Why Do Basketball Players Wipe Their Shoes?

Basketball is among America’s most popular sports. Athletes have a variety of interesting traditions and rituals that they keep whether it’s for good luck or just a force of habit. There is one trend, however, that has a lot of people puzzled and that is the wiping of the basketball shoes before play.

Basketball players wipe the soles of their shoes to rid them of dirt and debris. Stuff that gets stuck to the bottom of athletic shoes sometimes puts players at risk of losing traction. Removing that dirt and debris ahead of time improves a player’s traction and, subsequently, their gameplay.

The shoes that basketball players wear are important because they can affect their gameplay and help prevent injuries.

Why Basketball Players Wipe their Shoes

If you have ever been to a basketball game and seen the players wiping their shoes off, it is because they want to have clean, slip-free soles before playing the game. No matter how nice a pair of shoes is, they are bound to get things stuck to the bottom which will reduce the traction of the shoes.

Not all gym floors are created equal, but the court floors played on by NBA teams are sleek and extremely smooth. This means there is a large chance that some players will slip and become injured while they play. For this reason, they can be seen pre-game carefully cleaning the soles of their shoes.

You might also notice special mats on basketball courts that the players use to clean off their shoes before starting a game. These mats have special layers of sticky substance on their surfaces. The players can step onto these mats and immediately have all unwanted dirt and dust removed from the soles of their shoes. Slipp-Nott Mats are an NBA favorite.

You might laugh a little when you consider this ritual. After all, how much damage can a little dust do? Truthfully, the loss of traction on a basketball court can be pretty dangerous for the players. That court is smooth and slick, so players can slip and fall if they aren’t careful.

When a basketball player slips, there is a chance they will knock into other players and cause pileups or simply do some serious damage to their legs. Either way, it’s a liability that most players cannot afford and simply don’t want to put up with, so they take a few seconds to wipe their shoes.

Are Some Shoes Better for Basketball than Others?

Not all basketball shoes are created equal, but does that mean some don’t have to be wiped off the way others do? No, all basketball shoes have to be wiped off before a game. Three of the NBA’s leading shoe brands are Nike, Puma, and Adidas. Most sports enthusiasts know that these shoes are all high-quality and well-made.

However, just because you buy a pair of shoes from a top name-brand does not mean they aren’t going to pick up dirt and debris. If the players were to only wear their basketball shoes on the court, the amount of dirt and dust is reduced, but there will still be some.

Although all basketball shoes track dust and dirt onto mats, some shoes are better than others and offer more traction. Brands like Nike and Adidas are popular because they are well-made and last for a long time. Most basketball shoes were designed to withstand major wear and tear and offer a lot of traction.

When choosing basketball shoes, you need to consider your personal preferences, the support the shoes will offer, and carefully consider the quality of the shoe. Every player has a different shoe size and different overall physical needs that need to be considered when choosing basketball shoes. (Source)

Basketball players also need to consider the overall comfort of the shoe, even if that means trying on a dozen pairs. If you aren’t comfortable while you play, you are going to be slightly distracted the entire time, which will throw you off your game. Basketball players need to select shoes in which they feel confident and comfortable.

Basketball players need to seriously think about their playing style before buying a pair of shoes. This means that they need to think about their position in the game, where they shoot the best from, whether they need to focus on power or speed, and more. Basketball shoes have a variety of structures that were designed to support different parts of the foot. Based on that, they should be scrutinized and selected accordingly.

Choose a pair of basketball shoes that you like the appearance of. When NBA players choose their shoes, they often coordinate the color of their shoes with the colors on their jerseys. However, this is partially because most basketball players don’t pay for their shoes. Instead, the team they play for has brand deals and partnerships, so the players are given shoes and clothing to wear before, during, and after a game.

Even if you purchase a quality pair of basketball shoes, you will likely need to replace them before long. The professionals might not even use the same pair of shoes for more than two games! They can afford to swap shoes as often as they like, but they also have to be extremely careful about keeping their feet in good shape. When your basketball shoes break or wear down, you will need to purchase new ones.

As for us mortals, we don’t change them as often. In fact, some people even consider using basketball shoes for other activities. We talked about this in our posts “Can Basketball Shoes Be Used for the Gym?“, “Can Basketball Shoes Be Used for Tennis?” & “Can Basketball Shoes Be Used for Running?“.

Caring for Athletic Shoes

Taking good care of your basketball shoes will impact their lifespan as well as your on-court performance. NBA players probably don’t worry much about this because most of them replace their shoes every couple of games or so. However, if you are determined to keep your basketball shoes in good shape, there are a few things that can be done. (Source)

Be mindful of where you are storing your shoes. Leaving them in your gym bag is acceptable, but avoid doing so if your sweaty clothing and towels will be kept in the same bag for more than a few hours. Shoes are tough, if you are careful where you store them they will last much longer.

Feet get sweaty, especially when they’ve been running around while wearing said shoes for longer than an hour. This means that when you store them, they need to be in a place with plenty of airflow so they can dry out properly and be ready for their next use.

Cleaning your basketball shoes is never a bad idea! You will want to give the soles a quick wipe before you play basketball so you can get better traction, but you also need to clean the outside of the shoes after you get home.

It is recommended that you use a bristled brush with some water and an extremely small bit of laundry or dish soap to get the job done. You can use other cleaners as well, but you need to be careful not to use anything that will damage the shoes.

This might mean that you need to remove the laces and wash them. You can either throw them in with your laundry or give them a good scrub with baking soda, lemon juice/vinegar with a toothbrush. This will keep them clean and looking great, plus it might even help keep them from fraying and looking decrepit.

Using deodorizer is recommended as well. The sweat in your shoes will dry out no problem, but they are almost certain to leave a smell behind and that is never desirable. Give the inside of your shoes a spritz with a deodorizer of your choice and then let them sit and dry out. This practice will keep your shoes looking and smelling like new.

If you want to be like the professionals and have several pairs of shoes at your disposal, this might help them last longer. Have three or four pairs of basketball shoes on hand during the basketball season that you can switch out with one another. If you do this, you will minimize wear and tear on each pair of shoes, plus when you rotate, it gives all the other pairs time to air out.

Along with storing your shoes properly, try to have pairs that you only wear while on the basketball court. This will not only keep them clean but will likely increase their longevity. Basketball shoes can often be expensive, but if take care of your basketball shoes you won’t have to replace them within a few months of your initial purchase.

Avoiding Injury on the Court

As we have discussed, wiping the soles of basketball shoes off plays a large part in the safety and performance of basketball players because it greatly improves traction. However, is it enough to only depend on the traction of your shoes when talking about your safety? Let’s talk about some ways you can avoid getting injured on the basketball court.

The feet, ankles, and legs are what become injured the most often in basketball. Fractures, ligament tears, sprains, and more are quite common among basketball players. Because of this, don’t forget to wipe your shoes off before starting a basketball game. Traction is one of the only things that keep you from slipping and breaking a knee. (Source)

Staying physically fit is a necessity for a basketball player who wants to avoid injury. If you have ever asked yourself how the NBA players do it, it’s because they are constantly exercising and eating healthy. Doing that will keep your bones and muscles strong so they won’t experience any kind of unwanted strain or breakage.

Make sure you are dressed properly for a basketball game. This means wearing a comfortable outfit that doesn’t limit your mobility as well as a good pair of supportive (and dust-free) shoes. Also, don’t chew gum or wear jewelry of any kind (including watches). They can easily get caught on a teammate’s clothes and cause problems. Gum is a choking hazard, especially if you are chewing it while playing basketball.

Practice your position/technique and make sure you know your teammates’ positions/techniques as well. The better you know everyone’s placement on the court, the less likely you are to experience or cause a collision while playing a game. Plus, it will better enhance your overall performance because you refined your technique.

Practice and stretches are important when trying to avoid basketball-related injuries. Before every game begins, take a few minutes to warm up. You will likely do this with your teammates before a game. Warming up entails stretching, jogging around the court for a minute or two, and maybe shooting a couple of pre-game hoops. This will help prep your body for the upcoming game. And don’t forget to practice often! This will keep your body well-conditioned for the sport.

It is also imperative that you stay hydrated. Dehydration can be quite serious, especially as an athlete. If you suffer from dehydration, you could be out of the game for weeks at a time. It is important to drink at least 24 ounces of water or so before you exercise. Take a break for a drink every 20-30 minutes. This will help you to be on your best game and keep you hydrated.

Take time to recover after suffering an injury. If you’re a serious baller, you will likely have experienced a basketball-related injury at some point in your life and may do so again. When that happens, take some time off to rest and heal before hitting the court again. If you don’t take the proper time to heal, you will likely become injured in the same way, but it will be more severe.

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