Do You Wear Shoes in Martial Arts?

Sometimes it is unclear whether or not martial artists wear shoes or not during training and competitions, especially if you are not involved in martial arts personally. I wanted to look into a variety of martial arts to see what the norms are for footwear.

Martial arts can be performed barefoot or with shoes, depending on the specific martial art. Martial arts that tend to be barefoot are martial arts that were developed for indoor training, especially those Asian in origin. Martial arts that use shoes are typically combat sports or Chinese in origin.

Now that we know that the use of shoes in martial arts varies, let’s go into some of the details and get an understanding of some of the norms involved in wearing shoes in these martial arts.

Which Martial Arts Use Shoes in Training and Competition?

While individual martial arts schools vary, people training in Kung Fu, Wrestling, or Boxing usually wear shoes in both training and competition. Martial artists training in BJJ, Judo, Karate, Taekwondo, MMA, or Muay Thai usually train barefoot in both training and competitions.

The table below shows us which martial arts usually wear shoes in both training settings and competition settings:

Martial ArtWear Shoes in TrainingWear Shoes in Competition
Brazilian Jiu-JitsuNoNo
Kung FuYesYes
Muay ThaiNoNo
Click the links for details. This table goes over which martial arts need shoes in training as well as which martial arts need shoes in competitions.

Common Exceptions to the Barefoot Rule in Martial Arts

Martial arts that are typically practiced barefoot can have exceptions to the no-shoe rule for various reasons. If a student needs ankle or foot support for an existing condition or currently has cuts or injuries, shoes are often used to help with those situations.

Before strapping in a shoe, it’s a good idea to talk to your coaches or instructors to let them know what’s going on and get permission beforehand.

Bring Shoes or Slippers to Wear Off the Mats

Separate shoes or flip-flops are essential for athletes to wear off the mats or training area. This helps to keep the mats clean and hygienic and can reduce mat diseases. You do not want to bring bathroom germs or outside germs onto the mats everyone is getting sweaty and rolling around on.

Benefits of Barefoot Training for Martial Arts

Three basic benefits of training martial arts barefoot are being able to have more instructor visibility to correct your form, building stabilizing muscles in your body, and getting better feedback from your body than if you are wearing shoes.

For more details about the benefits of training barefoot in martial arts check out 7 Benefits of Training Martial Arts Barefoot.

1. Full Visibility of Techniques

There are a lot of things that go into perfecting martial arts techniques, and your instructor will be better able to help you to correct any technical flaws if they can see your feet and make sure they are positioned properly for the techniques.

2. Building Stabilizing Muscles and Strong Flexible Feet

Building up strong flexible feet alongside other stabilizing muscles will help make you a better overall athlete. Somebody who trains barefoot will have better muscular engagement and posture since your feet through your core will all work to grip and stabilize through the execution of techniques.

3. Better Feedback From Your Body

When martial artists are training barefoot they tend to be better aware of their surroundings and especially the placement of their feet. Getting feedback directly from your foot will help an athlete to learn nuance for techniques from takedowns to kicks.

Another interesting benefit of training barefoot is that your landing quality and control will be forced to become better in more acrobatic kicking techniques since your muscles will have to work to absorb impact.

What Do Shoes Provide in Martial Arts Training?

Wearing shoes in martial arts training can provide benefits depending on the art. Martial arts like wrestling and boxing include shoes, which do provide some sport-specific benefits like grip and traction, ankle support, and injury reduction.

Wearing shoes also reduces the chance of getting mat diseases on your feet.

Both boxing shoes and wrestling shoes are light and flexible shoes that aid in many capacities. The 3 most prominent benefits are increased grip and traction, ankle support, and injury reduction.

1. Increased Grip and Traction

Having better grip and traction on the mats is a godsend when you are looking to transfer force and switch directions. This is applicable whether you are looking to change angles for boxing or driving forward into a wrestling takedown. Energy transfer is way better when there is higher friction between your feet and the mat.

2. Ankle Support

Providing extra ankle support is helpful when practicing any martial art. It is pretty difficult to roll your ankle or hurt it when you are wearing a well-fitted wrestling or boxing shoe. Ankle stability also helps with force transfer since momentum is less likely to be lost in movement in the joint.

3. Injury Reduction

Wrestling and boxing shoes do a great job in reducing injury frequencies because the potential for slippage on sweat drops when you have shoes on that provide a lot of extra grips. Slipping in a high power output situation can result in strains and injuries.

Final Thoughts

Most popular traditional martial arts tend to be performed barefoot and there are a variety of benefits to training martial arts barefoot. Shoes can sometimes still be used in those arts with instructor permission to support your feet and ankles or to protect against cuts and injuries.

Sport-specific shoes like boxing and wrestling shoes are important because you are required to wear them to compete and they provide benefits for techniques and performance within the sport.

For more check out Why Do They Shout and Make Sounds in Martial Arts and Boxing?


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.

Recent Posts