Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Aske
You’ve probably heard that you should be getting non-marking shoes for badminton and wonder which ones.
Shoes can be the cheapest or most expensive trade-off you’ll make depending on how your body responds to playing badminton and the shoes themselves. Even high-quality shoes are cheap compared to a physical injury that you know could be avoided.
Nevertheless, this isn’t a lecture intended to guilt trip you into getting high-end shoes.
Some of my readers know exactly which category of badminton shoe they prefer and are looking for the best one, while others want to understand which style is best for them.
If you fit into the first of the two and prefer to jump directly to the best badminton shoes, follow that link to my conclusive buying guide. There, I share the best shoes in each category as I play-test my way through the top brands’ flagship models.
But if you fall into the second category and are looking to figure out which gum sole shoes for badminton best suit you, you’ve come to the place.
To keep it simple, there are three items your shoes should cover on a badminton court:
- Let you play without leaving marks
- Give you confidence that you won’t slip when playing
- Ease movement around the court and prevents injuries
The first one is critical while the last two have been popularized through technology and will especially be noticeable in flagship shoes.
Having a gum sole is the bare minimum to qualify as a badminton shoe and all models in this article have one, whereas the other items will vary depending on the model.
In this article, you and I will look at top models from the three most popular badminton brands across four shoe categories. We’ll also look at the key things to consider when choosing the perfect pair for you.
That’ll give you the best understanding of which shoes are right for you without having to buy all of them and do this work yourself.
I understand that picking shoes isn’t always as exciting as finding the perfect racket, so this is intended to help you find a good shoe quickly rather than spending the next five years (and salaries) of your life on research.
With that out of the way, let’s tame the jungle that is non-marking shoes for badminton.
Table of Contents
Taming the non-marking badminton shoes jungle
To my surprise, I couldn’t find any overview of badminton shoes with a gum sole broken down by category, so I decided to make one myself. The four shoe categories you can choose from are:
- All-around performance
- Stability (code for: injury protection)
Each brand mixes and matches these categories in different ways and here’s the overview along with links to play-tested reviews I’ve completed.
|Shoe Category||Brand + Shoe Model||Play-Tested Reviews|
|All-Around Performance||Yonex SHB 65Z3||Yonex 65z3 review: top performance or hype?|
|Victor A970Ace (A900F for women)||Victor A970Ace review: a new king of all-around performance?|
|LiNing Yun Ting/YT-01 (and LT-01)|
|Stability||Yonex Eclipsion Z3||Yonex Eclipsion Z3 (2023) review: protective beast or slow tank?|
|P9200III 55 BX (anniversary edition)|
|LiNing Saga SE|
|Comfort||Yonex Comfort Z3|
|LiNing Ranger VI|
|LiNing Gyrfalcon V|
|Victor P8500 II|
|Speed||Yonex Aerus Z (2022, Gen. 5)|
|LiNing Blast SE|
To save you time, I’ve limited the list by considering which models are priced the highest for each brand and which ones are seen worn by pro players as that would help indicate that they’re a flagship model.
Brands often throw in these smart-sounding technologies that are hard to understand but help confuse us into thinking a shoe is good. In an attempt to help you decode things beyond the gum sole, I’ve mapped out the technologies used in their top as well.
|Outsole (grip)||Radial Blade Sole||VSR Rubber|
|Midsole||Power Cushion||Hyper EVA||Li-Ning Boom|
|Power Cushion+||E-TPU||Drive Foam|
|Feather Bounce Foam||TPU||Bounce+|
|Power Graphite Sheet||Carbon Power||Light Foam|
|ToughBrid Light||Solid EVA||LiNing Cloud technology|
|3D Power Graphite||Neo Duplex||ProBarLOC|
|Hyper msLite||Nitrolite midsole||Carbon Fiber Plate|
|Double Raschel Mesh||Double Mesh|
|Lateral Shell||Microfiber PU Leather|
|Inner Bootie||Jacquard EM|
|Insole||Synchro-Fit Insole||Energy Max 3.0|
|Toes||Toe Assist Shape||Square/Roman||Tuff Tip|
Many of these technologies are either described vaguely or with marketing language that makes it hard to understand, even for someone with a background and many years in that field. Some make claims that are either not backed up with proof or make a vague comparison that is impossible to verify.
Naturally, both tables will be outdated sooner or later as new tech and shoe models get released, so take this with a grain of salt.
There are what feels like a million different shoes to pick from and even though the table above narrows it down significantly, it still leaves a bunch of choices and things to consider. Let’s dive deeper and figure out how to pick the right fit for you.
3 things to consider when choosing non-marking badminton shoes to avoid drowning in choices
During my shoe tests, I’ve come up with a few simple “metrics” I use when looking for shoes. They aren’t perfect but they’re a good place to start:
- The lunge tear
- Toe fit and overall cushioning
- Injury protection
There is no one thing that’s more important than another, which is why there are several subcategories of shoes. Each of these items will give you an idea of which shoe category will be best for you.
These differences also signify how non-marking gum sole badminton shoes differ from non-marking shoes used in other sports.
1. The lunge tear
It’s hard to tell how durable a shoe is over the long haul without using it, even during my extended tests, but I’ve found an indicator that leaves clues from the first few sessions on court.
It’s the spot where your non-racket leg touches the ground as you lunge near where your big toe is connected to the inner side of your foot.
On normal running shoes, this often tears fast if you use them on a badminton court while a good badminton shoe barely will have a mark as they have reinforced protection in that area.
This first item is often about the same for all the top shoes except those in the speed category that tend to be known for less durable shoes in favor of performance.
2. Toe fit and overall cushioning
One of the first things I noticed switching to a high end shoe was how comfortable they were to wear.
Good running shoes tend to be as well, but this was next level to me. The cushioning is spectacular without becoming a big box on your feet with a huge layer underneath, as we’ll often see with running shoes.
To me, toe protection is one of the most important things. Especially, if you haven’t been drilling footwork and reach the shuttle late every now and then.
This often comes to show when landing from a jump smash or lunging to get a tight shot. Due to the explosive moves that are common in badminton, we’ll often be bumping our toes against the front of the shoe to reach, say, a drop shot that flew a little shorter than we first expected.
That can be painful in the long run, so good badminton shoes are often extra cushioned around the bottom, front, and upper toe area to prevent this.
At the same time, they shouldn’t be too wide near the front toe area, so your feet don’t move sideways and cause blisters.
Toe fit and overall cushioning tend to be present in all top shoe categories, but especially so in the cushioning-category that takes this to the next level. If you’re looking for a soft landing above everything else, look for shoes in that category.
3. Injury prevention
Obviously, injury prevention is important for everyone but it’s often top of mind for players who are just returning to the courts after an injury and for that, shoes with strong stability tend to help.
It comes in many different ways within your non-marking badminton shoes – one is giving you confidence that you won’t slip.
If you’ve ever tried slipping even just a little on a badminton court, you know how distracting it can feel to play afterward. We’ll constantly be on the outlook for small pools of sweat that might make us slip again.
I like to think that the more important purpose of the outsole is giving you confidence that you’re not playing on an ice ring.
I’ve experienced a remarkable difference in raw grip between different shoes I’ve tested. For example, the Perfly BS530 provides a reasonable grip for a budget shoe but it’s a world of difference apart from Yonex SHB 65Z3‘s radial sole blade design that makes you stick to the court like glue.
Another thing to consider here is the shoe’s fit on your feet.
I used to think that casual sports sneakers felt good to wear… until I tried badminton shoes. They take snug to the next level in order to protect you from injuries by avoiding rolling within the shoe while still allowing mild movement where the cushion functions like an airbag.
If you don’t feel particularly drawn toward any one of these items or find many of them important, you’re probably interested in the overall performance or speed category.
How to tell if your badminton shoes are non-marking
It’s usually easy to tell if a pair of badminton shoes are non-marking as it will say so right on the outsole itself.
I’ve never come across a shoe labeled as a badminton shoe that didn’t have a non-marking gum sole as it’s the most basic requirement they need to fulfill for the sport.
Oftentimes, the outsole will be brown like in the image above but on some flagship shoes, like the Eclipsion Z3, they are dyed to look nicer.
Can non-marking badminton shoes be used outside?
Technically, they are shoes so it’s possible to wear them outside but I wouldn’t recommend it for a number of reasons.
The dirt you’ll get underneath them will get on the court next time you play and ruin not just the courts, but other players’ shoes as well.
Good badminton shoes tend to be sensitive to water as they have a grip on the outsole that’s built to suit badminton courts well and you’ll be degrading it by using them on other surfaces, especially if those are wet.
Some flagship shoes are built for air exchange which makes it easy for water to seep through as they have semi-open holes at the bottom of the shoes to make them feel less hot while playing (such as the Yonex SHB 65Z3).
They can be used on an outdoor badminton court but be careful as those are usually made of more rough material to withstand rain and other weather conditions.
- While non-marking badminton shoes are necessary to play, the real benefit of a rubber-styled sole is the grip that it can offer
- The best badminton shoes tend to deviate quite a bit from standard indoor sports shoes, especially in the midsole with their shock absorption and cushioning