Can the right table tennis shoes really give you en edge to your game, or is it just about looks and comfort? Do you need proper table tennis shoes, or will sneakers or running shoes suffice? What advantages do table tennis shoes offer? This article will answer these questions and explain how the right shoes can benefit your game, and help prevent injury.
Table Tennis Shoes
Players are often happy to pay many hundreds of dollars on the latest and greatest table tennis bat, yet they’re using their coolest looking Nike runners while playing, unaware of the impact on their game. Understanding what shoes to use, and when, can help you perform your best and avoid injury. Running shoes, for example, are for toe to toe movement. Table tennis shoes are for multi-directional movement, especially lateral (side-to-side) movement, so the sole of a table tennis shoe is more flexible to allow a wide range of movement.
So what are the special table tennis shoe requirements to give you maximum performance for your table tennis game? Proper table tennis offer the following benefits, in order of importance:
Good traction between your shoes and the floor is a vital requirement for table tennis shoes. Good traction means high grip on the floor, which minimises the amount of sliding or uncontrolled movements.
Table tennis is an extremely high speed sport, where at times you need to make contact with a ball that comes in a very high speed. Not only is the ball moving fast, but your bat is swinging at high speed. If those two factors weren’t enough, the bat also moves at an angle to the path of the ball as to impart spin. It should be obvious from these factors, that the sport of table tennis requires incredible precision and timing at high speed. Now if your feet are sliding while you’re executing this high precision movement, you’re adding yet another complicating factor, a factor that could be minimised with your choice of proper table tennis shoes.
You won’t have the grip, traction, and flexibility of the sole that a table tennis shoe provides.
Stability is almost as important as traction. Proper table tennis shoes will help you feel your feet on the ground, while giving you plenty of stability for high-intensity moves. Where running shoes are engineered with extra cushioning in the soles for endurance runs and for arch support, that extra padding can actually hinder your responsive movement during quick changes in direction during a table tennis match. For the same reasons that traction is so important for table tennis as explained above, stability is also vitally important, and not many types of shoes can offer this apart from dedicated table tennis shoes.
Prevention of Injury
The wrong type of shoes can cause discomfort in many different ways. You may experience blisters, aches and pains, or soreness. It may be the reason your shoe doesn’t feel quite right. The best shoes don’t get in your way at all – letting you do your workout without hardly noticing them.
For example if you use running shoes for lateral movement, the higher heel drops make for a higher chance of ankle sprains during lateral movement.
Table tennis shoes are designed for fast lateral movement and high stability on the ground, which minimised the risk of injury for these types of movements.
Note exception: If you’re regularly playing on very hard floors like concrete (which is far from ideal for high level table tennis), you might want to consider more cushioning in your sole than what’s normally recommend for table tennis, as the risk of injury due to the repetitive pounding on the hard floor might outweigh the risk of sprains or ankle injuries due to lateral movements.
Breathability is the ability of a material to allow moisture vapor to be transmitted through the material. The repetitive and very fast steps in table tennis means your feet will get hot very quickly, and often sweat a lot. Proper table tennis shoes are designed to allow good airflow in and out of the shoes by means of meshes & holes within the material, allowing the sweat to evaporate, and cooling your feet in the process. This not only keeps your feet comfortable for maximum performance, but also reduces the chance of skins issues like blistering.
Shoes designed for the specific type of movements like those for table tennis, have inbuilt strength for these types of movement, so they should last considerably longer if used only for table tennis. It goes without saying that you will extend their lifetime if you only use them for table tennis.
Where to buy table tennis shoes?
Certainly in Australia, you can’t buy table tennis shoes in most of the popular sports stores, because table tennis here is just not big enough at the professional level, so sports stores simply can’t justify carrying them. OOAK Shop carries a range of shoes designed specifically for table tennis, made by some of the major table tennis brands. You can find the OOAK range of table tennis shoes here. OOAK also offers a range of table tennis shirts and shorts, and although these are not as important for performance as shoes, the extra comfort and cooling effect that they offer can still be beneficial to your game.