I started playing basketball at the age of 5 and volleyball at 13 and have been in both sports for over 10 years each.
Over the years I’ve burned through more basketball and volleyball shoes than you could imagine, so believe me when I say I’m extremely well qualified to talk about this subject!
Basketball shoes can absolutely be worn for volleyball and, depending on the individual needs of the player, may even be a superior choice to volleyball specific shoes.
In this article I’m going to explain why basketball shoes are often ideal for volleyballers, what the differences between the two are, and some things to remember when shopping for basketball shoes for volleyball.
Are Volleyball & Basketball Shoes The Same?
While there are differences between the two, they’re far more similar than they are different.
Volleyball Shoes Are Evolving Into Basketball Shoes
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, you’ll have noticed that volleyball shoes are starting to look a whole lot more like basketball shoes!
On the left is the current most popular volleyball shoe on the market, the Nike React Hyperset.
Note that the outsole and midsole are virtually carbon copies of the Nike Hyperdunks, their basketball predecessors.
Nike essentially duplicated one of its more popular basketball shoes and marketed it as a volleyball shoe…
And it worked… Really well.
The Hypersets have become the most popular volleyball shoe amongst the world’s top professional volleyballers and it is basically a copy paste basketball shoe!
If we take a look at some Asics volleyball shoes, you’ll notice more of this basketballization of the shoe design.
The untrained eye might suspect the shoe on the right is a basketball shoe…
In actual fact it’s the highest rated volleyball shoe of 2023, endorsed by Japanese superstar Yuji Nishida.
Traditionally speaking, there are differences between volleyball and basketball shoes which I’ll discuss shortly.
But before I get into that, I want to explain why you should be open to the idea of wearing basketball shoes for volleyball.
Why You SHOULD Wear Basketball Shoes For Volleyball
At the end of the day, all of this comes down to performance.
Volleyballers should wear the shoes that make them perform the best on the volleyball court, period.
It doesn’t matter if it’s labeled as a volleyball shoe, basketball shoe, or a horse shoe – if it’s the best option for you as a volleyball player, you should wear it!
More Volleyball Position Specific Options
Here’s the thing the volleyball shoe industry hasn’t fully grasped yet…
Not all positions are created equally.
A libero doesn’t perform the same movements as a middle blocker and for that reason these two positions should wear very different shoes.
Historically, volleyball shoes have all been very similar and seemed to cater to the sport as a whole, and failed to make distinctions based on positions.
The basketball shoe industry, on the other hand, is thousands of times bigger with an obscenely diverse range of shoes, each with their own range of features/strengths/weaknesses.
So if you want to get really specific to your individual needs as a middle blocker or libero or setter, you’re going to find a far greater range of basketball shoes that fit the bill.
- Volleyball shoes = ‘just okay’ for all volleyball positions.
- Basketball shoes = excellent options for certain positions that are terrible for others.
Unless you’re simultaneously playing middle blocker and libero, this will work in your favor.
More Bounce For High Flyers
One of the things you don’t really get from volleyball shoes is that extra pop or spring when jumping.
Many basketball shoes, on the other hand, provide very bouncy feedback when jumping which makes them a joy to play in, especially for spikers.
Aside from the Asics Sky Elite FFs, I don’t know of any volleyball shoes that compare to the likes of a Lebron 18 or Air Zoom G.T. Jump – both of which make you feel like you’ve got miniature trampolines in your shoes!
Better Cushioning For Frequent Flyers
Perhaps the most important thing about volleyball shoes is shock absorption.
How well does the cushioning system absorb landing forces?
The reason this is such an important question is because of joint health.
Poor shock absorption causes huge amounts of stress on your joints – not just your knees, but also your ankles, hips, and back.1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5636165/
If you’re playing volleyball frequently, you absolutely need to prioritize impact protection. Otherwise you’re at serious risk of developing chronic overuse injuries like jumper’s knee.
Many basketball shoes have, by a huge margin, superior cushioning compared to most volleyball shoes.
Not all of them… a lot of basketball shoes have terrible impact protection… But the ones we’d be selecting for volleyball have the most advanced cushioning technology of any sports shoe, period.
So if you’re doing plenty of jumping (i.e. don’t play libero or setter), basketball shoes are almost always going to be the best option in this department.
Basketball Shoes Are More Affordable
While you will pay more for the most expensive basketball shoes, the average price of a decent pair of basketball shoes will be slightly less than their volleyball equivalents.
Moreover, there’s actually a decent range of budget basketball shoes which are quite a bit cheaper than volleyball shoes.
The Difference Between Volleyball & Basketball Shoes
While there are definitely some differences between volleyball and basketball shoes, they’re pretty minor and don’t apply in every case.
For the most part, basketball shoes and volleyball shoes are made with the same materials: synthetic mesh uppers, rubber outsoles, foam midsoles.
While you will find leather and canvas used in some basketball shoes, the vast majority of basketball shoes are made from the same stuff as volleyball shoes.
On average, basketball shoes definitely tend to be a little heavier.
This is largely a result of having higher uppers and thicker midsoles with more cushioning technology packed in.
Although you can expect basketball shoes to weigh slightly more, since a lot of that extra weight is in the midsole, you’re often left with a shoe that still feels really lightweight and springy.
If you think a few extra grams of weight will lower your spike height, think again.
We have research which found no statistically significant correlation between shoe weight and vertical jump performance.2https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329912270_Does_the_weight_of_basketball_shoes_affect_speed_and_jumping_performance
By far the major difference between volleyball and basketball shoes is the cushioning used in the midsole.
Volleyball shoes tend to have less cushioning which means thinner and lighter midsoles.
Certain basketball shoes are known for cramming as much material as possible into the midsole to maximize shock absorption.
|Adidas CrazyFlight||Boost Foam|
|Asics Gel-Rocket 10||Gel Foam|
|Asics Sky Elite FF||Flytefoam|
|Adidas Dame 7||Lightstrike Foam|
|Mizuno Wave Momentum 2||Enerzy Foam|
|Nike Hyperset||React Foam|
|Nike Lebron 18||Zoom Strobel + Air Max Unit|
Yes, that’s a lot of different and creative ways of saying ‘foam’, but each cushioning system is quite unique and offers a slightly different on-court experience.
Some cushioning systems are softer/mushier than others which can be quite hard. Some are highly responsive and others not so much.
Variety & Availability
The volleyball shoe market is really really tiny compared to the basketball shoe industry.
Basketball shoes used to account for 13% of the athletic shoe market and while that number is dwindling, the volleyball shoe piece of the pie is virtually non-existent.
In the NBA there’s currently 22 players each with their own signature shoe line.
I’m pretty sure there’s not even 22 types of volleyball shoes on the market!
The NBA saw almost 300 unique types of basketball shoe worn this season.
As such, you can almost always find a pair of basketball shoes for your individual needs as a volleyball player.
Want a new pair of Nike Hypersets, the most popular volleyball shoe of 2023? You can’t get them. They’re sold out. And they’ve been sold out for months!
Finding volleyball shoes online nowadays is really challenging. Availability is low across the board – good luck finding a pair in your size!
While the top of the range basketball shoes will usually cost a bit more than the most expensive volleyball shoes, on average basketball shoes are slightly cheaper.
I know this because I spend all day writing volleyball shoe roundup articles, in which I usually include a lot of basketball shoes!
As mentioned earlier, budget basketball shoes are also easier to come by than budget volleyball shoes, which aren’t really a thing.
Which Basketball Shoes Are Best For Volleyball?
The vast majority of basketball shoes will do a decent job for volleyball.
What’s more important is making sure you pick the best shoe for your position.
Luckily for you, I’ve taken the liberty to comb through every basketball shoe on the market and have put together several awesome lists of top shoes for various volleyball positions!
|Libero||Nike Giannis Immortality||Read More|
|Setter||UA Curry Flow 9||Read More|
|Outside Hitter||Li-Ning All City 10||Read More|
|Opposite Hitter||Nike Lebron 18||Read More|
|Middle Blocker||Adidas Dame 7||Read More|
Are High Tops Good For Volleyball?
Some high tops are not a good option for volleyball because they restrict ankle mobility slightly too much.
Other high tops, like the Nike Air Zoom G.T. Jumps, may actually be a great option for certain positions (namely middle blocker and opposite).
This is because they’re really only a hybrid between mid and high tops and these positions require less lateral dexterity.
For setters, liberos, and outside hitters who spend more time passing and chasing down volleyballs, these sorts of heavy duty high top shoes will not be a great fit.
Things To Avoid When Looking For Basketball Shoes For Volleyball
Some basketball shoes may seem like a decent option for volleyball, but turn out to be horrible once you actually try them on.
Here’s a few of the major red flags to watch out for.
Excessive Heel Caging
By heel cage, I’m referring to a large ‘built out’ protective cage surrounding the heel of the shoe which gives it a very clunky, boot-like feel.
The purpose of this heel cage is partly to protect your ankles and partly for decoration.
Either way, I am not a big fan because it massively weighs the shoe down and makes quick lateral movements and adjustments very difficult.
Here’s another example excessive caging in my Jordans…
I couldn’t imagine ever playing volleyball in the above shoes. They just feel so slow and unresponsive to move in.
Stay as far away from heel caged shoes as possible!
Honestly, a shoe can weigh a lot but still be fine for volleyball, so long as they feel lightweight and athletic to wear.
Take the above Jordans, for example. They’re not really that heavy, but they feel like you’ve got bricks attached to your feet.
They have very little forefoot flexibility and the midsole is extremely hard. They have a very boot-like feel.
I wouldn’t play basketball in them, let alone volleyball.
My Dame 7s, on the other hand, weigh more than the Jordans but somehow feel incredibly lightweight to wear.
So weight is a tricky one and I wouldn’t put too much… weight into it.
Thin Midsole/Weak Cushioning
Note that it’s perfectly acceptable (and advisable) to have a thin midsole with below average cushioning if you’re a libero.
You’re not doing any jumping… you have no need for impact protection.
Setters who primarily operate out of the back court are in the same boat and can deliberately choose shoes with weak shock absorption.
What they lack in cushioning, they’ll typically make up for in responsiveness.
If you’re spiking, you want to make sure you’ve got a decent cushioning setup in your shoes, whatever you end up getting.
If you’re eyeing up a pair of shoes, find out what cushion is used in the midsole and hunt around online to find out what people think of that particular cushion setup.
Can You Wear Volleyball Shoes For Basketball?
You absolutely can wear volleyball shoes for basketball for all the reasons we’ve just discussed.
They’re extremely similar in almost all facets and so most volleyball/basketball shoes can be used interchangeably for both sports.
It’s not like we’re talking about wearing running shoes for volleyball, which is a completely different story.
Having played both sports for over a decade, I’ve got to say that I’ve twisted far more ankles playing basketball than volleyball, so I’d recommend shoes with a little extra lateral stability/ankle support when it comes to basketball.
Why Don’t Basketball Players Wear Volleyball Shoes?
Why would they?
They’ve got an entire industry hundreds (if not thousands) of times larger than the volleyball shoe market producing a quality range of basketball specific shoes.
The only reason we’re having this discussion about basketball shoes for volleyball is because the volleyball shoe market is, quite frankly, not up to scratch.
There isn’t enough selection or specification, there’s very little availability, and to be perfectly honest there’s simply better options available if you broaden your horizons a little.
This question is kind of like asking why volleyballers don’t wear tennis shoes.
Basketball Shoes For Volleyball FAQ
Jordans can be okay for volleyball, depending on the design. But beware of excessive heel caging which is common in Jordans and really bad for volleyball.
I own a pair of ‘Jordan Why Not? Zer0.4s’ and couldn’t think of a single worse shoe to play volleyball in!
The Kyrie Flytraps are a decent option for volleyball, but I would only recommend them for setters, liberos, and outside hitters.
The Phylon cushioning is very rudimentary which makes these shoes below average in terms of impact protection, so they’re not the best for jumping.
Having said that, they’re nice and low to the ground, lightweight, and super responsive.
The KD14s are an exceptional shoe to wear for volleyball because of their excellent traction and cushioning.
With such advanced cushioning technology, these are great for middles as well as opposites.
The KD14s came in second place on my list of top basketball shoes for volleyball in 2023!
The Curry shoes are another excellent basketball shoe for volleyball.
This is one of my favorite options for liberos and setters because of how low to the ground and responsive they are.
The PG basketball shoes are an okay option for volleyball, but not the best.
The main issue with this shoe for volleyball is the excessive caging in the heel which, as I’ve explained above, limits your ability to perform lateral movements with ease.
If that’s not going to cause you too many problems, the PG shoes are an otherwise excellent option for volleyball with solid cushioning and excellent traction.