5 Top Tips for Solid Heel Hooking Skills

Apex Climbing Blog

There are a mountain of different techniques that will benefit your climbing. The more relevant technique you can implement when climbing the easier you can make it on your muscles and connective tissues.

This post is a focus on uses footwork and the techniques you can use to help provide you with not only a base of support, but also aiding your points of suspension. Heel hooks can help in all kind of ways and there is no one way which is best for every type of heel hook. Playing around with the placements, positions and body positions coming into the move are all important elements for a heel hook to be successful!

  • Placement – Where to place is as important as whether to place it at all. If possible try and find divots, dishes, bumps, edges or some sort of feature that will help with keeping good contact!
  • Position – This will vary depending on the move and direction you want to go. However, to engage as many muscles (and therefore as much strength and power) as possible, try to open the hips, tilt the knee out and using the outside of the heel. Sometimes using the bottom of the heel helps to though, so don’t expect a one way only method for heel hook positioning. Experiment!
  • Third Arm – Once you’ve placed and positioned your heel and body, pull in with it like a third (or 4th?) arm. Using those major leg muscles to pull you into the wall and make progress.
  • Release – You’ve done the move, but it’s not quite over yet. Make sure on release of the heel that your in balance and have a good grasp of that next hold or position. Release the heel slowly, move weight back over your other limbs to ensure as little energy is spent as possible. This heel hook release can have a big effect on the body tension created, so be controlled!
  • Confidence – Lastly, have confidence in the heel hook. The more you trust it the better it/you will perform! If it does pop off, address one or all of the previous tips to try and enhance it. Just because it popped off once, does not mean it’s the wrong choice of move.

There are many different types and ways of using heel hooks (layaway, mantles, resting, hugging and heel caming to name but a few). This skill is a very useful one to have in your repitoure and one I use extensively! Have fun and make up as many different climbs as possible to practice, practice, practice!

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