If you are an occasional recreational player any indoor court shoe with a non-marking sole will do. Most clubs, particularly those with wood floors do not allow you to play in shoes that have marking soles, and prefer you change from shoes you wear outdoors before entering the playing area. This is both to protect the floor and for your safety. Shore worn outdoors can pick up material that may cause you to slip and injure yourself, or others. If you have worn your court shoe outside, you should clean the soles before using them for Table Tennis. For recreational players who play regularly, if your feet ache after playing, or your shoes feel like lead weights after a little while, you should consider upgrading to a table tennis shoe. Your feet will thank you, and I predict your play will improve.
For Serious Players
If you are serious about the sport of table tennis, having proper footwear is as important as having the right blade and rubbers for your style of play. Recommendations about rackets can be found at: www.mdumler.ca/2019/08/table-tennis-racket-aka-ping-pong-paddle-selection-suggestions/. Since table tennis shoes are designed for sport specific movement, they are lightweight, have good grip, and a thin sole to reduce the chance of you rolling your ankle as you move side to side. When I switched to TT Shoes, I immediately felt a little bit quicker, and more able to move into position to play my shots.
So Many Choices – How to choose
1. Comfort is the most important factor. No matter a shoe’s other good qualities, if they aren’t comfortable to play in, then they won’t be the right shoe for you. For players who wear orthotics or special gel insoles, if possible you should try the shoe out with your normal inserts. A shoe that feels good without any inserts can feel bad once you put your orthotics inside. Size is also critical to comfort, and TT shoe manufacturers are notorious for producing narrow or wider than normal shoes, and sometimes the Asian sizing doesn’t quite match up with the comparison charts for US and European equivalents. For these reasons, if you order online, check return policies carefully.
2. Shock Absorption – although all table tennis shoes are designed to be light, the amount of shock absorbing material still varies. This may not matter if you always play on a nice wooden sprung floor, but if regularly you play on concrete or other hard flooring; your joints will feel the difference. Since I regularly play on both types of flooring, and wanted the lightest shoe possible for competition, I have a second pairs of shoes that are heavier, and have more shock absorption. Although the shock absorbing qualities of shoes declines over time, I find my competition shoes last much longer now that I use the other pair for hard floors.
3. Durability – is important for both your pocketbook and the environment. Soles that are stitched to the uppers will generally last longer than soles that are glued. Softer inner soles tend to wear out faster than harder insoles, but you can replace insoles. Leather and plastics may be more durable than some fabrics; however most shoes will lose their shock absorption ability before tearing the fabric of the shoes becomes a problem. Although some sole materials may last longer than others, I consider their grip factor (which follows) more important. This is because the shock absorbing qualities will deteriorate long before the sole is worn out. In fact, if you are waiting for the sole to wear out before changing your shoes, you are likely waiting way too long!
4. Grip – is dependent on both sole material and playing surfaces. You want a shoe that grips just how you like it on the surface you most often play on. Some surfaces are more slippery than others – for example, Taraflex does not allow as much grip as a clean wooden floor. For players who prefer as much grip as they can get rubber soles are the best for either surface. If you like to slide a little, then things get more complicated, and you may need to buy two different types of shoes – one set with a harder plastic sole for very grippy floors and one set with normal rubber soles for more slippery floors. I prefer a shoe that has soles that come up the side of the shoe around the toes, as it allows me you to roll my foot a little and still be able to grip when pushing off. This also prevents my shoe from sliding away on its edge, and causing me to slip, likely missing a shot, and injuring myself.
5. Flex and Stiffness – table tennis shoes will vary in the amount of bend they possess between heel and toe, and from side to side. Some players prefer less rigidity, and others prefer more. Keep in mind that too little flex and your foot will feel restrained as you move around the court. Too much flex will result in less support from the shoe.
6. Looks – is largely a matter of taste, and only affect how well one plays if it gives you a mental boost. While I am not sure why there are so many of colors and colour combinations, I suspect it has more to do with marketing than anything else.
The following link will take you to another blog where you will find a fairly comprehensive list of Table Tennis shoes reviewed www.tabletennisspot.com/buying-the-right-table-tennis-shoe/ .
JSYN – I have Donic Waldner Flex shoes for competition and Muzuno Hurricane Wave 3 for hard floor play. For advice on and to purchase shoes, I recommend the North shore Table Tennis Club: www.nsttc.ca .