It’s common to see boxers wearing laced-up shoes in pro fights and training, but there can be reasons to go without footwear at all and switch to barefoot training.
Boxing without shoes works when training on a padded floor, but if you plan to compete at an amateur or pro boxing level then you’ll need to train in boxing shoes for extra grip, stability, and practicality for the uniform requirements of the sport.
To learn more about why it’s good (and sometimes, not) to train barefoot in the rest of this article.
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Should you wear boxing shoes?
You only have to wear shoes—sometimes called boxing boots—during an official competitive boxing match as they are a uniform requirement.
But you don’t necessarily have to wear shoes during training, though it makes sense when considering an official fight would be wearing them.
Most boxers will wear boxing shoes during sparring to be on a similar level equipment-wise as it’ll give extra grip to the floor to help with footwork.
A boxer’s entire kit usually includes:
- hand wraps
- boxing gloves
- groin cup or full groin guard
- boxing shoes
Occasionally, a top-notch boxing gym could make professional boxing shoes a kit requirement for students.
Better to ask your local gym when applying, as you might get sent away until you have all the right gear.
In mixed martial arts gyms where you can see boxing classes alongside many other types of training, shoes are less common and you might often see boxing sessions while barefoot.
You’re likely to also see boxers wearing regular sneakers, too, for the more casual students.
Wearing socks with boxing shoes
Boxers will always wear socks inside their boots to minimize chaffing and blisters.
Socks can add an extra level of comfort in wearing boxing shoes but don’t always prevent skin scrapes.
If you don’t have boxing shoes/boots, then you can train barefoot if the gym has comfortable flood padding.
Why are boxing shoes hi-tops?
Boxing shoes often rise high up the ankle to offer an added level of ankle stability.
It works by connecting the foot to the lower leg, stabilizing the ankle joint to lower the chances of ‘rolling your ankle’ and causing a strain.
The extra support can allow the fighter to use their footwork to step around their opponent in aggressive angles and pivot into striking positions.
That’s why most boxing shoes are hi-tops but there are also lo-top versions which, for the more experienced boxer, could offer some extra gains in speed and movement.
Do boxing shoes make a difference?
Wearing specially designed boxing shoes gives the fighter a better connection to the ground and also offers ankle support which becomes important in a fight where both opponents are constantly pivoting.
It’s also important to train in boxing shoes if you plan to participate in a live fight as you will need to be used to wearing them for competition.
In my personal opinion, you can train pretty well by boxing barefoot.
I’ve trained in MMA gyms for several years and have almost always been barefoot, including in boxing sessions.
But this can depend on your gym as a mixed martial arts gym has styles like Muay Thai and BJJ which are barefoot arts and so the expectation of any sports shoes is simply optional.
For some people, it can help to learn boxing while barefoot.
Being barefoot gives the fighter a better connection to the ground which can help them develop responsiveness for footwork.
Many fighters across other martial arts such as Muay Thai, kickboxing, Karate, and MMA will practice barefoot the majority of the time.
Other martial arts find the benefits in training barefoot because it gives them the ultimate feeling to the ground and maneuvering around an opponent.
As someone who has trained across different styles of fighting, such as boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I can tell you that I find training barefoot great for improving strength in the small muscles in my foot.
If you are always relying on boxing shoes to support your ankles or protect your feet then how can you expect your feet to actually become stronger on their own?
Do boxers fight barefoot?
Professional boxers will always fight wearing boxing shoes/boots.
They might train barefoot, but most of their training time is likely to be wearing boxing shoes to align with the purpose.
It’s more common in combat sports where kicking or grappling is involved that fighting barefoot occurs, like Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, etc.
Boxing shoes vs barefoot
Boxing has traditionally been practiced and fought while wearing shoes but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s because it’s the best way.
After all, boxing has been around for a long time but developed mostly in Western societies which are more prone to overusing equipment.
In Eastern societies, like where most other martial arts were born, going barefoot is seen as the standard and norm—e.g. Thai boxing.
One thing you might need to be cautious of is sparring with an opponent who is wearing boxing shoes when you aren’t.
They might stand on your feet or catch your toes more often than you’d like while they don’t have to worry about it.
So, deciding to box without wearing any shoes depends on your gym’s floor, how much boxing you’re doing compared with other martial arts, and whether you’re sparring with other boxers wearing boxing boots.
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