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:
Can sports flooring influence the impact force on landing for jumping tasks (volleyball, basketball, etc.)? And
Can sports shoes, specifically with cushioning, also influence this impact force?
And while I’d love to write a post about Gerflor and Taraflex flooring and how much better it is (actually, I may just do that… ), for our purposes let’s look at that second question:
Does cushioning affect how much force your body needs to handle when you jump?
They found that, yes--it does.
In conclusion, they state that, ‘cushioning influences impact forces during standardized jump tasks, whether it is provided by the shoes or the SF [Sports Flooring]’ (Malisoux, Gette, Urhausen, Bomfim & Theisen, 2017)
If you’re not big on research articles like us Volley-Pedia nerds, then let me quickly translate:
When you jump in sport-specific shoes, like basketball shoes and volleyball shoes, your body won’t take as much of a shock each time you jump and land.
For volleyball, this is huge. When we think about the most common injuries of the sport, a large portion of those are jumping related.
Wearing volleyball or basketball shoes is a great way to protect yourself against some of these, and now there’s some science to back up the intuition.
The second study was about traction and grip.
And while they didn’t measure indoor court shoes exactly, I think it’s safe enough to draw some relevant conclusions from the study--if it isn’t safe, at least it’s interesting.
It’s actually really cool.
What they did in this 2014 study was test out just how effective rubbers can be when it comes to shoe traction and sports performance.
They took twenty male runners and shoved them into one of two groups:
Regular commercial running shoes (with the minimum traction requirements); and
High traction, specially-made, extra-grippy shoes.
Then they sent them around an asphalt running course and waited to see how fast they did it.
Yes: the extra-high traction shoes let the athletes run faster than usual, even with high-quality commercial-grade shoes.
The point that we can take out of this is that the grip and traction of your shoes can have a real impact on how successful you are.
It isn’t just about slipping in crucial moments--it’s about performing better, all the time.
I got a bit deep into the research… what started as ‘can basketball shoes be used as volleyball shoes’ turned out to be a deep, deep rabbit hole.
In any case, I’ll leave another link to an article here if you want to see where I ended up.
This one has to do with balance and sports shoes. More specifically, it’s about those funky-looking five finger shoes and how they’re actually better for balance than going barefoot.
What would be really cool is if we saw some kind of move toward this for a volleyball shoe.
Anyway, if you’ve always wanted a pair of Vibram five finger shoes, the study is saying great things about them so be sure to read it, then you can check the price on Amazon by clicking on the red text above.
So what’s wrong with volleyball shoes?
After all this, you might be thinking that one thing doesn’t quite add up:
Yes, volleyball players can wear basketball shoes… but why don’t basketball players wear volleyball shoes?
For this one, I’m not going to run you through any academic research or numbers:
So you can take a quick sigh of relief.
What I will say probably won’t come as any big shock:
Basketball is just a little cooler than volleyball in mainstream media.
It pains me to say--as someone who’s spent the larger portion of my life tied to the sport, I’m the last person who wants to admit it.
But the NBA is a giant.
Nike is a marketing god.
And in basketball, when a popular player like Kyrie Irving releases a shoe line, it’s a pretty instantaneous global success.
You get the idea.
Basketball shoe manufacturers have had an ultimately larger resource pool to experiment, fiddle and perfect what will perform best for their athletes--and, in many cases, what will have them looking best out on court.
And while volleyball and basketball were invented at roughly the same time (1891 and 1895 respectively), their commercial growth curves describe different patterns.
So, what do we volleyball players take out of this?
For me, I see an opportunity.
We have two incredibly similar sports when it comes to the important movements and actions--why not bootleg a few of their products?
And that’s the common understanding at most levels of volleyball.
Basketball shoes are, in many ways, the perfect substitute for volleyball shoes. There’s a larger range, wider availability, and they tend to look better in most situations off the volleyball court.
And before you think I’m completely against volleyball shoes, I'm not really.
But I will say that, sometimes, it pays to be humble in defeat--and basketball shoes are a titan in the court shoes market. Sometimes they’ll win a few volleyball feet from mizuno and asics--sometimes not. Why fight it?
Can volleyball players wear basketball shoes?
When it comes to performance, basketball and volleyball shoe manufacturers are looking to meet basically the same athlete goals. So, if you find a pair of basketball shoes that look really cool and you think will help your game:
And if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to basketball shoes for volleyball, ask a friend. Show them what you're thinking of buying and test their reaction--it'll be better than just making an impulse purchase on something you'll hopefully wear for many years to come.
*We don't actually just talk about basketball shoes, friction and grip. Most of all, we here at Volley-Pedia like to give you guys the best inside information for improving your performance on and off the court. We've lived as professional athletes in the sport, and we think the best way to spend our time is to share all of the goods that we had to learn the hard way.
For a taste test, you'll want to check out our 5 Guarantees For Starting on Court. You can find it on the home page, here: www.volley-pedia.com, or by signing up for our mailing list.
Enjoy, and happy jumping.