You’ve probably heard the conventional wisdom that goes something like this: If it comes between you and the ground, don’t skimp on it. That includes your car’s tires, the mattress you sleep on, and most importantly your shoes.
Shopping for wrestling shoes can be a little overwhelming - there is a wide variety of styles and big price discrepancies - how do you know which one is right for you? Read on for some helpful suggestions and answers to common questions about picking the right pair of wrestling shoes.
You’ll typically see prices that range from $50 to over $150 for wrestling shoes. Like most things you shop for, the most expensive shoe isn’t necessarily the best for you. Shoes on the higher end of the spectrum use the most advanced materials and features - those can be critical if you’re competing at a high level, but for the average wrestler they might be overkill. A good rule of thumb if you’re not familiar with wrestling shoes is to look for a pair that doesn’t give you sticker shock - you can always step up to a more advanced shoe as you get more experience and learn about the features that are important to you.
Personal preference is a big factor here, but in general you want to choose a pair that is a little more snug than a typical athletic shoe. As you’re wrestling and looking for traction on the mat, you don’t want your foot to move much inside the shoe. The different shoe manufacturers have different guidelines for how to choose a wrestling shoe as compared to a typical tennis or athletic sneakers as follows:
Wrestling shoes are lighter than typical shoes and are designed to have a more “sock-like” fit than tennis shoes. This ensures more flexibility and mobility on the mat, while still providing protection for your ankles, toes, and toenails. They won’t have as much cushioning or “shock absorption” in the footbed as a normal pair.
There aren’t men’s or women’s wrestling shoes, they are all designed to be unisex. Some colors are more ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ but they don’t differentiate in fit or features. When shopping for wrestling shoes for girls, you’ll want to go down between one full size and a size and a half to get the correct size. So if you typically wear a 7 in women’s shoes, you’d want to start with a size 5.5 or a six.
Not all styles are available in youth. Some will include “youth” in the name of the shoe, and some styles will just offer sizes for toddlers and children - these can be a little confusing, the range of kids wrestling shoe sizes from smallest to largest is as follows:
Somewhat contrary to the general sizing guide, we usually recommend sizing up slightly when shopping for kids wrestling shoes simply because their feet grow so quickly and you want them to be able to fit in the shoes for more than a month!
There aren't any shoes designated as “wide” typically in the world of wrestling. If you have a wider foot, Nike wrestling shoes in general tend to have a wider footbed than the other manufacturers, so starting with a pair of Freeks or Inflicts is probably your best bet.
When you’re reading the descriptions of wrestling shoes, you’re likely to encounter a lot of lingo and jargon that can be confusing. Here are a few terms that you’re likely to come across and an explanation of them in plain English.
In short, yes. A good pair of athletic socks will provide an additional layer of cushion for your foot and help to stabilize the fit inside your shoes. And it probably goes without saying, but wearing socks will significantly reduce the stink factor that can be an issue with any wrestling gear.
In terms of investment, wrestling shoes represent a significant portion of your gear budget - especially if you’re buying a pair on the high end of the price scale. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your wrestling shoes:
If you’re just starting out, one pair of shoes should be plenty - as long as they are not worn to mow the lawn or walk the dog, they’ll last reasonably well through a season of practice and competition. As you get more involved in the sport, you may want to get a second pair to designate as a “competition” shoe - the pair that only gets worn when you’re dominating your opponent on the way to the medal stand. Rotating pairs like that will extend the lifespan as well since they’ll have more time to dry out in between wears.