My friend, Mat, has a hilarious (hilarious for me, anyway) anecdote of dropping one of his climbing shoes three pitches up the seven-pitch Idiot Wind (5.10) at Lumpy Ridge, Colorado, as he tried slipping out of his shoes to let his screaming feet breathe. For the next four hours and four pitches, he pulled on cams and smeared his bare left foot against the abrasive granite, topping out with his toes a ragged, bloody mess. Don’t be like Mat. Get yourself a pair of Hang Dogs, Metolius’s ingenious new product for keeping your shoes lashed to your ankles on multi-pitch routes.
The Hang Dogs are simple, elastic leashes with a small clip on one end to snap into your shoe’s heel tab and a telescoping loop on the other end to hitch around your ankle. When you reach the belay station, you can pop your shoes off worry-free and let them hang off your ankles. I took the Hang Dogs out for a long day of multi-pitching in South Platte, and my feet were quite thankful for it by the day’s end. Bringing up my second, then lead-belaying her on the next pitch, there were times when I’d be at an anchor for upwards of 45 minutes. Whereas in the past I’d just deal with the pain for fear of clumsily dropping one or both shoes—and have to face the terror of climbing scary, slabby South Platte trad routes barefoot—with the Hang Dogs I could do the common-sense thing and let the shoes dangle, and my feet breathe. Then, when it was time to climb again, I slipped my shoes back on and forgot I was wearing the Hang Dogs—the lightweight, low-profile straps are not noticeable when climbing and did not affect my footwork in the slightest.
Even in “comfortable” climbing shoes, if you’re going to be on a wall for four or five hours it is a delight to let your feet air out and cool off when you aren’t climbing, and this small invention really does make the multi-pitch experience that much better. A fellow tester took them up on a two-pitch sport route in the Flatirons and likewise appreciated their low-profile, low-key efficacy—he both used the Hang Dogs to hang the shoes off his ankles at the anchor upon leading the first pitch, then to keep the shoes clipped off to the semi-hanging belay between burns on the 5.13 crux pitch above.
My only criticisms would be that I felt like the straps were a little short—I found myself stepping on my shoes at ledge belays because they were so close to my feet given the leash length. Another inch or two of cord could fix this issue without getting in the way while climbing. And the clip itself is kind of small, so if you have big fingers (like our second tester does), you may struggle to get them around your heel tab—though the weight savings and minuscule size of the clip were certainly appreciated while climbing. And in the end, these small nuisances were negligible compared to the relief of freeing my feet on long, multi-pitch belays. If you do lots of long routes, I would absolutely recommend the Hang Dogs.