece of rubber that wraps around the front end of the shoes, covering the front and sides of the toe box.
While most climbing shoe soles are between 3 and 5 mm in thickness, rands are much thinner and they are not designed to hold up to abuse and abrasion like soles are.
Rands exist only to give structure to the front end of climbing shoes. However, if your sole becomes significantly worn down, the rand of your shoe may begin making contact with the surface of the rock.
When this happens, you’re at risk of doing irreversible structural damage to the shoe.
Can No-Edge (Edgeless) Climbing Shoes Be Resoled?
Yes. Edgeless climbing shoes such as the La Sportiva Genius can be resoled. However, not all resolers are able to perform this kind of resole.
On many edgeless shoes, a continuous piece of rubber forms the sole and wraps around the sides of the foot and over the top of the toes. This means that these shoes lack the clean cut edge that most climbing shoes have.
Resolers that work on edgeless shoes typically use premade replacement soles that are made by the shoe manufacturer.
How Many Times Can You Resole Climbing Shoes?
As long as the other parts of your climbing shoes remain in usable condition, you can continue to resole your climbing shoes. If you take good care of your shoes, they may hold up long enough to accept five or more resoles.
Many climbers find that their shoes begin to lose shape after 2 or 3 resoles, but it all depends on the shoes and the preferences of the climber.
Most climbers can get around 3 resoles out of a pair of shoes before the shoes are ready to be fully retired. The life of a pair of climbing shoes can be extended with good maintenance and care.
When you aren’t climbing, take your climbing shoes off and avoid walking around in them — especially on dirty or muddy surfaces. After an outdoor climbing session, quickly wipe off your soles to remove dirt and grime. If your shoes become wet or sweaty, let them air dry before storing them away.
How Long Does It Take to Resole Climbing Shoes?
There are not very many resolers out there relative to the ever-increasing demand, so expect to wait for your shoes to be finished.
Turnaround times vary, but most resolers estimate wait times to be measured in weeks or months. Because you won’t be able to use your shoes while they’re being worked on, you’ll have to plan accordingly.
Resolers are especially busy leading up to climbing seasons. For example, at the end of Winter with Spring conditions on the horizon, you may have to wait a little longer to get your shoes back. Most resolers will give you a good estimated wait time when you hand over your shoes.
Where Can I Get My Climbing Shoes Resoled?
There are many well-regarded resolers across the world. While some people are fortunate to have a skilled resoler located nearby, many climbers have to send their shoes to distant resolers by mail.
Generally, for a good-quality resole job, stick to the well-known options that have been in the resoling trade for a long time. These include The Rubber Room in Bishop, California, Rock and Resole in Boulder, Colorado, and Yosemite Bum near Yosemite, California. All of these companies offer their services via mail.
There are plenty of other options too. It is worthwhile to do a quick local search to find out if there are any resolers near you. Many companies have long turnaround times, especially leading up to outdoor climbing seasons. Sending shoes to resolers via mail will add some additional time to the process overall.
How Do I Send My Shoes to a Resoler?
Many climbers have to send their shoes to the resoler by mail. For most of us, USPS is the best shipping option.
To save on shipping we recommend sending multiple pairs of shoes at once. If you only have one pair of shoes that need a resole, ask around and see if some of your friends want to join in on a group order.
Does REI Resole Climbing Shoes?
No, REI does not resole climbing shoes. While REI’s blog does offer information about resoling, you will need to take your shoes somewhere else to have the soles replaced.
Can I Resole My Own Climbing Shoes?
Yes, it is possible to resole your own climbing shoes. In order to resole your shoes properly, you will need some tools such as sandpaper, a good knife, and a pair of pliers. Many climbing shoe companies no longer sell resole rubber, but it is possible to find.
Be aware that the process of resoling shoes properly takes practice and specific skills. If you’re up for the challenge, go for it!
However, if you have never resoled your shoes before, we recommend having them resoled by a professional. You’ll end up with a better result overall.
What is Resoling?
All climbers can agree that climbing shoes tend to wear out faster than we’d like them to.
While we all adore the sticky rubber that allows us to push ourselves in the sport we love, we also must accept that the soles of climbing shoes do not last forever.
Climbing shoes leave a little rubber behind every time they come in contact with a foothold. Think of that black smear mark that appears on well-used footholds over time — that’s the build up left behind from many, many climbing shoes!
Over time, as our shoe’s rubber is left behind on hundreds of routes and boulders, the thickness of the sole will diminish until the shoe no longer performs at its best. We’ve all witnessed the tragic sight of a climber’s toe poking out of the end of a blown-out shoe.
The sticky rubber soles of climbing shoes tend to wear out faster than the rest of the shoe. When the sole needs replacing but the rest of the shoe has plenty of life left, resoling is the perfect solution.
Resoling is the process of replacing the outer sole of a climbing shoe with a fresh layer of sticky rubber. Thanks to resoling, a single pair of climbing or approach shoes can continue performing through multiple cycles of new rubber.
Resoling reduces waste and is much cheaper than purchasing a brand new pair of shoes.
Austin Beck-Doss is a writer and climber currently based in Salt Lake City, Utah. From long trad routes to short gym sessions, Austin is glad to weave any form of climbing into his days. Previously, Austin has worked as a climbing instructor for various organizations, including nonprofits that focus on adaptive climbers and populations with disabilities. His essays, features, and gear reviews can be found in Climbing, Rock & Ice, The Common Climber, GearJunkie, and other publications.