If you are competing or practicing martial arts professionally, chances are you won’t be allowed to wear socks. A combination of rules, sanitary protocols, and practicality make being barefoot the best option in martial arts.
Depending on the martial art, some practitioners will allow socks if preferred or medically necessary. There is also a set of martial arts which allows specific types of footwear. We will break down when you can and can’t wear socks in martial arts, including the alternative footwear some martial artists wear.
Can You Wear Socks In MMA?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) MMA organization does not allow participants to use socks or any other footwear during competitions in the octagon. The rule is the same across other major MMA organizations such as Bellator MMA and One Championship MMA. Some MMA exceptions that use shoes, which we will discuss below.
MMA has traditionally been practiced barefoot, with roots in Japanese and Korean cultures. Both of these cultures have people remove their shoes before entering a home, a tradition that has been passed down to the MMA sport. Cleanliness and hygiene are of the utmost importance in training areas, limiting footwear.
Not only that but being barefoot is also the most practical way to practice MMA. Participants can have better control over their movements when they are barefoot, and the instructor has a better view of their actions meanwhile. Practicing MMA barefoot gives you more traction on the mat, allowing more control over your body and posture.
What Do Martial Artists Wear On Their Feet?
There are some exceptions to MMA in which participants wear shoes. Wrestling, Savate, Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do, Boxing, and Krav Maga martial arts allow shoes. These types of MMA were originally practiced outdoors, changing the culture around the footwear for MMA.
Each of these martial arts has a type of acceptable footwear, and most of them try to mimic the bare foot. In virtually all martial arts, the footwear you use is only put on once you’re in the dojo or training area, and it should not be worn outside unless your training is done there.
Wrestlers use a specific type of wrestling shoe. They are light and flexible, with increased traction and ankle support.
Savate fighters use a specially designed French boot. Since this martial art utilizes many front-foot kicks, these shoes offer protection to avoid breaking any toes.
Kung Fu fighters utilize a traditional canvas shoe with a design that originated in China. These shoes are sometimes called “Tai Chi shoes” or “martial arts slippers”.
Jeet Kune Do is a martial art influenced by Bruce Lee. There is no hard rule for which shoes to use in Jeet Kune Do, but most studios require some type of fitness shoe with good traction.
Boxing shoes are light and comfortable, with a very thin rubber sole used for improved traction. These shoes typically lack the built-in arch you’d find in other athletic shoes. You can find boxing shoes in low-, mid-, and high-top versions.
Krav Maga often utilizes wrestling boots or similar shoes for indoor training, and basic trainers for outdoor training, depending on the terrain.
Can I Learn Martial Arts Without Being Barefoot?
If your instructor or practitioner approves, you can learn martial arts without being barefoot. This is up to the discretion of your instructor and the studio in which you practice. If you want to compete professionally, you will have to adhere to the organization’s rules regarding footwear.
Some instructors will allow you to wear something on your feet if you prefer or if you have a medical necessity to do so. In these situations, most practitioners will request that you wear a type of non-slip sock while learning martial arts.
These socks are thin and lightweight, but their most important quality is the tread pattern on their soles or undersides. This tread pattern increases traction so that you can practice martial arts on the mat with control and proper form.
Usually you can’t wear socks in martial arts, this is usually down to grip and stability. You’ll have a better grip on the mat with bare feet than if you have socks on.