Why do boxers wear shoes & MMA fighters don't?

Boxing vs. MMA attire rules explained
Day of Reckoning: Media Workout
Day of Reckoning: Media Workout / Richard Pelham/GettyImages

Boxing is a sport that long precedes MMA and while the two share many logistical similarities, there are a lot of key practical differences.

As many will notice, boxers and MMA fighters walk out from their respective locker rooms and enter the ring or cage in a very similar process. Usually wearing a jacket, cloak or coat, the fighters will make their way out of a tunnel and follow the path to center stage with their coaches and media personnel close behind. But in the most notable difference, MMA fighters will remove their footwear while boxers will keep their shoes on while stepping onto the canvas.

The trunks in boxing are also vastly different from the shorts that MMA fighters wear, but the shoes are still the most recognizable disparity. The reasoning is simple — boxing only involves strikes from the two fists while MMA encompasses all forms of martial arts, hence its name.

MMA not only permits the use of kicks and leg attacks but encourages such actions. Muay Thai, one of the most commonly-used striking disciplines in MMA, is often known as "the art of eight limbs," referencing its use of fists, elbows, knees and shins.

Since boxing only involves punches, the fighters wear shoes to enhance their footwork and balance. Boxing shoes are different from traditional footwear, providing less fabric and padding to allow more flexibility and movement. Boxing shoes do not usually have arches and padded soles at the base to give its users a more barefoot-like feel to grip the canvas.

Boxing vs. MMA attire rules compared

To protect their feet, some MMA fighters choose to wear ankle braces in fights where the local athletic commission permits its usage. Some areas allow fighters to wear additional material on ankles, knees and elbows while others forbid all additional clothing other than fighter gloves and shorts.

Female fighters are also permitted their choice of either the promotion's provided sports bra or a pre-approved sports bra with a fitted rash guard.

The use of shoes was not always prohibited, however, as the early days of the UFC allowed fighters to wear certain sneakers upon approval. In the era before the unified rules of MMA existed, the consensus was that fighters who chose to wear shoes could not use any kicks during the fight.

Three of the first five UFC heavyweight champions wore shoes in their crowning title fight. Kickboxer Maurice Smith and Muay Thai-based Bas Rutten were the two fighters to become champions before the year 2000 who did not wear shoes.

In 2000, the unified rules of MMA began to take effect and the UFC, along with other major organizations, adopted it into their regulations. The rules would also remove the use of a Gi, long pants and shirts from MMA competition while also establishing the official design of the sport's gloves moving forward.


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