Grappling Gear Concluded: Wrestling Shoes
Wrestlers are no stranger to wearing shoes while training, but I think that shoes can also be useful for jiu-jitsu and submission grappling practitioners under certain circumstances.
Wrestling shoes have two major advantages: increased traction and injury prevention.
The traction benefits of wrestling shoes compared to slippery bare feet are undeniable. You will be able to grip the ground much better when driving for a takedown or jockeying for position on your feet. It is for this reason that my former teammate Denis Kang elects to wear wrestling shoes in the majority of his MMA fights.
The injury prevention potential of wrestling shoes is often overlooked. They stop your foot and ankle from going to extreme ranges of motion, and thus prevent, or reduce the severity of, strained ankles, twisted toes and other foot injuries. It is for this reason, more-so than increased traction, that I usually wear wrestling shoes if I am going to be doing a lot of standup grappling, because I have had my share of major foot and ankle injuries.
Wrestling shoes are also a useful splint for the whole foot when you are nursing a preexisting injury to the foot, ankle or toes. Twisted toes, for example, can be very difficult to protect with athletic tape, but if you put a shoe on it keeps all your toes together and somewhat protected.
There definitely are a few DISADVANTAGES to wearing shoes while grappling on the ground. They make it harder to escape footlocks, and they make your legwork in the open guard a little more difficult, especially if you aren’t used to it. Also at 100+ dollars for a pair they are not cheap accessories.
Finally if you are training at a new club you might want to check with the instructor before stepping onto the mat in wrestling shoes – some clubs have a strict ‘no footwear’ policy whereas others are considerably more relaxed about this issue.