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Fancy Footwork and Leg Power Part 2

So, we found our feet and are starting to use them again on the wall or rock. Yay! Now, let’s expand our knowledge about how we can use those “third arms” better for climbing.

In my previous article Fancy Footwork and Leg Power Part 1, I explained why using our legs while climbing more is better than depending on the arms to move up. Plus, I mention what the feet can do on the holds.

Since we have the footwork down, how else do our legs and feet help improve climbing? There are leg and foot techniques climbers use on holds and rock or give them better stability until they can make the next move. Those are:


Going for a kneebar to stablize on a overhanging purple problem. Though the name sounds odd, kneebarring or kneebars are quite stable positions for climbers. They require a foot on top of a foothold, then with the same leg between the knee and mid-thigh pressing against an opposing feature. This move is usually another hold or part of the rock. A climber should lean back a little so the leg can straighten some and jam the knee more into place. If done well, the climber can take their hands off the holds or rock.
For bouldering, kneebarring allows a climber to use inadequate handholds on a steep wall to stay in place until they can move to better grips. When found, the kneebar is released, the climber swings out and re-establishes their feet on the wall.

Foot/Toe Cam

Wedging foot inbetween 2 footholds. Foot or toe cams are useful for extending a reach or take a rest when climbing. A climber presses the heel on a hold and the top of the same foot into an opposing surface. Think of almost wedging the foot between planes and sticking it there. This move can be with two holds, in a horizontal crack, or within a large hueco. If using this technique, be careful and attentive to it, so there isn’t any injury to the foot while moving around.

Heel Hook

Using a heelhook with left leg to stay on the wall. This technique is one of my favorites because I do use it as a “third arm” frequently. Heel hooks can be used on almost any kind of hold or edge for leverage. For this technique, the knee and foot must rotate, so the sole is parallel to the wall. You’ll be in a better position to push down and in on the heel towards your core. Usually, a heel hook is engaged at waist or shoulder height. When I do one, it’s about at waist height.
As you rise, the lower leg and foot will turn down but keep pulling in. Do this until you’re able to move the foot to another hold. Heel hooks do put a lot of strain on the knees and hamstrings, so it’s good to develop lower body strength. Straining the hamstrings is a common injury while heel hooking and tearing it also. So, this is one you don’t want to push too far or overdo.

Toe Hook

Toehooking a black hold to stay on an overhanging problem. Like heel hooks, these are also good to do if you can’t find a decent foothold. Toe hooks help keep a climber stable when using the opposite of the hands. Finding an undercling or something similar and pulling hard upward with the toes is one way this happens. Once the feet are secure, a climber can let go of a hand and reach for another hold. Toe hooks can be used with other toe hooks, heel hooks, kneebars, and regular holds. I haven’t used toe hooks a lot, but they are handy to use when there aren’t any good footholds around.


Using feet to do the bicycle move for an overhung problem. Sometimes using your feet doing opposite actions on the rock can help keep you stable on it. This action is called bicycling. How to do it is with one foot toehooking while the other is toe pushing at the same time on the features. It’s commonly used on overhangs and roofs. Be aware of foot placement, so one doesn’t pop off while reaching for a hold in this position.

Show Me Your Stance

So, we have the feet and legs figured out so we can show off our footwork on the wall. But what about stance? Surprisingly, one’s position, even with the footwork, can also make a difference on problems. In part three of Fancy Footwork and Leg Power, I’ll show you how all three of these factors come together and work well in making the ascent. Until next time, happy bouldering!