Our Journey: Developing the Best Protective Martial Arts Shoes

We built our business based on the belief that more effective training is the key to better performance. That’s why we set out on our quest to create the best, and safest martial arts shoes on the market. We wanted to develop a product that allows athletes to train harder, smarter and safer.

Almost 10 years ago, Ringstar introduced our first products, the Super Maxx and Flexx Sparring Shoes; ultra lightweight, fully padded sparring shoes made for athletes who want to train hard while not worrying about the increased risk of injury that comes with training barefoot. A few years later, we launched our current flagship product, the FightPro, to replace the Super Maxx.

Now, more than 5 years later, we felt it was time to take the next step in creating the best martial arts sparring shoes on the market. So, in February of 2016, we set out on a new journey. This time with an even loftier goal: to create a new and improved version of our renowned FightPro martial arts shoe.

But how do you take a beloved shoe, and push it even further. How do you make the industry’s best protective martial arts shoe? First, you start with months of in-depth research, talking to doctors, martial arts experts and our customers. Then you look for the best materials available and put them into the hands of an incredible design team. Finally, you follow the whole process with the passion and dedication that turns good things into great things, and great things into legends.

Here’s the behind-the-scenes story of how our CEO Brandon Staires undertook the journey of a lifetime to develop the newest addition to the Ringstar Gear product line - the FightPro v2.

How did you get involved in the industry, and what makes you so passionate about creating the best martials arts sparring shoes?

I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to join the Ringstar team in 2015. I knew it was a good quality product that already had a loyal following, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to take a good brand and push it to be something really great.

I personally have a passion for MMA and UFC, so it was a natural fit to step into a business that allowed me to work in an industry and world that I really care deeply about.

What does creating “the best” martial arts shoe mean to you?

To me, “the best” means creating a safer product for athletes. I wanted to create a shoe with increased support and safety that allowed martial artists to perform at the top of their game while not worrying about injury.

In particular, CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) injuries are becoming increasingly common in martial arts, both for professional and weekend athletes. If we keep improving the technology and approach behind our shoes, we can really be a positive force behind reducing injuries and promoting superior safety in the sport.

Can you walk us through some of the improvements you made in the new FightPro v2? 

The FightPro model we currently sell is a great shoe and has a lot of traction in the market, so it wasn’t about completely changing the shoe but really improving upon it and refining some of the details that we’ve always wanted to work on.

First, we wanted to examine the materials to make sure we were using the newest and highest quality building blocks for the shoes. One good example of this is the protective foam used in the tops and around the ankle. We transitioned from an open cell foam in the v1 to a more dense closed cell foam that is a little more expensive but really increases the support and impact protection. This allowed us to design a slimmer, sleeker shoe while also increasing impact and shock absorption.

Another aspect we focused on was smoothing out the external surfaces of the shoe. We improved the quality of the stitching across the shoe, but we specifically got rid of the external side stitching, because after discussing with various doctors, we realized that it could cause rashes and indents when landing a kick.

For this same reason we also inverted the velcro straps so that the rough part of velcro is now on the strap, instead of the shoe. This prevents the velcro from scratching your partner or competitor while sparring.

On top of major changes like these, we made a lot of minor improvements as well, like adding our new branding and opening up the vents to allow more airflow. Really, you’ll find that almost every aspect of the shoe has been refined in some way.

How did considering the safety of athletes influence the shoe design?

We spoke with the head of the IKF and with doctors in the UK, who hold an annual meeting about the sports’ rules and standards. They review many industry training products, including Ringstar shoes.

They recommended removing the external stitching and addressing the potential risk of the velcro on the strap. We take these recommendations very seriously, so this is why we pursued the two improvements I mentioned above.

We also work with an impact testing company, the same company who tests Nike products. We send each model of our shoes to this company to be tested for impact. These tests show that the FightPro v2 dissipates more than 50% of the energy from an impact to the instep, forefoot, or heel of the shoe. That’s how we know we’ve done our job right!

Why are Ringstar shoes better than other training/sparring shoes on the market?

The main reason is that they are fully padded to protect the athlete’s feet. While there are many martial arts shoes on the market, most are focused on aesthetics and performance aspects, not safety. We’re unwilling to compromise on any aspect of our shoes, including how they look and feel, but we think it’s really important to put safety at the top of the list.

There is more padding on the top of shoe than any other shoe on market - as you can imagine, this makes a huge difference when landing a kick with the top of your foot to someone’s shin, or any other hard impact surface. And that is for both sides, you’re less likely to injure yourself and your opponent, which is huge.

The FightPro v2 also has much more ankle support that most of the shoes on the market, which are often low cut and very slim profile. This means that our shoe really secures the athlete’s ankle to prevent rolling in a way that many other shoes won’t. So, that’s really important.

How will you continue to improve Ringstar shoes on your journey to creating the best martial arts shoes?

The key here is that small design differences can make a huge difference. We already make a great martial arts shoe, so we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel here. But I can promise you this: we will continue to test the products, listen to our customers’ feedback and improve our products with an unresting fanaticism for detail.

There’s a lot more on the horizon for Ringstar, we have some product updates and some brand new product lines that we can’t wait to show everyone. We’re working really hard to push the industry of protective footwear forward, and it’s just really exciting to have a great group of customers along for the ride with us!

Thanks to everyone out there training harder, smarter and safer with Ringstar!