When Kyra Condie approaches a bouldering wall, usually she doesn’t get a second glance from climbers who don’t know her. Few expect much from this tiny young girl, bundled up in a down jacket against the cold. Most of the guys likely won’t even notice that someone new has come in, continuing to talk about the best to way to beat that impossible v10.
But that indifference changes as soon as she drops her jacket, puts on her climbing shoes and lays her hand on the first hold. It’s like the scene from a comic book, where the main character transforms into a superhero – her muscles swell up, and she moves on the wall with so much energy that everyone who’s watching knows right away that this girl is the real deal. After a while, a couple of other climbers in the gym will usually come and ask her to try his/her pet route, too. She quickly mingles in with the locals. That’s what bouldering does – it connects people who share the same obstacles and agree on the best way to beat them. Mostly by force, sometimes by jumping or smearing.
Climbing shoes for Tokyo
Kyra Condie is an American professional climber representing the USA at the Olympics. Earlier this year she also became the new Ocún ambassador. Given that Ocún is a new brand on the American market, it seemed like the best way to get to know Kyra was to invite her to the Czech Republic.
In February, during her one-week visit, Kyra saw how we design our climbing shoes at Ocún. We also took her to one of our production plants so that she could watch the sewing process and better understand the purpose of various parts of the shoe. This helped her define her own requirements concerning her professional climbing shoes, and allowed her to choose a particular model for each of the three Olympic disciplines.
For bouldering and lead climbing, Kyra picked the newest performance shoes called Nitro. As for speed climbing, she narrowed the selection down to two candidates – Rival, a junior competitor climbing shoe, and Pearl, a time-tested traditional model. Kyra has narrow feet, so these shoes fit just perfectly. The explosive style that comes with speed climbing puts a lot of strain on climbers’ feet. Speed climbing therefore requires comfortable climbing shoes, yet not too soft – or else the feet would hurt.
Since the Olympics are just a couple of months away and Kyra now wants to train basically every day, she took advantage of the opportunity and called in at several bouldering gyms in Prague and to the Mandala gym in Dresden. She also spent half a day bouldering outdoors, at Děčínský Sněžník (a mountain in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains). At the end of her visit, we sat down to talk about her impressions of the trip.
Did you ever visit a climbing shoes factory before?
I’ve never visited one before. I didn’t expect everything to be made by hand, I was impressed with the craftsmanship that each shoe required and it gave me a huge appreciation of the work that goes into making great climbing shoes!
What surprised you about the whole process of desingning and manufactoring the shoes?
I think the thing that surprised me the most was the ability of workers to create the same amount of tension in each shoe with the more elastic rubber. The shoemaker would stretch the rubber by hand for each shoe and is very accurate with the tension that he applies, this totally blew me away. I think also the small details that make the difference between different types of shoes are way more obvious to me after seeing the process of how they’re made.
What are your key demands when you are choosing your climbing shoes?
For me I need something that is a good all-round shoe to use during competitions. In competitions you need something that can go from standing on volumes to standing on small footholds, so having something that is soft but still has some stiffness is really key. I am liking the Nitros because they are soft through the middle but have a small midsole at the toe to make the toe box a bit stiffer. The tension through the arch of the foot also provides a lot of support even though the shoe is still really soft.
How did you enjoy climbing in the Czech gyms?
I enjoyed the gyms here! I had some good training sessions, they kind of remind me of the gyms I climb in back home in Minnesota so I felt like I fit in. The people were fun to climb with as well.
How did you enjoy bouldering at Sněžník – is it comparable to anything you know?
The area is pretty unique because of its location near the tower and the view of the Czech countryside you get at the top. It was cold while we were there so I didn’t get to try too many harder climbs but I definitely want to go back! The rock is solid and sticky, it seems like a great area and it´s so nice that it is nearby the city.
Is there a part of your training routine you wouldn´t skip even on a trip, now that the Olympics are drawing closer?
I made sure to go to the gym quite a few times while I was here. I like getting to know a city better through the gyms that are there, it´s fun to meet the local climbers and see what climbing is like in other places. I like to make sure I campus or hang board during sessions to feel like I got a good training day in. It´s nice to have something I can do at almost any gym so that I have consistency while I travel.
How about your diet on the trip – how do you manage?
I´m vegetarian so I was a little worried about what I would eat while I was here! But Prague had tons of delicious vegetarian and vegan restaurants and I was even able to try some vegetarian versions of traditional Czech dishes. Homemade blueberry dumplings are probably one of my new favorite foods