As far as full body workouts go, kickboxing is no joke. It’s a high impact, heart-pumping sport that combines elements of martial arts together with punching and kicking your opponent. Needless to say, it’s a great stress reliever and an easy way to tone your muscles, build endurance, and give you a major boost in energy. But to feel good and survive your first few training sessions, you’ll likely need more than just balance and sheer determination. You’ll also need the right gear. This is where kickboxing shoes come in.
Some of the basics typically include boxing gloves or hand wraps, a mouthguard, and a headgear device for protection against unsuspected blows. But if you’re wondering what are the best kickboxing shoes to wear while sparring, you've got options—including going barefoot. In fact, going barefoot has some of the biggest advantages, according to Tempo coach and boxing trainer, Colby Landry.
Should you go barefoot when kickboxing?
It depends on your preferences and skill level. Those who are seasoned and professional in the sport may want to kickbox sans shoes, simply because kickboxing matches are actually done barefoot.
“Most kickboxers traditionally are barefoot for two reasons: one, you have to compete barefoot in order to protect your opponent, and two, it allows you to make the most use of your toes and muscles in your feet to grip the floor,” says Landry. Additionally, fighting barefoot has been a traditional practice in the world of kickboxing because it helps improve a fighter’s posture and gives them more stability when you strike a kick. At the same time, you don't have to go barefoot—especially if you’re a beginner or casually taking an aerobic-based kickboxing class at your local gym.
What to look for in a kickboxing shoe
If you decide to wear a shoe, it's all about keeping things light, flat and flexible. “You don’t want a shoe that has too much cushion in the sole (like running shoes) because you need a lot of stability in your feet when you are throwing kicks,” says personal trainer, and sports performance and fitness educator at Herbalife, Denise Cervantes. “I prefer flat cross training shoes that are both flexible and provide stability to my foot when I do any cardio kickbox class,” Cervantes tells us. Essentially, you want something that feels like an extension of your foot and allows you to be kick out your leg and turn quickly.
Second, stay away from shoes that have a ton of grip on the outsole—similar to the kind in many walking shoes. Too much traction can actually prevent a fighter from pivoting smoothly, and thus, can lead to a knee injury, according to Noom trainer and fitness coach Hope Choplin. That said, she recommends training with something that has a much thinner sole and roomier toe box. FYI, these are the closet thing you can get to going barefoot. They're incredibly lightweight and mimic the natural shape and movement of your feet.
And above all else, make sure your shoes have some support. Kickboxing can often put a lot of stress on your feet and joints, particularly around your arches and ankles. "Since you’re staying primarily up towards your toes in a kickboxing stance, having a shoe with a very high arch and ankle support is key," says Landry.
As a general principle, consider what styles are the most comfortable and give you the best control over your lower body without compromising form or mobility. Although many opt to go barefoot based on their experience, there’s no universal standard. “Retailers have designed a low-profile shoe specific to the sport of kickboxing, however it's always a good practice to train in what feels more comfortable. Most people would do just fine barefoot, in socks, or in lightweight shoes suited for exercise," says fitness trainer and founder of JoshFit Training LLC., Josh Sedgwick.
Keep on scrolling to find the best kickboxing shoes for you!
Best kickboxing shoes
When it comes to minimalist shoes, any Vivobarefoot shoe is a no-brainer for celeb trainer Joey Thurman. They’re light, thin and super flexible to make it easy for you to feel more connected to the ground. They’re basically a replica of your foot with more protection. “When looking for a pair of kickboxing shoes generally they’re more minimal with a wider toe box the better. Think something that you can truly feel the ground and allows your toe to splay or spread out,” says Thurman.
If you’re looking to get more support around your ankles for striking, this traditional-style boxing shoe is one to add to your closet. They’re great to wear both on the gym floor and in the ring on training days. The mesh upper helps to keep your feet cool and allows you to be light on your feet in transition movements.
Despite the cushioning throughout the midsole, these Nike kicks get an A+ for their flexibility and lightweight feel. They’re super breathable and provide a lot of stability, thanks to the the flat surface area of the heel that gives you support and balance on the ground.
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