Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet? (5 Things You Should Know!)

Sometimes, you get your rock climbing shoes wet when a sudden rainfall showers you at the crag. This is normal because you can’t predict the weather to be sunny the whole day when you climb outdoors. Your climbing shoes are expensive and the most exposed to wear & tear too. And knowing how to take proper care of them is necessary if you wish to prolong its life or save money. 

Are Rock Climbing Shoes Safe to Get Wet? Yes, you can soak your climbing shoes in water and they are safe to wash. If they have leather parts, then expect it to stretch a bit when wet. Good thing is that you can safely dry it out to maintain its performance and shape. It is very important that you dry it out completely before storing it in an enclosed space to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Rock climbing shoes
Rock Climbing Shoes (credit: Cindy Chen)

I assume that you are reading this article because you want to take good care of your rock shoes. Read on to learn more about the DOs and DONTs for your climbing shoes.

“It is very important that you dry your rock climbing shoes completely before storing it in an enclosed space”


#1. What happens when your climbing shoes get wet?

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Rainy weather shown from the window
Rainy weather outdoors (credit: Monicore)

Designed to withstand moisture

Water will NOT destroy your shoes. Most shoes are designed to withstand moisture. The designers assumed that you will most likely sweat every use and contribute moisture inside.

Your shoes won’t get destroyed if they get wet on the outside. It is common to experience rain showers when outdoors. And a bit of rain is not going to damage your shoes.

But I strongly suggest that you keep your shoes as dry as possible to make them last longer.

“Your shoes won’t get destroyed if they get wet. But keep your rock climbing shoes as dry as possible.”


Climbing performance using wet rock shoes

In general, having moisture between surfaces increases the risk of slipping. That is why we put on “warning signs” when your floor is freshly mopped.

Having wet climbing shoes greatly reduces friction against rock and plastic holds. This increases your chances of slipping.

It is less safe to climb in wet conditions. So if you plan to climb outdoors, then be smart in choosing your routes and locations.

“Wet climbing shoes greatly reduces friction against rock and plastic holds”


Breaking in your new climbing shoes

Interestingly, some climbers try to stretch out their new shoes by wearing them in the shower. Walking around in your wet climbing shoes makes it faster to break in your shoes.

Try it out so that you reduce your “moments of feet pain” when you have new shoes. 😛

“It is faster to break in your new shoes when it is soaking wet”


#2. Are my climbing shoes safe to wash?

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Warm water with gentle detergent for your rock climbing shoes
Warm water with gentle detergent for your rock climbing shoes

Yes, you can wash your climbing shoes. Your shoes get smelly from your accumulated sweat and dirt. And after your prolonged use, you will eventually need to wash them.


Washing your climbing shoes

You should hand wash your rock shoes using warm water and a gentle detergent. NEVER machine wash them as it could damage the structure of your shoes.

I suggest that you use an old toothbrush to brush the inside and outside thoroughly. Rinse it well. And repeat the cycle 3 times or until it is super clean!

“When hand washing your rock shoes, use warm water and a gentle detergent.”

After washing your rock shoes, hang it outside and let the excess water drip out until it is no longer soaking wet. You can then place it near the fan or use a blow dryer to dry it faster.


Dry your climbing shoes completely!

You NEED to dry your climbing shoes completely because if you don’t, then mold and mildew can accumulate. These fungi colonies love dark and moist spaces like your locker or closed shoe rack.

Mold and mildew can give off a serious odor that could knock out a person next to you. And if that isn’t bad enough, it also weakens the structure of your shoes. This could lead your rock shoes to its early retirement.

“Dry your climbing shoes completely to prevent mold and mildew growth”

I once brought a friend to try rock climbing and she rented shoes for it. A few days later, she complained about her feet being itchy and smelly. And that is what will most likely happen when you use moldy shoes. Yikes!


#3. How to prevent your rock shoes from getting smelly?

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Imagine if your crush made this expression when you removed your shoes
Imagine if your crush made this expression when you removed your shoes… Turn off, huhu

Your rock shoes will eventually get smelly from continued and prolonged climbing. But you can prevent your shoes from being too smelly to knock someone unconscious.


Wear Socks

Most of us prefer climbing in our rock shoes without wearing socks. But doing this creates more sweat and odor.

Socks absorb sweat from your feet. And the less sweaty your climbing shoes are, the less smelly it is.

“Wearing socks reduce the sweat build up in your rock shoes”


Air Out Your Climbing Shoes

It is very important that you air out your shoes completely after every climb. You can also use a fan or a blow dryer to dry them faster.

Again, not completely drying your shoes will attract mold and mildew growth. These fungi colonies are not only smelly. They also ruin the structure of your shoes, making them unsafe for climbing.

“Moist climbing shoes inside your locker attract mold and mildew growth”


Use an Odor Neutralizer

You can use antibacterial foot powders for your feet or shoes. These will absorb your sweat and kill stinky bacteria.

Athletic shoe sprays are also good options. They keep your shoes smelling good while killing harmful bacteria.

Applying antibacterial odor neutralizers also help reduce the risk of getting athlete’s foot.

“Odor neutralizers absorb sweat and kill stinky and harmful bacteria”


#4. Should I climb in wet conditions?

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

It is best to avoid climbing in wet conditions
It is best to avoid climbing in wet conditions

In general, climbing in wet conditions increase the risk of slipping. So if you are a worrywart like me, then it is best to avoid climbing in wet conditions. But for the daredevils reading this article, there are guidelines you can follow for a ‘safer’ wet climb.

Many variables can affect your climbing experience such as climb type, rock type and moisture conditions. 


Avoid Slabs and Smear Movements

Climbs with friction slabs or walls that need smearing is a big “NO NO”. Climbing these types of wall becomes extremely difficult in wet conditions. 

The water between your climbing shoes and rock greatly reduces friction. This dramatically increases the risk of slipping and falling. Yikes!

“Walls that need smearing is a big NO NO”


Avoid Porous Rocks

Certain types of rock are unsafe to climb in wet conditions. Samples of these are limestone and sandstone.

Most porous rock have a tendency to get soft or weak when wet. Wet sandstone for example can break off and cause a fall for the climber.

“Porous rocks are unsafe to climb in wet conditions”


Watch Out For Lichens!

Avoid the lichens. Lichens are extremely slippery when wet. You should avoid routes with these plant growths. Not avoiding them is an accident waiting to happen.


Weakens Your Protection

Wet conditions also reduce the effectiveness of your protective gear. Cam devices slip out easier and bolts become less secure.

A wet climbing rope loses more than 50% of its dynamic strength. This means that a sudden fall could easily snap the rope and cause an accident.

“Protection devices become less safe in wet conditions”


#5. Deep water soloing (DWS)

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Doing psicobloc is fun but your climbing shoes will never be the same...
Talk about daring! Doing psicobloc is fun but your climbing shoes will never be the same…

Deep Water Soloing, also known as psicobloc, is an exciting and growing sport in the rock climbing world. The idea is to climb without rope and rely completely on the body of water as your fall protection.

This type of climbing was made tremendously popular by the likes of Chris Sharma. If you’ve seen climbing films like Reel Rock, then I’m betting that you are curious to try it. And along with it is worry about your rock climbing shoes.

Big climber names like Chris Sharma most likely have an abundant supply of sponsored climbing shoes. But for simple folks like us who only have a pair or two, we can follow the tips below.


Dry Your Climbing Shoes Between Climbs

It is a good idea to bring extra shoes when you do psicobloc. Try to dry your shoes as much as possible between climbs. You can dry them faster by stuffing it with a dryer towel or even just plain newspaper.


Avoid Direct Sunlight on Your Rock Shoes

Avoid placing your shoes directly in the sunlight. Too much sun exposure can cause cracking. This will also make your shoes brittle and its structure less safe for climbing.


DO NOT USE New Rock Shoes

Do not use a brand new pair of rock climbing shoes for deep water solo. Use an old pair if you plan to do DWS.

Using your climbing shoes for DWS can make it permanently stinky or stretched out beyond repair.


Final Thoughts

We’ve learned a lot about the DOs and DON’Ts when your rock climbing shoes are wet. I hope this article was helpful to you! You can also read how I spent my 20 hours of active rock climbing time and use it as a guide. If you enjoyed reading this, then share it with your friends on social media! And if you enjoy reading more content like this, then subscribe to my mailing list. Have fun rock climbing! Be good at anything fast and be a rad rookie! 🙂

Reference 1, Reference 2, Reference 3

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