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Why Do Basketball Players Wipe Their Shoes? Understanding the Ritual

Heorhii Rysak

Have you ever noticed basketball players frequently wiping their shoes during games and wondered why? This seemingly small action is a crucial ritual for players on the court.

In basketball, the interaction between a player’s shoes and the court surface is vital. Wiping shoes helps maintain optimal grip, reducing the risk of slipping and enhancing performance.
Renowned coaches and players hold their own distinct perspectives and justifications for this routine. Let’s investigate the more profound elements of this commonly practiced but vital aspect. You might also be interested in our review of the best basketball shoes for comfort, you can watch it here

Why Do Basketball Players Wipe Their Shoes?

Basketball players frequently wipe their shoes during matches to mainly ensure better grip and safety. This is usually done to remove dust, dirt, or moisture from the soles. The primary purposes for shoe wiping are:

1. Improved Traction

Basketball shoes are designed for optimal court grip, but dust and moisture can reduce this traction. Players wipe their shoes to clear these particles, restoring grip essential for quick moves and jumps in basketball. This practice is crucial as courts often accumulate dust, impacting shoe traction. Enhanced grip is key for safe and effective play, making shoe wiping an important routine in basketball.

2. Safety

Why do basketball players rub the bottom of their shoes? This practice is vital for maintaining good traction, which is essential for the rapid, multidirectional movements in basketball. By rubbing the bottoms of their shoes, players reduce the risk of slipping and potential injuries, ensuring they can move quickly and safely on the court.

3. Performance Enhancement

For athletes, every little advantage counts. By ensuring their shoes have the best possible grip, players can move more confidently and effectively.

4. Sweat and Moisture Management

During intense games, players sweat a lot, and this sweat can drip onto the court or their shoes. Wiping the shoes helps manage this moisture, again aiding in maintaining good traction.

5. Habit and Psychological Comfort

For some players, wiping their shoes becomes a ritual or habit. It provides a moment of focus and can be a psychological tool to calm nerves or mentally prepare for the next play.

6. Shoe Maintenance

Regularly wiping off dirt and sweat helps keep the shoes in better condition, potentially extending their lifespan.

The reason why basketball players touch the bottom of their shoes is to ensure optimal performance and safety. This action maintains good traction on the court.

Different methods of shoe wiping

There are several methods athletes, particularly basketball players, use to wipe their shoes during games. Each method is designed to improve the grip of the shoes on the court by removing dust, moisture, or other debris. Here are a few different methods:

1. Hand Wiping

The most common and straightforward method. Players quickly rub the soles of their shoes with their hands, often by lifting one foot at a time and briskly wiping the sole.

2. On-Court Scuffing

Players drag or scuff their shoes against the court surface. This method involves pressing the sole of one shoe against the court and dragging it to scrape off any accumulated dust or debris.

3. Using Sticky Mats

Some courts have sticky mats placed on the sidelines. These mats are designed to trap dust and dirt when players step on them, effectively cleaning the shoe soles.

4. Towel Wiping

Players might use a towel, sometimes provided by team staff, to wipe the bottoms of their shoes. This is particularly useful for a more thorough cleaning if there’s a lot of moisture or built-up grime.

5. Specialized Products

There are products designed specifically for cleaning shoe soles, like traction mats or grip lotions, which players can step on or apply to their soles for better grip.

6. Moisture Management Inserts

Though not a wiping method, some players use inserts in their shoes that help absorb moisture and prevent the soles from getting slippery.

How often players do it during a game?

The frequency with which basketball players wipe their shoes during a game varies depending on several factors:

Court Conditions: If the court is particularly dusty or if a game is being played in a facility where other activities occur, players might find themselves wiping their shoes more frequently to maintain grip.

Personal Preference: Some players have a habit of wiping their shoes very often as part of their routine, while others might do it less frequently.

Game Intensity: In high-intensity games, where players are moving more and sweating more, they might wipe their shoes more often to manage sweat and moisture that can affect traction.

Playing Style: Players who rely heavily on quick cuts, sharp turns, or explosive jumps may wipe their shoes more often to ensure maximum grip for these movements.

Weather and Humidity: In conditions with higher humidity, or if the game is played in an outdoor court with varying weather conditions, players might need to wipe their shoes more to deal with moisture.

On average, you might see players wiping their shoes several times throughout a game, sometimes as often as during every break in play or even quickly during active play if they feel their traction is compromised. It’s a quick action, often just a few seconds, but it’s an important part of maintaining their performance and safety on the court.


Understanding why basketball players wipe their shoes during games reveals its significance as both a practical and strategic ritual in the sport. The primary reason for this practice is to improve the grip and traction of their shoes on the court, facilitating quick, agile movements and minimizing the risk of slipping and injuries. The frequency and method of shoe wiping can vary based on individual habits, the condition of the court, and the intensity of the game, yet it remains a widespread and vital practice in basketball. More than just a physical action, wiping shoes also serves as a moment of mental focus and preparation, aligning with the dynamic pace of the sport. This seemingly small but effective ritual highlights the meticulous attention and preparation athletes invest in enhancing their performance in competitive sports like basketball.


Are there any rules in basketball regarding shoe wiping?

In basketball, there are no specific rules governing the practice of shoe wiping. Players are free to wipe their shoes as needed to maintain grip and safety during the game. This practice is left to the discretion of individual players and is widely accepted as a routine part of the game for enhancing performance and preventing slips and falls.

Why do basketball players wipe the bottom of their shoes?

Basketball players wipe the bottom of their shoes during games primarily to improve traction and grip on the court. This action removes dust, dirt, and moisture, reducing the risk of slipping and enhancing their ability to make quick, agile movements. It’s a common practice that varies in frequency based on court conditions and individual habits, also serving as a moment of focus and mental preparation for players.

Does hand sanitizer help grip on basketball shoes?

Using hand sanitizer on basketball shoes is not a conventional method for improving grip. While its alcohol content might temporarily increase tackiness, it can potentially damage the shoe material and might not be effective for long-term traction. Traditional methods like wiping shoes with hands or specialized products are generally preferred for maintaining and enhancing grip on basketball shoes.

Do all basketball players wipe their shoes?

Not all basketball players wipe their shoes, as it depends on personal preference, playing style, and court conditions. While many players adopt this practice to maintain traction and safety, others may not feel the need or choose different methods to ensure their shoes provide adequate grip during the game. It’s a common practice but not universally followed by all players.

Does wiping shoes actually improve performance?

Wiping shoes can indeed improve a basketball player’s performance. This practice enhances the grip and traction of the shoes on the court surface, allowing for better agility, stability, and quick movements. By ensuring a reliable grip, players can reduce the risk of slipping, thus enhancing their overall effectiveness and safety on the court, which is crucial in high-paced games.