The 5 best shoes for martial arts to up your game

During my many years of martial arts practice, I’ve used a large number of martial arts shoes both for sparring and normal training.   They’re far superior to normal street sneakers and a good pair can greatly support the development of your chosen art.     I thought it would be useful to outline what I look for when selecting the best shoes for martial arts.

I appreciate that some people are in a rush so here’s my thoughts on the best shoes for these martial arts:

Taekwondo

Kung Fu

As an aside, if you’re wondering what martial art to take, check out my article here to help guide your decision.

Best Martial Arts Shoes for Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a fast moving and extremely dynamic martial art.   It’s not surprising that in 2000, Taekwondo became an official medal event at the Olympic games in Sydney.

The name consists of three parts: “Tae” meaning “to stomp, trample”; “kwon” which translates as “fist” and “do” which means “way”.

After the Second World War, the foundations of Taekwondo were established by Korean martial artists who had studied under  Japanese rule.  It incorporates a combination of Karate, Chinese martial arts and fighting styles indigenous to Korea.

The style emphasizes a variety of kicks and incorporates narrow stances to facilitate improved agility.

As you can see here on Amazon, there are a large number of taekwondo shoes available.   The number available can be quite overwhelming.  I’ve outlined below some of the ones I’ve worn and really liked:

Here are some of the best:

Adidas Adilux Shoes

In my opinion, one of the best are the Adilux shoes made by adidas.

 

I found these to be really lightweight and fitted my foot like a close fitting slipper.  It’s a laceless design which means there are no rough, abrasive to scrap your opponent’s skin when sparring.

 
I particularly like the fact that they are made from leather.  This makes them very durability and, once you have broken them in, very comfortable.
 
When I researched this shoe before buying, I found out that they featured the adidas Torsion System: an arch support that allows the rearfoot and forefoot to move independently.  This enables your foot to adapt to different surfaces thereby providing an excellent level of support and stability.  I just noticed that they were very flexible allowing my feet to move freely.

I also noticed that the sole has an important design feature:  the sole has two white circles on the forefoot and heel area, which allows you to pivot freely.   This allows your feet to rotate easily both when moving and throwing kicks.  This helps make  ankle and knee strains less likely.   I certainly noticed a real difference compared to when I trained in regular street sneakers.  I picked up my pair for about $70 but you can check the price on Amazon here.

Mooto Wings TKD Shoes

I’ve also previously owed a pair of Mooto Wings shoe.

 

Mooto Wings is a well known manufacture of TKD shoes and this particular shoe has been in development for over 10 years.

I found that the synthetic upper sole was extremely durable and stood up to the toughest of workouts.  My own pair lasted for several years before being replaced by my Adilux shoes.

I’ve discovered that the design consists of a 30 degree toe which is supposed to help with hopping and stepping.  The sole consists of three layers which act as a shock absorber.  I’ve certainly noticed that the shoe was extremely comfortable.

I found my normal shoe size to be quite snug and so ordered the next size up.  I understand that this is quite common with this shoe.  

I paid about $60 but you can see the current price on Amazon here.

 

Best Martial Arts Shoes for Kung Fu

As you can see here on Amazon there are a large number of kung fu shoes available.

My full article on shoes for Wing Chun can be seen here where I outline my thoughts on some of my favourites.

Adidas SM II shoes

These are my current Wing Chun Kung Fu shoes and I have to say “I absolutely love them”.

They’re made from soft leather which makes them extremely comfortable and allows them to stretch very slightly.  For this reason, it took me a couple of weeks to break them in and for them to adjust to the shape of my feet. They now fit like a glove and feel very natural when moving and kicking.

The grip is particularly good, especially on wooden floors.  The sole is smooth apart from a circular treaded area under the ball of the foot.  This allows the foot to rotate freely when, say, executing a kick.

Normal sneakers which have a treaded area over the entire sole won’t let your foot rotate in this fashion since they tend to grip too much to the floor.  This can lead to ankle and knee sprains.

You’ll also note that the laces are covered meaning your opponent doesn’t experience the cheese grating effect that being struck by ordinary sneakers can have.

Adidas are also an extremely well known brand and the quality of the material and stitching is really top notch.  I’ve had my shoes for over two years and they’re still in excellent condition.

I think I paid $55 for  my pair but you can check the price here on Amazon.

 

UNOW Traditional Shoes

best shoes for wing chun kung fuThese were the first pair of shoes I purchased.  They’re certainly much more traditional in their look.  At the time, I like the slip on feel of these shoes.  They have elasticated sides which provides not only comfort but also grip your feet, giving piece of mind that they won’t fly off your feet when you start throwing kicks.  The lack of laces means your sparring opponent won’t be exposed to any abrasive, rough edges when being kicked.

I really like the minimalist design of these shoes.  I’ve had mine for several years and they still look great, proving their durable nature.  They are also really reasonably priced and, at the time, only cost me $15.  You can see the price arget=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>here on Amazon.

 

Doublestar Shoes

I liked this pair so much that they became my everyday sneaker.  Doublestar produce some really awesome designs and have even produced a Bruce Lee commemorative edition which just look a-m-a-z-i-n-g! (see here on Amazon).

The soles have great grip and are made of natural rubber.  This means they are durable and very flexible.  

They do have laces which can grate your oppenent’s skin if they block your kicks when sparring.  However, I thought they looked so good I couldn’t resist buying them.  I only paid about $20 but check the price on Amazon here

 

Some common questions to consider when choosing shoes for martial arts:

Why wear shoes when practicing martial arts?

What are the best shoes for martial arts?

Why you can’t wear a normal pair of shoes?

How to ensure you get a good fit

 

Why wear shoes when practicing martial arts?

There are a number of reasons why you may want to wear shoes when practicing your art.

Whilst traditionally your style is practiced bare foot, such as Shotokan Karate, you may have a foot injury you are trying to recover from.

For some styles, such as Kung Fu and Taekwondo, it is the norm to wear shoes when sparring and completing forms.  As an aside, check out these great Wing Chun training videos.

Some self-defense focused arts, such as Krav Maga, want to incorporate an element of realism into their training.  The thinking is that the if you’re ever unfortunate to get into a physical confrontation on the street, you’re likely to be wearing shoes.   It’s therefore important to get used to moving and kicking with shoes on.  Your balance, timing and speed will all be different when training in shoes.  Indeed, regardless of your style it would be worth incorporating training in shoes in order to get used to the different feel.

What are the best shoes for martial arts?

The first thing to consider is your martial arts style.

Some styles incorporate low, long stances where the feet glide across the floor during each step. If this is the case, you are likely to want a flat, smooth sole that’s not too grippy.  Otherwise you’ll find yourself sticking to the floor particularly if you train on a wooden floor.

In addition, if your style involves a round-house or mawashi geri type kick, you should also consider a smoother sole.   In this type of kick, the standing foot rotates as your kicking leg moves round from the side and snaps forward.

This kick is expertly demonstrated in the video below:

You can see that  the supporting foot rotates.  If your sole sticks the floor preventing the foot from rotating, you will cause a tremendous strain on your knee.  This could result in a serious injury.

Conversely if your style has a shorter steps and is more acrobatic in nature, you may want to consider a more grippy sole.  Take a look at this video to see what I mean.

If you have confidence in the grip of your shoe it is likely to improve your performance.  You won’t be worried about slipping and loosing your balance allowing you to push your limits – vital if you want to improve as a martial arts practitioner.

Why can’t I wear a normal pair of shoes?

Realistically one of the main reasons for this is that it simply won’t be allowed by your instructor.  Most martial arts require you to wear a uniform during your training sessions.  Any shoes worn need to be keeping with this uniform.  Most martial arts shoes come in either black or white and blend well with your Gi.  A pair of trainers is unlikely to go down well with your Sensei.

A further reason is that normal street shoes are just too heavy.  In order to perfect your technique, you’re going to have to practice a particular movement over and over again for hundreds if not thousands of times so that it becomes an ingrained movement pattern.  Of course, you’re not going to do this in just one session but in a typical training session you likely to do the same movement for at least a dozen times.

If you wear a heavy trainer, your leg muscles will tire and this will have a negative impact on your technique.  The purpose of the repetitive nature of your training is to “grease the groove”.  The particular pattern of movement becomes automatic.

Remember when you first started training and each movement had to be broken down into its components. After a few months you could do the movement reasonably smoothly and after a few years it became instinctive, you didn’t even have to think about the movement.

If your leg muscle tire excessive as a result of training in heavy shoes the movement pattern will be disrupted:  your knee might be a little lower with each kick; your thigh may begin to drop and your hip pattern may change.  In other words, each kick will be slightly different.  You’ll be greasing lots of different grooves rather than the one you are trying to perfect.  This type up work out is good for developing muscle strength but don’t rely on it to build proper technique.  Instead, you should us a light shoe that almost feels as though your not wearing it.

On a related note, most street shoes provide a degree of ankle support.  This is fine if you’re outside on an uneven surface where you could run the risk of twisting your ankle but in the dojo you need your ankle and foot to be able to rotate freely.

This is because each kick in your martial art will usually require a different foot placement.  With a side snap kick you’ll kick with the edge of your foot; with an axe kick you’ll kick with the heel of your foot.  You need your ankle to be free from obstruction to enable you to perform these movements.  Nearly all martial arts shoes will enable to freely move your foot and your ankle.

How to ensure you get a good fit

It is normal to have one of your feet larger than the other.  You should ensure the shoe fits your largest foot. You should there is 3/8″ to 1/2″ space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.  You should always test this when you are standing up as your feet will expand slightly as they support your body weight.

Ensure the shoes fits over widest part of your foot.  Don’t buy too small a size and expect them to fit.

One of the most important points if to ensure that your heel fits comfortably and does not slip.  You don’t want to execute a perfect front kick only to have your shoe fly across the Dojo!

Spend time ensuring that they are a good fit: walking in them; lightly jump in them and try out a few kicks.

 

Hopefully this article has given you a few ideas on how to select the best shoes for martial arts.

Happy training!