07 Jan Fancy Footwear: To Shoe or Not to Shoe
There is a rule of thumb for martial arts gyms: no shoes. This rule excludes specialized shoes for boxing, or wrestling, and never-seen-the-world-outside-gym shoes. This rule is in place to keep the mats clean. However, shoes can be a new training tool to strengthen your boxing skills.
I was against the notion of shoes for ages. I felt like it hindered my boxing practice without my bare feet on the ground. I felt slow as my shoe’s traction stuck and stitched to the floor. I felt like I was back in swim resistance training: swimming fast, only slowed down by the plastic bag parachute behind me. However, the reasons I didn’t like about the shoes were the reasons I needed them.
In my boxing shoes stitched the soles of my feet to the floor. I lost my agility and nimbleness that I had gained through my years of barefoot boxing training. My ability to pivot, gone. However, the shoes were like the Mirror of Erised; it revealed what I desired from boxing, to be great and skilled as a fighter. It revealed my flaws: I lacked balance, as I relied on unnecessary movements to counteract; My defensive maneuvers, slips and rolls depended on my shuffling feet; My stance was lacking in rotation as my back foot became accustomed to being flat. With these weaknesses revealed, I can now direct my energy to train them and focusing on improvement rather than depending on my strengths.
There has been an added benefit to these shoes. I’ve become faster. If you can become faster, more efficient in these shoes that make out with the mats, then as a barefoot boxer, you become faster. As the friction increases between foot and floor, you need to become efficient to match your previous pace or the expectations of your coaches. These shoes may not be the Talaria, the winged shoes of Hermes, but your feet will fly again with time and practice.
We do not require shoes for boxing. However, through my personal experience, they are required to become a better boxer. They are not the ruby red slippers or the glass slipper I wanted to walk my journey, but they are the shoes I need. To shoe or not to shoe is up to you.