March 18, 2024 - Let’s Talk About Shoes

There are two main characteristics to consider in table tennis shoes. They are how well you can move in them, and how much support they give. (Durability is another issue, but I won’t go into that here.)

Table tennis shoes are designed to maximize mobility for table tennis movements – and that means mostly moving side to side. So, most table tennis shoes are made to essentially grip the floor, with relatively thin soles (especially toward the front), making it easy to move side to side. The treads are also designed for this, especially around the inside balls of the feet, where most of your weight should be in your ready stance and when moving.

The problem with thin soles is they give less support, which can lead to foot and knee problems. Younger players can generally get away with thinner soles, but as we get older, we need more support. You have to find a balance. If you play on cement regularly, then you need shoes with much more support than if you play on wood or a rubberized floor. The same is true if you play a tournament that’s on cement – you’ll want shoes with more support for that.

One option that I used during my playing years was to have two different types of shoes. For practice, I’d wear shoes with plenty of support. But at tournaments (and just before tournaments), I’d switch to ones with thinner soles and less support, as I felt I was slightly more mobile in those shoes.

One of the strangest things I often see is table tennis players wearing running shoes when they play, which are designed for running forward. They are literally designed for moving in ways you rarely do in table tennis, while hampering the very side-to-side movement you need. I wear running shoes as my normal shoes as they are great for walking and running, but I’d never consider wearing them in table tennis. Neither should you.

One last thing about shoes – consider the grippiness of the floors you are playing on. Newer shoes often grip the floor better, so if you are playing a tournament where the floors are slightly slippery, you might consider using new shoes. Or, as I did during my playing days, I used to use new shoes at tournament, then put them aside and go back to older ones in practice.

Ultimately, you have to decide what’s best for you in terms of shoes – but you are not alone. With a few questions, all the major distributors can recommend which shoes are best for you. That’s their job, so ask them. Your job is to do your best at the table – and that means getting the best possible shoes for you. That, along with practice and good technique, will make you a shoe-in for medals!