Each sport has its equipment designed to facilitate the various movement patterns. While many combat sports are performed barefoot, boxing and wrestling require special shoes in the gym and during competition. They are very similar but also have some distinct differences.
Boxing shoes sit higher than wrestling shoes to protect the ankle. Boxing shoes are also designed for forward and backward movement. In contrast, wrestling shoes need to provide more grip in each direction, so they have better flexibility and are more durable.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper on the topic, look at these differences in more detail, and see why they are needed.
Just like the name suggests, boxing shoes are designed for boxing. The sweet science relies on elaborate footwork, so boxers wear boot-like shoes that let them move swiftly around the ring.
Boxing shoes fit snugly like a sock and are incredibly light. To best protect the ankles while floating around the ring, boxing shoes have a high cut that secures the ankle and provides support.
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A wide variety of models on the market can be quite different from each other. Some have thinner soles, others have a very high cut and an ankle strap, others are rigid, and some are very flexible.
But all types of boxing serve the same purpose—they provide grip, support, and protection in the context of boxing movements.
The wrestling shoe is lightweight, extremely flexible, and tight-fitting like a sock.
Wrestling shoes mimic the feel of going barefoot while providing more grip and traction without limiting flexibility. They also protect the skin from damage from the mats and transmutable skin diseases.
Wrestling shoes are made from lightweight, breathable, flexible, and durable materials. The soles are extended to the shoe’s sides, allowing you to push from your toes when standing upright and while on the ground.
Boxing Shoes vs. Wrestling Shoes: What’s The Difference?
Now it’s time to look at the specific demands of both sports and how they influence the design of the shoes.
The boxing sole is usually smooth or has some texture carved into it to provide enough grip to move forward, backward, laterally, and pivot. The grip must be balanced, not too light to slip around, but not too heavy so that pivoting and quick, subtle movements are hampered.
The soles of wrestling shoes are quite different. Wrestlers need a lot more grip that is applied in certain positions. Wrestlers often need to apply leverage and manipulate the entire weight of the opponent while on the ground.
Think about trying to push a car while standing in mud or on wet grass. To provide that grip on the soft wrestling mat, the soles have a lot of carvings and textures, usually with some ridged circles on the outsole that provide grip in all directions.
For this same reason, wrestling shoes’ soles have more roundness on all ends, even covering the edge of the shoe.
Some boxing shoes also feature a thicker cushioning on the sole. Mainly on the heel, with the notion that you can use them on harder ground for comprehensive boxing training, not just in the ring.
But in any case, the soles are always very thin compared to other athletic shoes. Boxers and wrestlers alike need to feel the ground surface better.
After all, many martial arts are practiced barefoot, so, naturally, shoes designed for fighting should resemble that feeling while providing extra benefits like grip and ankle support.
Material-wise, the similarities between the two types of shoes are more significant than the differences. Synthetic materials are used for both, with mesh uppers and very flexible rubber soles.
Higher-end boxing shoes can come in leather or suede. The latter is often used for wrestling shoes.
Wrestling shoes are put through significantly more wear and tear as they are constantly dragged on the canvas and are made much more durable. The extra material also makes them a bit heavier.
Another critical difference is flexibility. The greater variety of wrestling positions also demands the shoe’s complete flexibility in every position. In contrast, boxing shoes are more rigid to provide stability to the foot while standing up.
Ankle support is one of the main aspects differentiating the two types of shoes. Wrestling shoes have ample ankle support but usually have a lower cut than boxing shoes. In boxing, you stand upright; every fall to the ground is unintentional and not desired.
So, you must protect the ankle in case a fall occurs. Fighting on the feet also increases the chance of rolling an ankle, and the very high cut of many boxing shoes is there to help prevent that.
On the other hand, wrestlers spend most of their time on the ground; each fall is expected, even if unwelcome, if you are on the receiving end of a suplex. Wrestlers are also adept at breaking falls.
The lower stance in wrestling and the ground positions place the ankles at steeper angles. So a too high and tight cut on the ankle will inhibit the movement required to operate effectively in these positions. This is why wrestling shoes’ ankle support is lower than boxing boots.
I have to mention that both wrestling and boxing shoes come in various models, with different ankle heights ranging from low to almost knee height in some more extreme cases, exclusive to boxing, so this comparison only works in a more general sense.
Can Wrestling Shoes Be Used As Boxing Shoes?
To be honest, boxing and wrestling shoes have more in common with each other than they have with standard trainers, so you can use them interchangeably. Each was designed for specific demands of the sport, and many of the benefits can be downsides in other domains.
One of these is the rounding of the sole of the wrestling shoe. It increases the chance of rolling the ankle in boxing, while in comparison, the classic boxing shoe sits flat on the floor.
Another downside is that the necessary grip for wrestling is usually too much for a boxer. Boxing footwork at times is very subtle, and small movements must be instantaneous.
With too much grip on your feet, you may stick to the ground and be unable to perform them.
The greater flexibility of wrestling shoes and their much wider availability in most places make them the preferred choice of many people.
Even high-level boxers have been spotted training with wrestling shoes. They provide a better feeling of fighting barefoot, so fighters from styles used to being barefoot also favor wrestling shoes.
In continuation of the preceding point, you can use boxing shoes in wrestling, but the opposite substitution is far superior. The traditional boxing shoes are too rigid for the demands of wrestling.
The regular high rise also inhibits the movement of the ankle. While boxing shoes can be used for wrestling and are generally better for that purpose than a traditional trainer, they can be entirely lacking on the mats.
However, the market recently has been dominated by hybrid boxing shoes. They aim to be the only shoe you need in the boxing gym, regardless of if you plan on sparring, hitting the heavy bag, or doing strength and conditioning work.
The emergence of MMA also changed the demands of many combat athletes. The hybrid shoes that are good for striking and grappling are smearing the distinctions between boxing and wrestling shoes.
Despite their differences, boxing and wrestling shoes must provide traction, support, and protection in sports that rely heavily on footwork. If you are wondering what to get, the best option is always to buy and use the gear specific to your sport. But in this case, the wrestling shoe can work quite well not only in boxing but in other athletic endeavors as well.