I still vividly remember the day I bought my first pair of climbing shoes. The first thing that hit me was the leathery smell that wafted out as I opened the crisp box lid and saw the shoes packed carefully in white tissue paper like some sort of perfect Japanese melons. The light disappeared into the blackness of the new rubber soles, and the laces begged for immediate bondage.
But, as much as I loved the physical stuff in the box, what was most exciting to my 15-year-old mind was the very idea of what the shoes promised: Climbing! Adventure!
Breaking in new climbing shoes is a ritual, and I’d read that the best way to break in new shoes was to get them wet and then wear them around (this is actually horrible advice, but on par with the other advice I was getting as a teenager). I started with taking a shower while wearing the shoes. My mom is still annoyed about the black marks the soles left on the shower stall walls; she just couldn’t understand how they got there. (You can friction off of even wet tile if you try hard enough.)
After getting them good and wet, I wore them around the house for another hour. I’d like to say that I then went climbing in them, but it was February in Canada and climbing gyms hadn’t been invented yet. I waited until a day that was barely above freezing and then traversed back and forth on the wall of the local Texaco until the manager busted me in the same hard-ass way he busted skateboarders. Even though the shoes were ridiculously tight, I still ran.
And was back later that day.