Answer Man: Smelly Shoes are Ruining My Relationship

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My shoes reek. It’s affecting my relationships in a real way. Help?—Tim L., Las Vegas, NV

When I received this question, Miss Answer Man (we’re not married, but my name holds more prestige) insisted upon fielding the answer. She claims that she has extensive experience dealing with it.

“Tim, after years of driving around in cars housing festering climbing shoes, many climbers, particularly dudes, experience olfactory nerve damage and can no longer distinguish scents, good or bad. Thus, one’s BO goes unnoticed by that person and those around him with similar disabilities. But generally not to their Sig O’s. We are met with an aromatic assault each and every time we encounter your space. When the climber smells are contained to the gym and gym bags, we have no issue, but when it permeates into your personal lives (and especially your really personal lives), you have a problem, solved in one of two ways. First, cleaning. Wash your feet frequently. Then wash your shoes (in the sink with cool water or in a washing machine if the shoe is built to handle it). Keep stink in check with foot powder, dryer sheets, or an antibacterial spray like Lysol. The second option is to burn everything. Then find another hobby like cycling or golf that doesn’t make your partner sick with nausea during the moments you’re not actually participating.”

My project is in an area lacking any good warm-ups, and I’m concerned about tweaking a finger. Got any tricks?—Christopher P., New Castle, CO

To pop a pulley on such groundbreaking ascents would be a tragedy—nay—a travesty. Maybe both if Answer Man could remember his Latin. Who cares. Anyway, a few stand-ins for a proper warm-up routine:

>>It’s not just about having your extremities stretched out and limber, part of it is about getting your whole body ready to work hard. Do a combination of a short jog, arm stretches, and pull-ups (find jugs or even a branch). It’ll help prime those muscles for work.>>The harder part, as you point out, is making sure your fingers don’t snap under the pressure. Try traversing the base if that’s an option, or find some holds to stretch on like a hangboard. Vary your grip. Move your feet around on different holds, getting into various body positions.

>>If it’s really dire, consider bringing a set of Metolius Rock Rings. You’ll look mental, but I figure given how remote and difficult these routes are, few people will be able to call your actions into question.

How can I get “good skin”?—Rich B., Lawrence, KS

Apart from self-absorption, body-image issues, a general sense of malaise, and overuse of the word “literally,” complaining about skin is the foremost similarity climbers share with teenage girls. Of course, most climbers aren’t referring to some pock-faced prom photo; they’re complaining about calluses being sloughed off their fingers and hands with every huck. Answer Man’s interest in gold panning the Colorado foothills means his hands are a wreck, so I employed our sport’s resident skin expert, Daniel Woods, to clear the air.

“Climbing is obviously finger intensive, so it’s important to maintain and strengthen your skin. Certain types of rock also require callused tips or softer. Good granite skin for me is thick, dry, almost dead-like. Sandstone skin is softer, malleable, more alive. Limestone is soft, yet dry. My skin kit includes clippers for cutting off larger flaps of skin. Do this when the skin is at risk of peeling back more. Then use an emery board to sand it down to an even layer so it will heal faster. I use isopropyl alcohol to eliminate any oils on my skin before a session, and I apply Antihydral once every two weeks to eliminate sweating. When my skin is raw and ravaged, I apply a couple layers of Giddy cream for faster healing. Having good skin is just as key as anything else in climbing!”

And other topics...

Figure 8 or bowline?Loop, swoop, and pull. Don’t complicate your shoe knot.

Quickdraw gates in or out?Pre-hung.

Thoughts on five-finger shoes at the crag?God, you’ll do anything for $8, huh?

What’s with socks and climbing shoes?Better question: What’s with socks and sandals? 

Got a burning question about climber etiquette, customs, or values?Emailanswerman@climbing.com.