Should I Wear Shoes or Barefoot for Kickboxing?

If you have ever experimented with a kickboxing workout either through a video in your living room or an in-person class, you know it is a great way to burn calories. Maybe you are even thinking about transitioning from cardio kickboxing to a real kickboxing class so that you can exercise while learning a few self-defense moves.

Wearing shoes is a much better choice than barefoot when it comes to kickboxing. If your kickboxing gym does not allow shoes, it is highly recommended to wear other protection like foot wrap or tape to avoid plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains and other foot problems.

You can these painful and time-consuming conditions by adequately protecting your feet when you kickbox. In this article, we will explore the different forms of kickboxing, the common injuries that can occur from training barefoot, the best shoes for kickboxing, alternative footwear options if your gym does not permit shoes and how to wrap your feet effectively.

Types of Kickboxing

Kickboxing woman punching kicking bag at the gym

There are two different kinds: kickboxing or cardio kickboxing. In actual kickboxing, you are kicking and punching objects such as bags or sparring with live people. For cardio kickboxing, you are doing the movements purely for exercise and you are not making contact with anything or anyone.

In most cardio kickboxing classes, you will be required by the gym or instructor to wear shoes, and your normal running shoes will be perfectly adequate protection for your feet.

Conversely, most kickboxing gyms or dojos will not allow you to wear shoes because they will damage the training mats and also potentially injure your sparring partner. However, some gyms might allow members to wear non-skid socks, neoprene water socks with a custom orthotic, feet sleeves, an ankle guard or brace, a foot wrap or tape, toe shoes or sparring shoes.

Problems with Kickboxing Barefoot

Some of the most common foot problems and injuries that can occur from training barefoot while kickboxing are plantar fasciitis, seasmoiditis, ankle sprains and syndesmosis.

Plantar Fasciitis

Frequently pivoting on the ball of your foot can cause plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation and irritation of a thick band of tissue in your foot that joins the heel bone to your toes. This condition will cause pain in your heel and in your arch and sometimes in the ball of your foot.

Seasmoiditis

Seasmoiditis is when the two small round bones under a bone in your big toe and the tendons nearby get inflamed and painful. Pivoting and kicking can also cause seasmoiditis. This condition results in pain in the ball of your foot, and it makes it challenging to bend or straighten your big toe.

Ankle Sprains and Syndesmosis

If your ankle is not supported, the frequent lateral movements in kickboxing can easily lead to a sprain. Syndesmosis is similar to an ankle sprain, but it involves a torn tissue in your ankle bones. It is often misdiagnosed as an ankle sprain, and it can be even more painful and take longer to heal from.

All of these conditions will require at least six to eight weeks of healing time if not longer, and many of them will have to be corrected through physical therapy before you will be able to return to kickboxing or other intense forms of exercise.

Other Injuries

In a study in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand of 123 Muay Thai kickboxers, 57 percent of the kickboxers had limited ankle mobility, 49.3 percent had toe deformities such as hallux rigidus (a stiffening of the big toe that makes it difficult to bend) and claw toes and 9 percent had heel pain—all from frequently training barefoot.

The kickboxers ranged in age from 9 years old to 55 years old, demonstrating that training without shoes can cause pain at any age, no matter how young or strong your bones are. All skill levels from beginner to professional were also included in the study. Seventy of the kickboxers in the study had suffered foot and ankle injuries, and of those, 53.9 percent of them had experienced at least two or three injuries during the course of their training.

Best Shoes for Kickboxing Class

Training fight of male and female kickboxers. Practicing kicks and strikes on the boxing paw

Although most kickboxing gyms do not allow shoes, on the off chance that you find one that does, the shoes you wear for kickboxing need to be lightweight and provide good ankle support for all the pivoting and kicking that you will be doing.

There are two types of shoes that could potentially be allowed at a kickboxing gym: sparring shoes and toe shoes. Toe shoes are minimalist shoes that were made to closely resemble the feeling of moving around barefoot, and they do not have thick, hard soles, so they are unlikely to damage the mats at a kickboxing gym. However, they do not provide the best amount of ankle support.

Sparring shoes are sometimes worn by professional kickboxers, even in competitions when they are allowed. Sparring shoes are often made of dense foam, which makes them supportive and flexible. They are also lightweight and provide a high level of traction and ankle support. Sparring shoes are the best option for kickboxing shoes.


Martial Arts Foot Protectors for Kickboxing

Century Lightfoot

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The Century Lightfoot is specially designed for martial arts. The upper is made from synthetic PU leather. The pliable material conforms to your foot to allow you to move around as you need. The sole is made from rubber to provide excellent traction. There are special pivot points on the sole to help you move and turn on a dime.

adidas Adi-Kick

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This is an updated version of the popular adidas Adi-kick. It is perfect for martial arts and Tae Kwon Do. It is very lightweight and gives a close fit. It comes with a short lace that grips onto your foot securely. The outsole is made from rubber and features pivot points that offer extra traction. It is highly rated by its users.

Taekwondo Foot Protector

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This foot protector gear is made from synthetic PU leather and Lycra. Specifically designed to protect your foot during kicking and sparring, there are 5 – 8 mm EVA lining pads on the instep, toes, and ankle to help to cushion shocks and impacts. It comes with an adjustable Velcro backing and separate toe sleeves to ensure a perfect fit. There is also a moisture-absorbing lining that keeps your foot dry and extends the life of your equipment.


MMA/Wrestling Shoes for Kickboxing

adidas Men’s HVC

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This stylish wrestling shoe is made from synthetic leather and suede. It is light, supportive, and offers a great feel for the floor. The sole is made from rubber and comes with pivot points that offer extra traction. It is fastened by both a shoelace and a Velcro closure at the top to ensure a secure fit. This shoe is highly rated by its users.

Otomix Women’s Stingray

Otomix Women's Stingray Escape Bodybuilding Lifting MMA &...
  • Lightweight yet extremely durable
  • Made of leather and synthetic
  • Extra ankle support
  • Thin sole that grips great

This women’s shoe is specially designed for weightlifting and martial arts. Made from leather and synthetic material, it is lightweight yet very durable. Its high top design gives you extra ankle support. The rubber sole is thin enough to give you a great feel for the floor. Traction is outstanding. It comes in 12 stylish colorways. This shoe is widely loved by its users. Its only downside is its cost – at more than $130 this shoe is more expensive than most other options.


Minimalist Shoes for Kickboxing

WHITIN Men’s Minimalist

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  • A wide toe box lets your toes spread and relax.
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This shoe is made using completely animal-free products and processes. It is the perfect minimalist shoe for vegans.

While this is officially a trail runner, it also works very well as a kickboxing shoe. Its wide toe box lets your toes spread and relax. Its rubber sole provides great protection while still giving you a nice feel for the ground. You can even remove its sockliner to get an “extra barefoot” feel.

WHITIN Women’s Minimalist

WHITIN Women's Minimalist Barefoot Shoes Low Zero Drop Trail...
  • Zero-drop, non-elevated sole for proper posture and balance.
  • Adjustable hook-and-loop closure at instep for a more secure fit.
  • Removable sockliner (insole) if you want a “more barefoot” feeling.
  • A Wide toe box is flexible enough to let your feet bend, move, and flex the way.

This is a great minimalist shoe. It offers a zero drop and a non-elevated sole to give you proper posture and balance. It comes with a wide toe box to let your feet bend, move, and flex. Its adjustable hook-and-loop closure at the instep ensures a secure fit. You can remove its sockliner to get an “extra barefoot” feel.

This shoe is made using only organic, natural, and recycled materials. It contains 0% animal products. It is the perfect minimalist shoe for vegans.

More: Kickboxing Sparring Shoes | Kickboxing Toe Shoes


If your kickboxing gym does not allow shoes, there are still several solutions you can try to protect your feet, including non-skid socks, neoprene water socks with a custom orthotic, feet sleeves, an ankle guard or brace and a foot wrap or tape.

Non-Skid Socks

Muezna Men’s Non-Slip

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This non-slip sock is very comfy. It is made from 92% recycled cotton, 6% polyester, and 2% spandex. It has great ventilation and it is very effective in wicking sweat away from your foot. The bottom line is, it keeps your foot breathable and dry at all times.

Its sole is embossed with anti slip grips made from natural silica. It gives you great traction for all your kicking and ducking motions.

Muezna Women’s Non-Slip

Muezna Non Slip Yoga Socks for Women, Anti-Skid Pilates,...
  • Newest Design: Stylish design on the instep and anti-skid frictions on the...
  • Better Material: The Combed Cotton and 100% Silica Grips have better effect in...
  • Protect Anyone from Nasty Falls: These Anti-skid socks are also perfect for...
  • Gift Bag is Free: Packed in a nice bag for usually storage, also helping to keep...

This is a great kickboxing sock for women. It is stylish and comfy. It is made from combed cotton that is great at absorbing moisture. There is a mesh in the instep to give you extra ventilation. Wearing this sock, your foot will be dry and breathable at all times.

The bottom of this sock is embossed with anti slip grips made from natural silica. It gives you great traction for all your kicking and ducking motions.

Venum Kontact

Venum "Kontact Evo Foot Grip, Medium/Large, Black
  • Made of Neoprene for better comfort and agility
  • 3D Embossed grip allows top footwork speed and agility
  • Unmatched support provides optimized mat traction

This foot grip is designed to enhance your footwork, speed, and agility in kickboxing and martial arts. The 3D embossed foot grips on its bottom will help you increase your takedown and sprawl effectiveness with great mat traction.

It offers great protection for your ankle, malleolus, and Achilles tendon. It is made from neoprene fabric that shapes to your ankle to increase your muscular warmth and absorbs perspiration to reduce your risk of slipping.

Sanabul Foot Grips

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This foot grip is designed for MMA and kickboxing. It is made from very comfy 4-way stretch neoprene that protects your foot and can stretch in any direction. It is breathable and never constrains your motions. There are mesh vents on the side to keep your foot cool and dry.

The sole is embossed with non-slip foot grips to give you extra traction.

Do not wear regular socks to a kickboxing class because you will slide all over the mat, and the experience will be both embarrassing and frustrating. However, non-skid socks provide traction and help your feet grip the mat as you kickbox. Compression socks will also give you some support and protect your tendons.

Related: What You Need to Know about Grip Socks


Foot Wraps and TapeAthletic Tape

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This athletic tape is made for kickboxing. It is made from 100% medical grade cotton and is very soft and comfortable. It is non-elastic and provides maximum compression. While it is extremely sticky, it will not leave any residue on your body after you have peeled it off. It is very strong but there is no need for a tape cutter – it can easily be torn by hands.

If you need tape to wrap your feet for kickboxing, you can’t go wrong with this.

This foot grip is designed to enhance your footwork, speed, and agility in kickboxing and martial arts. The 3D embossed foot grips on its bottom will help you increase your takedown and sprawl effectiveness with great mat traction.

It offers great protection for your ankle, malleolus, and Achilles tendon. It is made from neoprene fabric that shapes to your ankle to increase your muscular warmth and absorbs perspiration to reduce your risk of slipping.

Wrapping your feet can support your ankles and help you avoid a sprain or rolling your ankles, especially if you have a history of those injuries. Wraps also keep the muscles and tendons in your feet warmer, decreasing the risk of injury. Additionally, foot wraps can protect your feet from bruises gained from practicing roundhouse kicks against a bag or sparring with a partner.

You can wrap your feet with either cloth or tape. Cloth is reusable as long as you wash it frequently, which makes it less expensive than tape. However, tape is better to use after an injury for an added level of protection.

Foot Sleeves – gonicc Professional

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This is a great therapeutic foot sleeve that will help to relieve pain and discomfort in your foot. If you have plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, stress fracture, edema, shin splint, swelling, or heel pain, you should give this a try.

And even if you do not have any of those conditions, wearing this foot sleeve with its stabilizing compression wrap is still a great way to protect your foot, stimulate blood circulation, promote faster muscle recovery, and prevent any foot re-injury.

For a faster option than wrapping your feet, you can wear foot sleeves, which are similar to socks, but they typically leave your toes and heel bare while providing support and grip for the rest of your feet. Having your toes bare allows them to grip the floor and gives you extra traction.

Ankle Brace or Guard

Sanabul Essential Striking

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This ankle guard is tailor made for MMA, kickboxing, or any martial art that involves striking with your feet. It is lined with a layer of protective gel that cushions your foot from the shocks and impacts of foot strikes. It is made from a stretchable material that contours to your foot and then compresses and supports your movements.

The sole of this ankle guard is embossed with grip pads to give you maximum traction to prevent falls with enough “give” for you to put hard pivots into power kicks. It is an ankle guard or brace that are similar to a foot sleeve, but the protection extends all the way up to your lower shin, depending on the model. This is also great for Muay Thai.

Water Socks with an Orthotic

If you have high arches, your podiatrist will especially caution you against doing any type of exercise barefoot, as there will be no support for your arches and your risk of injury will be even higher than that of most other people. One solution a podiatrist might recommend for kickboxers with high arches who are not allowed to wear shoes at their gym are neoprene water socks with a custom orthotic inside.

If your podiatrist makes a custom insert to provide you with support for your arch, you can put it inside lightweight water socks and wear them while you are kickboxing, as even most strict gyms will allow this solution if you explain the situation because it will not damage their mats. Just be sure to choose water socks that have grip on the bottom so that you are not sliding on the mat.

How to Wrap Your Feet for Kickboxing

To learn how to wrap your feet with cloth wraps, watch the video below.

Key Takeaway

In this article, we have examined the reasons protecting your feet while kickboxing is of the utmost important. To summarize, here are a few of the main points:

  • Plantar fasciitis, seasmoiditis, ankle sprains and syndesmosis are all foot problems that can occur from training barefoot while kickboxing.
  • Kickboxers of all ages and experience levels can also suffer from limited ankle mobility, toe deformities and heel pain from frequently training barefoot.
  • Many kickboxing gyms will not allow you to wear shoes, but might allow members to wear non-skid socks, neoprene water socks with a custom orthotic, feet sleeves, an ankle guard or brace or a foot wrap or tape.
  • If your gym allows you to wear shoes, sparring shoes are the best choice for kickboxing because they are lightweight and supportive.

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Last update on 2020-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API