What are Volleyball Shoes?
Whether you’re a veteran volleyball player or a beginner, it’s important to know that specialized volleyball shoes will go a long way to improving your performance. Simply put, compared to regular runners, for example, you’ll find all volleyball shoes will have a breathable (typically mesh) upper, traction on the outsole to provide great stability, and ample support within the shoe. Volleyball shoes will also have a good amount of lateral support for when you’ll be darting from one side of the court to the other.
On top of this is the fact that shoes meant for volleyball will offer a fair degree of flexibility since you’ll be moving and jumping on a dime. For this reason, most if not all volleyball-focused shoes will be low-topped as opposed to high-topped. The reasoning behind this is that high-tops are bulkier and restrict ankle movement ever so slightly.
How are Volleyball Shoes Different?
The biggest difference is internal – volleyball shoes, similar to basketball shoes, will typically focus a lot on shock attenuation and lateral support, more so than run-of-the-mill running shoes. This is because volleyball players have to jump and sprint constantly throughout a game, and the distribution of shock from landing impact is crucial to a good shoe.
If you wear shoes that do not have systems in place to dissipate shock well, you’ll find that after a few games, your feet and ankles will be sore, as they will be taking the brunt of the force instead of your shoes. You want a pair of shoes that takes a lot of the stress off of your feet and lower legs, leaving you pain-free at the end of every game, and this is the hallmark of a good-quality volleyball shoe.
With that in mind, you may be wondering, what else should I be thinking about when deciding what shoe to try? In the next section, we’ll give a bit of advice to allow you to critically dissect each volleyball shoe you come across in a way that works for you and your needs.
Things to Look for in Volleyball Shoes
When it comes to volleyball shoes, it can be difficult to decide what exactly works for you, and some people even cycle out shoes yearly looking for their own ‘goldilocks’ pair. While there isn’t a perfect shoe for everyone, there is a perfect shoe for every situation, so we recommend taking into consideration your specific goals and preferences for what your footwear should provide for you.
For example, keep in mind the position and style of play you are on the court. If you’re a backline or Libero, you may need a shoe with above-average stability and support, meaning comfortable and fitting shoe designs, and not too much padding may be required. If you’re a front row or attack, who has to be up in the air quite a lot or setting up plays in advance, you’ll find that erratic movement, shock, and lateral mobility are issues your shoe will have to adequately deal with throughout the course of a game. In that case, you’ll need a pair of shoes with high-impact absorption qualities as well as ample cushioning and support to help you ease back into position after a big jump or play.
In case you’re just starting out and want a jack-of-all-trades shoe, since you don’t really know which position you like and will stick with throughout your volleyball career, there are a few things that matter regardless of what role you’re playing: breathability, weight, and design.
Breathability means having a shoe that provides you with substantial cool airflow since volleyball is a highly demanding game and creates a lot of energy (heat) in the foot area. Weight is self-explanatory, you want a shoe that is light and doesn’t make you feel like you’re lugging something around that is tied to your feet. You want to be swift, precise, and jump as high as possible, and lightweight shoes excel at that.
Finally, design. Looking out for design means picking a shoe that allows for a wide range of movement in all directions, and provides you with great traction all the same. You are on your feet all game, and you need to be able to make any movement in any direction, at any time, without slipping.
Keep in mind your position as well as these three qualities when looking for volleyball footwear with a critical eye. So, having said there, here is our list of the 8 best volleyball shoes for both men and women.
1. Mizuno Wave Lightning Z4 (women)
First up for the women’s section are the Mizuno Wave Lightning Z4’s, which aim to be a superb pair of shoes for volleyball specifically. The overall fit of the shoe is uncompromised and constructed with Dynamotion technology that helps flex with your foot’s natural movement.
Because you want maximum flexibility on the court, Mizuno went with a low-top design allowing for quick lateral movements.
The upper is made up of a synthetic material that features AIRmesh and D-flex grooving, so you’ll be getting the much-needed cooling as well as the flexibility needed for the sport. The front toe area is covered in a Dura-Shield rubber compound that protects the toes from bumps and friction.
The upper’s construction also plays a part in its lightweight, at 8.8 ounces, meaning you’ll be very mobile on your feet. The insoles have a parallel waveplate and anatomically designed cup inside so that you will remain comfortable and supported by ergonomic design, but also have plush cushioning to go along with it.
The midsole of the Z4 employs dual shock-absorption layers known as SR Touch and PoWnCe which work in tandem to provide superior comfort, shock attenuation, and support while remaining fairly lightweight.
The X10 outsole’s threading pattern is non-marking and designed in a way that makes sure high impact areas get added traction from reinforced treading, with no two areas being completely alike. This provides you with a very sticky grip on the court, so you won’t have to worry about slipping up. Overall, these Mizuno volleyball shoes are a solid pick all around that you can’t really go wrong with.
Despite its great design, the Mizuno Wave Lightning Z4 does have a shortcoming and that would be its price – which is more on the high-end. If you’re a volleyball player who is serious about your game, these are a great investment. But, if you’re more on the casual side, there are cheaper alternatives on this list. Regardless of the price, the Mizuno Wave Lightning Z4 is one of the best women’s volleyball shoes.
+ Flexible and breathable upper
+ Entire shoe flexes to your natural foot movements
+ Light and supportive on the court
+ Great outsole treading that is very sticky
2. ASICS Upcourt 3 (women)
Next up, we have the Upcourt 3’s by ASICS, which features their classics ASICS logo and minimalistic design. The upper is a mix of fabric and synthetic materials, with pockets of breathable mesh to keep your feet cool in the areas they need it most. The Upcourt 3 definitely focuses on comfort, with a padded tongue and collar, and a mesh lining. These little extra touches improve the feel and ride of the shoe during a game.
The insole and sockliner are both removable, allowing for the implementation of a medical orthotic or third-party insole in general. The out-of-box insole features an EVA midsole for added support, so you won’t have to be worried about a lack of support or comfort if you don’t already have your own orthotic.
There is also a rearfoot GEL cushioning system in place to attenuate shock, which you will be experiencing a lot of if you’re playing volleyball and jumping around. On top of all of this, they are also a very affordable purchase, especially for the quality you’re getting in return.
The outsole consists of multi-directional tread patterns that provide added grip on smooth court surfaces. There’s also an abundance of flex grooves for flexibility which allows you to stay very nimble throughout the game.
The only two flaws these shoes have is that the footbed can be quite flat and if you’re someone who requires a raised arch, you may need to invest additionally in some sports insoles. The second flaw is its soft construction that lacks support. If you need a lot of support in the ankle, the soft construction of this upper may not be enough, and provide a bit too much give during high intensity plays. If that isn’t an issue for you, and prefer a flexible and soft shoe, then these are still a great purchase.
+ Breathable mesh in specific regions of the upper
+ Padded tongue, collar, and mesh lining all provide comfort
+ Removable sock liner adds room for custom orthotics
+ Affordable pricing
– Footbed has no arch support
– Upper is very soft, not ideal if you need a lot of support
3. Nike Air Zoom Hyperace 2 (women)
Now we have the Air Zoom Hyperace 2 by Nike, which is a great design for all hardcourt surfaces. On top of being an aesthetically pleasing design, these shoes are also very supportive. They feature a TPU cage to enhance the support and overall stability of the shoe, keeping you locked in and firmly planted.
There is also perforated mesh along the tongue with a tight-knight upper that increases the overall durability of the shoe. Internally, the shoe has the patented Nike Zoom Air units to take care of shock-absorption and provides you with a lightweight feel and ample cushioning in select areas. This level of cushioning is ideal if you are the kind of player that is constantly in the air rather than setting up plays.
The outsole consists of sticky rubber that is engineered to grip hardwood floors without slipping. The rubber of the shoe actually extends a bit all around the shoe, so that it acts as an extra layer of protection around the lower-foot. As for its treading and stickiness on the court, it uses a very close tread pattern to make sure you are closely gripped to the court no matter what the circumstance is.
There are two major issues you should consider when it comes to the Air Zoom Hyperace 2, though. Namely the name-brand price associated with them, and the lack of wide-sizing options. If you are a person who is either on a budget or has wide enough feet that you require a shoe more tailored to your needs, the Nike Hyperace 2 may not be your first best choice. If neither of those two is a major issue to you, and the shoe appeals to your needs, then these are still a solid option for someone looking for Nike volleyball shoes.
+ Aesthetically pleasing design
+ Ergonomically crafted upper
+ TPU cage and mesh provide support and breathability
+ Zoom Air units provide ample cushioning and comfort upon impact
+ Durable and protective outsole
– Fairly expensive
– Does not come in wider size options
4. ASICS Gel-Rocket 8 (women)
Rounding out our list of women’s shoes is another design by ASICS – the Gel-Rocket 8. These shoes come with a synthetic upper with certain areas of the upper being a perforated mesh, providing additional ventilation and breathability. It is a lightweight design with a TRUSSTIC System implemented, so the shoe’s weight is fairly minuscule, yet they are still highly stable and have a firm structure.
There is also the ASICS gel technology implemented into the forefoot, with shock-absorbing gel cushions strategically placed to ease some of the pressure and impact you’ll experience in-game.
As for the outsoles, the Gel-Rocket 8’s feature a gum-rubber sole for great traction on hardcourt surfaces, meaning no matter in what direction you move, your 8’s will make sure you’re staying well-gripped to the ground. Overall these are sturdy yet lightweight volleyball shoes that offer you a great amount of stability, comfort, and quality for a decent price. For this reason, they definitely are worth considering as your next purchase.
With that said, the Rocket 8’s aren’t perfect. You’ll likely need to buy half a size larger to get the best fit for your feet. On top of this, if you have flat feet, these shoes may not provide the ample arch support you’ll be needing to mediate that issue. If you do have flat feet, you are better off finding a more supportive shoe on this list, or a custom orthotic to go with the Gel-Rocket 8.
+ Solid breathability
+ Very lightweight thanks to Trusstic technology
+ Shock-absorbing gel-padding placed in forefoot
+ Sticky gum-rubber sole keeps you planted on the court
– Runs small; need half a size up for best fit
– Not ideal for flat-feet.
5. Mizuno Wave Momentum (men)
First up on the men’s side are the Wave Momentum by Mizuno. These are low-top volleyball-centric shoes with a completely synthetic upper and sole. The upper features a bootie construction that is a mixture of mesh and durable fabric to keep you equal parts protected and snug. The snug fit of the upper is also very secure and makes you feel a lot more supported when moving from side to side.
The upper has a no-sew design that ensures that there are no seams sticking out that can irritate the feet. A traditional lacing system gives you a customized fit and there are synthetic overlays to protect the structural integrity of the shoe.
The midsole employs several layers of cushioning for varying levels of shock-absorption and an Intercool technology connects ventilation ports from the midsole to the outsole to regulate foot temperatures to keep you fairly cool with a constant exhaling of warm air and also allows cool air back in.
The insole of the shoe is also known to have decent arch support and impact absorption, ideal for jumping around. The outsole is quite interesting in the fact that it features XR rubber for added grip and durability. The grip is further amplified thanks to the multi-directional tread pattern that prevents slippage on a smooth court surface.
The outsole also has crashpads strategically placed, to give you more support and a softer landing when rebounding from a big jump. Overall, this is a great shoe for all positions, though if you are a serious jumper, you may like these a bit more than your less vertically-inclined teammates.
The only issue with these shoes is that they feel quite stiff out of the box and need to be broken in. But regardless of this quirk, these are some of the best men’s volleyball shoes.
+ Bootie construction ensures a snug fit
+ Keeps you cool and flexible at all times
+ Insole has decent arch support and impact absorption
+ Outsole is great for jumpers with multi-directional treads
– Requires a break-in period
6. ASICS Gel-Netburner Ballistic (men)
Next up are the ASICS Gel-Netburner Ballistic volleyball shoes. These aesthetically designed shoes are 100% synthetic, with an imported rubber cork sole. The upper is a mixture of synthetic fabric and mesh, providing you with a very protected and durable feel.
Inside of the shoe is a rearfoot and forefoot GEL-cushioning system often found in ASICS shoe models. These systems attenuate shock during landing as well as toe-off, allowing for movement in a variety of angles and positions, seamlessly transitioning with your foot through the gait cycle. The inside also features the FluidRide system which aims to provide you with the ultimate combination of both bounce-back and cushioning, as well as having a reduced weight and maintaining durability.
The entire sole unit also has the TRUSSTIC system in place, reducing the overall weight of the sole unit, but still maintaining the firm durability of the shoe. As for the outsole, it is an NC Rubber outsole compound, which contains more natural rubber than solid rubber, giving you stickier and enhanced traction on the court. Overall these are great shoes for beginners of volleyball and veterans alike for what it brings to the table.
While these are a solid pair of ASICS volleyball shoes, the Netburner Ballistic can feel a bit tight on first wear, and definitely need to be broken in for a few games. Because of this, if you are a person who wants a pair of volleyball shoes that feel awesome right out of the box, you might want to reconsider the ASICS Netburner Ballistic. If this particular issue doesn’t really bother you, and you’re perfectly fine with breaking in the shoes and reaching peak comfort after a few games, then more power to you.
+ Great lateral support thanks to its engineering
+ Supportive Gel cushioning and shock attenuation
+ Lightweight yet durable
+ Outsole has good grip and traction
– Need a game or two to be broken in
7. Adidas Stabil Bounce (men)
Our penultimate volleyball shoe on this list is the Adidas Stabil Bounce. These shoes feature a synthetic-mesh upper with a typical low-top design. The breathable mesh also has TPU overlays to provide you with ample firmness and support, so you don’t have to worry about these shoes being too flexible on the court. It has a snug fit with its lace closure, allowing you to tighten or loosen it to the degree you want most at that moment.
Internally, Adidas included their Bounce midsole that provides you with ample cushioning, support, and aids in the attenuation of shock when reeling in from a big jump or hit. The sock-like construction of this shoe will also feel great as it hugs your foot, almost like an extension of your foot rather than something that holds you back or drags you down during a jump.
The outsole is a non-marking rubber compound with a tech-grid structure that gives you a load of traction and grip on the court, while also turning heads with its vibrant coloring. These are overall a solid volleyball shoe that finds itself great for a slew of different things, perhaps even beyond the volleyball court.
As great as the Stabil Bounce may be, it does have a few glaring flaws. The first of which is the fact that it is fairly expensive especially when compared to some of the other alternatives on our list, so if you have a budget to stay within, these may be a pair to skip on. Secondly, they may feel a bit wide in the toe-box area, and while some people may welcome that particular aspect, if you’re a person who really doesn’t like the feeling of a roomy toe-box, that might also be a deal-breaker.
+ Solid and breathable upper with firm TPU caging
+ Bounce midsole has great support and cushioning
+ Designed to have a clean, sock-like feel to them
+ Outsole is non-marking rubber with tech-grid traction for grip
– Fairly expensive
– Ample toe-box room, may not be ideal for some people’s taste
8. Salming Kobra 2 (men)
Our final pair of shoes on this list are the Salming Kobra 2 volleyball shoes. Right off the bat, compared to every other shoe on this list, it hits it out of the park in the aesthetics and colors department. It is a completely synthetic leather and mesh mixture to give you durability and breathability respectively, with a heel-to-toe drop of 8mm.
Inside of the shoe is an anatomical heel-cup, giving you a customized and adaptive fit, an Energy Rebound Foam (ERF) midsole to give you admirable energy transfer and cushioning, and finally a SoftFOAM heel impact zone to give you that touch of extra cushioning that you’ll appreciate after every jump you take. All of that combined makes the inside of this shoe very comfortable to walk on, without a doubt.
There is also a Torsion Guide system, providing stability and flexibility by stimulating natural movement, as well as a roll-bar on the inner edge to give you a better lateral push-off. As for the outsole, it is made of a Hexagrip rubber compound that gives you a unique formed grip on the court, with sections of the outsole having a distinctly different pattern, so you’re getting traction any which way you plant yourself. All things considered, it is a capable lightweight shoe that excels in comfort.
Probably two of the biggest issues the Kobra 2 suffers from, unfortunately, are the high price-tag associated with this pair, and that it feels stiffer than other Salming models. For some people, stiffness is preferred as it provides them with much-needed support, especially in intense games, but these may feel a bit too stiff or clunky for some. If the price isn’t an issue and you prefer a more stiff and firm shoe, though, you should definitely consider the Salming Kobra 2’s, as they bring a lot to the court.
+ Leather/Mesh upper provides durability and cooling
+ Heel-cup and SoftFOAM technology ensures prolonged comfort
+ Torsion Guide system is great for stability
+ Hex-grip rubber provides ample traction on the court
– Bit pricey
– Might feel too firm for some
To conclude, whether you’re a novice at volleyball looking into shoes to get for your first season, or a veteran looking to replace an old beaten-up pair, our list has a pick that should meet your specific needs well. If you are on the frontlines a lot and jumping or making plays, look at some of the shoes we’ve listed here that are particularly padded, comfortable, and have good shock attenuation.
If you aren’t that style of player, but in the backline or a libero, who typically spends less time in the air, consider a more sturdy and supportive shoe that can help your stride when you’re moving viciously around the court. Apart from those quirks of the game to keep in mind, any and all pairs of volleyball shoes in this guide are solid picks that have to stack up to your personal needs.