The Secret to a Solid Heel Hook

hook ready

Heel hooks are key on Silver #6 at STONE Bouldering Gym

Heel hooks are an important tool in your climbing arsenal. As our lower bodies are well suited to supporting our weight, using our legs as much as possible can save a lot of energy and help us climb more efficiently. Heel hooks allow us to use our powerful hamstrings to manipulate our bodyweight.

However, tons of beginners and even experienced climbers try to heel hook a few times but never quite get the hang of it, and give up. They put their heels on the hold just like they see the good climbers doing, but when they try to use the heel, it just doesn’t feel solid, so they end up using more basic techniques which do the job, but are inefficient.

What are they missing that the better climbers are getting? What is the secret to an effective heel hook?

It’s not enough to put your heel on a hold and wish for the best. The Three Components of a solid heel hook are:

1. Place the heel precisely

hook place

Place the heel on the most positive part of the hold

2. Point your toes AWAY from you like a ballerina going en pointe.

hook straight

There should be a straight line from your shin to the big toe

Aim for a straight line from your shin to your big toe. By doing this you engage the calves to push the heel down into the hold, putting more weight on it which locks the heel in place. Tightening the calves also stiffens the lower leg, allowing weight to be transferred more effectively.

3. CRANK. Put your weight on that foot and pull hard with the hamstring and glutes.

hook crank

Keeping the toe straight, crank hard through the heel

Try it and feel the difference.

This isn’t the end-all be-all of heel hooking – there’s a lot more that can be said on the topic, but if you have had trouble with heel hooks before and wondered what the fuss is all about, give this a shot.

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