Is there any scientific study in climbing which investigates the length of the little finger compared to the middle finger in terms of climbing performance on a professional level (grade > 5.12)?

Naively, I would assume the longer the little finger is, the more it can support the other fingers on certain holds like crimps and therefore the max. performance should be higher.

  • 4
    Considering Tommy Caldwell did loads of really difficult climbing without his index finger, I doubt you will get proper data on the influence of the length of the little finger ;)
    – Manziel
    Nov 4, 2020 at 19:26
  • Hard to do a controlled study (even if you are volunteering).
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 10, 2020 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


I did not look whether such a study exist, but I want to reason why it's futile to conduct such a study. Rock climbing performance depends way less on finger strength than most people assume (especially the pinky). To quote the teaching material of the german alpine club, a climbers' performance depends not only on physical precondition, but to a large degree on technique, tactics and psyche. Add to that the physical training which is no doubt necessary for top performances. Of course finger strength is crucial to climbing, but laymen often overerstimate its importance. Go to any gym and you will see people hangboarding everytime that they are in the gym, but never doing technique drills or discuss their pacing. The gist of this answer is, that the strength of the pinky will likely not be relevant to climbing performance at large, even among professional climbers, because before that becomes relevant, a whole lot of other factors are. Therefore it is unlikely that one could conduct a study which can link pinky length to climbing performance I know that Adam Ondra is somewhat obsessed with his pinky and asked about how he could use his pinky when getting info on some routes, but the very best rock climber today thinking about his pinky a lot, does not make it relevant for performance, especially in the 5.12 range. Add to that, that climbing is not as professionalized as say football and it is very unlikely that such a study was ever conducted, or that it ever will produce sensible knowledge.

  • That's a fair point, but there being many other factors and being hard to study, still doesn't mean there's no influence of pink length.
    – stijn
    Nov 9, 2020 at 8:59
  • @stijn That's true, but I doubt that it's a discernable factor. I doubt that if all things being equal, a climber with a slightly longet pinky would be a noticeably better climber. So I suspect that it will never be an issue in real life.
    – Toto
    Nov 9, 2020 at 13:48
  • Yes I agree that it's pretty likely it won't matter a lot. Still, would be insteresting to research. But perhaps in a broader way: is there a relation between finger length and perfomance?
    – stijn
    Nov 9, 2020 at 19:02
  • 1
    Any hypothetical evidence would also certainly be specific to the style of climbing.
    – user2169
    Nov 9, 2020 at 21:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.