“Resoling your shoes is worth the effort. For the environment always, and for your wallet as an extra.” – Valentina Petrolli
Valentina Petrolli runs the recently founded Curada Resole. It is a climbing shoe resoling business, done by a climber who understands the requirements of a climbing shoe. She is adamant that resoling makes sense and that not doing it is actually sort of weird: “If you have professional climbing shoes, which you eventually do, then resoling will always save you money. It’s cheaper than a new pair. It just makes sense.” There’s a long-running myth that resoling may reduce the quality of your favourite pair of climbing shoes, but that is categorically false, explains Valentina: “Your shoe will be exactly as it was before resoling. You don’t need to break it in again, it won’t have lost its shape. It may have a little of its toughness and tension restored, but it won’t be a new shoe. It’ll be your shoe with a new lease on life.”
Having grown up in Arco, one of the major places in climbing history, climbing is pretty much second nature for Valentina. Resoling your shoes periodically was a natural part of that: “I suppose it has to do with economic differences; in the south of Europe, repairing is just how you do things. In the Netherlands, I see most people discard things when they break and buy a replacement. For me, that is just not what you do. It’s good that now we see this changing in the Netherlands, though people are sometimes a bit impatient and it is easy to feel the effort to get something repaired is too much.”
“It is not like regular shoes, because you’re going to put a strain on them from a lot of different angles. Everything needs to be done with the utmost care.”
As a consequence, Arco has a wealth of resolers, who are always busy, so you might have to wait for your shoes a bit: “They receive orders from all over the world. For example, foreign climbers visiting for the summer will send their shoes ahead of their trip to get resoled. It’s a serious part of the outdoor industry there.” Valentina would bring her own shoes with her on trips back home for the same purpose, long before resoling at home in the Netherlands became possible: “So, every time I visit my family my favourite resoler would be my first stop. I would drop them off and ask if they can be ready in time. Then, at some point, I thought to myself… What if I could do that myself? That’s where the resoling started.”
The Spanish Mix
What followed was a long process of research into materials and equipment needed for resoling shoes. More importantly, Valentina needed someone who would train her in the craft of resoling: “I was chatting with Domenico, my regular resoler, and asked him if he could take me on as an apprentice. That was not possible, as he had someone in training already, who had been there for two years. He did give me some very first tips to get me started. Later, one of my friends Francesco was kind enough to get me in contact with Corrado, a famous resoler. Taking me on as an apprentice was too much, but he did offer to give me a couple of days of training.” So Valentina stayed on his driveway, cooked food and provided good wine in exchange for lessons in what to do and what not to do. When she returned to the Netherlands, she started the challenge of finding equipment.
During the journey, she also found out something interesting about her home area and its crucial role in what is now modern climbing shoes: “It’s funny, I found this out during this journey. So the story is that these alpinists were climbing on these boots and reached a ceiling in their ability. So they started looking for a solution, and their eyes fell on the rubber for car tyres. Now, while that worked well, it was utterly destroyed after one climb. What followed was experiments with rubber and different components, and finally, they hit gold. To keep it secret, they called it ‘the Spanish mix’. This way, keen businesses would start looking in Spain for the rubber and not find out about their secret.”
From there on, finding the right materials and equipment to get started was a challenge. Luckily, Valentina found a community around her ready to help out. An engineering student created a custom grinder/sander for her specific purposes, and other equipment was acquired second-hand: “You need quite some specialized equipment for resoling climbing shoes. It is not like regular shoes, because you’re going to put a strain on them from a lot of different angles. Everything needs to be done with the utmost care, so after I gathered my basic equipment, I started working on old shoes I had from myself or friends. It was a daunting process.”
Valentina always has had a knack for working with her hands and found that learning the art of resoling shoes progressed rather quickly, but working many hours behind the bar and selling shoes at her local gym took its toll: “It took quite a while for me to build up the courage to fix anyone else’s shoe, but after I started doing that it went rather quickly. Soon I was swamped with orders and, in typical Dutch fashion, many requests to ‘speed things up’. I decided to launch Curada Resole officially, started working less at my regular job, and I am now very happy with my own workshop at home now.” For those interested, Curada translates roughly as ‘cured/healed’ or ‘to cure/heal’. Apt naming that is, and Curada is currently very busy.
Why can’t you speed up my resole a bit? A question Valentina regularly gets, that draws a sigh: “I usually have a pile of shoes waiting to get resoled and limited space. That means you’ll likely have to wait a little while. But more importantly, resoling is a process that needs time to be done well. I’ve seen some fairly bad resole jobs, which prove that proper service is key.” Resoling has multiple steps: from removing the soles and grinding toecaps (when necessary), cutting and shaping the new parts, glueing and applying toecaps and letting those rest for a minimum of 24 hours before being you can continue to glue and let dry the soles, and finally refine the shoes. Clearly, resoling also means stepping away from the idea of an instant-availability-cultur, yet is very rewarding.
The Bottom Line: Climbers need shoes
“Shoes are not what make you a better climber. It can help, but it is, in the end, your technique that is most important.” Valentina is adamant about this and having sold shoes to new and advanced climbers for years at Monk, she is well aware of mistakes people make: “There is absolutely no point in buying very technical shoes if you’ve just started out. You can climb on a pair of basic climbing shoes for a long time, especially if you get them resoled. I’ve had new climbers come in and demand to try on the Solution Comp, which is a pro-level shoe. I could ask them: Are you a competition climber? Are you a pro? Well, in that case, this isn’t your ‘solution’… but they will still get those and regret their decision later.” We all tend to make the same mistakes with climbing shoes, though it may be part of our journey. But creating better awareness among the waves of new climbers can be key to a more sustainable generation of climbers. After all, every climber needs a different shoe, Valentina explains: “Get good advice, especially if you can buy your shoes at a gym that has experienced climbers helping you in the shop. If they recommend that you don’t get that super aggressive, high-end shoe that Adam Ondra wears, they probably have a point…”
Getting smart with your shoes (and money)
Some basic tips Valentina shares about shoe maintenance and resoling if you intend to make this part of your climbing (you should):
- Have multiple pairs of climbing shoes
This might sound contradictory to the ‘consume less’ ideology, but it makes sense in the long run, according to Valentina: “If you are a climber, you want to keep climbing. If you have more pairs, you can keep going while one pair is at the resoler for 2 or 3 weeks. And you will be using them anyway because you love climbing. Additionally, different shoes have different advantages in your climbing…”
- Take good care of your shoes
Another no-brainer, but leaving your wet shoes in your bag for a week is a bad idea in any case. Not only is it an unpleasant experience for your olfactory system, it also speeds up the decay of your shoes. Having multiple pairs is a good idea, especially if you are a 4-times-a-week person.
- Know when to get a resole
When your small toe can wiggle outside your shoe, or when you can crimp with your toes like Barefoot Charles, it’s too late: “I get people that ask me to try, but there is a limit to what is fixable. Check your shoes regularly so you don’t miss your resole opportunity.”
- Know when to say goodbye
All good things end, even your beloved pair of climbing shoes, says Valentina: “After resoling a shoe three, maybe four times, it’s kind of done… There is a limit to how many times you can resole a shoe while the other parts are good. If you are really attached to your shoe, you could get it refurbished, but that’s a whole different game.”
- Make repairing your mindset
Repairing your stuff is not just a quick service, especially in a mountain-rich country such as the Netherlands when it comes to resoling. You’ll have to make an effort and find the small entrepreneurs making it their business to fix your climbing shoes, torn puffer coat and other gear. Repair is a radical act, as it means taking on a mindset that is not the convenient thing. It is the better way, though.
Interested in a resole? Get in touch with Curada Resole or check the Instagram. You can send your shoes or drop them off. Don’t ask to speed it up, you’ll get them soon enough. I got my Unparallel TN Pro’s resoled and they’re good as new!
Photography: Justina Lukosiute