It doesn’t matter if you are a high school junior varsity or an Olympic wrestler: Having the best wrestling shoes is a must. They give you a grip advantage, they protect you from permanent damage, and they provide comfort when wrestling. This guide was developed to assist you in finding the perfect, most effective wrestling shoes for your unique needs.
The Wrestler's Nightmare
Picture this. You are stepping into the ring as a scrawny high school junior. 17 years old, and you’re in the prime of your wrestling journey. You’re slated to wrestle the strongest senior on your rival high school’s wrestling team. You’ve been psyching yourself up all week. New singlet, nice clean headgear. You’re feeling optimistic and ready to go.
You step onto the mat. The rubber creaks beneath your feet. You can hear your opponent’s heavy breathing. The referee steps up and gets ready to blow the whistle, and you look down.
It is at this point you realize that you forgot your new wrestling shoes, and are wearing a cheap off-brand alternative that was left in the locker room. The whistle blows, and within thirty seconds you are pinned to the ground, eye-level with your opponent’s new, quality wrestling shoes.
Don’t let this happen to you. Selecting and using a high-quality wrestling shoe can mean the difference between an exuberant triumph and a depressing defeat. We are here to help ensure the tables stay turned in your favor.
Keep on reading for a comprehensive guide to the highest quality wrestling shoes currently on the market. These are the shoes that will keep you winning, match after match!
Why Are Wrestling Shoes Important?
It’s time to be honest, here. This isn’t a high visibility market. Most people when they think about wrestling don’t think about the shoes aspect of it. Wrestling shoes provide an underrated tactical advantage, though. They can easily be the most important piece of gear a wrestler owns.
Wrestling shoes ae made to assist the feet and ankles by providing further stabilization and support. This, in turn, keeps your feet from slipping on the slick, sweaty mat. Additionally, wrestling shoes are built with support higher up the ankle area than other shoes, to keep the ankles from rolling or spraining with quick, jerky movements.
The amount of traction that is typically required through the course of a high-octane wrestling match can be surprisingly astronomical. Quality wrestling shoes work against the mat to provide and promote stability to the wrestler from all directions.
Wrestling shoes come in a multitude of types and styles, built for everyone from beginners to professional wrestlers. Having a good quality pair of running shoes assists the wrestler in meeting their maximum physical potential, as well as experience increased performance.
Wrestling shoes don’t only come in all sizes for professionals to beginners, they also have a ton of different types, styles and colors for wrestlers to choose from.
Below are our ratings for the best wrestling shoes currently on the market. These suggested options come from extensive research and development, testing of our own, and aggregation of reviews from several high-value sources across the Internet. You will notice that the nine top selections we have made all derive from the same two brands: Adidas and ASICS. This is no coincidence.
ShoeGuide's Best Wrestling Shoes Top Picks
Our expert's rating
1. Adidas Men’s Combat Speed 5 Wrestling Shoe
The Adidas Combat Speed 5 is a step up from the below Combat Speed 4, and is the highest rated wrestling shoe on our Ultimate Guide to Choosing Quality Wrestling Shoes for good reason. This shoe is old-school in styling, looking like the standard vintage Adidas trainers. It comes in three common color options, and when combined with the low entry price point, makes this the perfect shoe for high school or college athletes on a budget and with strict color requirements.
Upgrades from the Combat Speed 4 include stronger grip, a more modern appearance, and enhanced durability of materials.
They are split sole wrestling shoes, and were manufactured to help wrestlers in fast movements on the mat, with superior tightness around the ankle to provide ample support. The soles are thicker, helpful for wrestlers with fallen arches or flat feet. Like the below predecessor, these shoes are incredibly lightweight (at 1.2 pounds for a pair) compared to alternatives on our list, even when constructed from a leather and mesh upper with a Velcro ankle strap closure. If there was a shoe to consider the best combination of low price and high quality, this would be it.
2. ASICS Men’s Cael v7.0 Wrestling Shoe
The ASICS Cael v7.0 is a solid step up from their widely-popular v6.0. This shoe provides eight eyelets from which to choose for lacing purposes. This gives the wrestler a wide variety of possible options for lacing, allowing them to select the level of snugness against the foot and ankle. The big draw for this is allowing for plenty of customization choices. With this feature, users with larger feet can obtain more room, while those wrestlers looking for more support can cinch them tighter.
The upper of these shoes is comprised of a combination of Escaine and open mesh, providing the wrestler with improved breathability and better performance, while also actively wicking moisture.
The shoes have a specialized liner that works to wick away moisture, which is good as these shoes are not mesh. The sole is extremely slippery, though, which is a noted downside in some reviews. The sole, which is non-split, comes with a Cael Sanderson signature on the heel. These shoes are in the mid-range for weight, coming in at a solid pound and a half.
3. Adidas Men’s Adizero XIV Wrestling Shoe
The Adidas Adizero XIV is one of the highest rated wrestling shoes on our list, and for good reason. These high-quality shoes layer synthetic materials with mesh, providing an incredible mix of ventilation and sturdiness, which can come in handy after a long day in and out of the ring during matches.
Additionally, the Adizero XIV strikes a solid balance between slippery and grip, allowing show wearers to pull off almost any move during a wrestling match.
This balance makes this a player favorite amongst MMA fighters and boxers as well, although below we will stress that boxing shoes are NOT wrestling shoes, although in this case the opposite applies.
These wrestling shoes are suitable for larger feet, and reports state that there is no reason to size down, as Adidas thought ahead with these (rather expensive) wrestling shoes and provided sizing that matched casual and running shoes. Being comprised of mostly high-tech mesh, these shoes dry out faster than any other shoe on our list, however as they cannot be easily cleaned, they tend to get dirty quickly. These shoes are on the lighter end of the weight spectrum of wrestling shoes on our list, coming in at 1.3 pounds for a pair.
4. Adidas Men’s Combat Speed 4 Wrestling Shoe
The Adidas Combat Speed 4 is a wrestling shoe providing an incredibly “old-school” experience for the wrestler, channeling the original Combat Speed from the 1970’s. They look vintage, come in a variety of colors (27 different options to be exact), and truly allow a die-hard wrestler to channel their inner Dan Gable as they are entering the mat. These shoes are split-sole, and have been designed to assist the wrestler in quick, agile movements. This allows the wrestler to gain an advantage early in the match, and the ankle support ensures that injury risks are decreased.
These shoes are some of the least expensive on our Ultimate Guide to Choosing Quality Wrestling Shoes. They also have solid soles, working to support those suffering from flat footedness and fallen arches. The Combat Speed 4 is also notorious for being a double-duty shoe, working for those needing a good-gripping, lightweight shoe for martial artists. The build quality lacks, but you get what you pay for with wrestling shoes. These are also the lightest shoes on our list, coming in at 1.2 pounds.
5. ASICS Men’s Matflex 5 Wrestling Shoe
The Matflex 5 is a wonderful option from ASICS. The shoe is a little on the heavier side, at 1.7 pounds. There is not ample padding in the sole of the shoe (which is split sole). For this reason, if you tend to run into issues with flat footedness (check out our article on The Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet), you might run into potential issues with the lack of thick padding compared to other wrestling shoes on our list.
However, the ASICS Matflex 5’s thinner sole really allows the wrestler to feel the mat under their feet. This provides improved grip, while simultaneously offering superior traction. In turn, this makes this shoe also ideal for boxing.
Two things to note from reviews of this shoe:
- There is a potential for blisters to form on the ball of the foot with extended use of the Matflex 5
- These shoes, much like most wrestling shoes, tend to run small. It is suggested to get a full size to size and a half smaller than your standard casual or running shoe
6. ASICS Men’s Aggressor 3 Wrestling Shoe
The ASICS Aggressor 3 is the most stylish of the wrestling shoes we are reviewing on our list. These shoes are beautiful enough to be worn on or off the mat, although we often suggest not to wander around in wrestling shoes, for the good of your feet. These shoes are comprised of a suede and Ecsaine upper, a breathable mesh tongue, and a rubber sole that is non-split, so they sacrifice a little bit of flexibility for aesthetics, however the asymmetrical Duosole sole design makes up for this slightly.
These shoes have pockets in the sides that exist for tucking the laces in. This is a tactical and convenience feature that we refer to towards the end of this guide as an “integrated lace garage”. The stitching, as it is suede, is thick and durable, expected with most ASICS products. However, one of the downsides of the suede is that it does not particularly breathe well. These shoes are on the lighter side, weighing in at 1.4 pounds, perfect for agility work.
7. ASICS Men’s JB Elite III Wrestling Shoe
The ASICS JB Elite III wrestling shoe is one of the highest rated wrestling shoes in existence. The shoe has a split sole design, providing enhanced friction, grip and flexibility on both the heel and toe when compared with non-split sole models. This sole style causes the JB Elite III to have an immensely versatile feel, and can adjust to a wrestler’s needs and agilities with ease, providing a leg up on competitors with lower quality wrestling shoes.
The shoe has a thinner tongue than most alternatives, preventing cramping by loosening the tightness on the front of the foot while retaining tightness throughout the ankle. Additionally, this shoe was designed to be laced up quickly. One negative that has been expressed, however, is that the split sole tends to slowly peel off over time. Hopefully this will be addressed in later versions of the shoe, or was an isolated incident. These shoes are a little on the heavier side as well, weighing in at 1.7 pounds for the pair.
8. ASICS Men’s Dan Gable Ultimate 4 Wrestling Shoe
It is impossible to provide a list of the highest quality, best wrestling shoes without including a shoe from the ASICS Dan Gable series. For the purposes of our research, we have decided upon the ASICS Dan Gamble Ultimate 4.0. This recent version of the shoe looks impressive, and is in the upper-middle range for pricing compared to alternatives on this list.
The shoes are a tad under a pound and a half in weight for the pair, and come with all the features you’d expect from a proper wrestling shoe, including:
- Compression fit boot-style systems inside
- An integrated lace garage
- Split-sole design with enhanced grip and flexibility
- Escaine upper with a mesh ankle area
- Brand new outsole design, built to provide immense flexibility
- Traction zones made specifically with the active, agile wrestler in mind
The only complaint that has been raised thus far, and one that we toiled with when reviewing, is that the sizing runs a bit small compared to the standard size-down approach for selecting wrestling shoes. For maximum comfort, we highly suggest going down a size and a half.
9. ASICS Men’s Split Second 9 Wrestling Shoe
The ASICS Split Second 9 is a very high quality wrestling shoe in the mid-range of both price and features. Their traction is surprisingly high, and the comfort level is one of the best we tried out. These shoes were updated from their predecessor to provide increased fit and comfort for the wrestler. It comes in four color combinations, and weighs about a pound and a half for the pair.
The design is split sole, and the upper is made from breathable mesh. There is an advantageous asymmetrical lacing design as well, and an integrated lace garage to keep wrestlers from tripping over their hanging laces or scratching their opponent. Overall, this is a solid wrestling shoe with a great mid-range across the board, making it a wonderful addition to our list of the best quality wrestling shoes.
What Types of Wrestling Shoes Are Available?
There are many different types of wrestling shoes available for wrestlers to choose from. The list above is just scratching the surface of some of the best bang-for-your-buck options. But aren’t these basically standard gym shoes? How are they different? Let’s dive into that. Click here for more information on general shoe anatomy.
Wrestling shoes have been developed and designed to mimic the natural body better than alternative footwear options. They are flexible and lightweight, and were made to feel like the user is barefoot. As wrestlers contort around one another, and frequently are up close and personal, it is important that the toes and toenails are protected.
In some occasional terrible twists of fate, a wrestler’s toenail could cut or gouge an opponent without the proper footwear on. To prevent the onset of injury, infection, and possibly disease, it is vital that wrestlers own the proper shoes to protect their feet.
As we went into above, wrestling shoes are a touch higher quality, and a completely different style than normal running shoes. Wrestling shoes almost always go above the ankle. This high-top design style was designed to stabilize and protect the ankle, preventing it from rolling or spraining when contorting through the course of a wrestling round or practice sparring. These kinds of injuries are very common when wrestlers lock their lower legs in a variety of wrestling moves.
Many wrestling shoes have soles comprised of rubber. These rubberized materials provide superior traction to alternatives. If you have ever found yourself in gym class, you are likely aware of how slippery wrestling mats can become. This becomes an even bigger problem when the mat was recently cleaned, or covered in sweat. Having shoes on that can prevent slippage on these types of materials is very important.
Not all wrestling shoes (but some of them, including several on our list) have soles that are studded. These studded soles provide further traction when compared to standard rubberized soles. These slip deterrent features are standard across all varieties and types of wrestling shoes, not just our selections by ASICS and Adidas.
Typically, wrestling shoes are cut into two different categories: split sole and non-split sole. Let’s check out some of the features of each of these two.
Split Sole Wrestling Shoes
Split sole wrestling shoes have been made of a sole that has been cut in half. The sole appears like a standard rubber sole on the bottom of a typical shoe. The only difference is that the rubberized sole section has been cut into a front and a back piece.
The advantage to this is that, if you are holding the shoe in your hands, you would be able to bend the shoe in half. This is because the rubber parts of the sole do not extend fully across the bottom of the shoe, leaving split sole options as the closest wrestling shoe to the feeling of being barefoot.
The main reason to select a split sole wrestling shoe is the level of extreme flexibility they offer. Additionally, these shoes allow the wrestler to be very light and quick on their feet, providing faster responses to movement, which gives wrestlers an advantage over their non-split sole opponents. For this reason, many professional and Olympic wrestlers choose split sole shoes to meet their needs.
Non-Split Sole Wrestling Shoes
Non-split sole shoes are the complete of what was outlined above with the split sole wrestling shoes. These shoe types have a single piece of rubberized sole that extends the length of the underside of the piece of footwear. These are also sometimes referred to as “unisole” shoes.
Non-split sole wrestling shoes, while not as forgiving in the flexibility department, are still quite lightweight, and provide solid movement and flexibility for the wrestler.
One of the main reasons wrestlers choose non-split sole shoes over the split sole alternatives is pure longevity. These shoes tend to be far more durable, and will almost always last longer than the split sole version of the same shoes.
If you find yourself wrestling with a tighter budget, and are unable to replace your wrestling shoes every few months, non-split sole shoes would be the proper selection to purchase. Again, while lacking slightly in the flexibility department when compared to the alternative, they are quite strong and sturdy.
Both split sole and non-split sole shoes have their own pros and cons. It’s crucial to try on both and see how they make you feel, and how you can move in each of them.
Public Service Announcement: Boxing Shoes are NOT Wrestling Shoes
We have seen this all too many times. For some solid clarification, boxing shoes and wrestling shoes are not interchangeable. MMA Gear Addict has a great comparison between the two here. These are two separate entities, and should never be thought of as one and the same.
Boxing shoes do not have elevated arches, but are instead flat. Additionally, the traction control on the sole of boxing shoes has been designed for the inside of a boxing ring, not for a wrestling mat. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you think about the different types of movements and pivots a boxer performs versus the contorting and hyperextension of a wrestler, the bigger picture becomes quite clear. Simply put, boxing shoes don’t aid with speed when elevating from the ground.
Also, the patterns of the rubberized sole of a boxing shoe vary wildly from wrestling shoe alternatives. Wrestling shoes, on the other hand, have more circular patterns on the bottom of the shoe. This assists the wrestler to gain traction from various angles of the foot, and are modeled like a gecko or lizard’s ribbed foot pattern. Boxing shoes, on the other hand, have differing patterns, accounting for the stance and movement that is vital to proper sparring for a boxer.
While it might seem like a smart and cost-effective idea to have one pair of shoes if you both box and wrestle, they are far from the same. Investing in a solid pair of wrestling shoes is vital.
A Cheat Sheet for Choosing the Right Wrestling Shoes
You might be thinking to yourself, this information is all wonderful, but how do I go about selecting the perfect pair to fit my unique needs? To aid in this, let’s go for a deeper dive into how one starts narrowing their wrestling shoe selections down.
Let’s start with the basics. Are you committed to this? If so, how committed are you? Are you an avid wrestler with a lifelong passion for the mat and the whistle? Or are you a high school amateur looking for a fun hobby to pass the time, and maybe garner some praise from your classmates?
Honest answers to these questions will go a long way in helping decide on what kind of investment should be made in a quality pair of wrestling shoes. If you aren’t looking for the long term, a massive investment on wrestling shoes might not make much sense. However, if you are looking for a scholarship, or to compete at a professional level, your budget should be as high as possible, as one slip up on the mat can easily mean the difference between a win or a loss.
Everybody’s needs are different when it comes to selecting the ideal wrestling shoe. The most important factor that plays in should be comfort. Try the shoes on. Wear them. Use them. Practice in them. Move around in them. Do they feel like part of your body? Wonderful, keep them and let those wrestling shoes propel you forward into the winner’s circle.
Finding the perfect wrestling shoe is not something to make hasty decisions on. It’s a commitment, and the ability to pick the right shoe correlated directly to your results on the mat. You will be able to feel the shoe gripping differently on your foot, and sticking better to the mat. You will know how to tell if it is helpful or deterring.
If the Shoe Fits, Wear It!
The fit of a wrestling shoe is one of the most important things that should be measured and taken into consideration when weighing shoe options. The fit of a wrestling shoe is completely different than the fit of a running shoe or a casual shoe would be. A wrestling shoe is made to fit snug and tight throughout the entire foot.
If the shoe feels like a glove, then you’re cooking with gas. If you can place your fingers between your shoe and ankle, chances are you are going to need to select a smaller size. The size fitting will likely be different than what you expect with normal shoes. This is something to keep in mind and check out reviews when making a purchase decision. In many cases, the standard choice is to purchase a shoe that is about one half to one size smaller than your running shoe size.
Having a wrestling shoe that feels loose when moving in sharp, jerky motions on the mat can easily cause a loss in a match. A wrestler’s balance and stability will be greatly impeded, and their rhythm will end up being thrown off. The wrestler’s ankles will not be provided with proper support. While this might seem uncomfortably tight at first, the shoe will stretch over time, and with extended use.
We are not going to dive too deeply into this, however if you are a heavyweight wrestler, the tightness of the shoe does not matter as much as lighter to medium weight wrestling classes. Heavier wrestlers factor speed and agility less into their routines and tactics.
Wrestling Shoes Should Provide Ankle Support
Once you have located a shoe that you believe is a wonderful fit for you, you are going to want to look for proper support for your ankles. Wrestling shoes are some of the only types of shoes that provide this type of support for the user.
The force placed onto a wrestler’s ankles when sparring is incredibly. Having a pair of high-top wrestling shoes to support the sheer force of the weight and pressure on one’s ankles when switching directions is a true god-send.
A portion of the overall support provided by wrestling shoes comes from the lacing styles. A wrestler’s laces should be tied tightly around the ankles, and have little to no gap in between. In fact, there are some wrestling shoes that take things a step further, providing an additional strap that goes across the front of the ankle, providing an additional layer of ankle support for the wrestler.
The next important piece to take into consideration is what type of material the wrestling shoe of choice is comprised of. There are many different material types. However, the most important thing to look out for is whether the material is lightweight enough to not impede agility and quick movements. The lighter a shoe material, the faster the wrestler’s foot speed will be.
Typically, these shoes are developed from fabric such as mesh, leather, nylon or suede. The materials that are chosen will usually allow room for the escape of moisture, preventing sweat from remaining inside the shoe.
The shoe cost will typically be a strong indicator of the type and quality of material a piece of wrestling-focused footwear will be comprised of. Higher quality and higher priced shoes are often made from leather or suede. Mid-range options will likely be a type of vented mesh material. Lower quality, affordable entry level wrestling shoes are almost all a blend of nylon and vented mesh.
- The higher end options that are comprised mainly of suede and leather do not allow for much moisture to escape. However, they are extremely durable, very supportive, and remain comfortable use after use.
- The mid-range options are usually the most resistant to moisture and provide the strongest wicking.
- The lower priced options are a great choice if you are younger and your feet are still growing, or if you are just getting started in the world of wrestling. These options are far less expensive, and are wonderful starter shoes. If you find that your wrestling skills are improving, it is likely time to step up your wrestling shoe game to correlate. Please note that none of the shoes in our list above fall into this category.
Aesthetics of Wrestling Shoes
Shoe aesthetics are a less vital feature of solid wrestling shoes. However, they should still be taken into consideration when selecting a great wrestling shoe. If you are playing as part of a team, note that your team might have some guidelines to follow regarding what kinds of shoes need to be bought. If design constraints are not something that is necessary, there might also be color standardization that should be accounted for when buying a shoe.
But fear not. Wrestling shoes come in many styles and colors. There is a wide variety of branding and models for these shoes as well. Additionally, these shoes are more versatile, and can be used for things like boxing, MMA fighting, and strength and power lifting. We don’t suggest trying to go for a run on gravel with them, though!
Having a good looking wrestling shoe provides proper encouragement to wear the shoes outside of standard wrestling settings as well, increasing overall utility.
Additional Features to Consider
While there are less crucial considerations than what is listed above, there are some additional features that should be considered when researching and purchasing a pair of wrestling shoes.
One of these features is the strength of the stitching. Stitch strength of a shoe simply means the durability at which the fabric or material has been stitched together. This is more vital with wrestling shoes than with, say, casual or running shoes, especially considering the amount of dynamic movement that takes place while sparring.
If a wrestling shoe has poorly-constructed stitching, the show could very easily fall apart quickly, and need to be replaced in as short as one wrestling season.
Another feature that should be considered when researching wrestling shoes is the possibility of purchasing a shoe with asymmetrical lacing. Some shoe designers purposefully don’t line their eyelets at the front of the shoe. This is a design feature that allows the wrestler to tie the laces on their shoes a bit tighter than lined up laces. This provides further stability for the ankles when pivoting.
Finally, another great feature is something called an “integrated lace garage”. This feature takes the aglets of your shoe laces (the plastic part at the end) and hides them inside the shoes. This is more of a safety feature, and is something that should be looked for, as these aglets could easily scratch or scrape your opponent if not properly secured.
Another benefit of this integrated lace garage is that it keeps your laces tied, preventing tripping during a match.
Wrapping Things Up
At this point, you should have gained some deep insight into the features that should be considered for quality wrestling shoes, things to look out for, and some wonderful suggestions we have gleamed from an intense amount of research and testing. Now, it’s time to pull the trigger and find a pair!
By following the above concepts, features, and reviews, you can easily find a great pair of wrestling shoes that meets your specific needs. However, when doing so, it is important to take the time to try the shoes on and feel them out. This isn’t something you should balk at being picky about.
If you are interested in reading other in-depth guides for other shoe types, and eventually overhaul your wardrobe with the perfect shoes for each situation, we encourage you to check out the rest of our website Shoe Guide today. Happy shopping!