Sports & Gaming


Alex Honnold & Tommy Caldwell

Lesson time 07:45 min

Learn the most important element of rock climbing as Tommy defines and demonstrates various footwork techniques.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Footwork • Edging • Smearing • Backstep • Toe Hook • Heel Hook • Drop Knee • Kneebar •


[MUSIC PLAYING] TOMMY CALDWELL: Footwork is the most important element of rock climbing. It's essentially using your lower body and your feet to support and propel most of your body weight to get you up the wall and save the energy in your arms. If you don't learn that properly first, all the other aspects of body movement are going to suffer. Stairs have a railing, but you don't pull yourself up the staircase. Similarly, ladders have rungs, but you don't do a series of pull-ups to get up a ladder. Climbing is exactly the same. You want to drive with your feet and use your arms more for balance and guidance. [MUSIC PLAYING] Edging is the most basic of all footwork techniques. It's probably the most intuitive and in some ways the most important. And what it is is simply looking for a positive edge on the wall, just like it sounds. And you precisely place your foot on the edge, and then you pull with your toe, and you drive your weight upward using that edge. Generally, you want to hold your foot at about a 45-degree angle to the wall so that you're really on your big toe, which is your strongest toe. And then you want to place your feet very precisely on the hold, because sometimes the edges are quite small. I like to think of it like smashing ants. If there's an ant crawling on the hold, you want to step on that ant, drive your toe into it a little bit, wiggle your shoe back and forth, and make sure the rubber is biting into it. And then you want to pull your weight into the wall and drive upwards. [MUSIC PLAYING] As in all footwork techniques, you want to use quiet feet. If you're thumping on the wall a lot, generally that means that you're not climbing well. You want to move fluidly and place your toes carefully. [MUSIC PLAYING] Smearing is a slightly more advanced technique. It takes a little bit more body strength and attention to where you're putting your hips. Generally, you smear when there are no good edges available. Usually, your go-to is look for the good edges and edge on them. But when those are unavailable, which is often, you have to place your foot on the wall and really rely on the friction of the rubber to hold your foot onto the wall. It's really just a harder version of walking up a steep hill. The key element of smearing is to keep your heel low and get as much rubber in contact with the surface of the rock and keep your hips out from the wall so that you can push kind of perpendicularly to the wall or as perpendicular to the hold as possible so that your foot doesn't skid down the wall. [MUSIC PLAYING] And you end up usually relying more on your arm strength in conjunction with the smearing, whereas a lot of times with edging, you can drive completely with your legs. [MUSIC PLAYING] Backstepping, in its essence, is really just using the outside of your foot, kind of around your pinky toe, to step on a hold and drive you forwards. When I backstep, I look...

About the Instructor

With more than 60 combined years of elite rock climbing experience, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell have scaled some of the largest—and most extreme—walls in the world. Now, the stars of Free Solo and The Dawn Wall are teaming up to share their tried-and-true techniques for tackling any wall. From the fundamentals of footwork and body and hand positioning to mental exercises and advanced holds and movements, you’ll learn how to take on new challenges and push yourself further on and off the wall.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Alex Honnold & Tommy Caldwell

Stars of “Free Solo” and “The Dawn Wall” Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell teach lessons from more than 60 years of combined rock climbing experience.

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