Myth busters: can badminton shoes fix foot fatigue?


After playing badminton for six months, my otherwise decent Decathlon Perfly budget shoe was getting tired. It had been doing its job and I had no complaints about foot fatigue or other issues, but I knew I’d be sticking with the sport so it was time for an upgrade.

I found a pair of low-midrange Yonex shoes with a price tag about 30% higher that felt good when I tried them on in the store.

I couldn’t wait to get them on court.

But after just a few sessions the lunge tear had become a nearly open hole in the side on my non-racket foot and I began noticing knee pain and blisters on my feet. I felt confused and wondered why a pricier pair of shoes from a top brand could be so bad compared to my previous pair.

After another weekend with the same thing happening, I was too afraid that it would turn into an injury so I went looking for a new shoe.

Since the store clerk recommended that shoe, I didn’t exactly have faith in another one of their recommendations. Besides looking at what was popular among the pros, I also didn’t know how else to decide on my next shoe. Between that and the limited useful information available online, I ended up with Yonex’s popular SHB 65z3

This pair felt like an amazingly different world at first…

Until I realized my toes got fatigued after every single session on court. I shrugged it off, figuring it would get better. These were a popular top-of-the-line model after all. It wasn’t until I tested several other shoes that I realized it doesn’t have to be that way and they just weren’t a fit for my feet.

In this article, I’ll look into whether it makes sense for us recreational players to buy shoes based on what the pros use, how they pick their shoes, and the subtle link between the right pair of badminton shoes and consistency in your performance on court.

How the pro players choose their badminton shoes

badminton foot fatigue illustration

I recently spent hours going through footage from the Thomas Cup 2024 and comparing badminton shoes to figure out which ones are most popular among the pros.

In the process, I realized that most use balanced all-around shoes rather than ultra-lightweight ones. It seems counterintuitive to give up the speed of a lower-weight shoe when your livelihood depends on it, so I got curious why.

I reached out to several pro players I figured might be comfortable offering insights in English. I wasn’t able to provide the world’s longest deadline, but fortunately, I still got some answers for you.

The former World Champion in mixed double, Thomas Laybourn, who runs Badminton Famly (check out their training camp) and used to be sponsored by Yonex, said this:

“Yes [I picked a random pair from the sponsors], as long as the shoe fit, it was fine, although I used a wider model, that was my only criterion. I also think the technology has developed a lot since then, when there were only a few models and it was often Yonex that chose for me.”

Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (check out his podcast and Patreon), the former top 10 player in men’s single on the World Tour shared his experience, too:

“I think the main reason [that pro players use all-around badminton shoes rather than ultra lightweight ones] is that no one wants to change shoes from training to tournament.

So even though a lighter shoe might be slightly better in terms of feeling fast on court for tournaments, it might not offer enough support for all the tough training sessions pro’s do. I think most players would feel something was off, if they had to change between training shoes and tournament shoes.

My own priorities when it comes to choosing shoes is as follows:

– Fit on my foot as I have pretty wide feet, which means not all models are suitable for me. And if the fit is not perfect I’ll easily get blisters and other related issues, which has a big impact on the ability to move freely without pain. Lots of pro players struggle with this.

– Support in the heel as I’ve had big issues with my right heel since 2015

– The feeling of stability in the shoe, which is why I’ve never used a lightweight shoe, as I feel they are rather unstable at times.”

Current top men’s singles player, Anders Antonsen, discusses his shoe choice in a recent Youtube video and I’m sensing that he’s in the same ballpark.

Besides his color preferences, he mentions liking shock absorption and cushion with a touch of softness in the heel but otherwise doesn’t go into further detail.

I’m surprised by the focus on the heel and seemingly little interest in the toe box as that is a common pain point for me and other recreational players I hear from. But with the pros’ smoother footwork, I bet they’re less often late to the shuttle and can avoid as many deep lunges where toes are pushing against the toe box.

If players prefer to use the same pair of shoes for matches and training, it makes sense to pick a pair that best helps whichever you do the most, and for the pros, that’s training.

That explains why most choose all-around shoes, like Victor’s A970 or Yonex’s 65z3 rather than the feather-light alternatives with more speed and less padding (like Yonex’s Aerus z2).

Should you get the same shoes as the pros?

But where the pros’ options are severely limited as each brand tends to only offer a few options within each shoe category, we recreational players can choose from many more. 

The fact that I and many other recreational players have made our shoe choice based on the pros is hilarious when you think about it.

We don’t know how to pick shoes so we ask the clerk at the store or look up what our favorite pro player uses.

Since the store clerk is incentivized to push inventory that’s hard to sell or offers a good margin, and the pro players don’t have much to choose from, it doesn’t make any sense that we trust the health of our feet and legs to stay injury free based on it.

If you aren’t looking to become the world’s best player (or haven’t mastered footwork), it might be worth considering another approach to picking your badminton shoes.

While extra grams in your shoes will make you slightly slower on court, it can also tremendously increase your chances of being able to play more games, more often, and for many more years.

In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised at how little weight difference there is between some shoes and how much more comfortable they are to play in. Here’s an overview showing the weights and categories of the badminton shoes I’ve tested.

BrandModelCategorySubcategoryWeight (G)Shoe size (285 cm)
YonexEclipsion Z3SupportInjury prevention379.444.5
YonexComfort Z3SupportComfort372.644.5
VictorA970AceAll AroundComfort361.644.5
Li-NingYun Ting (01)All AroundInjury prevention358.944 1/3
YonexSHB 65Z3All AroundSpeed349.044.5
MizunoWave Claw 3All AroundSpeed311.744
YonexAerus Z2 (late 2022)SpeedSpeed274.144.5
YonexPrecision 1BudgetComfort--
PerflyBS 530BudgetDurability--

Next, let’s look at the subtle connection between your game consistency and your shoes.

Improve your game consistency with the right shoes

I bet you’ve experienced playing amazingly one day and horribly the next without a clue as to why.

It used to happen to me nearly every weekend when I’d play two days in a row and it took me forever to realize that a part of it was due to foot fatigue on the second day. It turned out that it didn’t have to be this way as testing badminton shoes showed me just how wildly different models can make you feel and how quickly you can recover from fatigue.

Personally, I’ve noticed an improvement in my performance during games when I play multiple days in a row as the right pair of shoes makes my legs and feet feel just as fresh on subsequent days as on the first day. 

It makes me work just that bit harder on court as I don’t feel distracted and there’s a higher chance I won’t skip a session either on court or at the gym when I wake up in the morning. Not to mention that between games and rallies, my legs and feet feel like they’re recovering faster.

Since I’m only able to play on weekends these days, having a subpar session on court is frustrating as I have to wait what feels like ages for another chance. I’ve come to realize the importance of consistency for my in-game confidence and development.

It also protects our fragile ankles and knees from impact, which I bet they’ll appreciate as we get older.

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