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My favorite badminton sports equipment (from 16 tests)

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When I first began playing again, I couldn’t believe how complex it was to buy badminton sports equipment despite only needing a racket, shoes, and shuttles.

Picking each of them was a nightmare.

Take shuttles for example. There are the Aerosensa 100 (AS10), AS20, AS30, AS50, Mavis 350, and many more… And that’s just Yonex! There’s a wealth of other brands as well.

Shoes are no different. One of the top brands, Victor, offers a popular model named P9200. These days it comes in the Tai Tzu Ying special edition called P9200II TTY, then there’s the newer P9200III, the P9200III TD, and the P9200III 55th Anniversary edition.

You’d think I’d be done by now, but somehow there are more variations in the market for this particular model. Most of them are quite different from each other, even the special- and anniversary editions are not just the standard model with a different paint job.

But I’ve saved the worst for last: rackets.

The naming convention for many brands is a special kinda hell and I have wet dreams about renaming everything to something normal, just so it’s easy to understand.

Li-Ning’s Axforce 90 Dragon Max currently takes the cake for me, but don’t worry I’m not going to sort all of that out for you right now. That’s what guides like how to choose a badminton racket, the best rackets for beginner players, and the badminton gift guide are for.

Instead, I’ll walk you through my current favorite sports equipment for badminton along with an exciting approach to justify splurging on non-essential gear we all want but don’t really need (wink wink).

But first, let me give you a quick overview of what I’d recommend on a $150 budget if you’re new to badminton and need the essential gear to get started.

The $150 badminton sports equipment starter pack I used to sample the sport

Let’s begin by looking at the essential badminton sports equipment. It can be boiled down to the following:

  1. Shuttlecocks (unless you’re playing somewhere where they are provided)
  2. A racket
  3. Non-marking indoor sports shoes
  4. Socks, t-shirts, and shorts
  5. A bag to carry it in

In terms of a bag, socks, t-shirts and shorts, any typical sports clothes will work just fine. There are no requirements here. For the rest, here’s what I suggest looking for.

First, you’ll need non-marking shoes if you’re playing on indoor courts. You’ll typically be able to recognize these because the outsole at the bottom of the shoe is light brown underneath and is labeled non-marking (although many high-end models have their outsole dyed into a different color to make it look nicer).

Technically, you don’t need badminton-specific shoes, but they are better suited to the type of movement you’ll be doing on court, so if you can afford a decent pair your feet will thank you. A good example is the cushioning around your toes when lunging the Li-Ning Yun Ting provides.

A good pair tends to cost $150-$200 in most countries. If you prefer something more affordable, look for a pair with cushioning near the front of your toes and protection on the outer layer on the part of the shoe that faces toward your other foot.

If you’ve seen any of my badminton shoe reviews, you might have noticed that I’ve dubbed this the Lunge Tear. It’s an area that’ll give you a hint of the shoe’s durability fairly quickly (I once purchased a Yonex pair that broke after just a few sessions playing!)

If you’re not used to playing racket sports, consider first getting a racket in the lighter 4U weight class as you’ll feel less tired when playing. Most beginners enjoy rackets that help with extra power as the technique otherwise required takes a while to develop — this feels like a shortcut to make your games more fun when you can hit all around the court.

Finally, there are the shuttles. After testing several different types, I’ve found that the pricing of the budget shuttles and the premium ones often work out to be about the same when you compare durability with pricing.

If you’re new to the sport, I’d get some on the more affordable side at first (but not the cheapest ones available as they break too easily), and upgrade later if you find yourself enjoying badminton and wanting to stick with it for the long run.

My starting budget was roughly $150 and that was suitable to sample the sport, but will only cover the barebone basics and not things like socks, shorts, and t-shirts as there isn’t much wiggle room on this budget.

For badminton-specific sports equipment, I’d go for a shoe in the $75 range, knowing that it would be the first item worth the upgrade if you keep playing. While it’s ideal to have two rackets with the same configurations if one breaks mid-game, I can understand if you’re not ready to invest in that if you aren’t sure badminton is for you just yet.

In that case, I’d pick a racket in the $60 range and spend the remaining budget on restringing it with better strings and applying a new grip. This is assuming shuttles are provided where you’ll be playing.

Here is what I recommend if you’re looking for a quick “package” to get started on court.

Hey reader, a quick interruption...

I’m experimenting partnering with webshops that sell badminton gear, like Amazon. I’ll include links to buy the gear I review and if you do, they’ll pay me a small commission. That doesn’t change your price and you’ll get more play-tested gear as a result but I thought it was fair to let you know.

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Racket

The Yonex Voltric Lite 25I is a decent choice if you’re on a budget and looking for something lightweight yet powerful.

Shoes

I haven’t tested more than two pairs of affordable or mid-range shoes yet, but I found Decathlon’s Perfly BS530 model to be good for the price.

Shuttles

If you need to buy shuttles and are looking for a slightly high-medium range choice that you can get on Amazon, Yonex AS30 (Aerosensa 30) is a good choice (although they’re often out of stock).

Alternatively, I’ve found Victor Lark 5 and Li-Ning AYQN 024 (~$12) to be decent and affordable choices as well, but they might not be available where you live.

Keep in mind that shuttles are sold in different speeds depending on the climate where you live (yes, that’s a thing — you’ll want a lower speed number the warmer it is). This guide on the best shuttles discusses that, but for your convenience here’s a table with an overview.

General Shuttle SpeedSpeed ReferenceGeneral Temperature (Celcius)General Temperature (Fahrenheit)Yonex Temp. (C)Victor Temp. (C)Li-Ning Temp. (C)Example Countries Used In
75Slow33+911. 33+35+Thailand
76Below Average27-3380-912. 27-3332 ±3.528-35China (Summer), Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia
77Average Speed22-2771-803. 22-2825 ±3.521-28China (Winter), Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, USA
78Above Average16-2161-704. 17-2318 ±3.514-21USA, Finland, Canada, Korea and Japan
79Fast< 16< 605. < 1811 ±3.5Finland, Canada, Korea and Japan, Australia (Winter)

If you’re curious about my current favorite sports equipment for badminton, let me show you that next.

My favorite badminton sports equipment (from 16 tests)

I didn’t play for fifteen years, but when I began again I had just the essentials and slowly upgraded my gear as my interest in badminton grew.

I’ve tested 2-for-1 garden rackets, professional rackets, shoes, and almost everything in between. One of the first things I learned is that it’s a myth that we should splurge on high-end rackets… Most of us simply don’t have the skills to put them to good use and the idea of only buying based on price doesn’t apply here.

To be honest with you I’d earn more money by recommending the high-end rackets, but I’d do you a disservice as they will hurt your game if your skills aren’t up to the task. For many of us, picking the right racket will not only make you play better with less effort, but you’ll also save money. 

Counterintuitive, I know.

My favorite racket

Currently, my favorite racket is the Arcsaber 11 Play from Yonex as it’s suitable for my intermediate level, good all-around, and helped me develop new parts of the game due to its weaker smash compared to power-based rackets. 

It’s hard to choose between a racket like that and the more powerful ones as they make other aspects of the game more fun and effortless, like smashing and defending. At the time of writing this, my approach has been to use the racket above temporarily with the assumption that I’d switch back to more powerful ones once I’ve worked on other aspects of my game.

Of those, I’ve enjoyed the Astrox 100 Game the most. If you’re a beginner and this sounds like something you’d like as well, consider getting the Astrox 99 Play instead as it’s more suitable for your level while offering similar power benefits.

If you’ve never played badminton outside of your backyard before, consider getting the Astrox 77 Play as it’s easier to use at first.

My favorite shoes

When I first upgraded from budget shoes to the popular Yonex SHB65Z3 the difference shocked me. But after having reviewed many other flagship shoes from the top brands, I’ve found that I prefer other ones.

The Li-Ning Yun Ting was great for my feet, but blisters slowly crept up on me so I switched to my current favorite: Victor’s all-around A970Ace

It’s snug and cushioned nicely in the toe box to protect you during lunges and last-minute moves forward when you’re retrieving a difficult shot without being too heavy.

The surprising usefulness of headbands

Badminton is one of the few sports where athletes often use headbands while playing. At first, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but I eventually got curious enough to try one during a game.

badminton sports equipment - headband and wristband example

For someone who doesn’t have ultra-short hair, it’s a convenient way to help keep the hair in check and away from the eyes while you’re hammering down shots mid-rally. Now that I’ve played with one for a while, it irritates me when I forget to bring it and have to brush my hair away from my face all the time.

On the other hand, I can’t say the same about wristbands. I don’t normally use them but I decided to give them a shot since they are popular as well.

I figured players use them to avoid sweat running down the arm and into their hand (which makes it harder to grip the racket properly) or they use it to wipe off sweat from their face or hands while playing. 

I didn’t find using a wristband to make any difference. At this point, it feels more like a fashion statement than something highly practical.

Racket configurations: grips and strings

Two important configurations of your racket are the handle grip and the strings. The trick with the grip is to find one that makes you feel confident swinging the racket without holding it tight or feeling like it’ll fall out of your hands. 

At first, I liked sticky (“tacky”) overgrips, but I later changed to the towel grip as it makes the grip bigger which suits my hands better. Because I sweat a fair bit, they also seem to last longer as the sticky stuff on the overgrips comes off from the sweat quickly.

The other thing you can configure on your racket is the strings.

If you’ve just got a new racket, restringing it to avoid playing with the factory strings makes a major difference as the string tension by default is set quite low and the strings tend to be poor. I get my rackets restrung right away, and at the time of writing this, I’m playing with the Yonex BG80 string which helps with power.

The many strings available out there can easily make it overwhelming to decide on one as they all have pros and cons. But just changing to any popular string (such as the Yonex BG80) at a standard tension for beginner/intermediates (i.e. 10.5 kg or 23 lbs) will make a major difference compared to playing with it as it comes from the factory.

If you like tempting yourself and are looking to splurge on extras, let’s explore other non-essentials next.

How to justify buying cool badminton sports equipment, guilt-free

I’ve found that a fun way to allow yourself to splurge on extras without feeling guilty is as a reward for building a new habit or routine that’ll improve your game (or something else you care about).

For example, you might hate stretching after playing even though you know it’s good for you. To push yourself to do it, you could reward yourself with a massage gun after sticking with a new cool-down routine for 30 days.

If you find yourself responding well to setting a goal with a reward when you reach it, this approach can be effective in helping you build the right training habits. It’s a crucial part of systematically improving your badminton skills.

As inspiration, here’s a list of popular non-essential badminton sports equipment players like to keep in their bag:

  • Branded badminton shirts and shorts
  • Massage gun
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Scissors (to cut the racket strings when they break)
  • Training rackets (heavier than normal rackets and used for training)
  • Branded towels, wristbands and headbands
  • Thera-bands for warming up
  • Stopwatch for training
  • Shoe deodorant
  • Tennis balls for warming up your reactions

When you prioritize improving on-court elements like footwork or particular strokes, a feeding machine and stopwatch can be useful tools if you struggle to get help from a coach or another player.

The feeding machine is obvious as it helps practice shots on the court even if there’s no one else to feed you. The challenge is that it can be impractical to carry back and forth, especially if you don’t have a car.

The stopwatch can be handy for training drills to get a sense of how long you have to do each exercise without having to look at a watch or count all the time. The cheaper alternative is using your phone’s built-in stopwatch, but that can also be distracting as you’ll be forced to put it into flight mode if you want to stay focused.

Takeaways

  • As a new player, you don’t have to invest hundreds of dollars into new badminton sports equipment in order to play. Contrary to many other things, in badminton the pricing of rackets and the skills required to use them follow each other
  • Building habits and rewarding yourself with new gear is an effective way to stick with them while allowing yourself new items you’ll actually use
  • For most players, especially if you’re not in school anymore, it’s better to spend more on good shoes than a good racket at first
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