Boxing shoes and wrestling shoes are similar. They are both lightweight, form-fitting, boot-like shoes made for sports that rely of fast footwork and traction. The differences lie in subtle, specific designs that make each shoe appropriate for its sport.
According to martial arts historian Dave Coffman, organized sport boxing predates organized sport wrestling by 150 years. The ancient Greeks wrestled long before the first boxer stepped into a ring. Initially, boxing shoes were more sophisticated than wrestling shoes. However, because wrestling has had more participants in the late 20th century, that gap has closed.
Wrestling shoes are made of lightweight synthetics, often with mesh uppers, and have rubber soles to prevent slipping on the mat. The shoes must be flexible to allow your feet to move into any position without pinching or discomfort while in a match. Although you can buy boxing shoes made of the same synthetic materials, lightweight leather or suede boxing shoes with textured rubber soles are often recommended. Some brands incorporate mesh into the shoes' design to prevent the shoes from becoming heavy with sweat.
Boxers stand straighter than wrestlers and are more likely to fall without warning. Wrestlers do fall down often, but they usually know it's coming and have trained to fall safely. This puts boxers at higher risk of breaking an ankle. Because of this, boxing shoes have higher ankles, held in place by laces or a Velcro strap. Tall boxing shoes can rise as far as 12 inches up the calf. Low-top boxing shoes are also available, though kickboxing coach Bill Packer notes that boxers who use them often tape their ankles prior to competition.
The soles of boxing shoes are smooth on the bottom to allow quick movement on the canvas. They have texture and grooves cut into the sole to allow for some traction, especially forward and backward. Wrestling shoes have ridged soles that cut into the soft wrestling mat, allowing for a solid grip. Most models of wrestling shoe will have one or more circles carved into the sole to provide traction in all directions. Both kinds of shoe have thin soles with little padding or arch support. Since both sports are conducted on a padded surface, being lightweight is more important than providing extra comfort.
Boxing shoes are generally not available at your local sporting goods store. Wrestling shoes are available and may be temporarily used in place of boxing shoes. While many boxers wear regular athletic shoes when training, due to the extra arch support, others prefer to wear their boxing shoes, arguing that athletic shoes are heavy and change their footwork to accommodate the extra weight.