Skip to Content

What Is Smearing in Rock Climbing?

Are you looking to take your rock climbing skills to the next level? Then smearing in rock climbing is a technique that should be on your radar. Smearing involves using friction between your foot and the wall or surface of the climb, allowing for greater control over movement. It’s an advanced ability, yet with some training and perseverance anybody can figure out how to do it accurately. In this article, we’ll delve into the details of smearing in rock climbing, outlining proper technique and pinpointing common errors to help you perfect your own. So if you’re ready to take things up a notch then read on.

What is Smearing?

Smearing is a technique used in rock climbing that involves pressing your feet against the wall to gain friction and leverage. It’s an effective way of propelling yourself upwards on steep, smooth surfaces where other techniques may be difficult or impossible.

Definition of Smearing:

Smearing is a type of footwork used by climbers when there are no handholds available to use. The climber applies pressure with their feet against the surface, creating friction which allows them to move up without using any holds.

Types of Smearing:

There are two main types of smears – dynamic and static smears. Dynamic smears involve pushing off from the wall with your feet while static smears require you to hold your position for longer periods before making a move upwards. Both approaches can be utilized depending on the predicament and level of complexity of the ascent.

The biggest benefit of using this technique is that it requires less energy than traditional climbing methods such as jamming or stemming, which involve gripping onto small cracks. This makes it ideal for long climbs where conserving energy is essential for success. Additionally, it helps keep you safe since you don’t have to rely solely on handholds which could potentially break away during the climb. Finally, mastering this skill can open up new possibilities when tackling challenging routes as it provides another option besides just relying on traditional holds or technical moves like laybacks or mantleshelfs, wherein one uses their arms and legs together.

Gaining proficiency in smearing can give you a boost of confidence when scaling up walls. With the right knowledge and practice, anyone can learn how to perform a smear successfully.

How to Perform a Smear

Preparing for the Move:

Before attempting a smear, it is important to prepare yourself properly. Position yourself in a cozy posture on the wall, feet firm and hands ready to grasp. Ensure a secure stance on the wall by ensuring your shoes have adequate grip, so you don’t slip when executing the maneuver.

Executing the Move:

When performing a smear, focus on using as much pressure from your feet as possible while pushing off with your hands in order to gain momentum. Whilst pushing off, ensure all four points of contact (two hands and two feet) are evenly distributed over the wall for equilibrium. Once you’ve gained enough momentum, try to maintain an even distribution of weight throughout both arms and legs as well as keeping tension in each limb in order to prevent slipping or losing control mid-movement.

After completing the initial movement phase of smearing, finish up by slowly lowering yourself down onto one foot at a time until both feet are securely placed back on solid ground or another flat surface such as a rock or ledge. Do not rush this step since any sudden movements could cause loss of balance which may lead to injury if not done correctly. Additionally, be mindful about where exactly you place each foot since uneven surfaces can also contribute towards instability during descent.

Performing a smear correctly is essential for successful rock climbing, so it’s important to practice and become comfortable with the move. Avoiding missteps when smearing is key, so it’s beneficial to be aware of typical blunders.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Smearing

When smearing, one of the most common mistakes is not using enough friction. To maximize your grip, you should use a combination of edging and smearing techniques while maintaining a low center of gravity close to the wall. To maximize your grip, apply pressure to the wall with both toes and heels while keeping a low center of gravity. Additionally, make sure to use a combination of edging and smearing techniques in order to maximize friction and reduce slipping.

Another mistake climbers often make is relying too much on their feet instead of their hands. Smearing requires both arms and legs for balance so if you’re focusing solely on your feet then you won’t have any stability or control over where you go next. Instead, focus on pushing off from the wall with both hands and feet simultaneously in order to move forward safely without slipping off the wall.

Finally, many climbers make the mistake of not placing their feet correctly when smearing which can lead to dangerous situations such as losing grip mid-climb or taking an unexpected fall due to lack of support from incorrect foot placement. To avoid this issue, it is important to ensure that all four points (both toes and heels) are evenly distributed across each hold before attempting any further movements up the wall; this will help give you better balance while also providing extra security against slips or falls during climbs.

It is essential to be mindful of potential missteps when smearing in order to guarantee a successful ascent. With practice and focus on proper technique, you will soon master the art of smearing for an enjoyable climbing experience. Now let’s look at some tips for improving your smearing technique.

Tips for Improving Your Smearing Technique

To refine your smearing technique, experiment with applying it on a range of surfaces and angles. Getting a sense of the wall’s response when your feet push against it is key to understanding how much grip you need for stability. Start off by practicing on flat walls, then move onto more angled or overhanging terrain. Gaining proficiency and assurance in yourself is key, as well as recognizing which grips are most effective for different surfaces.

Increasing foot pressure gradually is key when it comes to smearing successfully. Begin with a light touch, or else you may find yourself quickly plummeting. Start by lightly pressing against the wall until you feel comfortable enough to increase the pressure incrementally. Doing so allows your body time to adjust while still providing enough force needed for stability.

Finally, focus on balance and body position when performing a smear move – this can make all the difference between success and failure. Make sure that your center of gravity remains directly above where both feet are planted; if not, chances are high that one foot may slide away from its hold before reaching its destination point safely. Additionally, try experimenting with different arm positions – having them slightly bent at 90 degrees or extended straight outwards could provide better support depending on which way feels most natural for your body type.

FAQs in Relation to What is Smearing in Rock Climbing

What is the difference between smearing and flagging climbing?

Smearing is a climbing technique where the climber relies on friction between their shoe and the rock to ascend. The climber does not use any holds or protrusions, but instead uses pressure from their foot against the wall to move up. Flagging is when a climber places one of their feet out at an angle in order to gain better balance while ascending. This technique can be used as either a support or counterbalance depending on which direction they are going. Both techniques require skill and practice, however smearing requires more body tension than flagging due to its reliance on friction alone for movement upwards.

How do you teach smearing in climbing?

Smearing is a climbing technique used to gain traction on smooth surfaces. It involves pressing the toes and balls of your feet against the rock face, using friction between the rubber sole of your shoe and the surface to keep you from slipping. To practice smearing, find an area with plenty of small footholds or features that can be used as leverage points while keeping most of your weight on your feet. Gradually move up by shifting your weight onto one foot at a time, making sure each foothold is secure before progressing further. As you become more comfortable with smearing techniques, try gradually increasing difficulty levels until you feel confident in any situation.

What is the difference between edging and smearing?

Edging and smearing are two climbing techniques used to ascend a rock face. Edging involves placing the toe of your shoe on small ledges or edges in order to gain purchase, while smearing relies on friction between the sole of your shoe and the surface you’re climbing. Smearing is often used when there are no holds available, as it requires less precision than edging but can be more strenuous due to its reliance on body weight rather than specific handholds or footholds. Edging is often thought of as the more intricate and exacting approach to climbing.

How do I get better at smearing?

Smearing is a climbing technique that involves using your feet to adhere to the wall. To get better at smearing, practice regularly on walls with different angles and textures. Start by standing flat-footed on small holds or edges and gradually increase the difficulty as you become more comfortable with this technique. Focus on shifting your weight and centre of gravity while keeping both feet in contact with the wall, experimenting to keep balance throughout each movement. With enough practice, smearing will soon become second nature.


In conclusion, smearing in rock climbing is a technique that requires practice and patience. With the right approach and techniques you can become an expert at it over time. Take your time when acquiring the knack of smearing to prevent any missteps. And remember: with enough effort and dedication, anyone can master this challenging yet rewarding skill.

Discover the best tips and products for outdoor activities like rock climbing, hiking, and biking with ExIceMaiden. Join us today to get access to reviews from experienced outdoorsmen that will help you make informed decisions on your next adventure!