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Case study: Your perfect climbing shoes

Mathieu Baele
Dec 7, 2020 · 8 min read


On a climbing weekend, one of my friends complained about never finding the right climbing shoes. She is sticking to her current model but is also tempted to switch. In her search for another shoe, she does not know where to start. Store personal is not always equipped to give the give the right answers. So this is when our car-brainstorm session started.

The problem

The current market of climbing shoes is very diverse. With all the different brands and factors to take into account it can be very overwhelming to find the right shoe for you.

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Above are just two brands but next to these you still have Five Ten, Tenaya, Evolv, Butora, So Ill and many more. The question ‘Did I buy the right shoes?’ can give you a lot of uncertainty on the wall.

As a result choosing the right shoe is very important, your feet are as important as your hands. So you have to be able to trust your shoes.

The amount of time you wear them and whether your shoes hurt can make or break your climbing session.

Proposed solution

A service advising you the best shoe for your climbing needs and your feet. To make it more tangible, I wanted it to be an extension of the website Bergfreunde.

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Challenges and constraints

  • Every foot is different
  • Building trust in the provided answer

Feelings user

Currently every climber is advised to try on the shoes in a store before buying them. Automatically climbers are very sceptical about buying their shoes online. A lot of online stores don’t even provide a return policy because of how much is being returned.

On the other hand is the climbing community a very open and diverse kind of people. Open to new experiences and gear freaks. Apps are starting to emerge like 27Crags, Mountain Project

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Emotions map for finding your perfect climbing shoe.

If we look at the mapping of the different emotions. We can clearly see that we need to work on building up trust, lowering fear and giving the surprise of that perfect shoe in the end.

Market research

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The guide lets you input what shoe you want and how you are going to use it.


  • Clear popup with all the information.
  • Clear 4 inputfields every climber can fill in.
  • Stand alone page and popup when on product-page
  • Based on input previous customers


  • What if you don’t know what shoe you want or need? The range of shoes can be overwhelming.
  • The output also gives me a weird number, 0,7 sizes under my streetshoe-size.
  • I still need to calculate what size I need.
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Size Squirrel


  • If you transition from one shoe to the other this could be helpful.


  • Size input is US/UK, output recommended size is EUR sizing
  • What if you are not happy with your current shoes and its size?
  • They say they use ‘math’ to give you your perfect shoe. What is this ‘math’ based on?
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Size Squirrel also has the option to recommend you a shoe.


  • Clear 2 steps asking sex and footshape
  • gives additional information about footshapes.


  • Recommends only one shoe
  • Feels like a wild guess without asking me any other factors
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I followed the Rock run sizing-guide and came to size of climbing shoe I am currently using. So this works and could be a possible help. The list of shoes was not very helpful in telling me what size or shoe I need.


  • Printing out the sizing-guide and measuring my feet was easy


  • Looking for your shoe in the list is not very user friendly.
  • You have to read everything in order to understand how to use the list of shoes.

How to collect the data?

Because we are dealing with a big variety of shoes, brands and ways of climbing, combined with the input of the user, we are dealing with a lot of information to be compared with. I kept my mind open for a more analogue solution but also wanted to explore the world of AI.

In order to know if AI was the solution, I used the google guidebook.

  • Needs user: The perfect fitting shoe
  • Output bot: A shoe or list of shoes fitted for the customer
  • Data needed: Shoe dimensions, type of climbing, expert level…

How to collect data?

  • Contact manufacturer -> Do they trust their own data and give guarantees?
  • Large survey with climbers
  • Measure every shoe
  • Use previous research (blogs, reviews…)
  • Survey previous customers

This is a whole research project on its own. From a business standpoint you need to look into what the most cost effective but still accurate way would be.

Building trust

A big factor for it to work is if the climbing community embraces it and trusts its answers. In order to build that trust, a few steps can be done;

  • Show the data it is based on. Not sure if this is needed.
  • Give an estimated guess (top 3 + other possible matches)
  • work with well known climbers (Marketing)
  • Live shoe fitting at events (Marketing)

To give ourselves some slack we need to let the user know we can never give a 100% accurate answer. Next to your physical dimensions of your feet and other input, weather and time also play a big role.

What factors are important for picking the right shoe?

  • Kind of climbing (boulder, sport climbing, multi pitch)
  • expert level (Beginner, Medium or Advanced)
  • Comfort level (loose fitting, tight fitting)
  • Dimensions feet
  • Contruction material (Synthetic, Leather)
  • Type of rubber (Soft vs Stiff)
  • Shoe profile
  • Closure System (Laces, Velcro, Slipper)
  • Sex (Male, Female)

All of these factors go hand in hand but the most important factors are the dimensions of the feet, level of expertise and what climbing the user will do. These are the first inputs, based on that we can give an estimation.

After that the user can go further into detail to find his most preferred shoe.

How does the user input it’s data?

This should be as easy as possible. For this I looked into bespoke shoes. How are they measured and can we simplify this proces in order to have a low threshold for inputting information?

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Measurement instructions for shoes

From the instructions above you will get following measurements:

  • Length
  • Width
  • Around the ball
  • Around the instep
  • Around the heel
  • Shape of the foot

Possible ways for the user to measure their own feet:

  • Print out piece of paper with measurements on. Stand with your foot on the paper and trace you foot.
  • Print out ruler and use this to measure your feet

Thoughts: Not everyone has a printer. There needs to be a balance between the amount of effort the user needs to do and the amount of information he needs to provide.

A more fun approach would be to stay in the world of climbing. A lot of climbers already have a certain amount of gear. We could use this gear to help measure the dimensions of the feet. Possible gear would be: Climbing rope, sling, quickdraws, harness

“Do people want to do that extra effort in order to get that perfect shoe?”

— Needs further exploration —

A step I also explored was to use a way of 3d-scanning the feet to get the most accurate dimensions. I know Materialise uses 3d-scanning and 3d-printing to make made to measure ski-boots (see here). In this case 3d-printing would not be ideal because of the cost involved and you want to provide existing brands and shoes.

User flow

  1. Needs new shoes
  2. Does research (is on conflict what shoes to buy)
  3. Berfreunde add pops up about shoe fitting
  4. Clicks and arrives on website (skeptical)
  5. Reads what it does and why to use it (curious)
  6. Tries the search feature for fun
  7. Finds possible matches
  8. Opens one shoe (curious)
  9. Reads why it might be her next shoe
  10. Compares the features with other possible matches
  11. Decides to go for the match from a brand she already climbed with.
  12. Puts it in her basket and buys.


  • Give a few possible matches
  • Let the user compare the matches
  • Build trust at the start or before using the feature
  • Do not underestimate brand loyalty
  • Make it easy to input data (could be for fun)
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Functionalities pages

Input form

  • How and why use it
  • Expert level
  • Type of climbing
  • Type of feet
  • Sex
  • Length, width, ball, instep and heel dimensions
  • How to measure your feet
  • next + see result button

Result page

  • 3 recommended shoes + other possible matches
  • filters (brand, closure system, material, sole, colour, weight, price, rating)
  • Clear filter
  • Product item: picture shoe, title, brand, recommended size, price
  • Button for more info or add to basket
  • compare button + radio button next to product (gives feedback when added to comparison list)
  • (Properties (What properties should be shown in the results) -> Fancy/nice to have)
  • Amount of matches
  • Information about how we recommend these shoes

Fold out result item (quickly see all the metrics of a shoe without opening a new page) Animated

  • multiple pictures
  • Name + Brand
  • closure system
  • Material
  • Sole
  • Weight
  • Price
  • Ratings -> Goes to productpage
  • Button ‘ADD TO BASKET’
  • Read more -> Goes to productpage
  • Fold in button

Compare page

  • Picture product + Brand + Name shoe
  • Button ‘ADD TO CART’
  • Button ‘Remove from comparison’
  • Reviews
  • Recommended use (Bouldering, sports climbing, multi pitch)
  • Expert level (Beginner, Medium or Advanced)
  • Construction material
  • Closure system
  • Shoe profile / Recommended foot shape / fit
  • Type of rubber + thickness
  • Heel tension
  • Weight
  • can be resoled

Lowfi mockup

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First lowfi mockup


  • mockup should already show images of the type of feet
  • What if I am not one of those type of feet?
  • To input dimensions you should quickly see what you need to measure
  • People buy a certain brand because they know it fits the shape of their feet.

Current status: Testing lowfi mockup

Next steps

  • hifi mockups
  • Retrospective; What did I learn? What is the impact?


  • Where to advertise on current website?
  • Marketing: Measurements are saved in profile -> E-mail with new shoes with your fit/after 6 months you need new shoes so…


From idea to product, one pixel at a time.

Mathieu Baele

Written by

Hey there! I am a designer living in Antwerp, Belgium. I love solving problems. This is a way to document my thoughts and research cases.



The best resources for designers starting in Design, UX, and UI. Bootcamp is a new product publication from the team behind the UX Collective ( To submit your story:

Mathieu Baele

Written by

Hey there! I am a designer living in Antwerp, Belgium. I love solving problems. This is a way to document my thoughts and research cases.



The best resources for designers starting in Design, UX, and UI. Bootcamp is a new product publication from the team behind the UX Collective ( To submit your story:

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