What is a Smear in Rock Climbing? What does it mean?


Every activity that human beings do require a certain level of skill acquisition and constant practice. Activities like video games and social media became easy because we engage ourselves in them repeatedly. There is a productivity concept that states that you should spend at least ten thousand hours practicing that skill if you want to become an expert in any skill. If you want to become good or slightly above average at that skill, you can spend one thousand hours or even less dependent on that activity’s difficulty. Rock climbing is one of the activities that will require more time for you to master. It involves testing your strength and physical agility. Over the years, rock climbing has been made easier by special techniques developed by those who have spent their fair share of time exploring this wonderful outdoor activity. Some of the rock-climbing skills that have been honed over the years include edging, smearing, stemming, flagging, lay-backing, mantle, underling, side pull, and so on. In this article, we want to take a deeper look at smearing, one of the unique rock-climbing techniques involving your footwork. Enjoy!

What is Smearing?

Mountains are expressions of nature, which means human beings do not design them. If you want to climb a rock for the first time, you are unsure what to expect (except you go with a tour guide). There are different terrains n the mountain and as you go higher, you will inevitably get to a spot that doesn’t offer support for your feet. This means you will not have any rock or slab to place your feet on and keep climbing upwards. This is where the smearing technique becomes useful.

Smearing is the act of pressing your foot against the wall and using it to project upward in your climb. This means that when you smear, you depend on the traction of your rock climbing shoes to keep you steady on the rock while you keep climbing upward. When you are climbing rocks or mountains, you generally have slabs that provide support for your feet. However, if you come to a point where this support is not available, your only option will be to smear the rock. Smearing is relatively easy, but it will take some time to master. The ideal thing to do will be to master smearing in a gym before you go for long-range mountain climbing. When beginners try to smear, they might miss their step and get injured.

Smearing is easier than it looks. Most climbers don’t like to try out this technique because they allow their various fears to hold them back. If you want to smear effectively, you have to stop thinking that the grip on your shoes is not strong or that you might fall if you accidentally misstep. With the right amount of practice, you can master the smearing technique and improve your overall rock-climbing performance.

Step by step guide on smearing

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to smear effectively when rock climbing

  1. Get rock climbing shoes with great traction

If you want t smear successfully, then you should pick out rock climbing shoes with great traction. Almost all rock-climbing shoes are designed to have a firm grip. Rubber is the most utilized material for the outsole of a rock-climbing shoe. Another excellent feature that your shoes should possess is lightweight. Ultimately, when you have shoes with great traction and are comfortable in them, you will find it far easier to smear the rock.

  1. Make sure you are in a balanced position

When rock climbing, do not try smearing the rock if you are not in a balanced position. If you are still trying to secure your hold and are not yet solid on the rock, you should get balanced. When you try to smear without balance, you can easily miss your step and end up causing an avoidable injury.

  1. Hold on the rocks with a firm grip

This step doesn’t just concern smearing but also other aspects of rock climbing as well. When climbers go rock climbing, they either hold on to the rocks too tightly or don’t firmly grasp them. Since your foot is comfortably supported when performing other techniques, you can hold on to the rock as you see fit. However, when smearing, it is important to maintain a firm grip on the rocks.

  1. Place your foot on the roughest edge you see

We have already established that smearing is made possible by the traction on your rock climbing shoes’ rubber outsoles. However, you should aid this process by placing your foot on the roughest and the most supportive surface of the rock. When you place your leg on this surface, you allow for more grip, and you can launch easily from that position.

  1. Rest your weight on your foot

At this point, you are ready t smear the rock. All that requires you to do is rest your weight on the foot you are using to smear and push back. Be careful not to rest all your bodyweight on this foot. Give it enough force to allow you to launch upward and reach for the next handhold.

  1. Push it off as you reach for the next handhold

If you have already completed all the above steps, you should push your foot back and reach for the next handhold. Make sure the handhold is within range, and you can get to it comfortably. You should also make sure that you already see a place for your foot to land. If there is rock support, that is better, but you have to smear the rock again if not.


Rock climbing is a very interesting activity to engage in, and it gets even more exciting when you have enough learned skills to utilize in the climbing process. Smearing is one of the skills that make rock climbing easier and more enjoyable. If you didn’t know much about smearing a rock before, we are quite sure that you would have learned a lot from this piece. We urge you to practice this unique technique, and you can be sure that you would be happy with the results. Cheers!