Do You Wear Shoes in Kung Fu?

With all the martial arts out there sometimes it is difficult to know what to expect as far as what to wear and what a class is like, when I was looking into learning Kung Fu I expected to find the same footwear situation I found previously in Karate, but to my surprise, they were not the same.

You are expected to wear martial arts shoes or martial arts slippers in Kung Fu as it is a martial art that is Chinese in origin, and developed with outdoor training in mind. The martial arts footwear is only for use in the training area and other shoes should be worn outside of that training area.

Now that we know that you do have to wear footwear in training, let’s take a closer look to understand why this is the case and some of the rules about shoes in Kung Fu.

Do You Wear Shoes in Kung Fu Training?

Due to its origin, Kung Fu is often trained with martial arts shoes or martial arts slippers as a part of the uniform. These shoes are expected to only be used in the training area for sanitary reasons, in order to keep the germs off the mats.

Most Chinese martial arts have shoes as a part of standard training uniforms since they were developed for training in an outdoor environment and Kung Fu is no exception.

If you want to know more about what is worn in Kung Fu and how to properly care for the Kung Fu uniform check out my post How To Care for Your Kung Fu Uniform.

For schools that allow the use of a martial arts shoe I recommend this martial arts shoe (available on

This is different than other popular martial arts such as Karate and Judo which were developed for indoor training and are Japanese in origin, resulting in following the cultural custom in Japan where you take off shoes before entering buildings. This means no shoes in the training area for those martial arts.

Bring Shoes or Slippers to Wear Off the Mats

Martial arts shoes or martial arts slippers should only be used in the training area. Other footwear should be brought for use outside of the training area. This helps to keep the training area clean and safer in terms of potential bacterial and fungal infections.

Do You Wear Shoes in Kung Fu Tournaments?

For most competitions, such as those held under the International Chinese Martial Arts Championship ruleset, you need to wear martial arts type shoes, which are similar in style to martial arts slippers but are somewhat more modernized for fit and function.

Final Thoughts

While training Kung Fu in individual schools might differ in terms of footwear expectations, they will generally require some kind of martial arts slipper or shoe during training. Most Kung Fu competition rulesets will require a martial arts shoe.

Ask your instructors about footwear expectations if you have doubts about what you need to do to match the uniform requirements for the school. Some Kung Fu schools allow barefoot training if they have training mats.

For more check out Should You Wear a Cup in Kung Fu?


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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