Barefoot Rock Climbing Technique – Explained Thoroughly

A long time ago, there was no existence of shoes. People had no choice but to go around barefoot. They probably might have climbed on mountains and trees barefoot as well. 

But today’s time is very different. You’ll be able to find plenty of shoes that are created for different purposes. There are heels, or as women call them devils, they are created just for style. Some shoes are made for us to survive in snow and ice, without us falling and breaking our heads. And coming to the point, there are several shoes designed to give you the best experience for climbing. 

So, to answer the question ‘Can you Do Barefoot Rock Climbing?’, yes you can. But does that mean you should? No.  Shoes were designed for a reason. They were designed to keep your feet safe, make them work together. And these things matter, especially for rock climbing. So, if there is a way you can climb more or achieve new goals, then why not use it for your advantage?

Shoes also contribute to getting you extra grip when you are rock climbing. This, in turn, helps you from avoiding any injury or straining something. You might also damage your feet or rip a toenail or something. 

So yes, barefoot rock climbing can be done but it is not recommended. Keep reading to learn more. 

Climbing barefoot indoors

For most things, experimenting while climbing indoors might sound fun and appropriate. But when it comes to barefoot climbing, this shouldn’t be tried indoors at all. We will list everything why you shouldn’t climb indoors without shoes. Even though you might not find the reasoning satisfying, we are sure the instructors at the gym will not allow you to climb barefoot. 

Major reasons why you shouldn’t Do Barefoot Rock Climbing

It is not hygienic

You might find some gyms that will probably allow you to try climbing without shoes. It is better to check the rules beforehand. They will have everything listed in the set of rules. Other than just rules, most gyms don’t allow climbers to make their climb as it is completely unhygienic. 

It is not about whether you take care of your feet or not. It is about everyone else around you. Let’s say you are climbing barefoot and you got hurt, the goop from your feet can stick to the walls and infect other people as well. Not just that, the walls are already filled with sweat and germs. You add foot goop to it and the wall becomes toxic. If you have an allotted wall to yourself then occasionally it might be fine. But you definitely want to disinfect it before you leave.

We apologize for the added grossness, but a fungal nail infection can happen to any person, no matter how clean they are. It is difficult to diagnose yourself whether you have a fungal infection or not as your feet being calloused or dry might not seem out of ordinary. But if someone else or even you climb with the infection, you can get the infection and you can spread it to someone else as well.  Wearing shoes will be beneficial to you only as they will protect your feet from the fungus.

Shoes help you to climb efficiently

Yes, shoes help you to keep your feet clean but they also help you to make your climbing experience better. The shoes will help you keep your toes together and it will be the same till you take your next step.  The shoes will also save you the discomfort that follows if you are climbing without shoes. Not only can it be uncomfortable but also it can also result in joint problems. 

Yes, barefoot climbing is definitely a no-no in gyms, but you can try climbing outside. But wearing shoes is a must. Sure, they might get uncomfortable sometimes but they will protect your precious climbing feet from stepping into sharp or prickly things. That might throw you tumbling down, giving your belayer a shock and less time to help you.

Finding the correct size of shoes for your feet is important as if they are not the right size then it’ll make your climber harder. 

Is there any alternative between climbing barefoot and wearing shoes?

Maybe you have read this far and had a change of heart. Maybe now you want a medium between climbing shoes and climbing barefoot. We have got your back here as well. There is an alternative, namely- Vibram Five-Fingers. It is a widely popular option. The five fingers can be great for overhangs and to help you with hooks. But the ease of hook holds with five-fingers is a little tricky when it comes to edging and wall climbing. Smearing is a good way that will help.

Using Vibram will give you more grip and security for your feet that you would’ve missed if you were climbing barefoot. It is very comfortable and fits like a glove. If you start wearing these shoes, you will not look back. They fit your feet properly, giving you a sensation that you aren’t wearing any shoes and also protect your feet at the same time. This is a great alternative if you don’t like climbing in shoes and want to climb barefoot without actually doing so. 

After reading all this, I am sure there will be at least some who still want to take on the adventure. So, if you absolutely want to try it (even though we don’t recommend it), we have written some tips for you to climb barefoot.

How to climb barefoot

Barefoot Rock Climbing

When you are thinking about climbing barefoot, you will definitely have to change your technique of climbing. We know that the rocks are not soft and they have sharp edges that can do some serious damage to your feet. Apart from that, to climb properly you will need to get your toes together for a tighter grip, latch onto ledges and get balance. 

There are some people who like to climb barefoot as it brings them closer to nature and makes them feel a part of the earth. Climbing without shoes can be possible on easier routes but on tough routes, you should not climb without shoes. So, what you can do is you can carry your shoes with you and wear them once the route gets tougher. 

For a lot of people, the experience of Barefoot Rock Climbing turns out to be painful. Which doesn’t mean they are bad climbers. It just means that climbing without shoes can be dangerous and there should be no shame in admitting it. Climbing is supposed to be fun and you should do it according to your comfort. 

Despite this warning, many people will still want to climb without shoes. Of course, we can’t force you to not do something, but we can just advise you to think ten times before pulling that move. We want nothing but the safety and enjoyment of the climbers.

As we said earlier, climbing shoes were created to make your climb better. 

Here are a few more reasons why climbing barefoot is a bad idea. 

There is a chance of losing your toenails

Have you experienced cutting your toenail way too much and how much just that hurts? Now why don’t you imagine losing your entire toenail and the pain that will be followed by that. It is not just gross looking but also is followed by agonizing pain.

Since you are not wearing shoes while climbing, every toe is working on their own. They aren’t working in unison and are dangerous for you. You need a lot of focus on climbing and sure your shoes can be a little uncomfortable. But trust us, that is far better than your entire toenail chipping off. 

Let us cite an example. Every year on the last Sunday Of July in Ireland, a pilgrimage takes place. It is called a Reek Sunday. There is a church that is situated on the top of a mountain and opens for mass only on one day. Thousands and thousands of people make the climb. A lot of them do the climbing without shoes despite several warnings given to them. The results of that? Last year, a rescue team had to help 30% of those who climbed barefoot. 

Precautions that can be taken while climbing indoors

As we discussed earlier, most indoor gyms will not allow you to climb without shoes. But if you are in luck and you get to climb barefoot, then you will have to be careful. Although the holds indoors aren’t as sharp as the rocks outside, they can definitely cause damage to your feet.

This goes without saying that if you have any fungal infection then you should be considerate about others and not even dare to attempt to climb without shoes. You can also contract the infections if you aren’t being cautious. 

If you truly love climbing, then you should not try to ruin your feet by making them vulnerable to bigger dangers. 


Yes, so after all this, Barefoot Rock Climbing is possible but no climber would recommend it especially the pros. When you start climbing without shoes, your toes will have to bear the intensity all by themselves and although it seems like that would be a fun challenge, you will risk yourself for bigger injuries. Your toenails may get ripped off, your foot might get deep injuries and the worst consequence would be not being able to climb at all after the injuries get serious.

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