The long days of summer are behind us and sports are slowly making their way back indoors. Around this time of year we often get questions about the differences between indoor and outdoor court shoes.
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 hard wood type surfaces like squash, pickleball, badminton and volleyball. Comparatively, outdoor court shoes are designed for sports played on harder and rougher outdoor surfaces like tennis and pickleball.
So let's dive into the differences and similarities between indoor vs. outdoor court shoes, comparing the sole, tread and traction, and cushioning and comfort between the two different 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 on acrylic covered tennis courts. While you can use either court shoe on either type of surface, if you’re after one shoe to play both indoor and outdoor, your most versatile type would be a ‘hard’ outdoor court shoe.
Apart from being one of the key components when it comes to 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 thread 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
To protect you from the harder outdoor surfaces, outdoor court shoes have to have a few extra features that will improve comfort. Lateral comfort is improved and thickened on outdoor shoes in order 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.
So if you're on the hunt for a new pair of indoor court shoes this fall be sure to check out our selection of mens & womens indoor court shoes. If you’re not sure which shoe is right for you, pop into our Oak St store or try our online shoe finder and let our fit experts help find you the perfect match.