A very popular question cropped up on the fencing section of Reddit last week with regards to fencing shoes or to be more precise what shoes to wear while fencing. It’s a question that ponders beginners and experienced fencers alike so it’s important to make the right choice. That being said there’s no shoe on the planet that will improve someone’s fencing, for that you need to refine and practice your technique. For example I could buy the most expensive fencing shoes in the world with all the technological and material innovations available although none of it will correct sloppy technique. If you drag your feet it doesn’t matter whether you wear a £20 ($33, €25) or £170 ($282, €215) shoe, your fencing is still going to suffer.
You don’t even need purpose built fencing shoes; provided the soles have a flat and rigid surface you’re good to go. You can rule out trainers as they lack this and as a result will break under the stress of prolonged lunging. Court shoes thankfully have it while I’ve started seeing more internationals wearing them. James Davis the 2014 European foil champion, who the last time I checked was ranked 8th in the world, wears a pair of Tennis shoes. He wore the Adidas Barricade Team 1 during the Olympics. The same line of shoes Andy Murray wore during all his Open wins to date (juniors aside). I’ve even seen people, admittedly not on the international circuit, fencing in Converse although I wouldn’t recommend it; just imagine being hit on the foot in epée? What’s important is that you wear something that’s comfortable, and that starts with the fit. It sounds obvious but make sure you’re wearing the right size shoe. Grab some measuring tape and go look at sizing charts on the internet from various manufacturers. I might be able to get away with wearing size 9 shoes in my day to day life but I need a pair of 8 1/2 or an American 9 for fencing. Next work out what type of foot you have. For example if you have narrow feet I’d recommend a pair of Adidas shoes. I know from personal experience that Adidas tend to run narrow. While if you have wide feet purchase a pair from Hi-Tec. If you’re somewhere in the middle, grab a pair of shoes from Nike or Asics. Admittedly I haven’t named all the manufacturers in the world although these rules still apply while it doesn’t matter if it’s a purpose built fencing shoe or a court shoe. Another thing to consider is if you need arch support. Unfortunately every shoe is different although if you need added support it’s generally easier to put orthopaedic inserts in court shoes as they generally come with removable insoles. Also you can fit heel cups into just about any shoe.
If you’re going to go down the route of purpose built fencing shoes, which are generally more expensive, you’re usually paying for reinforced sections in case you roll your back foot. That’s not to say you can’t roll a tennis shoe, some even come with gel padding in case Djokovic slides while attempting a last ditch drop shot (If you image search Djokovic Slide you’ll see what I mean). Fencing shoes are designed so you can recover from that position as quickly as possible. But as with the theme of my thread there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution for everyone. So if you can, go out and try as many shoes as possible and find what’s best for you. Don’t feel afraid to ask a friend if you can try their shoes if you wear the same size. And again never fear asking their advice, ask what they like and dislike about their current shoe and if they would recommend them. Oh and if anyone fancies petitioning Adidas to re-release/update their short lived Adidas Equipment/Asymmetric fencing shoe then the rest of the fencing community would be most grateful. That’s not to say it was a “one size fits all” shoe but you don’t often see fencing shoes where the right and left shoe were designed differently. Which makes perfect sense because your right and left foot do completely different things during footwork.