Whether you have just started your journey in the realm of martial arts, or have been in the game a long time now, you will know (or should know) the importance of your footwear. Without the proper shoes, your time is not going to bring you the results you would like for it to. The right shoes are going to depend on a number of things, however, including the time of martial arts you will be working on. Not all types are created equal, and they are traditions that must be kept in some of them. So, today, we are going to be taking a look at the best martial arts shoes of 2019 in our buying guide. We’ll also be reviewing the most popular pairs to help you get a jumping point for what you will need when you enter the dojo, octagon, or whatever you might be encountering!
Top Martial Arts Shoes Comparison Chart
|Name||Type of Arts||Material||Price||Where to Buy?|
|Ace Martial Arts Cotton Sole Kung Fu Shoes||Kung Fu||Synthetic||$||Check Price on Amazon|
|Century Lightfoot Martial Arts Shoes||Synthetic leather||$$||Check Price on Amazon|
|Ringstar Fight Pro Martial Arts Sparring Shoes||Sparring||$$$||Check Price on Amazon|
|Asics Men’s Matflex 5 Wrestling Shoes||Wrestling||Textile & Synthetic||$$||Check Price on Amazon|
|Adidas SM II Low Cut Martial Arts Shoes||Taekwondo, Karate & Kungfu||Leather||$$||Check Price on Amazon|
Martial Arts Shoes Buying Guide
Before we get too far in a few words next to be spoken about respect for the arts. Martial arts are as varied as types of shoes are. They are numerous and not everything can be taken for truth in every single discipline. So, don’t make the mistake of believing what you are doing is right- or wrong for that matter. If you don’t know about something, then you should always ask. In regards to shoes, you should lean toward the safe side. Look around and see what everyone else is doing. If they don’t wear shoes, or wear a certain kind, then you should base yourself off that. Asking the master, instructor, or manager of the facility would be the smartest thing to do. They can tell you whether you can wear shoes at all or not and what kind of requirements that they have if they can be worn. One thing you should never do is to wear your shoes in with dirt. This means you should not be wearing them to do anything but martial arts. This is also going to show respect to yourself, since it will help them be more durable over the long haul. Wearing martial arts shoes at home is also considered to be disrespectful in some cultures, so you should think about that before getting in over your head.
Benefits of Wearing Shoes
A lot of people would just assume that shoes are never worn in martial arts, but this is just not the case. While it might have been true back in olden times, times have changed. With new generations have come new customs. One of the reasons customs have changed is to prevent the spreading of germs and diseases. This is just common sense, and it’s why most stores require you to wear shoes inside their building. Another reason you’d want to wear shoes is for protection. Newer students aren’t going to be as strong as masters of the arts, so they can help you not hurt as badly when you do those kicks. They also can provide you with better traction, which is ideal if you are taking a class in a room that isn’t matted like a lot of martial arts places are. Recovering from a foot or ankle injury is also going to go much more smoothly for you, while allowing you to keep on practicing and exercising, if you wear a pair of shoes instead of being bare foot. It’s also a good idea to train some in shoes, as opposed to never training in them. This way, if the unfortunate happens and you have to use your training in a real life situation, then you will at least be accustomed to wearing them while training and won’t feel totally alien to their presence on your feet. People might take it for granted, but it will feel very strange for you if you have never done your art with your shoes on! The body gets used to certain movements, and it will take time to transition, so better for you to do it now and get used to it!
Types of Shoes For Different Arts
There are tons of shoes out there, ranging from those meant for running to do those for very specific sports. Just like with shoes, there are a ton of different types of martial arts. Here’s a few of them and a quick discussion of the shoes that are best served for practicing them.
This type of martial arts, popularized by the rise of UFC and MMA in general, takes nearly all styles of combat and blends it together. This form of martial arts is almost always done with bare feet only. Sometimes, the use of wrestling shoes is allowed, but this is not common since they can end up causing the skin of their grappling buddy to get torn up. For training, a lot of fighters in this art will turn to what are called grappling socks. This will keep them from sliding a little bit and also is better than shoes since they won’t cut if they make contact with another’s face.
Shoes for boxing are going to differ depending on the top of boxer, but boxing shoes are more supportive than a lot of the other types you will find on this list. They are lighter in their low top version, which is best served for speedy boxers, while the heavier high tops are designed to give maximum stability to the biggest of fighters.
Karate can be practiced using either shoes or bare feet, and it comes down to the preferences of both the teacher and the student. If shoes are worn, they are almost always going to be ones without laces. This is done so that the laces don’t snap and end up hitting a training partner, which could lead to a very serious injury if you aren’t careful. The same goes for Taekwondo as well, which is very closely related to Karate.
A lot of these terms might seem to be the same thing, but that’s just not the case. Kung Fu and Karate differ from each other, and one that they do so is with the footwear. Shoes for Kung Fu are traditional canvas, as has been the style in China for a very long time.
Tai Chi shoes are going to be more like slippers than anything. They are going to be what you want if you want to have a very minimalist feel to your shoes. If you just want to protect yourself from germs, this would be the kind to go with. They are very light and easy to move around in, but they do slide around quite a lot.
Wrestling, whether it be freestyle or Greco-Roman style uses shoes that are pretty hefty in comparison to most that are on this list so far. These shoes have high tops in most cases to protect you from rolling an ankle and they also have good traction since you will need that to prevent your opponent from pushing you around too easily. These can be used in other areas, like for MMA, but they aren’t always recommended. It just depends.
Cross training shoes are shoes that are used for a number of different purposes. These shoes are very versatile because they are light in nature yet still very supportive. They can handle things like lifting weights and running, as well as other gym exercises. They can sometimes be used with the martial arts as well. This type can be clunky for some, so they will definitely feel heavy when compared directly with other types.
With the exception of being light, most running shoes have no real purpose being used for martial arts training. While you could wear them, you wouldn’t be getting the utmost out of your shoes by doing so. Most of them lack any support laterally, something you will need to have, and they might not have great grip. There could be a couple of exceptions, but if you are looking to buy a shoe for martial arts, then this isn’t the one for you.
The kind of shoe you wear is going to depend largely on the kind of floor that you find yourself practicing on. Assuming that you have gotten the green light to wear shoes, you need to make sure that the ones you buy will be up to the job. If you are going to be on a floor that is slippery in nature, then you’ve got to make sure to find a shoe that has good grip to it. Some martial arts shoes are not designed with this feature in mind, so if you are on wood, it could end up meaning that you slide around too much. But you also have to think about the specific discipline you are in. If the stances are long, low, and sometimes slow, you don’t want to grip too much and be stuck to the floor. It’s a fine balancing act that you have to walk. If you are going through the trouble of wearing shoes, you have got to have confidence in them and their grip. Without that, you might as well just go with your bare feet.
This does depend on the type of martial arts you are doing, but a good chunk of them will not require you to have that much ankle support. In fact, the higher the ankle in the back is (high or middle top) the more restrictive that it will be. This is a great thing if you are walking down the street or playing basketball. You won’t turn your ankle over near as easily. But, if you are doing martial arts you have to be able to move your ankles freely to execute the moves. Unless you are doing a lot of mat wrestling or just working on your boxing skills, you will not need a lot of ankle support to them. You need the ankle to be able to move around since each kick will bring a new placement for your foot. Almost all martial arts shoes will bring you the ability to move much more freely than other sorts of shoes will be able to.
We briefly went over lacing earlier, but we need to go into more detail here so that you can make the best decision for you. With some shoe types, you have to have laces. It’s just a necessity that will keep you securely inside of the shoes. Without laces, you would find the shoes coming off, flying across the room as you kicked your opponent and no doubt leading to some laughter and embarrassment as a result. However, shoes that are made for martial arts will not do this, provided you have the right size, of course. That’s because they have been engineered to be worn in a certain way. Have you ever wore a pair of shoes out that you felt super comfortable and loose in? There’s hardly a better feeling. But at the same time, you would never, ever consider using them to run or anything like that. The reasons why lacing is so essential, or not essential, in martial arts is all down to safety. In some forms, you will not be allowed to have it because it can whip dangerously and hit your partner in the face. It could cause severe problems, leaving you blinded like Hundred Eyes if you are not careful. Laces should only be worn if they are allowed, otherwise they can do damage.
Staying Ready At All Times
If you are ultra serious and super passionate about martial arts, then you will want to be vigilant and ready to go at all times to defend someone or yourself. This is important, and it means that there are three main categories that shoes are going to fall into as a result. The first of them is going to be shoes that you can use to practice by yourself. Whether it’s working on forms or just going through the technique of kicks over and over again, you can wear these types of shoes. These shoes are a little bit less aggressive than full on sparring shoes. They will be lighter and more freeing when you move. Then there are sparring shoes, as hinted at directly above. These shoes offer more protection since you are in the middle of combat with someone and are going to need the protection. They need to offer more support and won’t be as freeing. Then, there are shoes for normal every day life. These aren’t likely to show up on our list, but they should be something you think about. If you are wearing ultra heavy steel-toed boots, it’ll be a lot harder to pull of Jackie Chan like moves. So, make sure you think about what kind of shoes you wear and how they will impact your ability- or lack thereof- to pull off self defense movements.
Getting the right size for your shoes is going to be the most important element we will be discussing today, apart from possibly the respect aspect. If you don’t have the right size, you are going to find yourself in a world of trouble. You won’t get the protection or traction you desired out of your shoes and will actually be causing yourself more harm than good if you fail to do it. A good tip is to identify your ‘known’ size. If you haven’t measured in a long time, you should do so to check for any changes. While it is not perfect to compare apples to oranges, knowing the size of your shoes is useful when you try and compare to what reviews and other research might be telling you.
Some shoes are going to run smaller or larger than others out there. Generally speaking, you can get a good grasp of the situation when you read reviews or do research. We will make sure to point this information out when we get to the review portion in a few moments. So be ready to adjust based off of that.
If at all possible, you should be trying on shoes in person late in the day or after you have exercised. It’s important to do it in person so you get a feel for what they are like. You can always go back and buy them online from any number of sources. It’s also a wise idea to try on shoes after exercise since you are definitely going to have swollen feet after a while of practicing. This can lead to discomfort if you have gone with a size that was perfect for you when you’re feet were “cold.”
Also, make sure you consider the width of the shoes and how much comfort you have. If the shoes are not wide enough, overall or just in the toes, then you will be unable to get comfortable. There is more to being comfortable than just this, though. So if for any reason you don’t feel good in them, then you should think about returning them or picking something else. Breaking in shoes is a real thing, but if they hurt your feet, that will probably never change. Don’t stick with something that hurts you, there is just no sense in doing it and being miserable.
Price, Color and Style
Lastly, we will talk about the price and such of the shoes. If you are wise in your training, you will take the discipline you have learned and bring it toward the other parts of your life. Part of this is financially being sound. You should pick a budget and stick to it. There is no call for you going overboard and spending more than you can afford. With that said, if you spend peanuts then don’t expect to get the greatest pair of shoes ever. Durability will be affected in most cases when you spend less than you should. As for color and style, you just have to go with what your master has to say. A lot of martial arts forms require you to go with only white with the exception of the belt you wear to signify your position. If this is the case, you will not want to be wearing an orange and blue pair of shoes. Be mindful of this fact. This is the reason so many of them will be white!
Best Martial Art Shoe Reviews
Ace Martial Arts Cotton Sole Kung Fu Shoes
There isn’t much to these shoes, to be fair, but that is the whole point of them. The word minimal comes to mind as these are just cotton and not much else. Because of that, freedom of movement is king, allowing you to execute all sorts of moves easily and freely. Unlike a lot of the more minimalist shoes found in this genre, it has a closed toe to it, protecting the top of the foot and not making it into a sandal. Because of that, it’s good if you are just mainly interested in keeping away from germs and the like. It’s not going to be the best all-time choice for sparring with, but at the price it comes in at, there shouldn’t be many complaints. It won’t cost you much at all, and that has to be a big part of its appeal.
- Very cheap shoes
- Minimal and very light
- Covers top and bottom of the foot
- Not great for sparring sessions
Century Lightfoot Martial Arts Shoes
If it’s something a little bit more protective that you need, then this is the sort of shoe you will want to go with. This pair of shoes has a slight drop from the toe toward the back of the heel, giving your foot the chance to have some of the pressure taken off of it as you perform various maneuvers. The bottoms are excellent as they bring great traction and grip thanks to having pivot points that allow you to become one with the floor. They have a fairly plain look to them, but in martial arts, that’s not necessarily a bad thing to have going for you. Despite being much more rigid than the previous pair were, they are still quite flexible and allow a decent amount of movement. They are also able to breathe well, so you won’t be swimming in sweat down there. They do not have supreme amounts of padding and comfort, but they will get the job done in most cases. The grip is too much for some, so be wary of that. They also run narrow on a lot of people.
- Great traction
- Takes pressure off the midfoot
- Quite flexible
- Too grippy for some
- Runs narrow
Ringstar Fight Pro Martial Arts Sparring Shoes
If sparring is your style and you want a bit more style from the look of your shoes, then this is the way to head toward. These shoes feature a new sort of setup akin to the basketball shoes being developed where the ankle is open in the back yet still has more protection thanks to the inner ankle protector they have built in to it. This way you don’t have the high top but still have the protection, giving you the best of both worlds. The toe box, flap, and the tongue of them have all been laced with extra padding, helping out when you do make contact with your training partner. They also have two hook and loop closures to them, helping to lock you in and not have to worry about ‘tying’ your shoes constantly. They are made to be very soft, and they accomplish that and end up giving you flexibility and a good amount of grip in so doing, further adding to their appeal. These do not have a lot of versatility built into them, so sparring is the only recommended activity to do with them. They also are higher than the previous pair were, so that might hold back a few.
- Excellent padding for sparring
- More ankle protection
- Hook and loop closures
- A little more expensive
- Not meant for anything but sparring
Asics Men’s Matflex 5 Wrestling Shoes
If you are going to be doing a lot of wrestling and grappling, then this is the sort of shoe you will want to have. Also, if you are finding yourself in need of a lot more ankle protection and traction, then this is the way to go. Some of us just don’t want to give it up, and this is one way to keep going. With that said, you will have to ask and be sure this sort of attire is allowed where you train or practice. The looks of these are great, classic yet stylish and plain. One of the features that will be perfect for kicking is the fact that laces can be put into a ‘lace garage’ so that they will not be exposed and thus able to connect with a training partner. So, that helps a lot. Asics are also known for being quite comfy, so this pair also brings that to the mix. They are affordable for all that they bring to the table, but be aware that they do run a little small, so you will have to make adjustments based on that in order to make them as best as you possibly can on you.
- Added ankle protection
- For mat wrestling
- Comfy and protective of partners
- Not for all types
- Runs small
Adidas SM II Low Cut Martial Arts Shoes
Adidas just keeps going out of its way to make a good, no great, looking product, and this one is no different. These shoes are exceptional in not only that classic style that only they know how to deliver but also because of their light weight makeup. That weight, or lack thereof, though does not make them any less durable. They are able to take quite the beating thanks to the way they have been constructed. That very same construction also means that they are very soft, using leather to ensure that partners won’t sustain too much of a blow when they are struck with them. The sole is great and has a pivot design to make them super grippy to the floor. For some, this ideal, while for others, it is not what you want to see, so only go with them if that suits you. The shoes do lace up, so that could represent a bit of a problem for some people. This, though, might not be the end of the world for you, and it will just end up depending on the instructor. These shoes do tend to be both narrow and small for a lot of people, so that will force you to have to adjust your size accordingly.
- Excellent looks
- Very soft use of leather
- Very grippy
- Too sticky for some
- Runs small and narrow
Conclusion And Final Martial Arts Shoes Recommendations
Finding the best pair of shoes for martial arts can be very tough. It’s not nearly as easy as finding a running shoe, since the number of disciplines and customs associated with them are just so numerous. Sure, other sports have different sorts of shoes for various purposes, but martial arts are so different across the board that it’s tough to get an idea of what you need. After today, however, you will be in a much better place to make a decision that is right for you. You will know the differences between the various arts, and you will be armed with the knowledge it will take to make you a better fighter in whatever medium you are in. So, get out there and get to training!