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Indoor vs. Outdoor Court Shoes

There are distinct differences and similarities between indoor and outdoor court shoes, in the sole, tread and traction, cushioning, and comfort between the two types.   

Indoor vs. Outdoor Court Shoes Featured Image

First, let's clear up some common misconceptions.

With the introduction of different types of indoor court surfaces, the terminology of indoor and outdoor shoes has become somewhat misleading.

To simplify matters, at Rackets & Runners we typically associate indoor court shoes with sports played on hardwood-type surfaces like squash, pickleball, badminton, handball, padel, table tennis and volleyball. Comparatively, outdoor court shoes are designed for sports played on harder and rougher outdoor surfaces like tennis and pickleball.

For example, you will still use your outdoor court shoe on an indoor tennis court because the court material remains the same as on uncovered courts.

Shoe brands have also started calling outdoor court shoes all-court shoes, further complicating matters. All you need to remember is that outdoor court shoes fare better indoors than vice-versa, and this new naming system will make more sense.

If one shoe can be used on "all-courts," it's the outdoor shoe.

So let's dive into the differences and similarities between indoor vs. outdoor court shoes, comparing the sole, tread and traction, cushioning, and comfort between the two types

Years ago, indoor and outdoor court shoes were differentiated in large part by their soles.

Indoor shoes were made entirely of organic gum rubber, while outdoor shoes were made of high abrasion synthetic rubber. Nowadays, most manufacturers use a blend of synthetic and organic rubbers on their indoor shoes, and some even blend small amounts of organic rubber into the soles of their outdoor shoes.

So it is not as easy to tell “indoor shoes” from “outdoor shoes” as it used to be.

A more useful way to categorize shoes today is to put them on a gradient, with soft-soled shoes on one end and hard-soled shoes on the opposite end.

Soft-soled [indoor court] shoes can be used on hardwood floors and badminton mats, while hard-soled [outdoor court] shoes can be used on most synthetic floors and acrylic-covered tennis courts.

While you can use either court shoe on either type of surface, if you're after one shoe to play indoors and outdoors, your most versatile type would be a 'hard' outdoor court shoe. You'll sacrifice performance on an indoor court surface but won't suffer the durability loss of an indoor shoe on an abrasive court.

Apart from being a key component of the shoe's comfort and grip, the sole also plays a vital role in foot support. How durable it is and what materials it is made from will also determine how long it will last on your feet.

Tread & Traction

Having the right grip on the court is one of the keys to having more control and confidence over your movements. This is why the tread, traction, and grip of the shoe are extremely important. 

Outdoor court shoes often come with larger tread patterns. These are designed to provide good lateral stability as well as proper grip on all types of surfaces.

Comparatively, the soles of indoor shoes often have circular flat spots on them that allows them to grip smooth and flat surfaces better.

They grip in an almost suction-like fashion, providing more traction on wooden courts. Play with a hard outdoor court shoe inside, and you will find that they are more slippery than you’d initially thought. 

Cushioning, Comfort & Support

To protect you from the harder outdoor surfaces, outdoor court shoes must have a few extra features to improve comfort. Lateral comfort is improved and thickened on outdoor shoes to provide better lateral support and even some insulation.

Comparatively, indoor court shoes have thinner lateral walls to provide better breathability for your feet to reduce sweating and heat. 

The distinction between the two makes sense when comparing which sports are played on each surface. Tennis, generally played on outdoor hard courts, requires long runs up and down the court and from side to side. Stepping laterally and cutting after these long runs is more demanding on the body and, therefore, more demanding on the shoe. That's why outdoor court shoes tend to have more structured profiles. 

Indoor court sports, like badminton, require quicker, more reactive movement. Lighter shoes feel more nimble and complement this style of play. You're not as hard on your shoes in these types of sport, so they can sacrifice durability and stability in search of that quicker feel.

Find What's Right For You

If you're on the hunt for a new pair of indoor court shoes, check out our selection of men's & women's.

If outdoor court shoes sound right for you, you can also check out our men's & women's here. These shoes also come in a variety of different styles. Lightweight shoes like the New Balance Fuel Cell 996 v5 complement those players looking for a quicker, more nimble option.

Then you have your classic stability shoes, like the Asics Gel Resolution 9. These court shoes remain popular because they provide unparalleled stability and durability. They're generally heavier and have more protective material than their lightweight counterparts but give a locked-in sensation that has helped them stand the test of time. They're also incredibly durable. Read more about some of our favorites here.

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If you’re not sure which shoe is right for you, pop into our Oak St store and let our fit experts help find you the perfect match.  

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