My first pair of "Martial Arts" shoes were a pair of Kung Fu Slippers. If you ever questioned my geeky martial arts beginning, the fact that I used to wear these things around, surely will put any doubts you had to rest.
Luckily for you, (and my image), the world of Martial Arts Shoes has come a LONG way since then. With many out door Summer Camps coming up, you may want to have some shoes that you are comfortable practicing Taekwondo in. Martial Arts Shoes (Commonly known as "kicking shoes, or kickers") are readily available in numerous colors and styles, from several different companies. The most prominent being Adidas, who offers more styles of Kickers then you can keep track off.
If you decide to purchase some kickers, here are some things to keep in mind.
PRICE: Less expensive kicking shoes, are less expensive for a reason. They are typically heavier, have a lower quality sole, dont fit as snug to your foot, and don't last as long.
SOLE Rubber Soled kicking shoes work well on Grass, Wood, Tile, or other hard type surfaces, however they tend to stick a bit when kicking on the interlocking mats, (some worse then others). This can put additional stress on your ankles and knees. Some of the better kicking shoes have a hard(er) rubber sole, and split the front and back of the shoe with a lifted arch area. These tend to work better on the mats as there is less friction. (see below for examples)
FIT Kickers should be snug. If you are between sizes, lean towards the smaller. Well worn kickers tend to stretch a little. You will see below, that you can pick from Slip on, or laces. This is personal preference, but for me, I like the laces. While the Slip ons can give a good fit, it will depend on how big your ankles are.
STYLE Face it, no one wants to be caught dead wearing these. Get some shoes that Look good. ;-)
Below is an overview of some of the more common styles of Kickers available (click photos for larger size).
Adidas Original These are a little hard to find as they have not been manufactured in several years. Lace up, full rubber sole (not great for mats). The sole is connected with a stitch that runs along the outside edge and has a tendency to come undone.
Adidas AdiKee: This is the replacement for the SM II, which is no longer manufactured. It is one of the less expensive Adidas Kicking shoes, but using the same "sticky" rubber sole. They have changed the shoe stistitching so that is runs across the top of the shoe rather then the bottom.
Personal Experience - I have owned all 3 of these shoes. The original and SM II are decent, but not a good shoe for the long haul. The rubber sole peeled off on my first pair, the stitching came out on the second pair, each after about a year of moderate use. The AdiKee was so uncomfortable that I couldn't wear them. The stitching gave the shoe a strange fit. It uses the same sole as the other two shoes, which is not great for working on mats. Prices Range on these from $35 - $55
Adidas Adilux Who comes up with these names? This is a slip on shoe. It is much higher quality then the SMII and AdiKee. It uses the harder rubber "split" sole for lighter treading on the mats, and the sole does not use the stitching that came undone in the cheaper SM II and AdiKee shoes. This sole is used in all the higher end Adidas shoes.
Adidas Tornado These are some of the best Taekwondo shoes that Adidas makes. It uses the harder split sole, (even though its white, not black like the others) and a more advanced lace up system that gives you more control of the fit. Also an instep flap attaches with velcro to cover the laces. Nice for kicking paddles.
Adidas Ultra III This shoe is the Top of the line, and has replaced the Tornado. (The Tornado is not being made any longer, but you can still find them). The Ultra III has a more advanced lacing system, but does not have the lace cover that The Tornado does. The sole appears to be the same.
Personal Experience - I have the AdiLux slip on, and the The Tornados. I like both of these shoes, but prefer the tornado for training (better fit). If I wear shoes when teaching, I like the AdiLux. The Tornado has been replaced by the Ultra III, but you can still find it on line. I have not tried the Ultra III's, as they are a bit expensive, and I just got the The Tornados. Retail for Adilux is around $70, Tornado around $80, and the Ultra III around $100. I did see prices much lower than this on some discount Web Sites.
Adidas Delta X This shoe has a different lace up system, but uses the old rubber sole. I don't have any experience with these shoes.
Nike Taekwondo Shoes I have not tried these shoes, but they look to have a decent sole, and good lace system, with an instep cover. I believe some of the folks that went to Korea last summer purchased them, maybe they can chime in on how they work.
MOOTO- Wings MOOTO has several versions of their kicking shoe as well. They appear to all be slip on. GM Lee has a pair I think, but I have not tried them. They seem like decent quality.
Adidas has the market for Kicking shoes, and it can be confusing, many of the exact same shoes have different names simply because they are a different color. Keep the Slip on vs. Lace, and the solid rubber sole, vs the Split Sole in mind when deciding on a pair. If you have used any of the shoes discussed here, or others, please chime in.