Selecting Shoes For Different Sporting Surfaces

An Article Written By Yen-Chii Wong
Podiatrist – New Step Podiatry

Sporting season is rapidly approaching, and you might be starting to think about the state of your shoes.

Many patients ask us if it’s ok to wear the same shoe for all their activities, and truthfully most of the time it won’t significantly affect your risk of injury (Malisoux & Theisen, 2020). However, there are certain aspects of sports-specific shoes that may help you feel more stable and comfortable because of the differing movements and surfaces.


As a general rule, follow this shoe checklist when you’re shopping for new shoes:

Below are a few things we look for as podiatrists when we select shoes for activities on different surfaces


Hiking or Trail Running

Hiking boots and trail running shoes have a durable rubber outsole with thicker lugs to gain traction in loose soil or uneven surfaces. Trail running shoes may be more lightweight and have thinner lugs, a thinner outsole, and more breathability, because running biomechanics are different from walking mechanics. If you’re looking at a slower hike with a backpack, a specialised hiking shoe may be more suitable for you. Generally, hiking or trail shoes may have a toe guard to protect your toes from any debris on the trails.

Hiking shoes can also come with a higher ankle fitting. Although there is little evidence of higher top shoes reducing the risk of ankle sprains, it definitely helps in making your ankle feel more secure and stable when hiking.

Walking or Road Running

Most walking and road running shoes will have a smoother outsole and thicker midsole to cushion your step as you walk on firmer ground. They will generally be more lightweight compared to hiking or trail shoes.

You may find that road running shoes will – for the most part – have a higher heel pitch (the difference in thickness from the heel to the toe of the shoe). You should try to avoid wearing road running shoes on trails and vice versa because it can cause faster wear on the tread of the shoe.

Court Sports
netball, basketball, volleyball etc

The main features for shoes worn in court sports include:

– Good traction and grip on the outsole to allow for fast changes and cutting without slipping.

– Cushioning in the midsole to help absorb impacts of landing and take-off with jumping, running, and cutting movements.

– Lateral stability on the upper to keep the foot from slipping inside the shoe with sudden changes of direction

– Lightweight material

clay, grass, hard courts

The main difference between shoes when playing on these different surfaces is to ensure the player has an appropriate amount of traction on the surface. For example, playing on a clay court means the player is more likely to slide because of its loose surface. The player will also have to move differently based on how the ball bounces on the different surfaces which can impact shoe decisions.



Asics Europe. (2023). Guide to tennis shoes – what to wear on grass, clay and hard courts. Asics.

Crim, J. (2023). Types of Tennis Shoes – A Buyer’s Guide for Selecting a New Pair. Tennis Companion.

Malisoux, L., & Theisen, D. (2020). Can the “Appropriate” Footwear Prevent Injury in Leisure-Time Running? Evidence Versus Beliefs. Journal of athletic training, 55(12), 1215–1223.

Mizuno Corporation Australia (2018, Nov 22). MIZUNO NETBALL LAUNCH THE #MAKETHESWAP CAMPAIGN. Mizuno.


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