Why Do Basketball Players Wipe Their Shoes?

Some people may have a natural “spidey sense” when it comes to preventing falls.

They know instinctively which way is up or down without having to look at anything but the floor in front of them.

Others rely heavily upon walking sticks or canes for support.

Even still, others might fall over if something doesn’t feel right about the ground beneath them.

But what happens with some athletes who are prone to falling because of an accident involving slipping?

Why do they sometimes take extra precautions by wiping the bottom of their shoe before heading out onto the court?

Well, this article has been written precisely to get to the bottom of this question, with particular focus on basketball players.

Here’s a quick summary answer…

Basketball players wipe their shoes to rid them of dust, dirt and debris that could cause them to slip and fall on the floor. The dirt and debris reduces the traction of their footwear, and by cleaning their shoes during games they’re subsequently able to get better grip on the court surface, which improves their gameplay too.

And it’s not just athletes who may suffer this fate of falling down.

Anyone who has fallen knows how slippery floors can be – especially after rainstorms.

In fact, many elderly individuals slip more often than most other groups due to problems arising from arthritis and poor vision.

Slips happen even during routine activities like getting dressed in the morning, doing chores around the house and gardening.

Falls among seniors occur so frequently that one group of researchers calls them “the new normal.”

More so, slips aren’t limited to older age groups.

Because even children under the age of five have been known to roll away from safety mats placed near stairs and land on hard surfaces instead.

Why do basketball players usually wipe the bottom of their shoes during games?

So, why does someone need to clean off his or her footwear?

What dangers lurk on these basketball courts that we need to know about?

Read ahead to get the full picture.

1. To remove the dirt and debris from the shoes

why basketball players wipe their shoes - to remove dirt, dust and debris

Dirt, grit and grime build up over time on a basketball court.

And for courts with lots of sand, gravel or broken asphalt, stable footing becomes quite difficult to achieve. This type of surface can cause friction and slipperiness.

It takes a lot of effort to keep a court surface pristine, which is why you’ll see a lot of professional leagues having dedicated floor sweepers.

Take a look at the clip below for a glimpse of the work they do:

Once a sport facility gets busy, maintenance becomes less frequent and debris accumulation just accrues.

As soon as a game ends, teams leave behind dirty equipment, clothing and trash.

And during non-peak hours, clean-up crews usually don’t show up until well into the evening.

That means mud, grass clippings, snow, oil, grease and whatever else end up on the court throughout the course of the season.

All of these factors add up to increased danger of falling.

On the other hand, some players just want to take care of their outward appearance whenever they’re on the court.

And that naturally leads them to wiping their shoes clean as games are in play.

Some people like to call it the act of “looking good for the cameras”!

After all, the last thing such a player would want is for a well taken photo of them performing a dunk to be ruined by a smudge or stain on their expensive footwear.

2. To get better grip and traction on the basketball court

why basketball players wipe their shoes - to get better grip and traction on court

At first glance you may think a player is just wiping their shoes for the sake of it.

But after a while of watching the sport, you’ll begin to notice that there’s a lot more benefit to performing this action than you initially perceived.

For basketball players, athleticism is critical.

Having the speed to get past a player is so important, that these athletes look for any acceleration advantage they can possibly get.

This involves wiping their shoes as they play on court.

You see, doing this improves their overall grip and allows them to make swift movements whilst maintaining their balance.

Better traction is necessary for basketball players because:

  • It helps with stop and start motions; and
  • It assists with quick changes in direction

So, improved traction has gameplay benefits that basketballers want to receive, which is why they wipe their shoes every now and then as they play.

3. To reduce the risk of injury while playing

why basketball players wipe their shoes - to reduce injury risk

Nobody likes to get hurt when they play a sport.

The same can be said of basketballers.

They wipe their shoes to prevent them from getting slippery.

Because if they were to fall on the court, they could seriously injure themselves in the process.

And that has implications down the line as they would need to spend time away from the court recovering and rehabilitating from injury.

So, basketball players wipe their shoes in order to lower the chances of them getting injured from a fall caused by slippage.

Slipping hazard tips

The first step toward prevention is awareness.

If you’ve ever slipped on court, gotten hurt or seen another person stumble, then chances are good that you’ll avoid a similar situation yourself.

Here are three common tips for avoiding potential falls on the basketball court:

Wear comfortable shoes

Choose shoe styles designed specifically for athletics (running), rather than dress shoes.

There should be plenty of room between your toes, and laces shouldn’t interfere with proper fit.

You want basketball footwear that gives enough cushioning to absorb shock, yet allows your feet to move freely.

Remember, you’re wearing these shoes for long periods of time especially when you play basketball casually!

Avoid alcohol or drugs that impair balance

Alcohol consumption impairs coordination and reaction time, decreases muscle strength and flexibility, slows reflexes and affects judgment.

Drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and tranquilizers affect both sight and motor skills.

You won’t want to take any of these substances before you step out onto the court, as you’re likely to fall over when you start playing.

Take notice of the court surroundings

Watch where you walk and keep the playing area clear of any debris.

Before you even start to play, look for uneven spots and loose objects that could trip you up when the game gets underway.

Concluding thoughts

Ultimately, basketball players can give themselves better foot traction and prevent serious accidents by wiping their shoes clean as they play.

It’s a pretty simple concept that many athletes in this sport tend to follow.

To learn more about basketball and its related topics, you can visit the links below:

Happy reading!

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.