What Are Volleyball Shoes

What are volleyball shoes

Identification and recognition of volleyball shoes among the abundance of other sports shoes is not as easy as understood. Though they may appear similar to other athletic shoes, their design, anatomy, types, and fit criteria are quite different.

Whether you are buying your first pair of volleyball shoes as a newcomer or replacing a well-worn pair as a seasoned athlete, you must learn what are volleyball shoes and how they differ from other sports shoes.

So, If you don’t know, keep reading, as in this beginner’s guide, we will discuss the key parts, types, materials they are made from, anatomy, and other essential information about volleyball shoes.

Volleyball shoes have come a long way from their early beginnings as essential chuck-style basketball sneakers. Through ongoing innovation in materials and design, they now represent highly specialized athletic performance footwear.

  • Early volleyball games typically saw players wearing conventional court shoes, with little difference between those used in tennis or basketball.
  • Till the 1930s there were no special shoes for volleyball. The shoes during this period were mainly made of cotton canvas upper and rubber soles of thermoplastic.
  • But as volleyball began gaining popularity as an organized competitive sport during the 1960s and 70s, especially in Japan and the USA, shoe brands started modifying their basketball offerings with some volleyball-centric tweaks.
  • This primarily involved enhancing ankle support through higher collars, adding more protective forefoot and toe padding, and experimenting with bare, non-marking gum rubber soles optimized for wooden gym floors.
  • However, it wasn’t until the 1980s and 90s that brands making technical advancements specifically for volleyball shoes emerged, most notably Asics, Mizuno, and Nike. They integrated comfort-focused technologies like gel cushions and air pockets, strategically placed traction elements and stability straps, and breathable, abrasion-resistant textiles.
  • Recent decades till 2023, saw continued progression towards ultra-specialization, with specific models tailored for positions, playing surfaces (indoor vs. sand), and even club versus college volleyball.
  • Modern volleyball shoes remain focused on injury prevention via stability and cushioning while maximizing explosive power through lightweight, highly engineered materials.
History and Evolution of volleyball shoes

Volleyball shoes are constructed from specialized materials to provide the ideal combination of traction, support, and lightness on the court. To gain a better understanding of what makes the construction of volleyball footwear unique, let’s explore some of the critical materials these athletic shoes are typically made from.

Non-marking gum rubber

The outsoles of volleyball shoes use non-marking gum rubber. This specialized rubber provides excellent traction on indoor court floors without scuffing or leaving behind marks.

EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam

It is commonly used to make the midsole of volleyball shoes. This lightweight foam offers cushioning and shock absorption to cushion the feet during repetitive landings while jumping. Some midsoles also incorporate TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) in high-impact areas.

Synthetic leather

Synthetic leather overlays provide structure and support. Mesh fabric sections add ventilation to allow airflow, preventing heat and moisture build-up inside the shoe during intense play. This blend resists abrasion while retaining breathability.

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)

Extra layers of TPU are positioned in high-wear areas prone to impact and abrasion, like the toe box and along the ankle collar. This protects the feet during slides, digs, and dives.


Advanced bonding adhesives combine all the layers and pieces together. This adhesive withstands the demands of aggressive volleyball movements over time without layers separating.

Volleyball shoes contain several defining features that differentiate them from conventional athletic shoes and make them optimized for the demands of volleyball.


Uppers use durable synthetic leather and breathable mesh fabrics to provide structure while allowing ventilation during active play. The materials resist abrasion from diving and extend high enough to support ankles fully.


Sandwiched between the outsole and upper, volleyball shoe midsoles are lightweight to allow freedom of movement. However, they still incorporate ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam or similar shock-absorbing materials. Some also have a contoured shape for arch support.


The outsoles of volleyball shoes are designed to provide solid traction on hard indoor courts, allowing players to start and stop rapidly while reducing sliding.

They incorporate grip patterns with quality, durable rubber to maintain traction. The midsole and outsole also provide cushioning from impacts.

Ankle Support

Many volleyball shoes are high-tops, with collars padded and reinforced to lend ankle stability and help prevent dangerous rolls and sprains. Some are lower-cut for those wanting more freedom.

Toe Box

Shoes made for volleyball have an extra durable toe box to withstand the drag of toe-diving spikes. Padding reduces injury when landing incorrectly.

Anatomy and Parts of Volleyball shoes

The different parts of volleyball shoes in the upper include:-

  1. Collar: Adequately padded for ankle support, comfort and decent fit
  2. Eyelets: The hole in the upper for the passage of laces. Mostly these holes contain circuit rivets of metal or plastic to prevent them from ripping due to laces
  3. Tongue: A piece usually made of mesh, placed Underneath the laces to cover the forefoot and protect it from being rubbed by the laces. May be separate from the shoe upper or in a booty or sock-like construction as a one-piece upper.
  4. Laces: Also known as shoelaces or shoe strings. Mainly there for tightening and protecting the foot inside the shoe and also for keeping the shoe intact and preventing it from flying away while playing.
  5. Mesh-made panel:– For adequate breathing and to keep the foot cool and dry during intense and long games.
  6. Toe Cap: A small piece of material mainly used for reinforcement.
  7. Toe Guard: Made of a dura shield to withstand the drag of toe-diving spikes and prevent injuries.
  8. Toe Box: The front area of the shoe protects the front foot It is Usually padded and has a breathable construction.
  9. Overlays: These are leather-made materials for keeping the foot in shape and adding stability and durability.
  10. Arch: The center of the shoes with shaped like an arch. Mostly, varies for flat and normal feet i.e. flat-foot athletes use low-arch shoes whereas athletes with normal feet have a comparatively high arch.
  11. Midsole: Usually for providing a smooth comfy landing after spike.
  12. Outsole: Made of nonmarking rubber to provide excellent traction on the court.
  13. Flex Grooves: For enhancing flexibility and allowing more natural movements.
  14. Tread: Made of rubber for providing excellent traction and gluing with the surface. These have similar jobs to the treads in the car types. Also an indicator of shoe life and performance.
  15. Shank: It is made of a rigid material (plastic or metal). Place between the outer and inner soles to provide support and stability.
  16. Heel Cushioning: Gel pockets or any cushioning material for making the landing comfortable for the heel and preventing impact after jumps.
  17. Insoles: These may be glued or removable. Provide comfort, smoothness, and support to the foot.

There are a few critical ways that volleyball shoes can be categorized based on their design and intended use:

Indoor Versus Outdoor Volleyball Shoes

Most volleyball is played indoors, so shoes made for the hard court surface feature non-marking gum rubber outsoles, providing solid traction but without scuffing floors. Outdoor volleyball shoes have durable rubber treads better suited to grip grass or sand courts.

Position-Specific Volleyball Shoes

Some volleyball shoes cater to the needs of certain positions:

  • Hitter/Spiker Shoes: These shoes are very light and low to the ground to help you jump higher, with straps to stabilize your ankles when landing from jumps. The lightness also allows you to move quickly to get into position for hitting.
  • Setter & Defensive Specialist Shoes: These flexible shoes make it easier to move quickly to react to the ball and play defense. The maneuverability helps setters run to set up plays, and defensive players react to shots.
  • Libero Shoes: The extra padding and durability of these shoes protect your feet when diving and playing long rallies. Added abrasion resistance in critical areas prevents floor burns even after repeated dives and slides.

Major Brands

Most major athletic brands like Nike, Adidas, Mizuno, and Asics produce volleyball shoes with lightweight uppers, good traction, and ankle support to aid quick movement and jumping.

Special volleyball brands like Under Armour, Dreamees, and Nfinity also engineer shoes with extra padding, flexibility, and stability in critical areas that volleyball players need for positional play.

With an understanding of the designed purpose and available types of volleyball shoes, players can evaluate and select the ideal volleyball footwear for their individual needs by considering these key factors:

Court Type

It determines whether you need a sole designed for indoor or outdoor play. If you mainly play indoors, choose a tread pattern suitable for indoor courts to avoid quick wear from outdoors.

Playing Position & Game Style

If you play volleyball, consider your position and playing style. Different positions require specific features: Setters benefit from flexibility. Hitters prefer a lightweight feel. Liberos may need extra padding.

Fit & Size

It’s vital to get accurately fitted shoes accounting for the width, arch type, and dimensions of your feet. Well-fitted shoes significantly impact comfort and safety.

Ventilation Zone

Ensure proper airflow to your feet during intense play by searching for volleyball shoes with mesh fabric panels. This feature helps maintain breathability, preventing discomfort and allowing you to easily focus on the game.

Ankle Support Level

For players with weak ankles or those engaged in straight-on hitting/blocking, consider opting for more rigid, high-top shoes. Alternatively, lower shoes sacrifice some support in exchange for increased mobility. If you want additional details when choosing volleyball shoes [Read more: How to choose volleyball shoes]

Making volleyball shoes last longer while preserving their performance requires following some primary care and maintenance:

Cleaning: Use mild dish soap and water with a small brush to regularly clean the soles and uppers, removing dirt and sweat residue that can break down materials over time.

Storage: Let shoes fully air dry after games or practices before storing. Stuff with paper or shoe trees to hold the shape. Store in breathable mesh bags, not airtight plastic.

Inspect Wear: Check areas like the toe box treads. Mesh fabric for tearing or excessive abrasion. Replace shoes once they lose structural integrity or traction.

Replacement Guideline: On average, indoor volleyball shoes should be replaced after 50-60 hours of playtime as cushioning and traction degrade through use.

Taking five extra minutes to clean and inspect volleyball shoes after intense use can nearly double their lifespan, so if you want thorough guidelines for the maintenance of your volleyball shoes, read details in my article on how to clean volleyball shoes?

Wrapping it Up

Last of all, volleyball shoes are a vital piece of gear engineered explicitly for the fast-paced, explosive sport of volleyball.
What are volleyball shoes? From their grippy non-marking soles to breathable abrasion-resistant uppers and advanced midsole cushioning systems, every component aims to enable rapid bursts of sprints, jumps, and dives integral to excelling at volleyball.
Understanding volleyball shoe classifications, primary features, selection criteria, care, and the ongoing evolution of the footwear gives players the confidence they’re choosing the right shoe.
This allows them to avoid injury, eliminate shoe-related hindrances, and unlock their best possible play through technology genuinely optimized for the demands of the volleyball court.

Why are volleyball shoes different from other court shoes?

Volleyball shoes differ by having a gum rubber outsole for indoor courts, a reinforced toe box for diving, and more padding and support for jumps and quick lateral movements. They optimize the traction and stability needed in volleyball.

What is the difference between indoor and outdoor volleyball shoes?

Indoor shoes have soles with solid rubber, providing grip without marking floors. Outdoor shoes have durable treads for grass and sand. The uppers also differ with more mesh for breathability outdoors.

What are the key things to look for in volleyball shoes?

Consider the fit, court surface, cushioning, ankle support level and height, toe protection, breathability/ventilation, and outsole traction patterns when selecting volleyball shoes.

Can you wear volleyball shoes casually?

While designed for performance, some volleyball shoes work fine casually. Usually, the lower or mid-cut models apply the cushioning and support features to casual use. Higher models look more athletic.

How long should volleyball shoes last?

With consistent play, indoor volleyball shoes should be replaced every 50-60 hours of court time as the cushioning and traction degrade through use over time after breaking in.

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