Over the years, I’ve worn a number of Wing Chun Kung Fu shoes. They’ve always played a key role in supporting my training and are far superior to wearing ordinary street sneakers. I thought it would be interesting to pass on some of the things to look out for when selecting the best shoes for Wing Chun Kung Fu.
I appreciate some of you may be in a rush, so here’s my list of some of the best Wing Chun shoes on the market:
They’re light weight, durable and represent excellent value for money.
You can see my article of on shoes for other martial arts here.
Why do you need to wear shoes for Wing Chun Kung Fu?
Often when people think of Wing Chun, they envisage it being performed barefoot. I think this is largely the result of either a misrepresentation of the art in films or confusing Wing Chun with another martial art (usually karate, which is practised barefoot).
Shoes are worn in Wing Chun mainly to protect the feet. Having practised a number of martial arts, I’ve lost count of the times the skin on my feet has split whilst training barefoot. I’ve then had to mop up my own blood from the dojo floor. It takes many years for the skin to callus and harden up.
Wing Chun Kung Fu is a highly dynamic and fast moving martial art. It involves rapid changes in direction, with kicks and strikes thrown at high speed. When training barefoot, the skin on the feet can temporarily stick to the floor causing it to tear when you try to move quickly in another direction.
If the feet aren’t conditioned properly, they can also be injured on impact when striking an opponent. I’ve often injured my toes as a result of a miss-timed kick, particularly in the early years of my training. It’s all too easy not to remember to curl back your toes in time for when your kick lands.
It’s also easy to slip over when training barefoot. Sweaty feet (gross!) and wooden floors are almost a recipe for disaster. Shoes designed for Wing Chun have extremely ‘grippy’ soles. I’ve always been struck by how much better grip they have than my regular sneakers.
This superior grip has allowed me to transition into different stances quickly and without excessive effort. It’s also removed the worry from the back of my mind that I may inadvertently slip over if my feet placement isn’t exactly perfect.
As I’ve alluded to, when you train you will sweat and if barefoot, this can not only result in an increased risk of slipping but is also quite unhygienic. Sweat can be a breeding ground for bacteria and after all, who wants to kicked by a sweaty foot?
For some of the Wing Chun practitioners I’ve sparred with, personal hygiene was not their prime concern. Fortunately, they’ve always worn shoes.
Prevent injury to your opponent
Sparring can be a dangerous part of Wing Chun and I’ve seen numerous injuries over the years, a number of which have been the result of kicks.
The feet are an extremely bony part of the body and it can be painful when they hit you, particularly on the more sensitive parts of the body. Wearing the shoes softens the impact of any kicks which makes sparring much more enjoyable.
I’ve also found that sharp toenails can act like mini razor blades; easily cutting the skin of an unfortunate opponent on the receiving end of a kick. Needless to say, wearing shoes prevents this from happening.
More realistic combat
Wing Chun is also an excellent self defense system. For it to be effective, the practitioner needs to train in a way that most mimics the ‘street’ environment.
It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever be attacked whilst barefoot (unless you’re on the beach!). Therefore you should really train with shoes on. The extra weight and feel of kicking whilst wearing shoes is radically different from performing the same movement barefoot.
Being involved in a conflict situation is dangerous enough without injuring yourself or slipping over because you’re not used to fighting in shoes.
How are Wing Chun Kung Fu shoes different from normal street shoes?
Wing Chun shoes are much lighter than regular sneakers. This is mainly the result of having a much thinner sole. This is great for making you feel connected to the floor and gives a much more natural feeling when wearing them.
The thinner sole means that if you wear them outside on rough terrain, you may end up feeling every stone and pebble. However, these types of shoes should only be worn in the Wushu Guan (dojo).
The thinner sole also makes them more flexible than normal street shoes allowing your foot to bend and flex freely. In kicks, such as the ‘Tan Geuk’ using the rear foot, this allows the arch of your foot to conform to your opponent’s leg, making it much more effective.
It’s not to say that you can’t use Wing Chun shoes as normal street shoes. I’ve worn ones that look so stylish they look like they’re from a fashion shoot. They were also really comfortable, so much so they ended up being my ‘everyday’ shoe.
How to take care of Wing Chun Kung Fu shoes
A good quality pair of Wing Chun shoes, If you look after them, will last for a long time.
There are a number of steps you can take to help with this.
Keep them clean
It’s important to ensure that they’re kept clean. I would recommend giving them airing after a heavy training session to ensure that any sweat dries out fully. This will also make them smell less as well; which can only be a good thing. I always give my shoes a quick squirt of Scholl Fresh Step Shoe Odour Contral Spray to keep them smelling fresh.
Any stains or marks that appear on the outside of the shoe can be wiped away with a damp cloth.
Store them in their box
It you just leave your shoes in your kit bag, not only will they not have a chance to dry out, but they’re more likely to be damaged.
I’ve noticed that several of my shoes have been misshapen by people accidently stepping on them. To try and avoid this from happening, I’ve always stored them in their original box. This keeps them protected and also out of the way until my next training session.
Keep out of sunlight
The rubber soles on many Wing Chun shoes can be susceptible to UV damage causing them to become brittle and crack.
Strong sunlight can also cause the fabric of the shoes to bleach over time.
For these reasons, I always ensure that I store my shoes out of direct sunlight.
How to ensure you get the perfect fit
When exercising, your feet do swell slightly. However, it would be a mistake to deliberately buy a pair that is too big, thinking they’ll fit fine when you train. I’ve done this before and they’ve just been too big. The extra size really makes a difference and it feels like it makes movement more cumbersome. This is probably more psychological than anything but I’d rather buy a pair that feels snug.
That’s not to say that they should feel tight but I prefer to be able to feel the sides of the shoes. I find it gives a more natural feeling. You need to feel exactly where your feet are in space and I feel a good fit helps with precision and accuracy.
What to look when choosing the best shoes for Wing Chun Kung Fu
As I’ve previously explained, the most important aspect of the shoe is the grip. This is the first thing I look for when buying a new pair. I find that some of the best pairs have a slightly softer rubber sole and not the rock hard rubber used in many sneakers.
I also look for a quality make. These manufacturers have been in the business of making Wing Chun shoes for many years and have experience of ensuring they’re built for purpose. The quality of the stitching and fabric is much better than lesser known brands.
It’s obviously important that any shoes you buy fit properly and you should take the time to select a pair that won’t hamper your training.
I’ve worn a number of Wing Chun Kung Fu shoes before and here are my thoughts on some of my favourites.
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.
These 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 here on Amazon.
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.
Hopefully, this is a useful summary of some of the best Wing Chun Kung Fu shoes on the market (at least in my opinion). A good pair of shoes really does make a difference to your training so you should consider any purchase an investment.