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Correct Your Footwork Bad Habits with Climbing Pro Dave MacLeod

MacLeod's new technique videos are some of the best climbing instructionals you'll find anywhere

Having good footwork is arguably the most important skill in climbing. Bad habits when moving and weighting the feet results in putting more stress on upper body than necessary, limiting the difficulty of moves that can be completed successfully. Two key footwork techniques are flagging and foot switches. In a series of new videos, Scottish climber Dave MacLeod identifies these techniques as problem areas for many climbers. He explains bad habits that typically form and how to fix them.

In the first video, MacLeod goes over common errors with the placement and usage of the flagging or “counterbalancing” foot. He explains how beginner and intermediate (and sometimes even expert) climbers often place their flagging foot too low or too far away from the body to generate sufficient leverage to complete a move. He demonstrates how to correct for this mistake by placing the foot in the correct position both in terms of vertical height and distance from the body.

He also shows how the flagging foot can be used to generate leverage on overhanging terrain, reducing the strength and power requirements of the upper body. While one foot pushes down and pulls out on a foothold, the flagging foot must be pushed up and into the wall generate sufficient leverage.

Flagging Technique

In MacLeod’s second video, he goes over two methods for proper foot switches. The “drop and swap” where the outgoing foot is dropped down to make room on the hold for the incoming foot. And the “roll and swap” where the incoming foot is rolled or rotated outwards so that it can get as close as possible to the outgoing foot as it leaves the hold.

He also discusses the importance of leg and hip movement for facilitating the foot switch. On overhanging walls, the legs will naturally swing out (i.e. cut loose position) during a foot switch, wasting energy and putting extra weight on the arms. MacLeod demonstrates how a flick of the hips can prevent this swing, making foot switches much more efficient.

Check out MacLeod’s YouTube channel for more great technique instructionals and outdoor climbing content.

Foot Switching Technique