So, What is Smearing?
Smearing, simply put, is using the surface of the wall as a foothold. This lower body skill is one of the few areas in climbing where getting your hips as close as possible to the wall is not the optimal position.
Why? Because, in order to get enough friction for a smear to hold, a climber must be very precise about keeping the majority of her weight pressing in at right angles to the wall itself.
The most effective way to accomplish this is to lean away from the wall slightly (as little as possible, in fact) and keep the soles of your feet pressed tightly against the wall. Let’s break it down for you.
(Not smearing on the wall? Learn why you should keep your hips close to the wall when climbing in this article.)
How to Smear
To practice smearing, paste your foot, starting at the big toe, onto the surface of the wall (or a foothold) like you were placing a stamp.
This motion stretches out the rubber of the shoe, creating tension as well as a good deal of surface contact between the rubber and the wall.
Smears in this fashion are generally “toe first”, with the heel out and the foot oriented nearly perpendicular to the wall (as opposed to nearly parallel as in a standard front step).
To maintain tension on the wall climbers should keep their knees bent and pointing toward the wall throughout a move.
Tip: Keep Your Knees Bent
This is last the real trick to mastering a smear. The most common issue that new climbers have with this skill is that, at the very end of a longer move, just as they are reaching for their next handhold, their foot pops.
This can be very disconcerting, to say the least, and frequently results in unnecessary falls. Of course, the reason is quite simple. At the end of a move, climbers tend to look up at their next handhold, which often causes their weight to shift away from the wall slightly.
In addition, climbers tend to focus on pressing down on their footholds, as this is the most common way to maintain pressure on a hold.
Unfortunately, as we said earlier, a smear requires that you maintain pressure against the wall; so, leaning back slightly and pushing straight down is the worst way to use a smear.
Still Falling While Trying to Smear?
To avoid this result, it is important to remember that smears work differently than other footholds.
You must keep your knees at least slightly bent throughout the move, and maintain even pressure against the wall.
That’s all you need to know about smearing.
All material is reprinted with the permission of the author. Copyright 2022 David H. Rowland. All rights reserved.