Buying Baseball Turf Shoes: A Short Guide
What piece of equipment do you think gets the most press time and buzz when it comes to baseball? Generally speaking, would you consider that bats get a lot of coverage? Companies spend an immense amount of money and resources on research, consultation with professionals, and then development in order to perfect bats for different types of players. They create bats from classic woods and aluminum as well as from space-age composite materials, perfectly balanced and weighted so that they can deliver results to players with a variety of different strengths. Even after production, they spend a small fortune on advertising and other promotional efforts to get the bat in front of their segment of the market. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding balancing and loading, barrel construction, and even the stiffness of grips that makes bat-making look like nuclear science.
You could say the same for some of the other equipment that players need to be effective in the sport. A ton of research, development, and promotion goes into the creation of gloves and mitts for catchers and fielders. Every season, glove manufacturers come out with the next new material that promises to be lighter and stronger than leather while also being breathable and water-resistant. They promise to offer better support, more cushioning against impact, and better retention in the same way that bats promise to hold up to mishits and offer a bigger, more forgiving sweet spot.
It seems that between these two fixtures of the game there isn’t too much room left for fanfare for some of the other necessary equipment of the sport, and yet sunglasses, hats and batting gloves get a ton of press time and buzz as well. In addition, baseballs themselves get plenty of attention - albeit less than the other equipment we mentioned.
You know what piece of equipment you rely on in every game, no matter what your position is on, regardless of whether your team is in the field or up to bat? It is a piece of equipment that you will be wearing the entire game, never comes off, and you rely on regardless of the play you are trying to execute. Interestingly enough, this piece of equipment (or clothing, if you will) doesn’t get anywhere near as much admiration and promotion as bats, gloves, and sunglasses, yet unlike these, it is in use throughout the entire game regardless of the conditions.
If you didn’t guess yet, the answer is baseball turf shoes. While the bat you use is critical to your performance while you are at bat, your glove is important while you are fielding, and your sunglasses are important when there is glare, your baseball shoes will carry you through the entire game. Who cares if they don’t get enough glory from players when the player misses a ball because he slipped or can’t round a base for the same reason? For all their humility, your turf shoes can make or break your performance during a game, and in more than one way at that.
Therefore, consider this short guide on some of the key attributes to look out for the next time you are shopping for a replacement pair of baseball turf shoes. Also, don’t be tempted to buy what is newest or looks the coolest. While fashion is definitely something extra that you can keep in mind while you are shopping (every player likes gear that looks cool) it is far from the only thing you should look for. Plus, slick-looking shoes don’t do you any good without good traction and ankle support. So, with no further ado, here are some key things to keep in mind when you’re looking for a new pair of turf shoes.
It’s hard to settle on a place to start when it comes to talking about what the most important things are in a pair of baseball turf shoes, but fit is definitely somewhere at the top of the list, if not at the very top. We suppose you could even make the argument that you can’t even wear shoes that don’t fit and therefore the subsequent categories are unnecessary anyway.
That being said, we aren’t talking about fit in terms of size, necessarily. Fit is much more than whether or not you can actually get your feet into a pair of shoes. Fit is about how the shoes, for lack of another term, ‘fit’ your feet.
They should be comfortable, without pinching your ankle or squeezing your toes. At the same time, they can’t be too tight, but they also can’t be so loose that you can kick them off. They should fit almost so that if you wear them but not standing in them, that you don’t even notice that they’re there. That’s a fairly good balance between being too large and being too small.
Shoes that offer you a proper fit are critical to comfort, as poorly fitting shoes can present some problems that we will run down in the next section.
Support and Comfort
We’re putting support and comfort together because they share a lot in common, even though comfort is really tied to a lot of other factors on this list including fit which we have already covered. Support is the collective of qualities possessed by shoes that enable them to remain on your feet and active for prolonged periods of time, whereas comfort is just about anything that makes the shoes pleasant to wear without tiring you out.
Support can’t necessarily be determined with a cursory familiarity with the shoes but can be identified in part by the features the shoes afford you. For example, quality insoles that will not get prematurely compressed and study outsoles that offer the right amount of flex to support you during activity are important things to look for. The uppers of the shoes should cradle your foot without constricting them.
You should also avoid shoes that present any hotspots right out of the gate. Hop spots will only get worse with time, and even if you can ‘break’ the shoes in, the period of break-in is not going to be an enjoyable one. Plus, you don’t want to play in shoes with hot spots because they will burn and blister your feet. Overall, look for shoes that offer adequate support.
Another component of support is ankle support. Each player is going to have his own needs in ankle support depending on a number of factors. Some players like the freedom and flexibility of low cut turf shoes whereas other players need extra ankle support to help forestall injuries and to protect their ankles against rolling.
The main reason we have included comfort with support is that if a shoe lacks these things, it will just be downright uncomfortable and that can make wearing them in training or in a game less than pleasant. Avoid uncomfortable shoes wherever you can, they can only hurt your focus as a player.
Cushioning is also very important in a pair of good, dependable turf shoes, and though it could be included in the previous section because it is associated with comfort, it deserves its own place. Cushioning has largely to do with the insole of the shoe as well as any enhanced features that the shoe offers to help with rebound and impact. Therefore it is closely related to support as mentioned.
Think about the average game. Regardless of the position you play, you will be on your feet for a long time, and almost regardless of the position, you will be making harsh, quick movements to chase down the ball or get yourself into position.
All of that impact and acceleration can really wear on your feet if your shoes don’t offer adequate cushioning. It’s also important to note that cushioning does not necessarily equate to soft, so you need to be careful to look out for that when you’re shopping. Excessively soft insoles can get crushed flat with use and then they will offer little more cushioning than a rock. Instead, you should go for firm, resilient insoles, preferably those that incorporate technology to make them tougher while remaining light and pliable.
Ventilation is also something to look out for in turf shoes, and it can make a big difference in how well you play as well as in how comfortable you are. Whereas waterproofing is essential in some other types of shoes like hunting boots and some work boots, in turf shoes and other athletic shoes it can slow you down.
While no one likes wet shoes, it happens from time to time despite your efforts. The problem is that in athletics, you will be producing your own moisture as you sweat. Therefore, waterproof shoes, even some breathable shoes, can trap your feet with moisture that can result in discomfort and swelling. Sweating in your shoes dramatically increases the likelihood that you will develop blisters as well.
On the other hand, if you go with a pair of shoes that offer enhanced ventilation, even though your feet will still sweat the shoes will make it possible for your feet to dry out and so you can return to comfort. That way, even if it rains and your feet get wet, at least they will dry out. Ultimately you hold the reins, but ventilation is definitely something you should consider in a pair of turf shoes. You’ll experience a big difference in comfort if you get a good pair of shoes with enhanced ventilation.
Traction is without a doubt one of the most important things to take into consideration in the course of shopping for a pair of turf shoes. That’s nothing against anything else here, but without traction, a pair of turf shoes is basically pointless.
Wet grass and wet dirt - even dry dirt - can be miraculously slippery. Even wet turf can be surprisingly slippery. If you’ve ever tried to make a move from a dead stop on any of these surfaces you may have experienced first hand. More than one person has gone headlong into the ground from trying to make a quick move on slippery ground while wearing a pair of shoes with less than admirable traction.
Without getting too technical, just understand the importance of traction in a pair of shoes. Without it, you might be wishing you had bought another pair of shoes anyway or getting another just to spite the whole situation.
If you have a good pair of shoes that are comfortable, supportive, and breathable while also offering great traction, then you have checked off the essential boxes and can look at some of the other things that you might find valuable in a pair of baseball turf shoes. If you take a close look at some of the turf shoes we offer on our website, you’ll see some of these value adds - although you will probably also notice that they only serve to bolster the points we already mentioned.
For example, consider the New Balance Men’s 4040v5 Turf Shoes that we offer in our online store. These shoes come with a REVlite midsole to offer advanced cushioning as well as a Kinetic Stitch Construction to make the shoes more durable in the face of activity. In addition, the soles of these shoes are specially designed to offer the best possible traction on artificial fields, which is where most turf shoes will be used.
After you’ve squared away all of these considerations and taken into account any finer points you wanted to hit in a pair of turf shoes, like color and style, you’ll be good to go with a reliable pair of shoes that will carry you through many seasons of practice and play.
Make sure you check out the turf shoes we offer here at HB Sports, and if you need any recommendations or suggestions while you’re shopping, reach out to us by phone. You can call us at 1-888-540-BATS to take advantage of our excellent customer service, and maybe even learn another thing or two about what makes a quality turf shoe.
- Christopher Bastien