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Move of the Moment - The Heel Hook

In this Move of the Moment we're looking at the Heel Hook. A fantastic way of using your foot, the heel hook can take a huge amount of weight off your arms on steeper terrain, and can even replace your arm when climbing on compression moves.

We've got Shrewsbury Chief Routesetter, Fin, giving us a few demonstrations of the heel hook today.

Heel hooks can be utilised in a number of ways, and the easiest is simply hanging off it (you'll often see people doing this in steep roof climbs). A key component of any heel hook is the angle of the foot in relation to the direction of movement. The sole of the foot, toes and heel all work together to create directional force. When we look at the image below, we can see that Fin has placed his heel on a technical hold, with the sole of his foot aligned with the ground, and his toes pointing downwards.

By placing his foot like this, it enables him to pull his heel towards his hips, and take weight off his arms. If Fin was moving his body over his foot, he could help control the movement by continuing to push his toes towards the floor.

In the next collection of images, we can see Fin moving his body over a heel hook. As Fin places the heel in the first frame, he ensures that it has room to roll on to the hold - this is especially important on smaller holds, as it's easy to roll off the foothold if you aren't planning for the roll on. As Fin rolls his foot onto the hold, he pushes his toes towards the floor, which automatically brings his knee up and over the foot. This in turn pulls his hips towards his foot, and towards the next hold. Combined with last week's move, the mantel, this is a great way to top out a climb.

In the last image, we can see Fin's heel on a large hold in a cave. In order to get the most from this heel, he is hanging off it. We can see the sole of his foot is still on the same plane as the ground (if he pushed his toes down towards the floor, he would end up at parallel to the ground). In order to hang off the heel, his toes are raised and his heel is pulling straight down, instead of towards his hips. As he makes the next move, he'll slightly flex his toes to momentarily pull his hips towards them (creating another Move of the Moment, The Deadpoint).

Try out the heel hook next time you're at the wall. Remember to experiment with both sides of the body, and with both hanging off the heel and squeezing the heel towards your hips (imagine you're trying to pull your ankle/heel towards the base of your spine).

Remember to warm up properly, as the heel hook uses the hamstrings it's easy to pull a muscle if you're not warm. Gentle heel hooking, dynamic stretching and easy moves will all help to reduce the risk of injury.

Want to learn more about this move and others? Why not book on to one of our improver courses:

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