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Different sports make you move in many different ways. So why shouldn't your shoes reflect that reality?
Let’s settle this eternal debate once and for all. Every sport is different. Different in its nature, its rules, its movement, and therefore in the equipment needed to play it properly.
Of course, any kind of sneaker can be worn if you’re just fooling around with a volleyball for an hour with friends, just trying to keep it from hitting the floor. But if we’re talking about playing the actual game of volleyball, the answer to our title is a categoric no – a shoe is NOT just a shoe! Heck, even a court shoe isn’t just a court shoe.
You wouldn’t play golf with a hockey stick, nor would you play ping-pong with a pickleball paddle. And these are hand-held tools.
What piece of equipment is more important to a volleyball player than his or her shoes? If your shoe isn’t built for the specific dominant movements your sport requires, it can cause discomfort – or even injury – and will keep you from performing at your best, or even from just enjoying your favorite sport.
Let’s examine this topic by answering a few FAQ’s we hear and see in our stores, and on social media.
ARE VOLLEYBALL SHOES AND BASKETBALL SHOES THE SAME?
No. They may look similar, and even feel similar when you first put them on, but when you examine their specifications more closely, or if you try to play the sport they weren’t designed for, you quickly realize that the two differ in many ways.
Just think of the different ways volleyball players and basketball players move on the court. Basketball requires a lot of straight line running up and down the court, along with spurts of lateral moves and occasional jumps around the basket.
Volleyball is mostly centered around frequent explosive jumping and landing with some sudden changes of direction.
The running required in basketball pushes shoe designers to put more cushioning under the heel. The athletic standing, as well as the jumping and landing required in volleyball means the footwear must have more cushioning under the ball of the foot, to prevent injury and augment the comfort level during long rallies and matches.
Furthermore, basketball’s lateral movements are more violent than the ones you typically see in volleyball, because they have more speed and energy built into them, which means basketball shoes need a wider base (outsole) and a slightly stiffer upper. In short, basketball shoes offer more lateral support (built into the upper) while volleyball shoes focus on vertical support (mainly from the midsole).
Basketball shoe tread designs are also geared toward back-to-front movement flow, whereas volleyball treads help with lateral shifts when pushing against the floor.
Finally, for durability purposes, basketball shoes are going to be significantly heavier than volleyball shoes, which require a lightweight feature to assist the repeated jumping during a match. By contrast, some volleyball shoes add protection over the toe area for durability, and to protect the foot from the dragging involved in the defensive game.
Still think basketball shoes are the same as volleyball shoes?
ARE VOLLEYBALL SHOES GOOD FOR RUNNING?
That’s an even bigger NO!
As mentioned, volleyball shoes have reinforced cushioning under the ball of the foot, since volleyball players carry their weight (or nine times as much on jumps!) mostly on the front part of their feet. Runners need the cushioning more under the heel to absorb the impact of each stride.
Also, many modern running shoe designers strive to conceive outsoles that complement the natural anatomy of the foot, meaning they feature cross grooves that make them extremely flexible from back to front. Volleyball outsoles are more rigid to provide the vertical stability needed for jumps and landing, which makes them very awkward – and even detrimental – for the running motion.
Although running shoes are made for many different surfaces, their midsole foam would wear out very quickly from the constant jumping required in volleyball. Conversely, volleyball shoes’ soft outsole would break down in the blink of an eye if used on any other surface than an indoor volleyball court.
Finally, similarly to basketball, the durability, stability and cushioning features built into a running shoe also make it generally less lightweight than volleyball footwear.
Still want to purchase running shoes to play volleyball?
CAN BADMINTON SHOES BE USED FOR VOLLEYBALL?
Once again, let’s examine the differences in the movements you typically make in badminton and how that dictates how shoes are designed.
Badminton players need to be well grounded (low center of gravity) to react quickly while in their defensive posture. They sometimes need to jump while attacking, but not nearly as high or as often as volleyball players do during a match. Badminton also implies more quick back-and-forth, and lots of lateral footwork.
Additionally, even if the arm swing motion of attacking players is similar in both sports, one is performed while in the air (volleyball), while the other uses the ground for leverage (badminton).
It all means that badminton shoes need a thinner midsole than volleyball shoes, with an outsole tread that allows the shoe to follow the foot’s movement much more precisely. The quick footwork required in badminton also means the shoes must be even lighter than what volleyball requires.
The upper of a badminton shoe differs as well in that it doesn’t need to be as supportive laterally. Badminton players want their shoes to feel like a natural extension of the foot and – contrary to the demands of volleyball – the nature of their sport’s movement allows for shoemakers to cater to that anatomical design.
So, do you still think a badminton shoe works for volleyball?
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT VOLLEYBALL SHOES?
We get it. You may play more than one court sport, and you may not be able to afford to pay for a specialized shoe for each one. That’s why we get all theses questions from customers who would like to purchase all-purpose sports shoes.
But the hard truth is that all sports are very different in the way they make your body move, the type of surface used, thus the shoes you need to perform, and prevent injury.
Here are the main reasons buying volleyball-specific shoes is an extremely wise decision:
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN SHOPPING FOR VOLLEYBALL SHOES
Another question we often hear is: “Are volleyball shoes supposed to be tight?”
Any sports footwear needs to be properly fitted for many different reasons:
When trying on volleyball shoes, try at least two or three different models to gage which brand’s last fits your foot shape the best. Once the comfort criterium has been secured, we must make sure you have the right size.
Once fully laced up, a properly fitted shoe should have your longest toe as close to the end of the shoe as possible without causing discomfort when moving around (quick starts and stops). You don’t want your toes bumping against the end of the shoe on a sharp step.
The next step is making sure the shoe is snug enough widthwise that you can’t move your foot from side to side in the shoe when anchoring your heel and trying to pivot on it.
If you feel any pressure points at all, keep them on your feet for 3 to 5 minutes while moving around. If the shoes start feeling better, that’s a positive sign that they will need minimal time to break in and feel natural. If the pressure point persists or keeps feeling worse, you should move on to another model or brand.
If you are on a very tight budget and can’t afford a specific pair of shoes for each court sport you play, choose a shoe that best fits the sport you play the most. You could probably get away with playing recreational volleyball with other types of court shoes.
However, volleyball shoes are designed for the unique needs stemming from the very distinctive sport that is volleyball. Don’t run with volleyball shoes, and don’t play outdoor court sports with volleyball shoes. As soon as your match is over, take your volleyball shoes off and put them in your bag. They truly are one-purpose shoes.
With brands like Mizuno, Nike, Asics, and Under Armour, we definitely have the volleyball shoe for you. All price points, many trendy color schemes, men’s and women’s sizes; take a look at our selection here.
Want a scoop? The latest version of our most popular model – Mizuno’s Wave Momentum 3 – is coming this January 2024!