By Justin Ford

Oh, the woes of a martial artist! Cinderella and her famous footwear have had better luck than us competitive martial artists and our sparring shoes that perpetually stink up and fall apart. At least Cinderella's glass shoe never broke a strap.
Those days of footwear fallacies are far behind now though! Read on to see what I thought of Century's signature product, the C-Gear Sport Boots!


Pros

OK, I'll be honest: I typically prefer sparring shoes that cover the entire foot (such as Ringstars) rather than open-sole sparring boots.

In the past, I've had the unfortunate experiences with open-sole sparring boots: straps snapping, dipped foam tearing, and feeling clumsy and clunky due to ill-fitting footwear. The C-Gear Sport Boots changed my mind, however. It turns out my fears were unfounded when it comes to these boots!

For starters, the material is very sturdy and offers great coverage – I took an accidental elbow to the instep that normally would have kept me limping for rest of the day, yet I was perfectly fine thanks to the C-Gear Sport Boots. The polyurethane foam is light and dependable, protecting you without feeling excessively heavy or large.

What impressed me even more than the C-Gear Sport Boot's ability to take a kick or elbow is its ability to take a tumble— through the washer and dryer, that is. The fact that it's cut-and-sewn foam with a cloth cover, rather than dipped foam, means it can readily be washed and dried like any other piece of clothing.

The only concern I can see anyone having on that count is, “I like the colors and patterns of my C-Gear – is washing going to fade them?" The answer to that is, “Nope!" The colors of C-Gear Boots are achieved with something called sublimation printing.

For those of us not in the know, sublimation printing is a process that deeply embeds a design into the desired product with ink and heat, rather than just laying the design on top of it. The finished product is a permanent tattoo-like image that won't crack, fade, wash off, or peel away.

At the time of this writing, I've had the shoes for two weeks and in that time, the shoes and I have been through much together: running, jumping, kicking, rinsing, and repeating. Even after many cycles of this, the design still looks fresh.

Sparring shoes are up there in the top echelon of equipment known to get nasty. Your sparring partners will think of this machine washable gear as a godsend – finally you can kick each other without getting knocked out by the smell.

Even after fourteen days of intense fighting and washing, the shoe itself is holding up just as well as the design. Except for one small strap (I'll talk about it in a second), there has been very little noticeable wear or tear on the shoe.

While I based my review on the C-Gear Sport Boot – a sparring boot colored in two-tones, one base color and one additional color splashed in – the same high-quality sparring shoe is available in multiple looks and designs.

For a more humble look, there is the C-Gear Solid Boot, a modest looking shoe with the option of simple colors. For a standout presence at competitions, you can get the C-Gear Americana Boot, an American flag inspired design that would have made Betsy Ross well up tears in appreciative pride.

That One Strap

The sturdiness of the C-Gear Sparring Boots does make it a bit awkward to wear at first. However, like most new equipment, you eventually get used to it. About an hour into my first sparring session with the new shoes, I started to feel more comfortable moving and kicking with them. You just have to break them in.

The only sign of breakdown I have seen from the shoes is the thin toe strap on the front of the boot. After two nights of heavy sparring and washing, the strap lost much of its elasticity.

Unfortunately, this isn't a big surprise. For the kind of athletes this gear is made for, primarily sport karateka, this is often a problem area for footwear. With fighters who have to stay light and agile and bounce on the balls of their feet, the front of the shoe is often the first to go.

With that being said, the wider and sturdier center straps (one that covers the bottom of the boot and one that wraps around the entire shoe) is more than enough to keep you and your gear together during kicks and movement. A toe strap that loses its elasticity isn't the biggest concern in the grand scheme of things.

Summary

Century has released a line of gear products formulated from polyurethane foam and a sublimation-printed design. These pieces of gear were made with the active athlete in mind.

Active athletes unfortunately often have offensive odors – hard training isn't easy on the nose! A unique and greatly appreciated feature of the C-Gear Sport Boots is the ability to tumble in the washer and dryer and still come out fresh.

The biggest complaint that comes to mind is the toe strap that quickly wears out however that is definitely not a deal-breaker for me. All elastic is going to loosen in time, and this is far from the worst case I've seen.

All things considered, the C-Gear Sport Boots blow most of the competition out of the water, proving to be a sparring shoe sturdy enough to handle the hardest kickers and the toughest washes.

Pros

• Sturdy material is excellent at keeping you covered from blows.

• Machine washable and dryer safe – the colors and design are resistant to cracking, fading, washing off, and peeling away.

• Available in various colors and designs: Solid, Americana, or Sport.

Cons

• Sturdy material makes the sparring boot awkward to wear and move in at first – you quickly get used to it however.

• Front strap is thin and wears out quickly.

Durability: 8/10

Performance: 9/10

Design: 8/10

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

To purchase a pair of the C-Gear Sport Boots and see what you think for yourself, click here!

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