Every sport has one piece of equipment that makes or breaks a player’s performance, and in the world of volleyball, the right shoes are everything.
Are running shoes good for volleyball? For anyone participating in intense or regular playtime, running shoes are neither a safe nor comfortable choice and offer much fewer advantages than volleyball shoes. Running shoes for volleyball lack adequate traction and ankle support and will deteriorate much faster than their volleyball shoes counterparts.
While many different types of shoes – athletic, basketball, and even running shoes– are suitable for casual enjoyment of the sport, these shoes aren’t made to withstand the stress of volleyball and will break down quickly if used regularly.
In this article, I’ll explain exactly what makes these types of shoes unsuitable: the physical demands of the sport, the makeup of the shoe, and the risks that using them can pose.
Let’s take a look.
Volleyball Movements: How It Relates To Shoe Choice
Movement in volleyball is a dynamic, wonderful thing. The transition of players from offense to defense is elastic and beautiful, while the hitters’ attacks are explosive and inspiring.
More than any other sport, volleyball is a battle against gravity.
During a single point, a player will jump an average of five feet into the air from their myriad attacks, blocks, and serves, and during longer rallies this number can reach as high as fifteen feet of combined vertical jumping — all within the span of one minute.
Consider that each set is twenty-five points, and each match is best of five, and you can imagine the impact this has not only on the player’s body, but their shoes as well.
To begin to understand the effect this has on other shoes, and how volleyball shoes are specifically made to handle this stress, we need to discuss two things:
- Dynamic Movement
- Injury Prevention.
Dynamic Movement: Lateral and Vertical
Volleyball incorporates a lot of jumping. This isn’t exclusive to volleyball, and other sports like basketball or track and field have these aspects as well. In volleyball’s case, the sheer volume of vertical movement makes it unique.
To put this further into perspective, the force of landing after an approach jump in volleyball is about nine times one’s body weight. Lighter shoes with proper cushioning are needed to maintain this kind of jumping, and using the wrong shoe for an extended period can not only exhaust you, but damage your feet as well.
Movement on the ground is just as important to consider.
Volleyball is filled with quick, light actions, and transitioning (moving on and off the net, or cycling the back row) requires a lot of lateral – side-to-side – movements as players track the ball or quickly sidestep for a pass. This is different from forward dynamic movements, such as sprinting or diving, and volleyball utilizes both types of movement to succeed.
While running shoes excel at supporting forward movement, they aren’t designed to account for lateral or vertical movement, providing little to no benefits in either aspect.
It’s worth noting that although basketball shoes are a little better – providing both forward and lateral movement support – they also lack the cushioning to withstand the amount of jumping that occurs in volleyball.
When it comes to dynamic movement, the weight of the shoe, the traction it can generate, and the support it offers are all important factors to consider.
In the world of volleyball, the faster you can react, the more dynamic your movement, the better your chances of winning and enjoying the sport. At the end of the day; the better you can move, the better you’ll play.
As an athlete, maintaining your body is critical. For volleyball footwear, this means providing proper ankle support and balanced cushioning to give it the best chance of preventing injury and recovering from fatigue.
Running shoes are unsafe to use for volleyball because they do not offer adequate ankle support, nor the traction necessary to prevent slipping.
Volleyball is a dynamic sport which puts stress on many joints. Ankle injuries are the most common injury in volleyball, but stress is also put on the knees, hips, and back. Choosing the right shoe can help mitigate much of this damage, and prevent post-practice pains.
Although it might be convenient not to buy new shoes, the investment will always be worth saving the time, money, and energy of recovering from a preventable injury.
Running Shoes vs Volleyball Shoes: Comparison
We’ve addressed the demands of volleyball through movement and why running shoes are unsafe to use for volleyball. Next, we will break down the specifics of each shoe and explore what they were designed for and how they function.
Running shoes are traditionally made of heavier materials designed to withstand the impact of concrete while offering support for athletes’ feet for forward motion.
A stiff structure called the “shank” is located mid-sole to prevent over-flexation, providing strength and stability whilst ensuring the shoe bends at the toes, not under the arch. Some volleyball shoes also utilize this feature.
Ankle support is also important for running shoes, preventing many runner’s issues like plantar fasciitis or heel spurs, but is still insufficient when it comes to volleyball.
Volleyball shoes, on the other hand, are made of very light materials and conform to the foot as much as possible.
The sole is made of a special substance called “gum rubber” which gives the shoes maximum traction while remaining as light as possible.
The gum rubber, combined with a layered composition of interior support, offers maximum impact cushioning for repeated jumping and lateral movement.
The sides of the shoe conform to the ankle more aggressively than running shoes, and all volleyball shoes come with an additional set of holes for the laces, near the ankle, to offer maximum support.
Running shoes are designed to be adaptable, flexible, and useful for many surfaces. Even indoors, for P.E. classes and general wear they succeed. The intent of this article is not to put you off buying running shoes – they are perfect for what they are designed for. But volleyball is very different, and has a different set of needs for what is required.
Running shoes are largely intended for flat or lightly undulating paths in the outdoors.
This means that their soles must be durable in order to not be shredded with continual impact on rough materials, and the traction is designed with this in mind. Some shoes feature lines of semi-stiff plastics for grip on concrete, while others have rubber soles for handling dirt or rock. Mostly, a combination of the two is used.
On the other hand, volleyball shoes are intended for one surface only: playing inside on a flat court, usually made of wood or another specialized material. This surface can become extremely slippery, and care is usually taken to mop the floor of dust and other debris before practices or matches to prevent injury.
Many of us know the feeling firsthand of running through a gym and your shoes slipping, sending you sliding across the floor. When faced with the amount of dynamic movement in all directions that is required of volleyball, running shoes cannot hold up.
The gum rubber soles of volleyball shoes are perfect for gaining traction, but after enough uses they too begin to lose some of this.
Even though they have specialized shoes, players often can be seen wiping the bottom of their shoes on their hands before each play to maintain traction. If it’s that difficult for shoes designed for that surface, attempting the same performance in running shoes will be infinitely more difficult and dangerous.
To highlight the seriousness of the risk, some coaches and referees do not let players on court without proper shoes: they can be a danger to themselves and others.
It comes down to performance, injury prevention, and enjoyment.
At the end of the day, we play volleyball because it’s fun, and if you’re sliding all over the court, unable to move properly or feel comfortable, then there’s no point playing.
If used for volleyball, running shoes will break down within a couple of weeks – possibly lasting a couple of months if you’re lucky.
Alternatively, properly maintained volleyball shoes should last an entire season.
Wearing volleyball shoes outside is the fastest way to destroy them and strip the specialized gum rubber away. It’s recommended to purchase new shoes every season, as worn-out soles can become a safety hazard, but with proper care, cleaning, and treatments some can last a couple of years.
Main Takeaway: Wearing Running Shoes For Volleyball
For best value, use the right shoe for the right job. Keep your running shoes for going to and from volleyball practice, and use your volleyball shoes inside only – don’t ruin them by wearing them outside.
There are many different types of shoes in the world, and many of them are interchangeable. Running shoes are one of the most adaptable, but they are totally unsuitable for volleyball.
Volleyball shoes are specifically designed for the sport and should be used by any serious athlete or regular enjoyer of the sport. With proper care and use, they will not only protect your health while participating in the sport, but allow you to get the maximum enjoyment out of playing.
Other Volleyball Shoe Resources
- Why Buy Volleyball Shoes?
- How Should You Clean Volleyball Shoes?
- Do Mizuno, Asics, Nike, or Adidas Make Better Volleyball Shoes?
- Can You Wear Basketball Shoes For Volleyball
- How To Fix Slippery Volleyball Shoes
- What Shoes Do You Wear For Volleyball?
About The Author
Ailan Samuel is a writer and athlete who has played volleyball at the university, club, and national level since 2012. He has competed successfully in both beach and indoor competitions, resulting in four silver and two gold medals, and was awarded the Half-Blue while playing in Scotland. He received his MA in English and Medieval History from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and is currently studying for his MA in Publishing and Creative Writing at Bournemouth University.