(This question is related to How can I improve my footwork while rock-climbing?)

What are common rock-climbing footwork mistakes and how can I spot them?

More specifically: When I started climbing I mostly focused on the hands. After some months, I advanced in the grades, but I started to fail in certain climbs because I slipped from the foot holes. During the time I realized the first time that I had bad footwork - so I started to train it.

The months passed, impossible climbs became easy and I thought: well, my footwork should be good now. In the next grade I struggled again, slipped away or could not hold my body at the overhanging wall. So, footwork training again... But maybe I overlook some mistakes or common flaws in this training again.

2 Answers 2


The mistakes I mention might be more common at lower grades than yours, here goes anyway:

  • Too big steps. When I started climbing I tended to make massive steps, leaving out many good footholds in between. A more experienced friend taught me to avoid this by clipping a quickdraw between my climbing shoes on a toprope climb well within my ability; suddenly I started to notice all the other options that were "in range".

  • Not planning a couple of steps ahead. A beginners mistake is to locate the next good hole, then place whatever foot's most convenient (usually not the one you moved last) without thinking about how to carry on from there, leading to an inelegant "hop" as you switch feet on a little hold so you have the right one free to carry on. Another tip from a friend: think about which foot you would like free when you're in a particular hold, not which foot is easiest to place there.

  • Toeing everything and forgetting that there are often good ways to place a foot sideways on a protruding piece of rock.


a common footwork mistake is not keeping it still! I see this all the time with people starting in bouldering, their footwork can be indecisive. You need to pick how and where you want to place your foot and do it. Don't keep moving it around, unless you plan to do this.

Use the correct parts of your foot/shoe. You want to only use the outside/indside edge(s), toe and occasionaly heel. These are the efficient areas of your shoes.

enter image description here

Try not to bang around. If your making a lot of noise then you are likely not moving efficiently. Pick how and where you want to move your foot and do it slowly, controlled and efficiently. Try not to throw your foot in the general direction and hope that it sticks.

Get correctly fitting shoes. Beginners often have shoes that are too big for them. Climbing shoes shouldn't have dead space. They should be tight on your foot. If they are not then your foot will be moving around inside the shoe.

Old shoes. again I see this a lot. Rental shoes can be pretty crappy. Consider buying a cheap pair instead. A very worn shoe will not stick to the wall as well as a newer one.

Trust it. This takes time. You have to learn that you can stand on a tiny hold and it will hold you. If your planning on using a foothold. Place it transfer your weight, believe that it won't move. If you get nervous you don't commit. You place less weight on the hold. You slip. You trust it less and the cycle gets worse. If you commit 100%, their is a greater chance your foot will stick.

This article covers some exercises to improve your footwork.

  • Good points but it's perfectly legitimate to use the ball of your foot (smearing) on rock like gritstone, which has few cracks or edges but good friction, no?
    – nekomatic
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 12:13
  • Footwork on grit stone is an art unto itself! :) Yes, but starting off when you want to learn good footwork you should stick to the more common areas. Your more likely to get better grip on most holds with the above. Also the ball of your foot is covered in the above @nekomatic
    – user2766
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 12:24
  • Spoken like a true limestone climber ;)
    – nekomatic
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 12:41

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.