Are you wondering if wearing those old tennis shoes on the volleyball court will cause you any problems?
Perhaps you’re unsure whether there’s even a difference between tennis and volleyball shoes to begin with…
Tennis shoes are quite similar to volleyball shoes and will usually be okay to play volleyball in casually… But there is several key differences which make tennis shoes a poor long term solution for volleyball players.
In this article we’ll take a look at the 4 major differences between tennis shoes and volleyball shoes, and why you should avoid wearing them on the volleyball court if possible.
The 4 Main Differences Between Tennis Shoes & Volleyball Shoes
All sports shoes are designed to optimize the movements athletes perform wearing them.
Tennis and volleyball have a lot in common, but are still very different sports and involve some pretty different movements.
The main one being jumping and landing which makes a huge impact on how shoes are designed.
The other obvious difference is that volleyball is usually played on a hardwood floor and not concrete, grass, or clay.
1. Different Outsole Designs
There’s one major difference between the outsoles of tennis shoes and volleyball shoes.
Tennis shoes are usually made with much thicker, heavier, more durable rubber that won’t fray easily on outdoor courts.
Volleyball shoes are often made with very soft gum rubber to maximize grip on the hardwood indoor court surface.
Both tennis shoes and volleyball shoes tend to have very low profile traction patterns to maximize grip.
Something like a running shoe would have much deeper grooves which improves bite on uneven surfaces.
2. Lateral Stiffness & Sidewall
One thing that tennis players do a lot more than volleyball players is aggressive changes of direction.
If you’ve ever watched tennis, you’ll see them occasionally sliding sideways across the court as they dig their feet in to switch directions.
This puts a ton of pressure on the outside of the shoe which is why tennis shoes tend to have a lot thicker materials running down the sides just above the midsoles.
Tennis shoes often have internal sidewalls which are reinforced sides which help keep the foot secure in the middle of the shoe.
Volleyball shoes tend to be far more relaxed as far as lateral containment goes and even allow the foot to protrude out over the sole slightly during lateral movements.
3. Midsole Thickness & Cushioning
On average, tennis shoes tend to have slightly thinner midsoles with less cushioning.
This means less bounce when jumping as well as less impact protection when landing.
This makes plenty of sense since there’s virtually no jumping in tennis and a lot of it in volleyball.
Because of this, tennis shoes often have a more ‘low to the ground’ feel whereas volleyball shoes often feel quite high off the ground.
4. Heel Toe Transition & Forefoot Flex
One other difference you may notice with some shoes is what we refer to as the ‘heel toe transition’ which is how well the shoe rocks from the heel to toe.
This, along with how much flex the shoe has in the forefoot, gives us an indication as to how smooth the shoe is when it comes to jumping.
Volleyball shoes usually have a very smooth and fluid heel toe transition with plenty of forefoot flex because this makes the shoe easier to jump in.,
Some tennis shoes are a little too flat and stiff which means they ‘slap’ at the floor more when jumping.
Why Tennis Shoes Aren’t Ideal For Volleyball
If you’re a libero or a setter who plays primarily from the back court, you could probably survive just fine on tennis shoes because you don’t have much need for extra cushioning.
Spikers, on the other hand, really require that thicker midsole with better cushioning in order to protect their joints.
If you jump in tennis shoes repeatedly, you may start to experience aching joints since they’re usually lacking in the shock absorption department.
Tennis shoes, as I just discussed, also tend to be quite a bit less smooth when it comes to jumping.
A good pair of volleyball shoes should make you feel super springy when jumping on court and should feel very soft and comfortable to land in.
You simply won’t get that experience using tennis shoes.
Tennis shoes also won’t grip the hardwood court very well because their harder outsoles are designed for concrete or clay.
This will cause the shoes to slide around too much which could even be dangerous on particularly dusty volleyball courts.
This lack of bite on the indoor court will cause worse responsiveness which will make you slower and less agile.
Can You Wear Volleyball Shoes For Tennis?
What would happen if we reversed the roles and attempted to wear volleyball shoes for tennis?
This is possibly an even worse idea than wearing tennis shoes on the volleyball court!
Volleyball shoes should definitely not be worn for tennis because they lack traction, lateral containment, and durability.
The outsoles on volleyball shoes will usually not cope well with a concrete court, or any tennis court for that matter. The rubber bottoms are too soft and will start fraying very quickly.
Standing much higher off the ground, with no internal side wall and softer materials around the sides of the shoe, you’re also at a much greater risk of rolling an ankle wearing volleyball shoes on a tennis court.
You’ll also be really slow when it comes to changing directions, for the same reason.
Best Tennis Shoes For Volleyball
If I absolutely had to wear a tennis shoe for volleyball, I’d pick the Asics Gel-Dedicate 7 because it’s remarkably similar to a lot of the other Asics court shoes people wear for volleyball all the time.
It has a very similar traction pattern to the volleyball shoes Asics make and a fairly smooth heel toe transition.
The problem is that it’s a budget shoe which means it would probably have very weak cushioning and might start falling apart sooner than I’d like!
But it could actually be an alright shoe for beginner liberos and setters who don’t do a lot of jumping!
There’s good reason why tennis shoes are called tennis shoes and volleyball shoes, volleyball shoes.
The movements performed in the 2 sports are simply too different to wear volleyball and tennis shoes interchangeably.
While you would almost certainly survive a volleyball match wearing tennis shoes, it wouldn’t be the best on-court experience and you’d definitely not want to make a habit of it!