Let’s face it: unless a person is a serious volleyball player, the odds of them owning volleyball shoes are slim to none.
This is often true with specialized footwear for other sports as well, like the cleats used for soccer and baseball. Of course, no one is wearing these shoes outside of the field or baseball diamond either.
One sport’s footwear that does appeal to the masses, however, is basketball.
Basketball shoes are everywhere. It seems like they are available in every size, color, and style imaginable, making them appealing to just about anyone – including volleyball players.
If you look out on a professional volleyball court, you may notice that some players clearly have basketball shoes on their feet. It might make you stop and think, why? Doesn’t it hinder their performance at all? Can you wear basketball shoes for volleyball?
As it turns out, you can! While they may not be totally interchangeable with volleyball shoes, there are some fundamental similarities between the way volleyball and basketball players move that make basketball shoes a decent option on a volleyball court.
Moreover, there are also cultural and social trends that are likely playing a role in why volleyball players are choosing basketball shoes.
Not convinced? Let’s serve up a few reasons why you can indeed wear basketball shoes for volleyball and what makes them so desirable.
What Are the Similarities Between Volleyball and Basketball?
One of the main reasons you can use basketball shoes for volleyball is that there are some similarities between how players play and move around their respective courts.
Jumping and Landing
Jumping is absolutely essential to volleyball – and that, of course, makes landing pretty important too. Sometimes, players need to be able to get up in the air to get the power and height necessary to block or really spike that ball down onto their opponent’s side of the court.
Basketball players also do their fair share of jumping and landing during a game. They often need to leap up into the air to block their opponents, make and catch passes, and shoot at the net. And like volleyball players, they probably want to be able to do that without worrying about what’s going to happen to their feet and ankles once they touch back down to the ground.
This is why volleyball and basketball players alike can benefit from a shoe with a strong, flexible midsole. The right midsole can provide balance and support for jumping as well as shock absorption for the impact of landing. The ideal midsoles for this type of purpose are typically made out of gel, foam, or air cushions.
Quick Directional Changes and Take-Offs
If you’ve ever played or even just seen a volleyball game, there’s a good chance that you are familiar with the sound of shoes constantly squeaking on the court. This is because volleyball players constantly pivot and adjust their position to best receive and hit the ball. And with the speed at which a volleyball game moves, they need to be able to do this as quickly as possible.
The same is true with basketball. Though there is much more running involved, players still need to be able to quickly pivot when they get into tight spots, especially if they’re trying to get around other players on either end of the court.
To help facilitate these quick movements, both volleyball and basketball players benefit from a fairly tight-fitting shoe that can provide them with a good amount of grip on their respective courts. It’s hard to quickly get where you need to go if you’re constantly slipping and sliding during a game.
Does Specialized Footwear Actually Make that Much of a Difference in Terms of Player Performance?
As you can see, on paper, it makes a certain amount of sense that basketball and volleyball players would benefit from strong, flexible, cushiony midsoles and grippy shoes. But do these characteristics actually make a significant difference in terms of performance, or is this just something that these specialized shoe manufacturers want us to believe? Furthermore, is there scientific data available to back up these claims?
As it turns out, there is.
Cushioning May Help Lessen the Impact of Landing
A 2017 study demonstrated that cushioning does indeed lessen the impact of landing on our bodies. And a 2018 study found that the cushioning in your average pair of shoes just doesn’t seem to cut it, as participants experienced greater tibial shock with regular-cushioned shoes when compared with those who had significantly more cushioning in their footwear.
This provides some support for the idea that an adequate amount of shoe cushioning may be able to help prevent injuries related to repeatedly jumping and landing during volleyball or basketball games. If they don’t take you out of the game completely, injuries certainly have a negative impact on performance, so it’s important to take precautions whenever possible.
Good Traction May Help Enhance Performance
According to a 2014 study, the average running shoe is designed to ensure athletes don’t slip while running. These researchers wanted to know if there was any real benefit to increasing the traction on these kinds of shoes.
What they found was that even though none of the participants slipped and fell during the course regardless of shoes, when they used the grippier ones, they were able to perform the course significantly faster than when they were using the average running shoe.
This shows that a pair of shoes designed with enhanced traction and grip may improve player performance not simply by decreasing the likelihood of them slipping but by allowing them to move more quickly and efficiently around the volleyball and basketball courts. And really, what player wouldn’t benefit from that?
So, since they share some similarities in terms of how players move around the court, volleyball and basketball shoes benefit from having some of the same features. However, they certainly don’t have everything in common. So, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of using both volleyball and basketball shoes for volleyball.
What Are the Advantages of Wearing Volleyball Shoes for Volleyball?
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Volleyball shoes are specifically designed with volleyball in mind, so they tend to have the ideal weight, materials, and shape necessary to ensure top performance on the court. However, their most distinguishing feature is probably what is referred to as a gum rubber sole, which is designed to give players optimal traction for all of their jumping and pivoting during games.
The midsole is another important part of a volleyball shoe. Its gel, air-filled, or foam material provides the cushioning necessary to help absorb the impact from constantly jumping and landing on the hard court.
The midsoles on volleyball shoes are often particularly concentrated on cushioning the balls of your feet, as volleyball players often find themselves on their toes to quickly move around and get themselves into position.
Quick movements are also help facilitated by the fact that volleyball shoes tend to be lightweight and fit snugly around the ankles. This makes it easier to pick up your feet and move them agilely around the court.
What Are the Disadvantages of Wearing Volleyball Shoes for Volleyball?
While you likely won’t regret choosing volleyball shoes for their performance on the court, they do have some other kinds of disadvantages. The first is that they really are only meant for the court, as the gum rubber soles tend to wear away faster if they’re used on rough surfaces.
That being said, this downside is pretty easy to avoid, as you simply need to remember to bring an extra pair of shoes to change into when you’re walking to and from the volleyball court.
The biggest disadvantage of volleyball shoes is that there really isn’t much to choose from in terms of style. As a result, individuals may have difficulty finding a volleyball shoe that suits their personality and preferences – something that is certainly not as much of an issue with basketball shoes.
What Are the Advantages of Wearing Basketball Shoes for Volleyball?
Basketball shoes seem to come in every color, pattern, and style a person could possibly want, making them an especially desirable alternative to fashion-conscious volleyball players. If you like making a fashion statement both on and off the court, you can certainly do so with the right pair of basketball shoes.
Outside of their looks, as previously mentioned, basketball and volleyball players both engage in a lot of jumping, landing, and quick movements while playing their respective games. Therefore, basketball shoes have been designed with some of the same technology as volleyball shoes. Like volleyball shoes, basketball shoes tend to provide ample cushioning for shock absorption and have excellent traction to keep players moving quickly around the court.
In addition, if you think you’d benefit from something like extra ankle support, basketball shoes may even be better than volleyball shoes. High-tops, in particular, help cover and protect the ankle, potentially leading to fewer ankle-related issues during games. However, high-tops also have their disadvantages.
What Are the Disadvantages of Wearing Basketball Shoes for Volleyball?
While basketball high-tops may provide more ankle protection, they may actually hinder performance when it comes to jumping. Low-tops typically allow for higher jumps, which may really be something to consider if you’re already on the shorter side.
You could easily get around this by getting yourself some low-top basketball shoes, but the most popular options tend to be of the high-top variety.
When it comes to jumping, basketball shoes may provide even more issues. Arguably, basketball players jump quite a bit less during an average game than volleyball players. They are also more likely to jump with only one foot if they’re looking to propel themselves up and forward for something like a layup.
Therefore, unlike volleyball shoes, basketball shoes are often not optimized for a continuous cycle of jumping and landing on both of their feet. Unfortunately, this means that their midsoles may wear down quicker if they’re being used for volleyball games.
The midsoles in basketball shoes may also present further issues to a volleyball player. There is a lot of emphasis on running and forward movement in basketball, so the midsoles are designed to accommodate players running up and down the court. In doing so, they may limit a player’s lateral movement, which is much more important during a volleyball game.
Volleyball Shoes vs Basketball Shoes
While basketball shoes have some minor disadvantages over volleyball shoes, they’re still a perfectly acceptable option on the court. They will still help support the feet and ankles during jumping, landing, and quick movements, which are essential to both basketball and volleyball players.
Considering this, you may wonder, why don’t basketball players ever wear volleyball shoes, then?
The Cool Factor
In short, volleyball and its shoes aren’t exactly considered cool in mainstream culture (sorry!).
You don’t ever see people walking around casually in volleyball shoes simply because they like the look. Basketball shoes, on the other hand, are everywhere. You can see them on all age groups and genders, regardless of whether or not their wearers actually play basketball.
Why are they so much more a part of popular culture than volleyball shoes?
The NBA is a huge organization, and its top players are practically household names, even among those who don’t follow professional basketball. When sneaker companies sponsor or collaborate with famous athletes, their fans take notice and will try to snag a pair so they can be as cool and stylish as their favorite players.
Having the right pair of basketball shoes can garner a certain amount of clout in some crowds – can you really say the same thing about volleyball shoes?
Because of this cool factor, there tends to be a lot more money in the basketball shoe industry than in the volleyball shoe industry. This allows basketball shoe manufacturers to invest more into developing their products, which allows them to continue creating new technologies, styles, and designs to add to the already wide variety of basketball shoes available on the market.
They can constantly tweak their products, so they’re always up to date on the latest trends in fashion and technology – volleyball shoe manufacturers don’t have a chance.
Go Ahead and Wear Basketball Shoes for Volleyball
While volleyball shoes may provide some minor advantages over basketball shoes (since they’re specialized for the sport, they should), the two really are comparable when it comes to meeting the same kinds of athletic goals.
So, if you’re looking for some shoes that will perform well and look cool, go ahead and break out those Air Jordans the next time you’re on the volleyball court – you likely won’t be disappointed.