If you have ever attended one of my workshops, seen one of my junior classes, or run through a private session with me, you will have undoubtedly heard me talk about good footwork. Watching your foot onto the hold, using just your toes, thinking about inside and outside edge, accuracy, stepping with purpose…… all these things are the foundations of good footwork. Your shoes last longer, you foot slip less and generally you climb better.
Good footwork, really good footwork, goes far beyond these simple things and sometimes even contradicts them.
Let me start by really shaking the tree….. Well…. Maybe……
Technique classes are good and good climbing technique is good, but sometimes good technique is bad, when good technique doesn’t get you to the top. I mean, getting to the top is what it is really all about right? I mean sure, you can use every drop knee, heel hook, egyptian and rose in the climb, but if it doesn’t get you to the chains, then it didn’t do its job.
Good technique is all about saving energy. It allows you to move through what would otherwise be difficult and ‘gripping’ sections of a climb, so that you arrive at a point after that with enough energy to continue. So keeping that in mind, if it takes you more energy to get into that deep ‘drop knee’ than you save from the move itself, you are really doing yourself a disfavour by using it. This goes for optimal footwork too, well really it pretty much goes for everything.
Some of the strongest and best climbers I have ever seen are all about front step and pull (naming no names here!…). Whilst I may climb something with relative ease, by using a heel hook, toe hook or drop knee, they find it entirely easier to cut and campus. Does this mean they are using ‘bad’ footwork? Maybe. But does it matter?
What I guess I am really trying to get at is the best footwork is the footwork that works, and more over that works for you. This doesn’t mean stop working your foot precision, drop knees and heel hooks, but rather, take one step further and try to recognise when an optimal opportunity arises to use it. Understand the reason WHY that foot placement works or better yet, doesn’t work, and use that to continually evaluate your decisions on the wall.
Maybe next time you hit a technical crux that demands a drop knee into a knee bar, the better beta for you will be to cut and campus!