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Why You Need to Wear Shoes When Off the Mat in a BJJ Gym

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) gyms are known for their unique training environments, where hygiene and safety are paramount. One of the essential yet often overlooked rules in BJJ gyms is the requirement to wear shoes when off the mat. This practice is not merely about maintaining gym etiquette; it plays a crucial role in ensuring the health and safety of all participants. Here’s why wearing shoes off the mat in a BJJ gym is so important.

1. Preventing the Spread of Infections

One of the most significant reasons for wearing shoes off the mat is to prevent the spread of infections. Gyms, by their nature, are breeding grounds for various bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Walking barefoot in the common areas and then stepping onto the mat can transfer these pathogens to the training surface.

Common infections in BJJ gyms include:

  • Ringworm: A fungal infection that causes red, ring-shaped rashes on the skin.

  • Staph Infections: Caused by Staphylococcus bacteria, which can lead to severe skin infections and other complications if not treated promptly.

  • Athlete’s Foot: Another fungal infection that affects the feet, causing itching, scaling, and redness.

Wearing shoes in the common areas helps to minimize the risk of these infections spreading to the mats where close contact and skin exposure are inevitable.

2. Maintaining Cleanliness

Cleanliness is a cornerstone of any martial arts gym. The mats need to be kept as clean as possible because they are where practitioners spend most of their training time. Shoes trap dirt, dust, and other debris that can easily be transferred onto the mats. By wearing shoes off the mat, you help to keep these contaminants away from the training area, ensuring a cleaner and more hygienic environment for everyone.

3. Reducing Mat Wear and Tear

Mats are a significant investment for any BJJ gym and need to be maintained properly to ensure their longevity. When people walk on the mats with dirty or rough surfaces, it can cause wear and tear, reducing the mats' lifespan. Shoes help to keep the rough and potentially damaging surfaces of the soles from coming into contact with the mat, thereby preserving its condition for longer.

4. Respecting Gym Etiquette

Wearing shoes off the mat is also a matter of respecting gym etiquette. BJJ, like many martial arts, emphasizes respect and discipline. Adhering to the gym’s rules, including the one about wearing shoes off the mat, shows respect for the training space and for your fellow practitioners. It contributes to a positive and respectful training atmosphere, which is crucial for a cohesive and supportive community.

5. Safety Concerns

Beyond hygiene, wearing shoes off the mat addresses safety concerns. Gyms often have equipment, weights, and other objects that can cause injuries if stepped on barefoot. Wearing shoes provides a layer of protection for your feet against accidental cuts, bruises, or more severe injuries that can occur in common areas.


In summary, wearing shoes when off the mat in a BJJ gym is a small but significant practice that contributes to overall hygiene, cleanliness, and safety. It helps prevent the spread of infections, maintains the condition of the mats, respects gym etiquette, and protects against injuries. By following this rule, you are not only taking care of yourself but also showing consideration for your training partners and the gym community as a whole. Always remember to change into clean, mat-only footwear before stepping onto the mat to ensure a safe and healthy training environment.



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