The beasty guide to choosing badminton shoes


Nearly every time I’ve asked stores for advice on how to choose badminton shoes, I’ve gotten vague recommendations of what feels like a random or outdated model they seem to want to get rid of.

If your priority is getting a good deal, this is your chance. Maintaining inventory effectively is challenging and no store wants to get stuck with an old model when the brands are launching a new one, so you may get an extra discount.

In this case, all you have to consider is if you want more comfort or speed than average and let your local store clerk do the rest.

On the other hand, if you’re careful about what you put on your feet and want to get it right, this guide is for you. I’ll briefly discuss the differences between badminton shoes and other sports shoes, before guiding you along the three steps to finding the right shoe for you.

Let’s begin!

How badminton shoes are different from other sports shoes

When I first began playing badminton again, I couldn’t remember how suitable other sports shoes were for badminton, and I know many new players looking for how to choose badminton shoes wonder about the same.

In many cases, you can use shoes from other indoor sports on badminton courts provided they are non-marking so they don’t damage the court.

If you already have shoes from volleyball, padel, or squash, it’s likely that you can use those for badminton if you’re new to the sport and just want to test it out. It’s worth pointing out that there are major differences between shoes for different sports, so if you can afford it, your body will love you for using good badminton shoes.

Allow me to highlight a few examples where I’ve experienced major differences between normal sports shoes and badminton shoes.

the anatomy of badminton shoes - how to choose the perfect badminton shoe

First, there’s the toe box as that’s one of the areas where you’ll notice the most difference between typical sports shoes and badminton shoes.

In badminton shoes, you’ll find extra padding in the very front of the shoe. That’s to protect your toes during hard-stop lunges when you are late to the shuttle and your toes bump against it (as you’ll see an example of towards the end of this clip). In my experience, standard sports shoes (like running shoes) barely have any padding at the front of the shoe.

I’m playing nearest to the camera

On the other hand, there’s barely any running in badminton. Instead, there’s explosive movement and direction change. Normal indoor sports shoes have some level of grip, but it’s usually a different type and far less sticky than that of badminton shoes.

The unusually sticky grip on flagship badminton shoes helps you feel glued to the ground and avoid sliding when you have to change direction on a whim. It’ll give you more confidence that you’re in control of your body and can better avoid injuries.

Lunging backward on court to play an overhead shot, like a clear, also pushes your foot backward within the shoe. The heel helps lock your foot in the shoe, and if it’s cushioned underneath, it can feel easier to push off when you have to recover forward after your shot.

I’ve found that the heel tends to be softer and less sturdy in your typical sports shoes.

Speaking of soft, you might find that a taller midsole, known from typical running shoes, isn’t as nice for badminton. Due to the many sideways movements, it’s easier to get injured so you’ll usually find badminton shoes being closer to the ground.

If you’re curious, I dive into each part of the badminton shoe I find best for adult recreational players in this article on the perfect badminton shoe.

Now let’s find you a great shoe!

Choosing your badminton shoes in 3 easy steps

As mentioned, when choosing your shoes they mustn’t leave marks on the courts as they might get damaged, which can result in you getting banned from the hall.

Most indoor shoes have non-marking soles, which is the only thing truly required. It’s typically labeled underneath the shoe itself so this will be easy to solve.

Next, there’s the budget. Often, you’ll find that flagship badminton shoes cost $100-$250 or so depending on which country you’re buying them in along with the brand and model. But It’s possible to find budget shoes for less than $100 if you’re flexible with the quality.

Contrary to rackets where an increase in price usually means an increase in skill required to use it, you can go based on price when it comes to shoes. The higher the price, the better they are in my experience.

When deciding on your budget, it usually comes down to two things: how often you play, and how much you value protecting your body as opposed to saving money.

If you prioritize protecting your body above all else, you might find yourself going through two pairs of shoes per year. I’ve found that flagship shoes tend to keep peak condition for 6-9 months when playing a couple of times a week.

To save money, I began playing with a budget shoe and only upgraded once I knew I’d be playing badminton for a while. That made me appreciate all the extras high-end shoes offer when I eventually made the switch.

Anyway, enough about the budget. Let’s dive into the three steps to choose badminton shoes.

Step one: speed vs. support

The first step is to consider the overall direction of how you’d like your shoes to help you.

The 3 major directions are:

  1. Performance (more speed but less comfort and protection)
  2. Support (less speed but more comfort or protection)
  3. All-around (somewhere in the middle)

Performance shoes are lighter on your feet but offer less comfort and longevity. This becomes useful towards the end of a long, challenging match where you’re tired. You’ll be able to move faster, but your feet may feel more fatigued after playing.

Supportive shoes go in the opposite direction and prioritize comfort through more cushioning and injury protection. They often use stiffer material in select areas to avoid your ankle and feet moving in unwanted ways. Players like that if they’re tired and late to the shuttle, but the trade-off is a heavier and bulkier shoe.

All-around shoes are somewhere in the middle and blend the first two ideas in various ways. Some are more cushioned while others are more speed-focused.

To my surprise, I discovered that many of the top players on the World Tour do not use shoes that are only performance-based, like Axelsen, Seo Seung Jae, and H.S. Prannoy. The first two using the all-around Yonex SHB 65z3 while H.S. Prannoy has been using Mizuno’s all-around Wave Claw 2 before switching sponsors and is now using the all-around Victor A970 Nitrolite.

Instead, they prefer an all-around model. I haven’t asked them why, but my guess is that they prefer the extra fatigue prevention you’ll get from an all-around shoe compared to a pure performance-one, while not giving up much weight.

When you have a sense of the overall direction you’d like to go in, you’re ready to dive into my guide on the best badminton shoes found in test

There I recommend the best shoe in each category by buying each one with my own money and testing them for ten hours on court.

If you’re looking for more help finding a great shoe for your game, let’s dig deeper as each overarching category comes with subcategories that are quite different from one another.

Step two: sweat the details

You see, each shoe philosophy comes with subtle, but important differences.

For example, each supportive shoe tends to go even deeper on either comfort or injury prevention. In simple terms, this is done by making them more cushioned or stiff, which tend to feel as two opposite directions. In super comfortable shoes, you might find yourself struggling with the fit more than in a raw and stiffer model intended to prevent your ankle from rolling.

If supportive shoes sound good to you, you’ll have to decide if you prefer something more comfortable, something more injury-preventive, or a blend in between.

On the other hand, if you prefer a performance-based shoe, it’s worth considering if you wanna go all-in on performance or add a touch of cushioning.

Finally, if an all-around model sounds best to you, consider if you wanna steer that more toward performance or support. Consider solving certain issues if you have any, like how I felt fatigued underneath the big toe and found a model that helped with that (Victor A970Ace and Li-Ning Yun Ting).

These options might sound similar on the surface, but I’ve noticed meaningful differences when testing even similar-looking shoes.

If you’re feeling unsure, I’d lean towards more support and cushioning as a general rule of thumb since that can help protect your knees while landing from jumps and other subtle things that might not be as obvious.

These are the two key areas that’ll get you most of the way. The final step is considering the shape of your foot.

Step three: understand the shape of your feet

The reason why I’ve saved this step for last is that not all of them come in the standard and ‘wide’ editions. Some brands (like Victor) even make certain models for different foot shapes.

They mention the following three shapes for men along with another one for women, which mostly seem to depend on how wide your feet are.

Despite using the correct edition and size for my feet while playing in Yonex’s popular SHB65z3, I still found that this model didn’t suit my feet as well as other similar all-around models. 

This was impossible to figure out if I wasn’t testing shoes, as they felt great while I was wearing them at the store and during the first couple of games. It was only when I began feeling fatigued underneath my big toe and spoke to a friend with the same issue that I realized the toe box was slightly too wide for my feet despite wearing the correct size and the narrow edition.

You might not be able to solve this entirely from the get-go if it happens, but it’s worth being aware of if there’s any chance you can prevent it from happening.

Here are a few questions worth asking yourself:

  • Which fit do you prefer: snug or slightly loose?
  • During other sports and everyday wear, do you find yourself having any issues that may require non-standard fitting shoes? (I.e. Do you have a wider foot than average?)
  • Do you get blisters when playing? (That could indicate that your feet are moving around within the toe box or that the heel isn’t right for you)

Afterthoughts on flagship shoes

While it might seem great to have a ton of things to consider, it becomes difficult to take all of them into account when you choose badminton shoes unless you wanna go down the rabbit hole comparing shoes for hours and hours. Not to mention that some of these things can be difficult to notice the difference of when you’re just trying them on in the store, as they’ll only reveal themselves during games on court.

One example of this is breathability. If you’re playing somewhere hot, your feet can get super hot towards the end of a session so it might be worth considering this more than if you’re playing somewhere cold.

Another is the outsole grip and how important it is for you that it’s top of the line. In my experience, it makes a meaningful difference and the typical budget shoe is much worse off compared to a flagship shoe, whereas there isn’t that big a difference between flagship shoes from the top brands.

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