Wrestling shoes are a vital part of any wrestler’s gear. The right shoes will give the wrestler confidence because they give the wearer traction on the mat, flexibility, mobility, and are designed specifically for performance in wrestling.
Just any old pair of shoes will not work in this case because wrestling shoes are made for wrestling only. This is important to put out there because some people will believe that you can interchange shoes.
This is simply not true of wrestling shoes.
Today, we will look at all of the factors that go into buying wrestling shoes. We’ll explain features in detail so that you can make better choices about the kind of shoes you need. We will then rank the top ten pairs of shoes in our review toward the end of the buying guide.
A quick historical overview of wrestling shoes will tell you that the very first pair of shoes were made in the 1970s. They were called “Onitsuka Tigers,” made by a Japanese company.
Prior to this creation, wrestlers commonly wrestled with no shoes on at all as tennis shoes and other types of shoes failed to produce any grip for the athlete. As time has gone on, the wrestling shoe industry has grown rapidly.
Like basketball and other types of shoes, there are collectors as well as just ordinary people who wear them for a number of purposes. Some have begun to (gasp) use wrestling shoes in the fashion arena.
The change has been crazy, but we are seeing a truly vibrant marketplace with all sorts of ideas and looks open up. But they are primarily meant for wrestling, and that’s what our main focus will be!
The most important part of any shoe buying experience is making sure that you have the right fit. This is crucial in wrestling as well. Wrestling shoes are unique to most other shoes in that the feel and fit you need should be like a sock.
Let’s think about it this way. Socks basically mold or conform to your foot. They stretch out to your size, they allow you to move around freely, but they also protect you.
A wrestling shoe will go a little above and beyond a sock, but it should feel like a sock with its flexibility.
Having loose shoes are a huge no-no. This is a very common mistake made by young wrestlers. They are often bought for them by parents who have great intentions.
They want to save money by purchasing shoes that they can grow into at a later date. This is a great idea on the surface, but bigger shoes will cause your feet to be “loose.”
That means your foot will slide up and down. That takes away all of the traction you are supposed to gain from wearing the shoe on the mat!
This is also a problem because they can come off or cause injuries to your back or knees. You will lose all of your speed if you are spending time worrying about how to keep your shoes from flying off!
Now, with that said you still want to almost feel as if you are barefoot when you wear wrestling shoes. This way the shoe becomes a part of your body, and it’s almost like it’s working in conjunction with you.
Wrestling shoes are made to be tight, so they are usually half of a size too small. This is just how they are made, so it is crucial that you try on a pair and make sure they fit well.
They may not fit well for you, and you’ll need an extra half size or full-size up. But you will not want to go too far without trying them on to begin with.
There is a break-in period of time when it comes to wrestling shoes, so keep in mind the fact that they will stretch out a little over time.
Another important thing to keep in mind that many do not think of is trying on a pair of wrestling shoes when they are “cold.”
When you aren’t or haven’t been in physical activity, trying on shoes can give you a totally different feel.
Your ankles swell well you are exercising, so you do not want to assume that the shoes will fit the same way when you are hot as when you are cold. This might be something you want to do before you try on a pair of shoes.
In some cases, the fact that the shoes run a little small gets balanced out by the shoes stretching out over time.
For those that don’t have much experience with wrestling shoes, however, it’s hard to tell whether or not this phenomenon will take place.
So, it’s really worth the time and effort to go and try on a few pairs just to make sure you know what you are getting and what to expect. With wrestling shoes, it would probably be wise to find a pair and try your best to stick with them over time.
Fits for Different Classes
The kind of fit that you want or need may be determined by the class or style of wrestler that you are.
A heavyweight, for example, is more than likely going to need to have a very snug fit. This is due to the fact that he or she will need to use all of their upper body strength.
This makes flexibility much less important, and it makes rigidity very important and necessary.
For lightweight wrestlers, you might want the exact opposite. Having a shoe that is very flexible might be the way you want to go as you are much more likely to be very quick when out on the mat.
Your style, and not just your weight, will determine which one you will want and need. So, just take some time to think about the kind of style that you plan to use, and then consider how each shoe would help or possibly hinder you.
The sole of the wrestling sole can go a long way in making sure the fit is what you want and need. There are two main options to choose from: split soles and non-split soles. Very creative names indeed, there.
Split sole shoes are a great tool for very experienced wrestlers to have to use.
Most Olympians, college wrestlers, and people that are high up on the wrestling food chain prefer them.
These types of shoes literally have a split in the bottom of the sole. They have two separate rubber parts to them, and this essentially is done to mimic the way it ways to be barefoot.
This is preferred by the ‘pros’ because they give the wearer an incredible amount of flexibility and also aid with their quickness.
This is incredibly important at the highest levels of competition because virtually everyone is quick as a cat. Any bit of an advantage can be crucial, so these are very desirable.
Non-split soles are also an option for wrestlers, and they are typically used more by young wrestlers and those that want something that will last much longer.
Unlike the split sole shoes, this is just one big piece of rubber that is used. They aren’t as light as the split soles, but they are still very light and flexible.
You will still get a certain amount of flexibility in a wrestling shoe that you just don’t find elsewhere. One of the big advantages of a non-split sole shoe is that it will last longer than the split sole will.
This is because the sole itself will cover the weaker materials that its made out of.
This isn’t as much the case with split sole shoes. So for those that want something to last a very long time, you might want to look in this direction. Also, if quickness isn’t a strong suit and strength and power is, then this would also be worth a shot!
There is a third option, but it is much less common. A spiked sole is an option for those that want to gain even more traction out on the mat.
The issue with them, though, is that they can negatively affect your balance at times. So you may be able to grip the mat better, but you risk falling over to do so. They shouldn’t be a problem for anyone that has wrestled for very long, though!
In the very beginning of the days of wrestling shoes, the idea of ankle support would have been a foreign one.
To begin with, it was just a blessing to many that there was an actual shoe designed for wrestling. They had no qualms or complaints about how they looked or what kind of support they offered.
That leads us to today where there are so many options out there as opposed to just the traditional and classic wrestling look. The traditional look is very similar to what tennis shoes typically are.
They are what most would call “low tops.” Low tops are very flat and are very flexible and they allow you to move around very easily and quickly because they are low weight.
This is why most running shoes are low tops. The theory is that a runner is going to only be running forward, so they don’t need to worry about rolling the ankles.
Low tops are best for wrestlers that are smaller and those that have not had ankle issues in the past.
For those that have had some issues in the past with their ankles, some ankle support is likely going to be needed to avoid injuries.
Thankfully, high tops are now seen pretty regularly in wrestling. High tops are a lot like basketball shoes in that they have a high ankle in them to help protect you from rolling your ankles over.
Because most smaller and younger competitors never get into situations where they need them, they are not necessary.
But for heavyweight wrestlers, older wrestlers, and those that have had ankle issues, these are invaluable. Ankles are very difficult things to have heal, and one injury can cause a lifetime of pain.
So, you may want to take a look at buying some shoes with some added ankle protection.
Just keep in mind that you are making trade-offs with each type. With the low top, you will move around much more freely and quickly but with the risk or rolling them over.
With the high top, you aren’t as free to move around the way you’d always like, but you are much more confident in knowing your ankles are protected.
Which one is right for you is ultimately up to you, and we will make sure to point out the differences in our reviews later.
The “upper” is the part of the shoe that you can see when someone is directly underneath you. It’s the part that sometimes has shoestrings on it.
The upper is an important part to look at because it can give you the ability to be much more comfortable in what you are doing. There are a few different types of materials that can be used, and each has its own positives and its negatives.
If you are looking for something that is breathable, you will want to look for something that has a mesh integrated into its construction.
Breathability is a really big word that basically means “does your shoe air out?” This is crucial to a lot of wrestlers who need something to help them release that moisture.
While wrestling, a lot of stress and strain will cause sweat. Without mesh, that sweat can be trapped inside and cause a lot of discomfort. Most of the time, this discomfort is just annoying, but on occasion, it can cause blisters to start to form.
So, finding a shoe with a mesh upper on it can help you tremendously in hot gyms during long tournaments.
Another option to go with is leather. Leather looks a lot better than mesh in most cases, but it is also warmer. This warmness can be a good thing if you are in a cold gym or are a cold-natured person.
But sometimes, it can be a detriment. Leather’s other plus side is the fact that it typically will last longer than mesh. Mesh can tear just a little bit sometimes from continued use. Leather won’t last forever, but it will last a little longer.
Synthetic materials are another option altogether. Most shoes seen in all markets, all sports, are made from synthetic materials.
Synthetics allow you to breathe easier, move easier, and they last a while longer. They are also pretty cheap in comparison to most leathers. Synthetics basically try to copy the feel or a true, natural leather.
They are man-made, and they are meant to take a beating. There are different types of synthetics, such as polyester and nylon, and they can be found with mesh very frequently.
Color and Style
Wrestling hasn’t always been a sport where flash and style were commonplace. But it’s a new generation, and we are seeing changes that we likely never imagined by many.
In the old days, you’d maybe see white and black. Even when we wrestled, we usually just saw all black shoes. That wasn’t even that long ago!
There were others around, but it was almost seen as taboo to go out on the mat with a crazy color scheme. Fast forward to now, and there are a ton of options are shoe manufacturers have been forced to diversify due to increasing competition.
No matter what kind of wrestler you are, your shoes do say something about.
Whether you just want to be the no-nonsense, traditionalist wrestler that doesn’t play around with a black and/or white pair of shoes, or you want to be someone that wears neon, you can stick out with the right pair of shoes.
As the sport is growing and gaining popularity, it’s becoming more and more crucial to stick out and been seen by the best coaches, schools, and teams. It may prove important to find one to make you look a bit different!
The main purpose of the wrestling shoe is to provide the wrestler with traction. Those that wrestle barefoot don’t have as much drive as those that have shoes. But having the right shoe is also important.
That is why wrestling shoes are made with rubber on the bottoms. The rubber does the job of giving you more traction by making sure that you do not slide around.
No matter what, you are probably going to see rubber used on the bottoms if it’s a “wrestling shoe.” Similar to how volleyball players use gum rubber, you can expect to see this with wrestling shoes.
If you do not, you’re probably going to want to walk away from the potential transaction as it probably will not get the job done properly for you.
For those wrestlers that are more about power and strength that they are about speed and mobility, they will want to look for bottoms that have v shapes to them.
These types of soles have little ridges in them that make patterns that look like the letter v to better allow the user to stick to the mat much more confidently.
You wouldn’t want to be trying to throw an opponent while falling over! So this is the way to do that.
On the opposite side would be the circular pattern. This is much more likely to be used by a lightweight that can fly around quicker than a big heavyweight would be able to do.
This allows you to execute moves without slipping over as you continue to stay on the move from your just-as-agile opponent.
Best Wrestling Shoe Reviews
Topping the list is ASICS, to no surprise, with a premium-priced pair of shoes. These come in four different eye-popping colors, and they are built to give you flexibility.
They are a “bootie” meaning they basically look like a swimming shoe but they have a bit of ankle protection to them as well.
This allows them to be lightweight and give you that protection, so you may not have to choose between the two.
They also have a pocket (Asics calls it a “lace garage”) where you can put your laces in so they won’t get untied!
- Great colors and style
- Offers a lot of flexibility
- Very lightweight
- Quite a hefty price
- Probably not great for youngsters or super heavyweights
This offering from ASICS comes with a number of colors that will give you the ability to stand out. It’s also at a higher price point, but it is not as flexible as the Omniflex was.
This shoe has a high top, and it will keep you locked in as its a more traditional shoe in that sense. It’s synthetic and has split soles, but it’s still not anything like the fish-like shoes we saw at #1!
The laces look great, and they are easily visible, unlike the previous entry.
- More great colors
- Has a high top and offers great ankle protection
- Still split soles for easier movements
- Still quite a price
- Some have issues with the soles coming apart
ASICS’ third consecutive entry to start the top ten list is with the Aggressor 2. This model is different from the previous two because it is not split-soled at all. It still has the high top, however, to allow your ankles to be protected.
It’s still at quite a hefty price, but you have a number of colors to choose from and great traction and protection. They are very soft due to their “Ecsaine” makeup, which is a trademarked, trade name for a synthetic ultra-microfiber fabric invented in 1970 in Japan.
This also makes them form-fitting and very durable as well. It has a “hook and loop” closure as well to keep the shoestrings in and secure your foot a little more tightly.
- Great designs again
- The Ecsaine makes it very unique in look and feel
- Very durable and protective
- The price is fairly high
- Takes time to break-in
adidas breaks ASICS monopoly with a little less expensive option for the mat. The Combat Speed 4/5 is also a high top, and it is available in a huge array of colors but still with a refined look to them all.
They are made from leather and mesh and they have suede in parts of them. They are much more a regular shoe than most, but they still offer a great feeling as if they were a sock. Both the 4s and 5s offer a very snug fit with no foot movement inside the shoe.
They are breathable, have superior traction on the soles, and they have a hook and loop ankle enclosure to help further protect you.
- Very good at protecting the ankles
- Really classy look
- Breathability is great
- Still expensive for younger wrestlers/those starting out
- These run narrow
This in an option from adidas that will set you back a little more than the previous one. It also is much flashier, so it’s for someone that is looking to catch the eye with their personal style.
Like the last entry, they also have high top ankle protection and are made out of synthetics and mesh to help increase the breathability of your foot.
They also have circular traction, and there are few differences between this and #4. The shoes do take some time to put on, and you have to tape the laces, however.
- Really nice styles
- Very breathable
- Good ankle support
- Takes a while to put on or take off
This is the first ASICS to make the list with a more traditional look to it. There are six different color schemes available, and some are quite flashy! The black one featured in this review is one of the most plain.
The bottom is a full gum rubber sole, so it’s just like a volleyball shoe in that regard. So it would make for a great training shoe in addition to being on the mat.
They also do a great job of protecting the ankles with their high tops, and it’s at a little more of a manageable price as well. It does not have an ankle enclosure, however.
There is an integrated lace garage to safely tuck your laces out of harm’s way!
- More refined and plain look
- Versatile because of gum rubber soles
- High tops protect your ankles
- Doesn’t have ankle enclosure
- May be seen as too boring by some (unless you get the very cool color options)
The Mat Wizard is another adidas offering in the pretty hefty price range, and it also offers a number of color scheme options.
Much like its brethren, it has mesh and synthetics paired together to give you a better feel and some breathability to your day on the mat, and they also have a high top.
The bottoms have an interesting diamond-like design on them, and they also have underlays for support on your ankles and your midfoot that are lightweight.
The sock-like fit of these shoes is an attractive feature but it’s not unlike many other models in that respect. The full rubber sole and the EVA midsole wedge offers a level of cushion/comfort/protection that would make this shoe a smart buy for any wrestler.
- Ankles remain protected
- Cool designs
- Quite expensive
- Best for competitions
The Patriot is our first moderately priced option on the list. It doesn’t offer a ton of colors and choices, rather is has just the one red, white, and blue look.
It looks very similar to a basketball shoe with its high tops and even its tongue. It still has a Velcro enclosure, though, to keep your ankles protected.
Made from mesh to give you breathability and great comfort. It has extra padding for the heel to also increase comfort. The soles have an interesting design on the bottom that is intended to increase traction as well.
- Great price
- Pro-America design is great for Patriots
- Great ankle protection
- Only in one color
- Velcro is kinda lame
The Brute Elite shoe is a well-rated shoe (by Amazon purchasers) and it comes with a VERY catchy graphic design. The Elite is in the middle of being a high top and a low top, so it allows you to have the best of both worlds in that regard.
It claims to be the lightest wrestling shoe on the market at 7.5 oz, and it’s almost another one of the shoes that looks like a fish! It feels exactly like a sock, so if you want great comfort this is your shoe.
As a quick caution, even BRUTE says that you should order 1 size larger than you normally order. I wear a size 11 but I’d order a size 12.
- Great price
- Very lightweight
- Offers some ankle protection
- Doesn’t offer a lot of overall protection
- Laces are difficult to tie
- Not true to size (order 1 size larger)
Check out this Fast-Paced Visual Summary of Jordan Burroughs’ Workouts!
Conclusion & Recommendation
To sum everything up, selecting the right pair of wrestling shoes for you is an important factor in your performance. However, it is ultimately up to you and your wants and needs to decide what kind is best for you.
If you need something that is very solid, then you have options that we’ve taken a look at. If you’re small and need something to be quick and shifty in, then there are options there.
If you have ankle issues, you’ll want a pair with high tops. Remember, your shoes are going to run a little small in almost every case compared to your ‘normal’ shoe size.
Make sure that you realize this fact, and have a game plan for it. A lot of these shoes that we saw are quite expensive, so you will not want to get the wrong size or overlook any of the features that you need!
So, please just remember to pick a pair that fits well and you’ll be good to your feet for your next match!