If you’ve landed here, just know one thing:
Every volleyball player has, at one point or another, asked themselves, a teammate or the internet this very same question.
So welcome to the club.
Can you wear basketball shoes for volleyball? Yes, and here’s why. While basketball and volleyball are very different sports, they rely on many of the same basic fundamental movements. Things like:
Agile movements; and
Needing a whole lot of grip and cushioning to do it right.
But that simple answer, while nice if you’re just skimming through, wasn’t quite enough to satisfy my itch.
I wanted to know why. Why are basketball shoes interchangeable with volleyball shoes?
Does it go both ways?
What makes a good volleyball shoe, anyway?
Because, if you pay close attention to what’s going on below the knees of top level professional and international level volleyball athletes, you’ll see more than your fair share of Kobes, KDs and even some Jordans for the big ballers.
But how many basketballers are gracing the courts in a fresh pair of mizunos?
There’s no denying that basketball shoes can get the job done for volleyball players at all levels: but in this post we’ll dive a little deeper.
What type of shoe is best for volleyball;
What the science says to back this up;
Can basketball shoes be used as volleyball shoes?; And, if so
Why don’t basketball players wear volleyball shoes?
I’ll talk about some of the social and cultural reasons that make basketball shoes more popular. (Hint: the answer is in the question…)
And then to wrap it all up, I’ll tell you our personal favorite basketball shoe the pros are wearing to play in...
Okay, I can't wait till the end so let me just tell you now:
For men, it's the Nike Hyperdunk Xs. If they're good enough for Matt Anderson, they're good enough for me. And I was pretty shocked to find that you can order them on Amazon for less than retail price. (I used to be sketched out about ordering shoes online, but these days the sizing recommendations are spot on and returns are totally free).
For women, we've gone with another Nike option, the Zoom Hyperace 2. An excellent light and sleek shoe for moving at your best.
You can check the price for these on Amazon with the links above. (Last time I checked I was pleasantly surprised by how affordable they are.)
Okay, now that's all said and done, let's get into the good stuff.
What type of shoe is best for volleyball?
What we’re really asking here is: what makes a good volleyball shoe, anyway?
And there are a few basic things that you really want to keep an eye out for.
Anything beyond that will be mostly personal preference, style and the shape of your volleyball-ing feet.
Let’s break it down by the main actions and skills, then we can lock in on what kind of shoe would help us to do those movements best:
#1 - Jumping
#2 - Quick directional changes
#3 - Landing
#4 - Quick take-offs
#1 - Jumping
Volleyball is a jumper’s sport. Some of the most vertically gifted athletes grace the courts of our sport, and they need a shoe that can provide both the bounce at take-off, and the cushion for a safe landing.
It’s also worth saying that volleyballers are two-foot jumpers.
While basketballers will benefit from a shoe that gives them a light one-foot take-off, volleyball players are mostly jumping off two-feet (the slide being a glaring exception, but we’ll let that one slide for the moment...).
For a two-foot jump, I find that a thick air-bubbled heel is best.
I’m a heavy jumper: I once heard this described as ‘muscling your way through the air’, and that’s probably pretty accurate. And for heavy jumpers like myself, you’ll probably enjoy a slightly heavier shoe with a nice thick, stiff heel.
#2 - Quick directional changes
Volleyball players also need a shoe that can handle those violently squeaky turns; the only true sound to fill the gyms and halls of volleyball tournaments everywhere.
A shoe with a rounded base will let you push off at different angles evenly, and this is actually something that basketball shoes do incredibly well.
I had a pair of Kyrie 3s for a while during my professional season in Switzerland, and they had a fantastic rounded sole. It was really easy pushing off in all directions--if I hadn’t ruined them playing tennis on a clay court, I’d probably still be using them…
But that’s another story.
#3 - Landing
What goes up must come down. And believe me when I say that all of those jumping repetitions can take a toll on your body.
And the shoes that you wear must have an influence on how good or bad that will be for your body, right?
Well, a 2017 study actually looked precisely at this question, and we’ll look at what they found in the section below. For now, just now that shoes with decent cushioning will be an important factor to look out for if you play a high-impact sport like volleyball.
And here, let’s be clear, we’re talking about ‘high-impact’ reps with the ground. Jumping isn’t easy on the knees and lower back--you don’t need to be impacting anyone else for it to do damage over time.
#4 - Quick take-off
It’s all about grip. And while you’ll need a sticky grip to make the quick directional changes mentioned in #2, volleyball is all about getting where you need to go fast.
A quick take-off, whether that’s in attack as you step-close on a short set, or in reception as you push off to reach that missile jump serve: A quick take-off well help position you better to play the ball as it comes.
When it comes to basketball shoes, grip is nothing new. They also tend to be nicely tight-fitting, with a higher-ankle if you prefer that kind of model.
A shoe that’s tightly bound will also help your take-off--so you’ll want to keep an eye out for that, too.
Is there any science to back this all up?
Like I said, the stock-standard answer wasn’t really enough to satisfy my curiosity.
I wanted to know why basketball shoes can be worn for volleyball, and not just that they can be.
And while there haven’t quite been as many scholarly research studies done on ‘court shoes grip’ as their have been on, say, something like ‘the benefits of whey protein’:
I managed to find a couple worth mentioning.
The first one to mention was done in 2017, and it has to do with cushioning in basketball and volleyball shoes. The research team wanted to understand two things: