They say that the best way to pick the winner of a match is by who has the most ratty, worn out shoes. While I'm a firm believer that shoes can say a lot, I also believe in taking care of your feet. However, if you see a boxer jump into the ring with brand new shoes, he most likely is a novice because boxing practices can be rough, and breaking in boxing shoes can be a painful experience sometimes that you definitely wouldn't want to have to go through in the ring.
Why won't my regular shoes work?
On Saturdays, I allow all of our EYES participants to wear whatever workout shoes that they have inside our den, but I've never heard of another coach letting that happen. There are a lot of different reasons for that. Your outside shoes track in a lot of outside germs. For one thing, that simply doesn't work for those who are rolling if you belong to the majority of boxing gyms who are also matted out for MMA. For those gyms dedicated to boxing, this requires a special spongy (and therefore extremely porous) flooring which traps bacteria and germs.
Even in those gyms that are rough looking, as most boxing gyms are, we are concerned about keeping skin diseases out of the gym. This is extremely difficult when everyone in a combat gym is creating pools of sweat, hugging the equipment, and often spitting into buckets. In order to maintain the intensity of practice, it isn’t practical to stop between activities to sanitize equipment as they move from one area to another. Wearing shoes that are not used outside is one small way that you can keep your gym safe and healthy no matter where you are practicing.
Another reason for wearing boxing shoes is that you cannot feel your feet and truly utilize your toes and balls of your feet in the necessary ways to obtain correct balance, explosion, and head movement when you are using shoes with the extremely thick bottoms found in outside shoes. You may say, "Head movement??" Yes. Your head movement starts with your toes, so if you expect to be slipping any punches anytime soon, you'll want to purchase the proper footwear.
Types of Boxing Shoes
Boxing shoes come in many different styles, cuts, and types of materials -- just like regular outside shoes. The thing that you'll notice that all boxing shoes have in common is a thin sole. This is vital, as stated above, for maximum use of even the smallest muscles and tendons found in your feet. It does, however, usually mean very little support. This is another reason not to wear your boxing shoes outside the gym. In my experience, the thicker the sole of the shoes, depending on how stiff and plastic-like the body is made, the harder they are to break in, but the slower they are to wear down.
Even if you're looking for shoes that will definitely not wear out quickly, you have to keep in mind that the thicker your shoes are, the harder it will also be tomove explosively or to use your toes and tendons correctly. I have also found that even when the soles are still in fairly decent shape I end up having to replace them first because I have holes torn through all of my lacing eyes, the toes of the shoes are worn from deep body shot pivots, and I'm going to pass out from the smell when I get them out of my bag to put them on. Even if this wasn't the case, boxing is hard enough, and in a sport where every hundredth of a second makes the difference between you landing or slipping that punch, I'd choose to replace my shoes just a few months earlier.
If you take a look at the shoes posted here, you'll see there are many different options for how high the shoe goes up. There are generally about four levels (although I have seen specialty shoes that go higher). The first shoe shown, a Ringside Ring Master, goes all the way up over the calf muscle. These do not personally work for me because I'm that girl that can't wear boots pretty much because my calf doesn't fit. To be fair, my calves are about the same size as my quads, and trust me, there's nothing skinny about my quads. I have seen, though, that these typically work the best for people who are fast-twitch muscle heavy (more naturally sprinters than endurance runners), and generally I've sen more men than women who prefer this style. This most likely has to do with the way we are built and develop muscle.
Then you see the blue Title boxing shoe which is called Box-Star Encite Elite Boxing Shoe. This shoe does not cover the ankle, but sits just below it. There are a fair number of people who never seem to have any problems with the tendons that run from the tops of their toes into their legs, but I am not one of them, and in my experience, at least a third of boxers I've known have "ankle" problems at some point. While a lot of coaches call these "ankle problems" or say that you can't have "weak ankles" in boxing, this is a misnomer. It is not the "ankles", even though that is where you often feel the pain, sometimes in the tops of your feet or in the toes themselves. It is actually the small tendons that connect the toes to the ankles to the legs.
Especially if you are new to a sport which requires such precise foot movement and balance, you should make sure that you have maximum support for these tendons as your tendons get used to the stress. This is why my strongest recommendation is for the last two levels of support shown, which are the Ringside Power Boxing Shoe, which is what I use, and the Ringside Undefeated High Top.
Body of the Shoes
My very favorite shoes that I've ever owned were some off brand, crazy find on E-Bay of some kids wrestling shoes that were real leather. Not only did I feel super cool and old-school in these masterpieces, but the leather was a perfect feel, shaping exactly to my feet and no one else's. They were beautiful. But man did they smell bad!! I definitely did not think through the fact that leather would be practically impossible to clean, yet soak up absolutely every smelly drop of sweat during my three hour practices in the summer of an extremely humid gym with fifty bodies packed so tight you couldn't NOT fight someone!
After they broke unexpectedly, a week out from a fight, I asked my sister (who has her masters in clothing restoration) to fix them enough to be able to fight in those, then I would break in new ones after. She couldn't handle the smell to even be in the same room with them, let alone sit there and work on them. I will always know exactly how much she loves and supports me because she somehow fixed those shoes. While they got me through that fight, it was definitely time to look for a different type of shoe.
In a world of technology, we have a million options of very different, and very technically designed materials to make shoes. I have to say that I would never recommend leather shoes to anyone, but I would recommend the cloth material over the much stiffer plastic types of materials. The plastics are great for keeping the eyelets of the laces strong (because you will want to lace your shoes up tight, particularly as they bend between the foot and ankle/leg), and they add a very cool shiny look, but flash isn't everything. I have found that they are too stiff for the type of movement I want to achieve, and that they are much, much harder to break in. These are only my personal opinions, and there are MANY boxers who absolutely love the plastic over the softer materials.
When shopping around for new shoes, note that wrestling shoes are basically the same as boxing shoes, and that it may be far easier to find a variety of options--particularly if you're a woman with smaller feet. If money and ordering time aren't a restriction for you, I recommend sticking with the big boxing brands: Title and Ringside. For women: note that these are in some kind of universal sizing or what they call "men's" sizing, but I don't need to go down a full size and a half, just about one size. Brand new shoes should fit pretty snugly--bordering on too snug--if they are not made of the plastic like materials, because they will stretch at least a half size by the time they are worn in. Think of the way a knit glove fits your hand. You can still fully utilize your fingers and feel things through the glove. In boxing shoes you should be able to fully utilize your toes and feel through the shoes.
Ringside Diablo Boxing Shoes
Ringside Power Boxing Shoes
Ringside Undefeated High Top
Ringside Ring Master
TITLE Box Star Incite Boxing Shoes
TITLE Speed Flex Encore Mid Boxing Shoe
TITLE Predator II Boxing Shoe
TITLE Speed-Flex Encore Tall Boxing Shoe