The heel hook is one of the most potent technical climbing moves. It’s a move that can be used in both sport and bouldering, and it’s an incredibly effective way to get up steep walls. In this article, we’ll talk about how to heel hook – what it is, when to use it, body position for executing the move successfully, types of shoes you should wear when performing the climbing technique, and more!
What is a heel hook?
The heel hook is one of the most popular and most used climbing techniques. A heel hook is when you place the heel of your foot directly on the foothold, your toes can be pointing up, or your foot could be parallel to the ground. Often you are using your heel to lever yourself over your hip. This vital position can be used to get yourself up the wall.
When to use a heel hook?
You should know when and how to execute this climbing technique for it to work effectively. You can use the heel hook in pretty much every situation where you need it. This move is advantageous when you’re climbing on overhanging, steep walls. They can also be used on aretes to balance to advance your hands and on lip traverses to keep progressing forward. They are also a staple move when attempting to mantle.
Heel hooks are also significant resting positions as they take the weight off of your hands. So if you are on a long sport climb, finding a solid heel hook is a great way to get some power back.
In the beginning, you will mostly find heel hooks on big open holds that have plenty of space for your foot. But as you advance, you will be able to find heel hooks on even the smallest of crimps. Keep practicing!
There are multiple ways to perform a heel hook, varying in difficulty and potential for injury. The most basic and safest is when your heel is on a big hold, toe and bottom of your foot facing away from you, using your other foot to press, lever yourself over your hip.
Another heel hook is when your foot is high, sometimes shoulder height, your foot is sideways with the bottom of your foot facing the wall, you are lever over your hip while pressing your knee down. This position gives you lots of power to move up but can be a dangerous position for your knee.
Another way to heel hook is to place your foot with your toe pointing down, drawing your hips closer to the wall. This can allow you to move slower to grab more difficult holds or to extend your reach.
The placement of your other foot plays a significant role in the success of the heel hook. Sometimes you will flag your other foot behind the heel hook, but often times you will plant your non-heel hook foot straight below you and use it to press.
A sneaky way to make your heel hook feel even more bomb is to tuck the toe of your heel, hooking your foot under a part of the rock. This is called a heel-toe cam and can give you more leverage and help the foot stay in place.
Strength & Flexibility
Hamstring and glute strength are very important for performing a heel hook. You can work on these strengths by using an exercise ball. Lay on your back with your heel on top of the ball. Raise your lower back and butt off the ground, and pull the ball towards you with your heel.
Make sure to stretch those hammies because it is easy to injure your hamstring on strenuous heel hooks.
Types of shoes to wear?
If you are going after a heel hook, your shoes will be a factor in whether or not it works. You want an aggressive fit around the heel and midfoot that locks into position nicely when placing the heel on the hold. Shoes that cinch down work best. You don’t want your shoe popping off mid-hook!
A heel hook is a powerful tool to have in your climbing arsenal. Heel hooks are great for sending routes and are sometimes used strategically on lead climbs when you want to rest before pressing up higher.
The foot placement of the non-heel hook foot is essential. Try out different angles but always make sure it’s planted securely with power.