Fencing shoes are among the least glamorous and least talked about pieces of fencing equipment. Once a fencer gets into the groove of finding the right shoe, they tend to just throw them in the bag and forget about them. And rightly so. (for more on choosing the right shoe, check out our guide by clicking here).
In the spirit of taking the best care of our equipment possible, let’s explore the do’s and don’ts of fencing shoe care.
● Don’t use hand-me-down or used shoes
It’s firstly important to note that fencing shoes generally only last for a year. This is not the kind of equipment that you can pass down from one child to another or buy used – new shoes are a must. That’s because poor shoes can lead to a whole host of problems, from discomfort to poor form and even to injury. Think about it – shoes are constant use during a fencing bout! Budget to get a new pair of shoes every year, and more often when kids are growing.
● Don’t wear them just anywhere
Fencing shoes should ONLY be worn on the floor. They can’t be put on in the car or used for outdoor practice. Grit and grime can damage the floor and the shoes, affecting the ability of shoes to grip effectively. This is an ABSOLUTE rule. Keep it in mind at competition as well – fencing shoes ONLY are worn on the strip.
● Don’t use saddle soap, polish, or chemicals to clean
Because fencing shoes are only worn on the floor of the club, there shouldn’t be a need for heavy duty cleaners. Polishing shoes isn’t helpful. Simple washing techniques are best (see below in the do’s section for how to clean your shoes!).
● Don’t throw them in the washing machine
This is a great way to destroy a pair of shoes. Handwashing (again, see below) is the only way to go.
● Don’t wear them wet
Either from sweat or from washing, avoid putting on damp shoes. Wearing wet shoes leads to blisters and increases in bacteria growth.
● Don’t make haphazard repairs
Please don’t use duct tape to repair fencing shoes (that’s real advice we’ve seen on the internet!). If a shoe is wearing out badly enough to need to be taped together, then it’s a serious indication that it’s time for a new pair. Fencing shoes are again, meant to be worn for a year and then moved on.
● Don’t forget the socks
Never throw those shoes on without socks. Not only are you going to find that they hurt your feet, but also that the shoes will smell terrible and need washing. Yuck! Clean socks are a must. Have a bunch in your stash so that there is always a pair available. In fact, it’s a great idea to keep a clean spare pair in the fencing bag, just in case. Another note on socks: for kids with growing feet, if shoes are a bit big then consider doubling the socks until they grow into them.
● Do get some great insoles
Insoles can make all of the difference in making shoes fit well and feel great. They also can reduce odor and give shoes a bit of a longer lifespan. That’s because extra moisture goes into the insole instead of soaking into the shoe. Insoles can be washed more often than the whole shoe as they dry much faster, and it’s not a bad idea to invest in two sets because it can still take a couple of days for them to dry.
● Do learn to wash your shoes properly
How do you wash shoes? It’s actually REALLY easy! You shouldn’t have to do this often, a couple of times per year at the very most, or not at all if they smell ok and don’t seem dirty. (tip – use this same process to wash the insoles as well). This method is standard for most athletic shoes, but check with the manufacturer of your shoes before washing them in any way at all, just in case!
- Gently brush off any dirt with a soft-bristled brush.
- Mix together warm water and a drop of mild detergent (think dish soap or delicate liquid laundry detergent). You don’t need much!
- DON’T submerge your shoes. That’s a serious warning, you could ruin them.
- Wipe off the shoes with a cloth or sponge dipped in the detergent mixture. Be sure to wring out excess water before putting it on your shoes. Insoles can be taken out and washed in this way, but don’t soak the inside of your shoes – wipe gently and with just a bit of water!
- Allow shoes to air dry completely. This could take a couple of days! Yes DAYS!
● Do address the “stink problem”
When shoes stink, it’s because of bacteria growing in them. Don’t just chalk up bad smelling shoes to a normal part of sport! And don’t try perfumes or harsh chemicals, they tend to mask the problem instead of addressing it.
Here are some easy ways to address the “stink problem”
- Put them in the freezer overnight – it will kill the bacteria.
- Place them in the sun for a few hours (but not more, the fabric colors could bleach out if left for too long.)
- Put a spoonful of baking soda in the shoes and shake it around. Let sit for a few hours, then dump it and shake them vigorously. The baking soda will absorb the odors.
- Throw dry teabags into shoes when not in use. The tea absorbs be moisture! Dryer sheets work well too.
● Do let them breathe
Keeping shoes in that fencing bag all of the time is a recipe for stink. Pull them out of the bag when you get home and sit them next to it to allow everything to air out. When shoes stay wet with sweat, they grow bacteria and smell terrible! Allow them to breathe and you’ll greatly reduce this problem.
● Do get a new pair when they wear out
This has been repeated several times in this post, but it bears repeating again. Fencing shoes are not meant to last forever, no matter what brand or price they are. If shoes show signs of serious wear, then invest in a new pair.