Wrestling shoes have seen a burgeoning popularity the past decade thanks in part to the popularity of MMA. The rise of MMA has also brought along the rise of wrestling; the success that wrestling has played at being one of the more effective combat arts in MMA has helped to increase the sport’s reach.
The side effect is that wrestling shoes have become a popular shoe for both wrestlers, MMA, and for general training activities that require a strong connection between the foot, the toes, and the floor. You’ll see people wearing wrestling shoes for boxing, weight lifting, cross fit, and other non-wrestling activities.
As such, the wrestling shoe has gone mainstream in a big way. And when you put a pair of them one, you’ll see why. They typically feel great and give you a stronger sense of balance and ‘grip’ between your feet and the floor beneath.
I love wrestling shoes because I use them for strength and conditioning work, for boxing work, and back when I used to do MMA, for wrestling/MMA take-down work on the mat.
While wrestling shoes are a must for anyone participating in the sport of wrestling, I feel they are a great benefit for any athlete who wants a supremely comfortable and supportive shoe for other activities not defined by wrestling, such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, CrossFit, strength & conditioning work, and even boxing.
Because there are so many different wrestling shoes on the market and there’s a long list of things you need to consider to match yourself with a suitable wrestling shoe, I’ve written a 9000-word ultimate guide to wrestling shoe to help you make the right choice.
Grab a cup of coffee and a sandwich because it’s going to be a hell of a long, but highly informative, read. I promise!
Table of Contents
Here’s the major sections of this article to help you navigate to the key points.
- What is a Wrestling Shoe
- Why Wear a Wrestling Shoe?
- Types of Wrestling Shoes
- Can You Wear Boxing Shoes As Wrestling Shoes
- Wrestling Shoes vs. Boxing Shoes
- How Long Will Wrestling Shoes Last
- Finding the Correct Wresting Shoe Fit
- How Much Do Wrestling Shoes Cost
- Wrestling Shoe Brand vs. Brand
Wrestling Shoe Buyers Guide: What You Need to Know
What is a Wrestling Shoe
Historically, the original wrestlers — the Greeks — wrestled in the barefoot. As the sport was developed by other cultures, such as the Romans, shoes were introduced during matches.
The first shoes were specially padded sandals as worn by Roman wrestlers. Today, the sport of wrestling has refined the basic wrestling shoes into something lightweight, supportive, and ergonomic.
Wrestling shoes are carefully engineered to provide stability and support in key areas of the foot while allowing maximum grip on the mat to enhance a wrestlers ability to apply his body weight, suddenly and forcefully or in more subtle shifts.
Wrestling shoes are shoes, yes, but they are more than just shoes. They are an intricate part of the sport of wrestling and are, by design, enable you to maximize your speed, range, and motion.
Why Wear a Wrestling Shoe?
For wrestlers, the right pair of wrestling shoes can give you a competitive advantage and bring your game to a new level. Wrestling shoes are engineered to allow maximum performance for all wrestling movements such as holds, pinks, take-downs while improving both foot traction, flexibility and balance all the while providing ankle support. In layman’s terms, a wrestling shoe enables you to be a better wrestler.
However, there’s a lot of variety when it comes to wrestling shoes. Quite simply, there’s a great deal to choose from, and every wrestling shoe model is tailored to a specific type of wrestler.
Why wearing any wrestling shoes will see an improvement in your balance, traction, and ankle support over say running shoes, you want to choose the best wrestling shoe for you to maximize your performance.
Wrestling shoes usually have a slightly elevated arch compared to other footwear. By angling the foot forward slightly, the shoes give wrestlers a better ability to generate explosive speed from a stationary position at the start of a match (or from a starting position on the ground).
Types of Wrestling Shoes
There’s a lot of variety between wrestling shoe models — both between competing companies and even between models in the same company. Each shoe model has subtle variations that cater to a certain user.
The goal of all wrestling shoes is to help a wrestler optimize their weight distribution at a split section. This means the shoe needs to be able to offer enough support to keep the ankle from rolling in unwanted directions when powerful force is applied (the wrestler and the opposing wrestler) while also maximizing the stability and balance as the foot moves.
Regardless of the strategies use by each company to design the optimum wrestling shoe, there are roughly two major categories we can divide wrestling shoes into based on the shoe sole design.
- Unisole Shoes
- Split Sole
There are, of course other features that differentiate such as traction patterns, shoe height, shoe weight and so on, but the biggest difference in actual performance come down to the shoe sole type.
Spit-sole shoe are much more flexible shoes while unisoles, with the full length sole, give greater traction on the wrestling mat. Both designs have pros an cons, and you’ll find wrestlers who swear by each type. However, choosing which is best for you depends on your specific individual wrestling needs.
Can You Wear Boxing Shoes As Wrestling Shoes
No. You can, however, wear wrestling shoe as boxing shoes for casual boxing, padwork, or even sparring. But it does not work the other way around.
Many boxers do wear wrestling shoes during training (especially casual training), though for actual boxing matches or serious sparring sessions, they strap on boxing shoes/boots not wrestling footwear.
The major difference is in the sole type and the arch height. And the boot height (boxing shoes can be mid top or high top while wrestling shoes are low top).
Wrestling Shoes vs Boxing Shoes
Wrestling shoes have an elevated arch (designed to allow you to come off the ground with maximum speed) and the shoe soles are designed for traction on the mat while boxing shoes are designed for traction and grip on a ring — not the same surface. There’s also the difference in traction patterns under the shoe sole; wrestling either has circular patterns (to allow for traction at different foot angles) or forward V shaped patterns (traction straight forward).
This is to complement the foot movement and weight distribution of a wrestler during wrestling movements. Boxing shoes traction (and general ankle support) are tailored for the movements and stance of boxing.
So although the construction, shape, and general style of shoe is similar, boxing shoes and wrestling shoes are by no means the same type of shoe. If you are interested in boxing shoes, read our best boxing shoes list which comprehensively covers the top boxing shoes.
How Long Will Wrestling Shoes Last
Wrestling shoes will typically give one, maybe two years of good use before they start to fall apart. More expensive models don’t always last longer than the cheaper, entry level models; you’ll find the top end wrestling shoes just as susceptible to wear and tear as the cheapest. How much (and how hard) you train will affect the lifespan of your shoes.
If you just use your wrestling shoes for casual wresting, occasional gym work, you may get years out of your shoes. If you are a competitive wrestler operating out of a single pair of shoes, you may only get one season (or less) out of your shoes!
Most elite wrestlers have several pairs of their favorite shoes they rotate usage in. For novice wrestlers, you might want to invest in a budget entry level pair, but as you advance in skill and experience, you might want to buy a second pair of shoes to use.
Finding the Correct Wresting Shoe Fit
Shoe sizes vary depending on the brand and even vary between the models within a brand. Experienced wrestlers usually want a tighter fit for a bit more foot control while beginner wrestlers might prefer a slightly looser fit. New wrestling shoes will stretch out over a few weeks — so even a shoe that’s a bit of a tight fit will expand a bit if you break it in.
ASICS wrestling shoes are typically a tighter fit. In general, you will want to choose one size larger than your regular shoe sizing.
Adidas are generally on the tight side and you’ll want to pick out a shoe one size larger than your normal size, for most of their models.
Nike wrestling shoes are a bit truer to size, though you may still want to buy a shoe half a size to one size larger.
Wrestling shoes for wide feet? If you have wide feet (and some of us do), you can mitigate a tight fit by buying a shoe that’s about half a size bigger than the normal wrestling shoes you would wear. For some brands, that will mean buying a size 1.5 (even 2 sizes) bigger than your shoe size. Some models (such as the ASICS Split Second 9) have a reputation as the best wrestling shoes for wide feet, given that the shoe front is wider than some of the other models.
Wide Foot Friendly Wrestling Shoes
How Much Doe Wrestling Shoes Cost
The price of wrestling shoes ranges from $30 to $120 on average. Wrestling shoes for youths are quite a bit cheaper. You’ll often pay MORE money for larger shoe sizes, and sometimes there will be a significant price difference between sizes of the same model.
Note that the price you say may not necessary reflect the shoe quality. Last year’s models may be significantly discounted while brand new, yet inferior, shoe models may be significantly more expensive. So don’t the worth a wrestling shoe by the retail price.
- Beginner wrestling shoes are usually in the $30 to $60 range.
- Mid-range wrestling shoe are about $60 to $80 range.
- At the higher range, you can spend $90 to $140.
Novice wrestlers / beginners should choose a shoe that’s in the $30 to $70 range. More intermediate wrestlers, or those who are looking for a second shoe, might want to look at some of the more specialized and somewhat more durable models that are in the $70 to $140 range. Note that just because you buy a higher price model, doesn’t mean the shoe will last any longer than the cheaper wrestling shoes.
Wrestling Shoes Brand vs Brand
There’s dozens and dozens of different wrestling shoe models to choose from between a number of companies. However, the usual ‘good’ wrestling shoes usually come down to models in the ASICS, Adidas, and Nike lineup, though there are a few other standout models from some of the lesser known companies. There’s a lot of praise given to some of the old school classic wrestling shoe models of yesteryear, but these are not so popular with the mainstream crowd who want a lighter, more modern take on the classic designs.
The real benefit of buying wrestling shoes from the big name brands is their is a great deal of consistency in the shoe quality and many of the models have seen iterative improvements for years, with the bugs and flaws worked out over time.
Best Wrestling Shoe Features to Look For
While there’s a good deal of choice between wrestling shoe models, there are a few standout features I would consider as some of the best shoe features you should look for.
Synthetic material: lighter shoes convey a speed advantage and the lightest shoes are made from synthetic material. While leather is typically more durable, there are some advantages to synthetic ins that it may offer better strength to withstand different directional forces. Some of the more expensive shoes can be made from sued, which do convey some advantages in comfort and durability. However, synthetic materials usually give the lightest shoe weights.
Mesh vents: you’ll want a shoe with mesh netting on the sides. This helps keep your feet cool and allows moisture to evaporate, which prevents unnecessary water weight from building up in your shoes. Wet shoes and feet are a disadvantage in wrestling and venting materials mitigate this.
Rubber soles: rubber typically proves the best grip on the mat. There are grades of rubber, so you want a shoe with quality, durable rubber.
Mark-free shoe soles: given that you’ll be rubbing your shoes against either a mat or hard surface, you want shoes that don’t leave a trail of rubber marking. Some models have this feature.
Shoe Weight: typically, lighter shoes are better for speed & mobility based wrestlers (i.e. those who are light weight) while heavier shoes may offer stability advantages for the more strength-based wrestlers (typically the heavyweights).
Shoe Grip: Good wrestling shoes must offer a good grip, regardless. As the mat becomes slippery with sweat, your shoes will still need to grip the floor. Rubber is typically the best gripping shoe sole material.
Stitching Strength: Strong stitching means your shoe will last longer. It’s not uncommon for wrestling shoes to fall apart after one or two seasons. The weak point is usually in the stitching areas or where the rubber soles are glued to the shoe. Some of the models that are more durable usually have strong stitching, ensuring you get the maximum length of use out of the shoe.
Asymmetrical lace: these are the preference of the wrestler and essentially offer a lace ends that are not aligned evenly. This can make the lace ties a bit more comfortable for some wrestlers.
Integrated lace garage: a feature that you do want in a good wrestling shoe. These basically hide the ends of your lace tie to prevent scratching or cutting your opponent. It also helps keep your shoes tied up — that last thing you want are your laces coming undone and getting under your shoe sole during a match!
Extra Tie Strap: some shoes give an extra strap near the top of the shoe when you can tighten. This provides extra support for the ankle.
Synthetic and mesh upper ankle support is obviously required for protecting your ankles. Once again, keeping the wrestling shoe light with synthetic material.
Now that you know the main ‘features’ to look for in a wrestling shoe, let’s talk about how to pick out the best shoe for your needs.
How to Choose The Right Wrestling Shoe
Here’s a general guide on how to choose the best wrestling shoe for you.
However, I want to be realistic here. There are no ‘best wrestling shoe’ choices. Every person’s needs will be slightly different, based on how wide your feet are, your arch height, how much grip you want in the sole, and how much flexibility vs support you want in your shoe, your style of wrestling and traction preference, etc.
Some shoes offer a lot of support and are a bit more on the ridged side while others are softer and allow you to move your foot and ankle around more. Others give you traction aimed at speed and mobility from all foot angles while other shoes are designed to grip the floor harder from a foot-forward position.
So it’s not a simple matter picking out ‘the best’!
To find the ideal wrestling shoe, you are going to have to try out a number of different shoes over the course of a few seasons. It’s unlikely that your very first wrestling shoe (or even second shoe) is going to be the ideal shoe. Finding the right wrestling shoe is something you grow into over time — as you wrestle — you will come to find a specific brand and shoe model that performs best for YOU. There is no shortcut here — you’ll have to try different shoes and put in the practice testing them.
But we can try to give you a general guide to help you select a better shoe tailored to you to save you some time and money on buying the wrong wrestling shoe.
There are several things to consider when buying a pair of wrestling shoes: you should think carefully about fit, ankle support, what kind of material the shoe is made from, and the type of sole and traction you need for your weight and style of wrestling (strength vs speed and flexibility).
Know the Level of Wrestling Experience of the Shoe Wearer
One of the biggest gauges of what type of wresting shoe you should buy depends on the commitment to wrestling the shoe wearer intends. The truth is that most people who start wrestling quite within two years. As such, beginners and casual wrestlers are probably better off investing in one of the cheaper shoe models.
More serious wrestlers (also called intermediate wrestlers) will know enough about the sport of wrestling and their own shoe preference to upgrade to a more specialized, more expensive shoe.
I would define a serious wrestler as someone who covers most of these points in a year:
- Someone who has wrestled for over two years
- Attends wresting camps in the summer
- Regularly places in wrestling tournaments
- Competes in national wrestling tournaments
- Wrestlers at least 30 folk-style wrestling matches per year
- Wants to squeeze the best performance out of a shoe
If you are are checking off most of these bullet points above, then you should invest in a more expensive shoe. If not, you are probably better off with a cheaper shoe.
1. Shoe Fit
For the best performance, you want a shoe that fits tightly against your feet. As much as it’s cliche to say that ‘it should fit like a glove’, the phrase is true here when it comes to picking out a wrestling shoe.
These are not loose fitting sneakers with a lot of space between the shoe and your feet. They should be TIGHT and close fitting. If you buy a wrestling shoe that’s too loose, you will throw off your traction, speed, mobility, stability, and ankle support. So don’t!
As most wrestling shoes are designed to fit nice and snug, you’ll want to buy the shoe size about half a size smaller than your regular shoe size. The shoe will stretch out over the break in period, so even if they fit a bit on the snug side, they will loosen up slightly over a few weeks as you stretch them out with a bit of use.
Note that there ARE variations between manufacturers and models, so you’ll want to see what the manufacturer recommends specifically…and what real people are saying on Amazon about the shoe fit, just to be sure.
Tip: How tight of a shoe fit depends on your weight. If you are a heavyweight wrestler, you may not need as tight fitting a wrestling shoe as a light weight wrestler who needs more speed and mobility for pivoting motions. So the rule of thumb is choose a tighter fitting shoe if you are a light weight wrestler; heavier wrestlers can get by one a slightly looser shoe fit.
2. Level of Ankle Support
One of the reasons why you need to wear wrestling shoes is the extra ankle support they offer. This extra support is something you don’t get from non-wrestling shoes such as running shoes or sneakers and is one of the core reasons you need to wear wrestling shoes for wrestling matches.
How do wrestling shoes offer ankle support?
Given that you are putting a tremendous amount of force on your ankles as you jockey for the best position, it’s critical that you have the stability and support offered by the shoe.
This extra ankle support is supplied by the slightly-higher-than-ankle length of the shoe top which helps to support the ankle as the direction of your feet and ankles shift with or without the force of your weight (and the weight of another body adding to your own).
The proper lacing (the laces should be hugging your ankles tightly), even more support is given to your ankle. Some shoe models include an extra strap near the top front of the shoe for additional support.
When you choose a pair or wrestling shoes, you’ll want consider the type of material the shoe is made from.
All good wrestling shoes are made from a lightweight material — usually some sort of vented mesh, leather, suede, or nylon fabric. The type of material is designed for two things: to allow moisture to escape (you don’t want extra moisture weighting down your feet) and to be light for maximum foot speed.
The cheaper wrestling shoes are usually made from a nylon material with a few vents. The mid-range wrestling shoes tend to be made of a more vented mesh material. The more expensive shoes might be made from sued or leather and are typically more comfortable and tight fitting.
There’s a case every kind of material, depending on your wrestling experience, your weight, and your style of wrestling,
- The synthetic mesh materials are usually made for the lightest and most moisture resistant shoes.
- Nylon material is ideal for beginning wrestlers (who may outgrow the shoe and want something better as they improve) and are significantly cheaper than leather.
- Leather or sued are the most comfortable, but also more expensive. Leather shoes are typically more durable and long lasting then the synthetic fabrics but don’t allow as much breathability
Tip: for longer lasting shoes (especially if you are a heavyweight), you might want to consider leather over nylon. Beginners should opt for entry level nylon shoes which are cheaper. Advanced wrestlers who are lightweight and want maximum speed may want the more expensive performance nylon shoes because they are the lightest wrestling shoe and enable more speed
4. The Sole
Choosing the type of wrestling shoe sole is probably the most important choice you’ll make when it comes to picking out the best wrestling shoes for you. The sole type will affect everything about that shoe and how it handles on the ground.
These have an actual split in the shoe sole with the sole divided into two discrete parts. The lower section supports the heel area while the top section supports the front foot (ball of the foot). This design is in fact, somewhat old, first introduced in the 1980’s. However, technology has enabled split sole designs to be made from lighter and stronger materials, giving much stronger and much lighter split sole shoe designs than the first generation split sole shoes.
The idea here with the split sole is to mimic the anatomy of your foot sole. Put your wet feet on a piece of paper and watch the wet footprint: this is what split sole wrestling shoes seek to copy. The split soles allow you to mimic how it feels to be in your bare foot, giving you better balance and more connection between your heels and toes with the floor beneath.
The split soles allows the parts of your foot (the front and the back) to move independently of each other — much like you naturally do when in the barefoot. This gives a wrestler more graduated control of their foot movements and specifically, their balance. The split sole shoe is often LIGHTER than the unisole shoe due to the design.
Who should choose a split sole?
Wrestlers who are lightweight and who operate on speed, balance, and flexibility will want to split sole design to enhance these attributes.
These are the traditional shoe sole style with a uniform shoe sole that’s not split into parts.
As for what type of wrestling shoe sole is better is entire up to the wrestler. However, split soles are the more popular type of wrestling shoe at this point.
The unisole is simply just a single shoe sole that runs the length of your shoe. These are the the traditional wrestling shoe style. There are some advantages to this over the split sole. For one, they tend to be more durable and long lasting and the uniform sole offers a bit more rigidity and support at the bottom of your foot, at the cost of flexibility.
What Type of Wrestler needs a Uniform sole?
This varies. As a rule of thumb though, the unisole is more beneficial for heavier wrestlers (aka heavyweights) who maintain a straight stance with both feet positioned on the mat most of the time. The uniform shoe sole distributes your weight more evenly on the mat, which makes the wrestler more stable as LONG as both feet stay firmly planted on the mat. This has benefits for throwing.
One of the best unisole wrestling shoe is the highly regarded Adidas Combat Speed 4 which gets our pick for the best unisole wrestling shoe for most people.
5. Traction Patterns
You’ll also want to consider they type of traction on the shoe sole. This can make a significant difference to your performance and next to the shoe sole, is the second most important shoe feature that will affect your overall performance.
Wrestling shoes are all designed to give you better traction while on the mat. But there are different types of traction that can optimize your performance, depending on how you move and your weight. While there’s a lot of variation between traction patterns between brands and models, we can split up the traction pattern types in to two broad categories: V-Shape and Circular. Note that some companies may have hybrid traction styles, so I don’t want to suggest this is the ONLY type of traction you will find.
V-Shape Traction Pattern
If you are a heavyweight wrestler, you’ll likely be standing firm on both feet to focus on throws and strong locks. You’ll want a shoe that has a V shape to give the most grip. This allows you to keep a firm hold and to stay firm through a throw.
Circular Traction Patterns
For lightweight wrestlers, you might want a circular traction pattern. This traction allows for more foot pivot movements and prevents slippage at various angles (rather than say providing a secure grip directly while the foot is frontward). One example of such a shoe is the ASICS Split Second 9.
6. Shoe Quality
The quality of the shoes will vary dramatically depending on the price you pay. Typically, the average price for a wrestling shoe is about $60, with some of the cheaper entry models going for $30 and the more expensive premium models at about $100.
The more you pay, the higher quality materials you’ll get in the shoe. But not always and the actual durability depends on the model. Some of the models have a reputation for falling apart sooner than later.
Paying more for a wrestling shoe usually nets you a more comfortable shoe. You might get sued (as opposed to synthetic materials) or more specialized vented mesh materials. The shoe sole, especially, may be more durable.
The first thing to fall apart on a pair of wrestling shoes is usually the shoe sole, with the front sole disconnecting from the shoe or the bottom traction areas wearing out unevenly so that your grip, stability, and balance is thrown off slightly.
Some of the shoe models have a reputation for extended durability while others have a reputation for falling apart sooner than later. This obviously depends on how much you use the shoe and for what activities.
If you are just looking for a casual workout shoe, well, you can expect to get a year or more out of a shoe — maybe multiple years — even the entry-level models.
If you are a serious wrestler though who puts a lot of wear and tear on the shoe, you might see one good wrestling season out of the shoe, maybe two. Again this depends. The Nike Inflicts and ASICS Aggressor models have a very good reputation for lasting a long, long time (multiple seasons at least….and years even).
This is probably the least important feature, but does influence someone’s buying choice. In general, wrestling shoes have a unique design that sets them apart from other footwear.
Added to this the fact that wrestling shoes are comfortable and provide a level of toe-to-ground tactile feedback that all other footwear lacks, make wrestling shoes a popular choice for situations outside wrestling, such as weight lifting, strength & conditioning, MMA, and boxing.
You can find a variety of colors, styles, and looks between models and brands, with a few models that are particularly stand-out visually.
The Best Wrestling Shoes
Here’s our guide to some of the top wrestling shoe models, updated for 2017. We’ve spent a great deal of time analyzing which models are the standout ones, based on reviews, recommendations from expert wrestlers, and a few tests (I do wear wrestling shoes myself, occasionally, though I’m not a pure wrestler).
The Best Overall Wrestling Shoes
Here’s our list of the best wrestling shoes, irregardless of price. In the next section, we give a few picks for great budget wrestling shoes for those who want a cheaper entry level wrestling shoe. The shoes below, however, are more geared for those who competitive wrestlers, intermediate wrestlers and not necessary for pure beginners or novice wrestlers.
The Asics Aggressor 2’s are legendary shoes that have a stellar reputation. These are split sole shoes, so the shoes are designed for those looking for mobility, flexibility, and speed. Those looking for a unisole shoe or for a shoe more tune for maximum grip (for power & strength based wrestlers) might want to look at the alternative choice.
The stand out feature is the sheer durability of these shoes, comparable to the Nike Inflict but a whole lot easier to get your hands one (these are one of the most popular wrestling shoe models on the market). They are probably the most durable wrestling shoes on the market. Some will say the Nike Inflicts last longer, but some will claim the ASCIC’s aggressor 2’s win that award.
Either shoe will significantly outlast the other models on this list (and the ones not on the list). You should be good for multiple wrestling seasons at the very least.
The Aggressor’s are quite grippy, a feature that seems to be shared in general by all the ASICS wrestling shoes, Some love this, some dislike it. For something significantly less grippy, look to the Combat Speed 4 wrestling shoes.
The key feature (besides the durability) is that the Aggressor 2 model provides more foot support than many of the other models. So if you want a shoe that gives very strong ankle support, this is that shoe. Also note that if you suffer from a foot pain, these are a good shoe to wear. I would say these are the best wrestling shoes for plantar fasciitis, for those who are afflicted with that condition.
These shoes also have an ankle strap closure in addition to the regular string ties. This gives a tighter, more supportive fit around the ankle part, helping these shoes offer more support than is normal in a wrestling shoe.
Given the price (which averages about $70), you get a lot of bang for buck with these, given how long they will last. Expect a few years of usage. You might even be able to use these shoe from the first year to the last year of your wrestling.
Overall, one of the best wrestling shoes and the shoes that combine a lot of grip with a lot of durability in the shoe sole area as well, especially for those looking for a reasonably priced, split sole design that emphasizes extra foot and ankle support. Even more, the shoes have a reputation for lasting forever, which is another positive mark to consider.
How to choose the size: These shoes are a bit on the small size and run about 1/2 a size on the small side, so you may want to order 1 size larger than your normal shoe size.
If you are looking for the best wrestling shoe of the unisole design, and one built for speed and mobility, then look no further than Adidas Combat Speed 4.
The uniform sole provides more support and stability than does the sole split design, making these shoes a good choice for someone who wants to a bit more grip and stability in a wrestling shoe.
The Combat Speed 4’s are light — like really light — and a good choice for those wrestlers who wrestle with a lot of speed and mobility, yet prefer the unisole design over the split sole design.
These are by far the best in the Adidas lineup for wrestling and find the perfect balance between lightweight, comfort, traction, and price. There are more specialist shoes such as the Adidas AdiZero Wresting Shoe which are best suited only for mats (and not so suitable for non-mat use) and perhaps better for competitive wrestling matches…but for general wrestling (both on and off mat), the Combat Speed 4’s are the clear winner.
On average, you’ll pay between $60-$65 on Amazon for these shoes, though some sizes are certainly cheaper. For what you get, it’s a steal of a price.
Of all the shoes in the list, these are perhaps the lightest. I’d even classify them in the ultralight category. The standout feature with the Combat Speed 4 is their light weight and the flexibility these shoes offer.
They are also cheap as wrestling shoes and a good value buy at under $60. They may not be as cheap as the ASICS Split Second 9, but they have a lot more flexibility and have better venting material for water evaporation.
If you want more stability and support, the ASICS gives more of that. But for minimum weight and maximum shoe flexibility, Combat Speed 4 wins. An all round great shoe, one of the best even.
The Combat Speed 4’s have less grip than some of the other shoes. If you want a grippy wrestling shoe, this may be a bit of a problem for you.
One of the main reasons some people prefer unisole over split sole is that unisole shoes tend to offer better overall ‘grip’ & traction in a shoe due to the full-length shoe sole (there’s simply more ‘traction’ to catch on the ground, which provides more grip).
However, the Combat Speed 4’s grip is quite light, meaning there is some slippage. This is not a bad thing for those who focus on speed and mobility, but if you are a power based wrestler who focuses on holding opponents or for throws, these shoes may not be ideal.
In general, I would say if you like mobility and speed of the split sole, but you want THAT feature in a unisole, then these are the perfect shoes for you.
I’ve also recommended these as a good shoe for boxing, over on my best boxing shoes list. So you can easily use these for non-wrestling activities such as boxing.
One of the reasons this model makes a good cross over boxing shoe is that it’s less grippy on the bottom, something that you want for foot pivots when you punch or when you do the switch step to transfer from southpaw to orthodox stance while moving backwards (a huge time saver footwork technique).
For a general training shoe (say cross fit, the gym), I prefer the ASICS Split Second 9 model over the Combat Speed 4. While a bit heavier, I like the feeling they have as they feel a bit more supportive for general footwork activities — especially when it comes to weight lifting where you want a bit of support around your foot when pushing heavy barbell weights.
But for say boxing, go with the Combat Speed 4 shoes over the ASICS Split Second 9 — they are lighter, and they have a lot more flexibility to shoe structure which allows you more freedom of movement for boxing stances and boxing footwork. And they are lighter.
These are a update / remake of the classic style wrestling shoes popular a few decades ago. As such, they of unisole design. This makes them ideal if you want a more ‘grippy’ shoe — especially if you are a heavy more ‘power & strength’ focused wrestler, rather than speed & mobility based. These shoes are defiantly some of the most comfortable wrestling shoes you’ll ever wear.
So why buy these? Because they are incredibly light wrestling shoes, especially given they are a non-split sole shoe (this style is usually heavier). The material inside is soft and subtle, the shoes offer good support, and are very much a comfortable shoe.
This comes at a price though: these are more pricey than some of the other ASICS models like the Split Second 9 (double or triple the price in fact), but are more comfortable as the Schultz is made from suede and far softer than the Split Second model or the aggressor.
The shoe ‘shell’ is also less rigid and ‘hard’ so you have more of a connection to your feet because the Schultz feels more like a glove than a shoe.
All in all, it’s a better pure wrestling shoe — more comfortable than most of the entry level models. However, if you are looking for a more rigid shoe with a harder shell, you may prefer another wrestling shoe model.
The only downside is that these shoes do wear out, especially around the sole area. You’ll get one season out of them, but you may need to replace them during the second season of wrestling (though reports are that some get at least two seasons out of them).
The Schultz’s have very good traction and grip on the underside of the shoe — you won’t be slipping on the mat.
While these are technically ‘wrestling shoes’ they are really quite versatile and can be used for multi-sport (boxing, basketball, weight lifting, etc).
If you are looking for combat shoes to wear during MMA or boxing, these shoes will do, though for boxing the ASICS wrestling shoes (both the Split Second 9 and the Schultz models that I recommend) are quite grippy in the sole region.
For Boxing & MMA…
For pure boxing, you may not like this model as the grippy undersole can interfere with your foot pivots; however, a lot depends on what style of puncher you are and your weight distribution. Certainly compared to true boxing shoes, they have more ‘grip’.
Personally, I prefer the cheaper Split Second 9, which makes a better boxing shoe. It just feels a bit more supportive of the way you move in boxing. For MMA, you may find these shoes work well though.
You’ll find these shoes may have not conquered the mainstream market for wrestling shoes, but you’ll find Nike well represented at college and high school wrestling tournaments. The simple, rather straightforward design doesn’t try to impress you with flash. But the shoes more than makeup in how they perform.
They are also highly durable. These shoes are the longest lasting wrestling shoes — they never seem to wear out. They are both durable and flexible, somewhat lodged in the middle between the ASICS Aggressor (a highly durable) and the Combat Speed 4’s (highly flexible shoes).
Those looking for some of the qualities of both of these shoes will find the Inflict model something special.
Nike doesn’t seem to be as popular in the wrestling shoe world as they are with say running shoes. However, just because they have not necessarily made a dent int the US wrestling shoe market, does not take away from the fact that these are great, some would even claim ‘the best’, wrestling shoes. The difficulty therein is to actually get your hands on these shoes.
Stylistically, the Nike Inflict Wrestling Shoes don’t look as good as some of the other brands with a rather drab two-tone color. Frankly, these don’t look like your typical wrestling shoes. If anything, they look like a poor man’s version of a Nike sneaker. However, they deliver where it counts: performance. The gum sole rubber out soles have some of the best directional grip out of any wrestling shoe on the market.
They have good tread coverage giving a very strong grip in the right areas, but also allow for slides where needed too (you don’t want a wrestling shoe that has too much grip as you want some sliding for some wrestling positions).
Some of the competing brands opt for suede or synthetic materials that have a tendency to trap heat and moisture inside the shoe. Anyone who’s wrestled in a warm locale knows how uncomfortable wet wrestling shoes can be (and you are more likely to tear up your feet with blisters and sores since the wet shoes will rub your feet raw in those areas with repeated friction). The Nike Impacts opt for an upper mesh design which allows for breathability.
I’ve seen this feature offered by some of the different brands (both for wrestling and boxing shoes), but half the time it’s more of a gimmick than anything else. However, the mesh is actually quite effective at releasing heat and moisture with the Nike design.
Basic design. Check. Some of the best (yet understated) wrestling shoes on the market? Double check. If you can find these shoes, get them. These are the shoes to wear if you are training for hours and hours — your feet will still be comfortable. There are no flashy patterns or fancy design in these shoes. But for purely functional wrestling shoes that last and last — and ones that are superbly comfortable, Nike Inflicts are about the best you can find. It’s a shame they are not more widely available.
Best Budget Wrestling Shoes
Budget wrestling shoes are typically shoes you find under $50. You can quite often find a budget wrestling shoe for around $30 if you find the shoe on sale at Amazon.
While these shoes are ‘budget,’ they are by no means cheaply made. You often get shoes made from synthetic materials such as nylon and of the split sole design. The benefit here is that these shoes tend to be lighter (due to the nylon materials) and are often excellent shoe for lighter wrestlers who focus on speed and mobility.
For novice wrestlers, youths, or those who want a general ‘workout shoe’ to use outside of wrestling activities, you are probably best off buying one of the budget shoes over the more expensive, specialized wrestling shoes. This makes it easy to upgrade to a more expensive shoe as you advance your wrestling skills (or simply outgrow or wear them out over the season). You can often buy two or three ‘budget’ wrestling shoes for the price of one of the more expensive shoe models.
These the Best Budget wrestling shoes by far. And one of the better shoes for new wrestlers.
The ASICS Split Second 9 shoes are hugely popular — and not just for wrestling. I see plenty of people using these for crossfit, weight lifting, boxing, MMA, and just for general training.
They are, however, designed specifically for wrestling, even if they are quite flexible for what you can use them for. The traction patterns of the circular shape which are great for traction and grip for mobility.
ASICS Split Second 9’s are great for lightweight wrestlers who focus on speed and mobility. And they are also great for activities outside of wrestling that emphasizes footwork.
These shoes claim to be ‘that shoe’ that can give you that split second edge: to maximize your performance when you need it and where you need it. Now, this is frankly just a big marketing claim the company uses to try and sell more shoes. Pure hype.
But what’s not hype is that these are actually some pretty sweet wrestling shoes, and by far the best budget wrestling shoe you can find, especially novice wrestlers and beginners. For a wrestling shoe under $40 bucks, these deliver the performance of a shoe twice as expensive.
If anything, I’d say the ASICS shoe is probably the most popular wrestling shoe in the world — and not only for just wrestling, but for general training too.
Now, these are cheaper shoes than some of the offerings by the competition. You are getting a few cuts in terms of the material types used. I won’t say these are low quality — they certainly are not.
While comfortable, they are not as comfortable as the sued ASICS Schultz model, for example. For materials, you get a synthetic fabric and a mesh material which claim to keep your feet cool and allow breathability. I have mixed feelings about this — it’s only half effective as say the better-vented mesh of the Nike Impacts.
These have a split sole design which means more traction on the front and back areas of the sole to maximized where you need the grip the most and minimize where you don’t need it.
There’s a bit of a debate about how effective split sole shoes are vs the traditional design, but many wrestlers swear by the design and these shoes are certainly popular.
One thing I love about these shoes is they are outstanding shoes for general activities that require footwork and a solid connection between your feet on the ground, these are the shoes for it.
I’m not sure WHY the shoes are so good for general training (i.e. weights, casual boxing, or even just walking around doing random conditioning work) — perhaps it’s the comfortable fit, the supportive feel, the low top design, and the strong grip your feet have with the excellent split sole design — but these shoes are recommended for practically any activity other than running.
If you are an intermediate wrestler, you’ll probably want a more advanced, more durable shoe. But for a first wrestling shoe — especially for new wrestlers, ASICS Split Second 9 are a great deal and offer a lot of bang for buck.
A great unisole alternative to the split sole Asics Split Second’s.
The Matflex are another good choice if you are looking for a budget ‘under $50’ wrestling shoe. If you want a unisole entry level wrestling shoe, these are a good alternative to the Asics Split Second 9 model recommended above.These shoes are specifically designed to give a lot of stability and grip on the wrestling mat, but they are quite functional off the mat as well (such as a gym say).
These shoes are specifically designed to give a lot of stability and grip on the wrestling mat, but they are quite functional off the mat as well (such as a gym say).
Matflex vs Split Second 9
Choosing between the split second 9 and the Matflex 5 is probably the choice you’ll face as both shoes are around the same price. I prefer the Split Second 9, personally, with the split sole design making them a bit preferable for mobility.
However, the Matflex are more grippy and provide a bit more stability due to the gumshoe full length soles (unisoles). For strength training, body building, or activities where you do put a lot of weight on your feet, the Matflex may be preferable.
Note that more than a few people do also like these for boxing, though I prefer the Adidas Combat Speed 4’s for wrestling shoes you can box in. For MMA though, these may be one of the best shoes.
Matflex vs Cael 5
Note though, if you intend to power-lift or strength train exclusively in a shoe, you might want to invest in the ASICS Cael 5.0 instead. They are slightly more expensive than the Matflex, but also have a the unisole design. however, the shoe sole is a bit flatter than the Matflex, making them a bit better for powerlifting or heavy weight lifting (for heavy weights, you want as flat a shoe sole as possible).
The flat unisole makes these shoes particularly great for weight lifting, especially for those doing heavy strength training focused sessions with compound lifts such as deadlifts and squats.
The flat sole allows for even distribution of weight on the foot, which gives you more stability whole holding weights…meaning you may be able to lift more weight.
These also come recommended as good shoes for general MMA training
How to size: these are a small fit. You should order 1 size larger than your normal shoe size.
Best Wrestling Shoes for MMA Training
While wrestling shoe are designed for wrestling, many people buy wrestling shoes specifically for MMA training — both to wear during training sessions or for strength & conditioning work. You should be able to get buy one any decent wrestling shoes, but there are a few shoes that stand out.
Keep in mind the MMA training includes wrestling take downs, stand up boxing, kicking, and submissions. As such, you need a shoe that can enable all of these without hindrance. All wrestling shoes will maximize the wrestling aspect of MMA, but not all wrestling shoes will be a good choice for switching to boxing or kicking at a moments notice.
Frankly, I do recommend you train in wrestling shoes because you can reduce some of the potential foot and ankle injuries from failed take-downs during training.
Maximum speed and maximum mobility are what combat speed 4 wrestling shoes bring to the table. In MMA, you need to transfer from a wrestling take-down to a punch at a split second’s notice. Combat speeds give you the extra grip you need for a take-down, but are not too restrictive with the grip, so you can use them for boxing footwork (foot pivots for maximum power, for example). Combat Speed 4 shoes are also extremely light shoes as well.
For BJJ (in MMA, called submission wrestling since you don’t wear a GI), wearing any shoes is a disadvantage since it’s hard to pull your foot out from submissions (like heel hooks). The additional size of a shoe also makes it more difficult to squeeze your foot in for some submissions, like pulling off an armbar. There is no shoe that is going remove this disadvantage, and you won’t be fighting MMA bouts with any shoe on, but if you do MMA sparr in wrestling shoes, the Combat Speed 4 with their minimal dimensions and ultra light weight do mitigate some of this.
I also do use Combat Speed 4’s for pure boxing — so they really can be used for the full gamut of MMA — from wrestling take-downs to pure boxing. As such, these are the best MMA training shoes I’ve found so far.
These are also good shoes for MMA training. The reason being they are a) cheap at about $40 bucks and b) quite lightweight and c) are of split-sole design, which helps replicate the feeling of standing (or moving) in your bare feet. As MMA matches (or MMA sparring), is done in the bare foot, the split sole design mimics this somewhat.
So training in Split Second 9’s does feel not too far removed from training in your bare feet, but with the extra grip and supported of the shoe. The Combat Speed 4 shoes recommended above are a bit lighter and more ventilated with the mesh siding, but the Split Second shoes feel a bit closer wearing bare feet.
The Final Word
I’ve given a comprehensive breakdown to some of the better wrestling shoes on the market. There’s obviously a great deal of personal preferences, especially among wrestlers. It’s very difficult to recommend a specific wrestling shoe as the overall top best choice. The truth is, there is no such shoe. However, as a final tip, here’s a few pointers for how to choose between the better models.
General Category Recommendations
- For Wresting Shoe Durability (Asics Aggressor 2 or Nike Inflicts)
- For Wresting Mobility & Speed (Adidas Combat 4 or ASICS Aggressor 2)
- For Wresting with Power & Strength (ASICS Dave Schultz Classics)
- For Maximum Comfort (ASICS Dave Schultz)
- For Competitive Mat Wrestling Matches (Adidas AdiZero or Asics Aggressor 2 or Combat Speed 4)
- For Weight Lifting (ASICS Cael 5)
- For General Training (ASIC Split Second 9)
- For Budget Saving / Beginner Wrestlers (ASICS Split Second or ASICS Mat Wizard)
- For Boxing (Adidas Combat Speed 4)
- For MMA Training (Matflex 5 or Split Second 9)
If you have a favorite preference for a wrestling shoe, please share it in the comments!