Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet? [Asked By Mountaineers]

In the outdoors, you will encounter a wide range of extreme conditions, and it’s important to make sure that your gear is ready to handle the elements. Climbing gear is made to withstand all kinds of weather, so you can expect to find your clothes and shoes in a variety of different conditions. Climbing shoes are essential to rock climbing. They provide a solid base for the foot to rest on and allow you to grip onto rocks and holds. They’re also one of the most expensive pieces of climbing gear that you own, and you need to take good care of them. If you are considering trying deep water soloing or climbing over a lake, you might be wondering whether rock climbing shoes get wet or not.

Can Rock Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Climbing shoes can get wet. But, if they are synthetic, water will not affect them much. However, when it comes to leather climbing shoes, the salt water can cause the leather to become hard or stretch a lot more. So, if you are doing deep water soloing in leather climbing shoes, you should leave them on until they have dried a bit.

Does Water Damage Climbing Shoes?

Water can damage the leather climbing shoes as the repeated instances of soaking will cause the leather to harden. They are practically impossible to get into unless I soak them first. Moreover, water can also cause the dye of climbing shoes to run a bit.

Also, keep in mind that deep water soloing in saltwater will slowly deteriorate your climbing shoes over time and make them smelly. You should make sure to rinse the climbing shoes well with the freshwater afterward so that they would dry better and last longer.

Furthermore, you shouldn’t worry about the high-quality rubber of climbing shoes getting wet. The rubber of the outsole of the climbing shoes is designed such that it is just as sticky wet as it is dry. Rubber and grip of the climbing shoes are not really a problem. You can try to climb anything close to your limit and won’t notice the difference.

This is what a person says:

“It’s my experience that climbing shoes tend to be pretty sticky when wet – i’ve never had a problem with a foot slipping with a wet shoe on while both DWS and SWB.”

Can Climbing Shoes Get Moldy?

Climbing shoes can develop molds, and bacteria, and become stinky if you do not rinse and dry them after you are done with the deep water soloing. The mold itself is neither acidic nor alkaline and generally grows in a moist environment with a neutral PH and low light. You can check my guide on removing molds from the shoes to get more info.

To wash climbing shoes, and avoid a stinky smell. use warm water, a mild detergent, and a brush of some sort (an old toothbrush works fine). Wash the insides thoroughly using the brush and soap. It’ll take a few rinses to get everything. Allow the shoes to air dry completely. Stuff the shoes with newspaper, and change them often. Make sure that the stuffing material is to be as shoved in as possible. 

Note: Don’t put the climbing shoes in front of the heater or direct sunlight as this will inevitably melt glue, damage the shoes and cause rubber degradation.

How Climbing Shoes Perform When Wet?

I do deep water soloing (DWS) only on hot days as in the hot weather, the rock is warm or hot. The rubber of my climbing shoes dries really quickly in these conditions.

When performing deep water soloing, you will most likely encounter some form of lichen/moss/seaweed on the rock. These are slick spots and can change the consistency of grip of climbing shoes dramatically. Keep an eye on these spots and always be prepared to fall.

Also, make sure that the climbing shoes for deep water soloing should be synthetic. They should not be made of leather as water does weird things with the leather, due to which it becomes harder and affect the fit of your climbing shoes.

Best Deep Water Soloing Climbing Shoes

For deep water soloing, climbing shoes should be designed to fit the wearer’s feet comfortably and securely, without slipping off. They should have good grip and traction and should offer support and stability. Moreover, climbing shoes for deep water soloing should be synthetic as the synthetic material will hold its size and control a lot better. 

If you use leather climbing shoes for DWS, it can cause the following issues:

  • The dyed leather of climbing shoes will tend to bleed color onto your feet when wet
  • Leather tends to stretch a lot more when wet than a synthetic

However, one thing you need to keep in mind is that synthetic climbing shoes don’t break in as much as leather shoes.

La Sportiva Oxygyms (men and women) and Evolv Defy are my favorite synthetic climbing shoes.

Can I Use Water Shoes for Bouldering?

I would not recommend water shoes for bouldering or rock climbing. Water shoes are made to dry quickly after being submerged in water, rather than maintaining their grip on the wet surfaces. Wet shoes aren’t as sticky as dry as they tend to use waxy rubber, which is more like a soft plastic than a grippy Vibram rubber on the outsole of the rock climbing shoes. The outsole rubber of climbing shoes is soft enough to grip tiny ledges of rock.

So, despite the right fit, durability, and support, the rubber used on the water shoes will not give you the same adhesion on rock as a climbing shoe. Check my guide on stiff vs soft rubber climbing shoes to learn more.

Here’s what a user says about his experience with the water shoes for climbing:

“I’ve tried it…… in my experience they don’t work as well as it would seem. Stick with climbing shoes for climbing and leave the water shoes to the fish.”

What About Climbing Chalk Getting Wet?

Wetting of chalk is the main problem when performing deep water soloing. Several climbers use chalk on their sweaty palms, allowing them to easily grip the rock. However, according to the studies, chalk doesn’t improve the coefficient of friction between the rock and the climber’s hands.

Chalk just plays the role of absorbing moisture from the hands. Chalk works by absorbing the sweat, becoming a sludgy paste, and then being removed from the hands. Other than that, it is just a myth.

Climbers use chalk water in DWS to get the water out of their hands when they get wet. Chalk is kind of up to you. If you are doing super long DWS, then maybe several chalk bags in the rotation would be best.

On the other hand, some climbers use liquid chalk and put it on each of their thighs or forearms if the climbing route is long enough. This way they can just slap their thighs and chalk up. So, they won’t have to waste a chalk bag each time they fall into the water.

You can also make your own Chalk Bag using duct tape for your DWS experience. Use a suitable diameter container as a template. Create a cylinder with the sticky side facing out, then put another layer around it sticky side facing in. Do the same for the bottom to make it a bag shape. When you go climbing just put a tiny bit of chalk in the tape bag and you’ve got yourself a re-usable DWS bag. This guide is quite helpful.

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