It Starts with the Shoes
Just like the foundation of any martial arts is the feet, the foundation of any kit is the shoes! So how do you select the perfect pair of shoes? I believe it comes down to three key factors
Walls, Tread, and Box
Here is a standard runner. See that little nub in the front? THAT is your shoe wall on a runner. Why is it so puny? Because runners only need to stop your foot from traveling in one direction. Runners want their shoe to be as light as possible, so why waste materials re enforcing a part of a shoe that will never need it?
What does a good shoe wall look like?
Ideally the wall will encircle the entire toe box as you can see below
An indoor soccer shoe is a great example of a full walled shoe. It will make sure that you don’t break down your shoe prematurely and will keep your foot in the right position. BUT I do not think it is the best shoe for HEMA and that has to do with our next point….
Treading new ground
The picture on top, you can see the thin sole and how that would allow for flex of the foot. With the picture on bottom, you can see from the tread and the circle areas from the picture, the wrestling shoe is designed to flex in those around and allow for greater cut control. Compare that to the soccer shoe…
A thick and reinforced shoe and one small zone for flexing on the ball of the foot. In HEMA, we spend time using each major zone our foot has. Toes, inner ball, outer ball (the pinky toes major joint) and our heel. When we put a hard plate between those zones and the ground it greatly reduces our foot's ability to make precise movements, slowing our reaction time and weakening our response to our opponents.
Foot’s gotta move
Felt more natural and comfortable right? That is because the bones need to be able to comfortably move around to increase your balance and stability. Same goes for your feet! So how do we make sure our toes can spread out like our fingers? Well, we could go barefoot, but that certainly is not the safest route. That means we need to get some wide toe box shoes. The are specifically designed to give our feet wide areas to spread out more naturally. How do you find such a shoe? Well shoes labeled as “minimalist” will usually get you there. Brands such as vivo, xero and nobull have a great selection of shoes with a wide toe box.
What makes a great HEMA shoe?
A shoe that meets the previous criteria, high wall, soft sole with flex, and lastly a wide toe box, what shoe do we recommend?
The Xero 360
As you can see from the pictures below. It has the wall around the shoe and they are reinforced at high stress zones to make sure your foot stays in the shoe. The sole is designed for maximum flexibility in the key areas of the toes, inner and outer ball, as well the heel. Lastly, there is a generous toe box to allow the foot to move freely and securely.
Now, this does not mean that any of the other shoes we talked about are unusable, nor unsafe for HEMA. Nor does it mean that other shoes do not fit the criteria that we have listed out, it just means that in our experience the Xero 360 is a great fit for what we need and can get you the edge in mobility.
If you want to get a pair for yourself and to help out the school, feel free to used the link below as we get a small percentage for each sale that goes through the link.