Footwear for high volume auto-belay ARC / base training

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  • #24628

    I can boulder V5-6 outdoors, but only onsighting 10d-11a sport so I’m going to focus on base training with auto-belay for next month (getting a 1 month climbing gym membership).

    When I’ve auto-belayed before, I’ve gotten a small blister or something on top of one of my toes and I’m concerned my feet could be the limiting factor if I have 30-60 minutes of actual climbing 4-6 times per week.

    Does anyone use socks with climbing shoes sized a bit loose for this sort of thing or even approach shoes?

    Given the discrepancy in bouldering vs sport, how many hard bouldering sessions do I want to include? I was thinking 2 would be enough, one in the middle and one halfway. I’ll be going to Squamish for a few weeks after this and will do a mix of sport, bouldering, and mountain biking so also working on base building with road bike this month.

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    DominicProvost on #24645

    You might want to consider getting a comfy pair of climbing shoes for multipitch. I sport some evolv nighthawks for long outings, they’re cheap, comfy and they edge well without sacrificing to much feel and smearing stickiness.

    David Thompson on #24656

    In addition to the metabolic benefits, ARCing is a great opportunity to check in with our body awareness. Having loose, comfortable, yet sensitive shoes provides a way to feel what you are standing on and ultimately strengthens your feet and their relationship to the rest of your body while climbing. After some trial and error, I have come to prefer a simple pair of lamb’s wool moccasins for my high volume Treadwall sessions similar to these. They are sensitive enough for overhangs, the sole is sticky enough, and they are plush-lined so your feet get warm, but don’t hold sweat. Climbing in something like these also strengthens your feet.

    Using stiff approach shoes will compromise sensitivity, but will lessen foot fatigue. So if you foresee that your feet will become too tired to complete your prescribed ARCing sessions then err on the side of stiffer shoes.

    If your plan is to mostly go sport climbing, then your bouldering volume choice seems sufficient.

    Anonymous on #24733

    @chapirom (Michael): WRT bouldering, are you flashing V5/6 or working them? That seems plenty strong enough to climb ~5.11, so two things come to mind:

    * As you said, adding some ARC training to your routine to improve your base; and
    * Practicing 10-15 falls per sport climbing session.

    The first thing that I wondered when I read the contrast between your bouldering and sport climbing is if you’re afraid of falling. Most people are, myself included. Adding 10-15 falls per sport climbing session will really help your go-for-it-ness. It also keeps your belayers on their toes, and your trust in them will increase. (Or you’ll realize you don’t want them to belay you.) It helps a lot. For more, check out Dave MacLeod’s book, 9 out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes.

    The one thing that I disagree with in the above conversation is using comfortable shoes. One of the big benefits of ARC training is having a low-stress environment to practice technique. If ARCing is only used for fitness, it only provides half the benefit. I recommend using a tight shoe and focus on really precise footwork. Each ARC interval have something to practice, footwork being at the top of the list.

    Anonymous on #24734

    For fall practice, here’s a routine that has worked for me:

    * Three falls with the draw at chest level;
    * Three at waist level;
    * Three at foot level;
    * Six going-for-it falls on a project or onsight attempt.

    Anonymous on #24810

    @thompson-d278: Can you tell us more about your moccasin approach? I can see the foot strength benefit you describe, but how would it improve footwork technique? Or is that not a priority in those sessions?

    David Thompson on #24903

    @Scott Semple: So glad you should ask! Footwork is always a priority. But drilling effective footwork is a conscious intention, and no particular piece of footwear is a substitute for this intention. Also, effective footwork is context-dependent. One would be hard-pressed to replicate delicate granite features, such as those common in Squamish, in a commercial gym on an autobelay. An effective practice to experiment with in the gym is to avoid moving your heels laterally once you’ve made contact with your chosen foothold. I watch people get away with this in the gym all the time, but rock is much less forgiving. There are too many other footwork best practices to mention — the important thing is to learn them and drill them. The key is that it’s not so much about the equipment used for practice, but the intention one brings to the practice. Which is to say that one can drill proper footwork with unorthodox footwear, or, even perhaps, with no footwear at all. I hope this was clearer. Cheers!

    Michael on #24932

    I agree that I don’t think I lose out on technique improvement since foot holds I can ARC on are large enough that I don’t need tight shoes to be precise.

    Yep, still have major fear of falling, which probably has a multiplicative effect with lack of endurance. I think I’ll gradually get over it eventually just by sport climbing more.

    Anonymous on #24936

    An effective practice to experiment with in the gym is to avoid moving your heels laterally once you’ve made contact with your chosen foothold.

    David: Brilliant. Great suggestion. It sounds like you should put an article together…

    I think I’ll gradually get over [falling] eventually just by sport climbing more.

    Michael: I really suggest doing a lot of intentional (and safe) falling. It’s an area that’s easily avoided, even when roped, and especially when sport climbing. If I remember correctly, I think MacLeod recommends 1500 falls per year…

    Nick K on #25197

    For what it’s worth, I go the opposite of David for my base volume: I wear the same shoes that I pull hard in to ARC in. The only exception to this is if I’m training specifically for an alpine trip where I expect to climb a bunch in boots, in which case, I ARC in boots. Basically, train as you fight, as some military friends of mine like to say.

    Also, building on what Scott was saying, in addition to practicing falling (which yes, you need to do intentionally, “eventually” is the right word to use when it comes to gradually getting over it just by climbing), I think a real safety check at the start of every line is a good practice as well. Aside from the obvious benefit of making sure that everything is properly setup so you won’t die, this is basically a moment to consciously affirm your trust in the systems, equipment and partner that you’re climbing with. This (and practicing falling every single time I went out) was something that helped a ton when I was rebuilding my mental game after a pretty gnarly ground fall a few years ago (some time was spent in the hospital).

    Intentionally building up your mental confidence is going to do a lot for your ability to stay relaxed and calm when you’re pulling hard.

    Also, one other thought, if the foot holds you can ARC on are that big, maybe change the wall angle you’re using so you can use smaller feet to have some footwork development while you’re ARCing.

    giopilli1 on #27628

    Hi Scott, on the related topic of ARC and maybe unrelated to footwear, do you have suggestion if ARC needs to be performed in a certain HR Zone level? Example for a 1 hour workout: is it better to do 30 minutes at 3 grades below your level in Zone 1 two times, or may be 20 minutes 2/1 grade below your level in Zone 2 for 3 times, or 4 15 minutes say 0.5 grade below your level at upper Zone 2 in Zone 3? How about adding weight in relation to maintaining the Zone levels? My intuition is to try to maintain Zone 1 but by experimenting is see my endurance increasing even with Zone 2/3 sessions (may be I start from a low base)

    Anonymous on #27693

    I wouldn’t focus on zones for ARCing. It’s more important what’s going on in your arms, and your arms alone don’t have enough muscle mass to stress your heart and lungs.

    For ARCing, I would just avoid getting pumped. It’s usually described as “a mild pump”, but that’s too general, and I think most people over-estimate the intensity. I get better results when I focus on having no pump at all. Then, at the end of the session, my forearms feel like there’s lots of circulation going on, but without any acidosis.

    giopilli1 on #27747

    Thank you Scott for the prompt reply – I was trying to relate my lower body activity to the upper body. It seems that may be I was over-estimating the intensity. Still, say I go 1 grade below my current flash level my hearth beat steadily increase during the arc session stabilizing at around mid zone 2 – may be I should take more rest during the Arc-session to keep it lower and avoid pumps.

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