Jeremy Ritchie and his Prosthetic Climbing Shoe Project
Jeremy Ritchie is a cell lead assistant/production associate, who eat, sleeps, breathes climbing.
Born in London, Ontario, Canada, he lost his left leg at 4 years old in a fight with a riding lawn mower. Jeremy spent his early years challenging the boundaries of what was possible, trying his hand at soccer and BMX. He later found his niche at the climbing gym, where he plans to stay for the foreseeable future.
Jeremy has started a GoFundMe project to create a climbing shoe specifically for prosthetic legs.
1) How/when did you get into climbing?
I got into climbing by seeing it at a local entertainment facility. I tried it out and was hooked. I always had a hard time with most sports, but climbing was this fantastic outlet that allowed me to get/stay fit without the risk of having to take days off after to let my leg recover. Mainly running destroys my leg.
2) What were some of the initial struggles as someone who climbs with a prosthetic?
The main theory behind climbing is to put the load on your legs and use less arms. I found it was leaning the other way for me: I had to use more upper body to compensate for bad left feet, or anything high stepping. Heel and toe hooks are quite the struggle. Heels because there wasn’t a prominent heel to keep me on, and most times I had to be fully engaged to make heel hooks work. Toe hooks were more based on whether my leg wasn’t sweating. I’ve had a few times where I’ve pulled my leg off from toe hooking.
3) How has your climbing/training pushed past these deterrents?
Cardio has been pretty much non-existent, but route climbing I feel has helped with my cardiovascular health. It’s allowed me to get a full-body workout without having to be a hamster on a wheel or spend endless hours in the gym. I do still go to a gym to workout but more on the antagonist muscles and concentrated focus for climbing muscles.
4) For your present training regimen, what are you focused on?
Right now it’s kind of all over the place. I do a lot of hangboard training. Now I’ve started dabbling in gymnastic strength training and pinch training.
5) What are your climbing goals?
I would like to compete in the USA adaptive nationals and try my hand at international comps as well. Hopefully we get something going for Canadian adaptive competitions.
I’d like to climb an indoor 5.12 by the end of the year. It’ll more than like be crimps and good feet. So I’ll have to have mad endurance training.
6) What are some of the issues with climbing shoes on your prosthetic limb that necessitated the GoFundMe Project (e.g. Heel hooks, toes, smearing etc)?
Heel hooks for sure. Especially when a hold is facing away where you’d need your heel fully engaged to stand a chance at advancing through the problem/route. I found climbing harder necessitates a thinner toe for pockets and slots. Smearing is probably the hardest one to address as the toe needs rigidity to stand on.
7) What problems will be solved by this project?
The heel is more pronounced, which would allow my put my heel on higher holds before engaging the full heel. This will also allow me to heel holds that aren’t horizontal.
The toe is narrower to increase my chances of using pockets as footholds. The toe is also thinner, to allow the use of slots where my previous foot made it impossible to use these holds.
The foot might actually be lighter than my previous foot, in turn reducing stress pulling down on my leg when suspended and walking.
8) What sort of feedback or support have you received so far?
Everyone I’ve talked to seems to be really excited. Some ask whether it’s cheating to have a heel that round. I don’t think so at all. Our foot’s in one position at all times; we don’t have the ability to flex the foot to get an aggressive heel, so we have to build it into the foot.
9) Where do you see this project leading? Any interest in getting larger companies on board?
I see it as a steppingstone to progression for lower limb adaptive athletes. Like everyone else, we too want to see what we are capable of.
We think it would be nice to partner with a brand that could help bring awareness and lower the manufacturing costs.
10) What’s your favourite place to climb/have ever been climbing?
My favourite place to climb is Horse Pens 40, down near Steele, Alabama. The rock is so amazing, and the 5 minute walk from your campsite adds to the attraction. Nothing like crawling out of you tent and seeing a vast boulder field.
Jeremy Ritchie is a Boulder Denim ambassador who is working on designing a climbing shoe specifically for prosthetic legs. Click here to support the project!