Do You Wear Shoes in Kickboxing?

It isn’t always clear what to wear when starting a new activity like kickboxing, down to shoes. I wanted to know what expectations are around shoes in kickboxing before I started. Are shoes necessary to wear during kickboxing, and if so, what is the correct type of shoe?

You do not typically wear shoes in kickboxing. Normal athletic shoes are not safe for sparring, and most kickboxing tournament rules prohibit shoes. However, depending on the kickboxing gym, footwear may be allowed. For cardio kickboxing which omits sparring, athletic shoes can be used.

Let’s go over some standard guidelines for wearing shoes in kickboxing in training and tournaments and touch on the advantages and philosophy of barefoot kickboxing.

Do You Wear Shoes in Kickboxing Training?

Kickboxing training is not always as strict in its rules as tournament fighting, especially when it comes to cardio kickboxing. Should you wear shoes during training?

You do not wear shoes in kickboxing training. Barefoot training minimizes safety risks and damage to equipment while also preparing trainees for standard tournament conditions. Exceptions to this rule exist, for instance, you can use foot coverings to protect existing cuts and injuries.

Simple solutions like these ankle wraps that are available on Amazon allow you to support a tweaked ankle and protect the majority of the skin on your foot from absorbing direct contact in kickboxing drilling and sparring. This can help to keep cuts and abrasions from getting worse.

For details on the benefits of barefoot training in martial arts check out my post 7 Benefits of Training Martial Arts Barefoot.

One notable detail to keep in mind is that there are two distinct categories of kickboxing: Competitive sparring-based kickboxing and cardio kickboxing. 

Rules for shoe use often vary heavily between these two categories, as I’ll explain below.

Bring Shoes or Flip-Flops To Wear Off the Training Area

While you usually won’t be wearing shoes during kickboxing training, it’s still important to bring a pair of shoes or flip-flops to the gym for periods outside the training area.

When you aren’t actively training, wearing shoes or flip-flops prevents unsanitary conditions in the gym, both for yourself and others. This health tip is especially true if you take trips to the bathroom or step outside of the gym.

Do You Wear Shoes in Cardio Kickboxing Classes?

Even though contact-based kickboxing training usually prohibits shoes, this rule doesn’t always apply to cardio kickboxing classes. What are the footwear rules for cardio kickboxing training?

You will usually wear shoes in cardio kickboxing classes. Since these classes seldom involve contact or sparring, rules for required footwear tend not to be highly strict, and many students prefer to wear regular athletic shoes. 

As Love at First Fit explains, most cardio kickboxing classes will allow you to wear comfortable, everyday running shoes. The lack of sparring makes footwear safety concerns minimal to nonexistent.

A cross-training shoe is preferable for kickboxing as this type of shoe adds practical flexibility to your training.

Do You Wear Shoes in Kickboxing Tournaments?

For students preparing for tournament-style kickboxing, you’re likely curious about the rules for wearing shoes in competition. Do the guidelines in tournament fighting differ from training conditions?

You do not usually wear shoes in kickboxing tournaments. As a rule, most competitions prohibit fighters from wearing shoes as a part of their ruleset.

While this prohibition on shoes doesn’t necessarily exist in all kickboxing tournaments, it’s an almost universal rule for competitive kickboxing. 

According to its official rules listed online, the International Kickboxing Federation explicitly forbids shoes and other footwear during all types of Muay Thai competitions, which is one of the most common forms of competitive kickboxing.

When Is Kickboxing Practiced Barefoot?

Breaking kickboxing rules down further, trainees may wonder if you’re ever supposed to wear shoes during kickboxing and how often athletes practice the sport barefoot.

Kickboxing is most commonly practiced barefoot, whether in training or official competition. Barefoot kickboxing provides multiple advantages over footwear-permitted practice, with the most notable benefit being increased safety for sparring partners.

Some of the potential advantages of practicing kickboxing without the use of shoes include:

  • Improved posture. Wearing shoes can lead to weaker/less developed feet, which harms posture (something that kickboxing relies on heavily!)
  • Balance awareness. Directly touching the floor with your feet helps develop an intuitive mental map of the ground you’re standing on and your body’s spatial awareness.
  • Increased muscle development. Practicing kickboxing barefoot helps muscle growth and endurance in your feet, which will make you stronger, more flexible, and physically capable.

Final Thoughts

Kickboxing is typically done without shoes when training kickboxing as a combat sport. For commercially focused cardio kickboxing fitness classes people usually use shoes.

In general, if you choose, practicing kickboxing barefoot is better since it gives you some benefits for your mind and body.

For more check out Do You Wear Shoes in Martial Arts?


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but supplement with other grappling martial arts as well as help to coach my kid's blended grappling program.

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