Float Like a Butterfly: Focus on Your Footwork


Written by: Elaina Arenz

I’m going to let you in on a little secret of mine. I often hear people comment that it appears as if I’m floating up the rock effortlessly. I sure to have them fooled. The key to conserving energy and appearing like you’re levitating on the rock is to build a solid foundation to stand upon. Follow these tips below and you will find the flow too.

  1. Chicks Guide and owner Elaina Arenz on Fantasy in the New River Gorge.

    Chicks Guide and owner Elaina Arenz on Fantasy in the New River Gorge.

    The 70/30 rule. Your feet should support 70% of your weight and your arms support 30%. To do this you must look down at your feet 70% (or more) of the time while you’re climbing. Look down and place your feet precisely every time to ensure you are placing your foot on the best part of the foothold.

  2. Silent Feet. Be like a ninja and sneak up on those footholds. Your feet shouldn’t make a sound at all when you’re climbing. Again, look down at your feet and maintain eye contact with the foothold you choose to step onto. Don’t look away until you are weighting that foot. This will ensure that you’re not dragging your toes up the rock behind you. Not only is toe dragging sloppy footwork, you will also wear out the rubber on the tips of those very expensive climbing shoes.
  3. Little Steps. The smaller steps you take and the more frequently you move your feet, the more you movement you will create in your climbing. Instead of pausing between each move, you will notice that you are linking individual moves together to create a movement and flow in your climbing. Big moves and giant high steps are more strenuous than a bunch of little steps. Practice moving your feet 3 times for every 1 hand movement to help create this feeling of flow.
  4. Shoe up last. Don’t walk around in your climbing shoes anymore than necessary. Be sure to wipe off the bottom of your shoes to clean away any dirt and debris. Consider giving the rubber a spit shine to clean the surface, carry a towel or a piece of carpet to stand on before you step onto the rock.

Elaina Arenz is a Chicks Co-Owner and Guide. She is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide, is in the instructor pool as an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Provider and a Warrior’s Way Trainer.