When I'm rock climbing, I feel like I've got hand holds down as far as where to grab on and understand that the hands are mainly for balance. However, I can't seem to figure out my feet. There are many times where there is a small nub on the rock to get my toes on, but it rarely feels sufficient to put my weight on it. The same goes for when I'm smearing my toes on a slab or bowl. This is on vertical routes (I can't do overhanging stuff yet).

Are there any ways or techniques I can use to improve my footwork? I know part of it is that I need to learn to trust my feet and push through a series of movements.

  • 2
    Those little nubs often will hold your whole weight. It takes a bit of mental effort to commit to it though for awhile, that's for sure. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 3:29
  • @whatsisname I have TC Pros as my main shoe, and Alex Honnold wears them as well. I try to remember that "if they work for Alex, they'll work for me." It's not the shoes, it's the skills to get it right.
    – Eric
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 20:18

2 Answers 2


The best ways I found to improve foot work are the following:

  • Climb routes which are less than vertical (slabs are great)

    I know this sounds obvious, but seriously, just climb slabs and low angle for a few weeks (or months). Focus on your feet, don't use your hands if possible.

  • Practice stepping up only, don't pull on holds

    Play a game with your partner and keep score anytime you or they use their hands to pull, lowest score wins.

  • Keep your heels as low as possible (avoids the "Elvis Leg")

slab overview

For more great stuff check out the www.climbing.com article on friction


  • That's great. Thanks for the link and the tips. Now that I remember it, my friend who got me into rock climbing told me all those things, but, being the noob that I am and due to limited time, I wanted to go straight for vertical stuff instead of practice technique. I don't live near any good rock climbing but would like to practice/exercise for when I do go. I have some fairly steep hills around (45 degree incline or more), so I'm wondering if those might be good to practice on in the mean time? Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 16:00
  • Where do you live? Sometimes there are local crags that aren't well known which could suffice for slab climbing. Do you have a climbing shop or gym near you? Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 16:42
  • Ensenada, Mexico. I checked rockclimbing.com, and there's a climbing area north about 45 minutes away with a few routes, but that's all I know of. I also need equipment if I'm going to do those, so it's bouldering or nothing for me right now. I haven't found any bouldering either, but now that I know what to look for, I may be able to find something climbable. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 16:50
  • You should check out some climbing forums to find partners and routes in your area, see who will link up with you for some sport routes. rockclimbing.com supertopo.com/climbing/forum.php Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 4:08

Good footwork is the foundation to good climbing. Most climbers think their footwork is better than it actually is, and could be better climbers simply by improving their footwork. Here are some drills and tips to improve it:

Quiet feet: By far the best drill you can do is called quiet feet. It involves climbing while focusing your attention on your feet. It goes something like this:

  • Look at the hold you want to move your foot to
  • Visualize exactly where you foot will go, which part of the foot will touch the hold, the angle, etc...
  • While looking at the hold, move your foot up to the hold, and place it softly on the hold. Make sure you look at the hold the entire time, until the new foot is placed.
  • If you made any noise while placing the foot, move it back to the previous hold and start over.
  • Otherwise, move your hands, and do the next foot movement in the same way.

This drill helped me improve my footwork greatly. It takes time, but it's a good thing to do while warming up (i.e. start with 30 minutes of "quiet feet" each time you climb). Your footwork accuracy should improve within a few weeks, but this is a good exercise to do all the time.

No-handed climbing: On a very easy climb that is low-angle, practice climbing without using your hands at all. Bring your feet up, and push with your legs only.

Shoe fit: It may or may not go without saying, but if your shoes don't fit well your footwork will suffer. Make sure your shoes are snug (but not overly tight), and that you lace/velcro them well.

  • 1
    Thanks for the "quiet-feet" suggestion, I hadn't heard of that one before. I was fortunate to borrow some shoe's from my friend that fit exactly right so when I go buy some in the future, I'll know how they should fit now. Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 20:25
  • Another tip that often helps beginner/intermediate climbers: engage your foot and ankle muscles. Many climbers only think about placing their shoe and forget that they have a foot inside it. Press through your toes on an edge, curl and pull with them on an overhang, etc. Practicing barefoot climbing (frowned upon in gyms) is a good way to reinforce these movement patterns. Climbing shoes are only there to give increased friction and support your foot; it's your foot and toes that are actually holding you up.
    – erfink
    Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 1:10

Your Answer

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

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