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Wrestling Shoe Design Features – A Complete 2024 Guide

​When it comes to combat sports, equipment becomes far more crucial than in other situations. There is a higher potential for injury when two athletes are sparring. Of course, the very objective of actual combat is to wound your adversary, but this can accidentally occur in combat sports as well. For wrestling, some of the most common injuries are to the feet, ankles, and knees. Here we take a look at the wrestling shoe design features that help improve performance and reduce risk of injury.

Wrestler trying to avoid being pinned. Image shows tread and grip wrestling shoe design features on a mat.

​It is for this reason that you will always want to be sure that you have the right equipment to perform your sport, whether that be a set of boxing gloves or the right pair of wrestling shoes. In fact, these shoes are the topic of today’s article. We’re going to cover how their design features impact your performance and safety.

Wrestling shoes are one of the most crucial pieces of gear that wrestlers need to compete for a wide variety of reasons. We’ll be looking at all of them in this guide. By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert on wrestling shoe design features. It may even help you choose the right pair for your needs.

What are Wrestling Shoes?

​Before we get into the nitty-gritty details about these shoes, let's cover what they are in the first place. While it is obvious that wrestling shoes are for wrestlers while practicing their sport, what exactly differentiates a wrestling shoe from other kinds of footwear? Wrestling shoes overlap with shoes designed for other sports, such as boxing shoes, but have some distinct differences.

​Wrestling shoes feature thin soles and uppers that protect the feet of the wrestler during the competition. They also provide crucial support for the ankles. As a category wrestling shoes initially appeared in the 1970s. They have come a long way since their inception, so let's get started.

​Critical Wrestling Shoe Design Features

​There are a few characteristics most wrestlers prefer in wrestling shoe design. These features will make it easier for you to practice the sport. Durability, low weight, flexibility, support, and grip feature prominently in any model. These design features of most shoes try to accentuate these advantages.

Low Weight

​Lighter wrestling shoes are always preferable because footwork is critical to becoming the best wrestler possible. If your shoes are too heavy, they will weigh down your feet and make you less agile. While raw strength is also necessary, you won't want to trip over your own feet.

​Of course, shaving half a gram of weight off of your shoes won’t make a massive difference, but there is no reason to be competing in bulky shoes. While there is a slight tradeoff in foot protection for lightweight shoes, it is typically worth the improved performance.

Foot Protection

​One of the main reasons that wrestlers even wear shoes is to keep their feet from ending up injured over the course of a bout. Wrestling is an intense sport. Injuries can occur in the heat of the moment without even realizing it. With constant foot motion, adjustments, and large shifts of weight, ankle and knee sprains happen regularly.

​Broken nails, stamped feet, and torn ligaments are all possible foot injuries for wrestlers. Improper footwear can increase the odds for all of these injuries. While foot injuries may not be too severe, there is no reason to risk unnecessary pain and discomfort, not to mention infection.


​Wrestling shoes are more flexible than other athletic shoes since you will often be on the balls of your feet. Of course, some wrestlers prefer more flexibility in their stance while others will stay more rigid, and they'll opt for shoes with more grip instead.

​How flexible your wrestling shoe depends on the design of the sole. There are two main types that you’ll come across: split sole and unisole. We’ll take a look at the differences between these two kinds of shoes in further detail shortly.


​Of course, ankle support is also crucial, as with any other shoe that you would use in a sport. More ankle support reduces the chance of injury as the shoe will be able to brace you more effectively. Ankle injuries are somewhat common in wrestling, especially when you use more footwork in your style.

​Wrestling shoes almost always have a high top design so that they can keep your ankle braced while you spar. Of course, a high top doesn’t automatically mean that a wrestling shoe will provide you with plenty of support, you will have to take a closer look at how the top of the shoe is designed.

​Wrestling Shoe Design and Sole Type

​There are two kinds of soles available for wrestling shoes, with the first option being split soles. As you would imagine, a split sole is one that is separated in the middle of the shoe. This results in a smaller contact surface with the ground, resulting in reduced grip but dramatically improving the shoe's flexibility.

​On the other hand, you can opt for wrestling shoes that feature a unisole, which is a more traditional design where it extends the length of the foot. Unisole wrestling shoes will keep you from sliding too much, as they will have a larger contact patch with the ground. 


​Various brands will have different wrestling shoe design philosophies, meaning that you may grow more attached to their type of footwear for the sport. Most of the time, the first thing you should consider when trying out a new brand is their sizing, as there may be different standards.

​For example, some companies will recommend choosing a size that is larger than your everyday shoes while others will only fit if you get a smaller size. Keep in mind that some companies may have several wrestling shoe lines that are made for athletes who use different stances and styles.

​Final Thoughts on Wrestling Shoe Design Features

​Wrestling shoe design is a more complicated matter than just keeping the competitors’ feet protected, and we hope that we have been able to give you a glimpse into that world. Thank you for taking the time to read through our guide.

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