Why Spend the Money on a Racing Shoe?


 At one of our 2018 track-side support events we learnt that the senior HPDE instructor was advising his students to buy wrestling shoes because they were a cheaper alternative to a race shoe - with the implication they performed equally. This got us thinking - and disputing the claim. For starts wrestling shoes are not cheaper (Racequip SFI rated shoes pricing starts at $70.) Secondly the shoes profile may be similar but that’s where the similarity stops AND they are not fire-retardant!

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The Anatomy of a Race Shoe

There are common denominators shared by all race shoes with good reasons

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The wrestling shoe offers a high ankle support but look at the soles they are made to grip and flex.

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The Sole of a Race Shoe is flat, slim, thin, stiffer for optimal pedal feel and control

Also lesser grip especially when compared to conventional driving shoes. It is presumed your feet will be doing a lot of quick work and nothing should impede this effort.

Race shoes are for racing.

They are designed to be comfortable and functional but only when driving. The shoes have very little arch support so not great for walking around the paddock - bring another shoe for that.

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A Race Shoe’s heel configuration

The race shoe heel is weighted, rounded and pronounced. The thicker (compared to the sole,) heavier heel is to balance and anchor the foot. Some race shoes have advanced technical designs with asymmetrical heels and innovative structures. The rounded, rubber heels are designed for quick, smooth gear shifting and heel-toe movement.

Note the cut in the top of the shoe’s back ankle profile.

The race shoe’s side profile is high for optimum ankle support. The back cut-out (and usually soften) is designed to giveback-heel support without restricting movement. It also helps prevent heel rub and other foot irritations associated with frequent gear shifting. (Discomfort is a distraction and distractions affect both safety and performance.)

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The Wrestling Shoe is similar but would not survive the rigors of auto racing.

Neither is the heel weighted or designed for continuous heel action. They are made for the demands of wrestling - and, yes, they do look comfortable.

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The Karting shoe…

An alternative to buying the more expensive FIA or SFI rated race shoe is to buy a shoe designed for karting. They have the same profiles and characteristics of the race shoe minus the fire-retardant additions so are often lighter.

Karting shoes are constructed for the unique, external demands and rigors of the sport. As a result they often use man-made materials, plus the manufacturers do not have to pay for the SFI, FIA certifications which reduces the cost of the shoe.

Remember - they are not fire-retardant!

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The Best Race Shoes will have…

Natural fibers and an aramid (flame resistant) interior lining.

Smooth edges, extremely flat and thin soles, weighted and rounded heels, ankle support, incorporate wear patches at critical locations, utilize a lacing system that will never distract or impede the driver, plus maximize breathability with perforated leather or other technical materials

Choose a brand, model and size that fits your feet. No distractions.

Repeat any distractions are both a safety and performance issue!

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Alpinestars’ most minimalist and most expensive shoe..$429

Why - Kangaroo leather - supportive, light, wear resistant, holds shape and breathable. A one piece design - one seam.

Minimalist design - for weight reduction, ease of use and note the logo screen printed - saves a half ounce!

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Sparco Race 2 Race Shoe...$100

The shoe is not made of a one piece kangaroo leather but it is a great, tough shoe and at a great price $100. We have found the foot platform fits most feet, even those customers with wider feet. Available in red, blue and black.

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You can wear a wrestling shoe…

Look for a sale since they are not a cheaper alternative but know the shoe’s disadvantages. This is not a fire-retardant shoe - and we strongly advise against wearing man-made materials (anywhere)it will melt and burn the skin.

Gong to a track day event - wear a shoe that is closest to the characteristics of a race shoe. Comfort, touch and feel is import for both safety and performance. Best, choose a FIA or SFI rated shoe, prices start at $70.