How to dress when playing Table Tennis

What to Wear When Playing Table Tennis – The Definitive Guide

When most Table Tennis players think about equipment, the first thought is about their blade, rubbers, maybe the table or the ball.

Few pay attention to what they’re wearing, even though it’s extremely important.

You can even be disqualified and lose matches due to having illegal attire! Table Tennis rules are very strict, after all.

In this article, we are going to go over the clothing rules in Table Tennis

I’m going to tell you what the optimal attire is, because, believe it or not, your outfit will definitely affect your playing experience. Let’s begin!

Upper body clothing

For your upper body, the official Table Tennis rules state that: “Playing clothing shall consist of a short-sleeved or sleeveless shirt and shorts or skirt or one-part sports outfits”.

This means you can’t wear a hoodie, sports jacket, or anything other than what we previously mentioned. You have to wear a short-sleeved or sleeveless shirt.

The “sleeveless shirt” rule can be misunderstood, though. In Table Tennis, using tank tops is illegal. You can only use sleeveless shirts like the one below:

Also, the ITTF rules state that “the main color of a shirt, skirt or shorts, other than sleeves and collar of a shirt shall be clearly different from that of the ball in use.”

This means that both the upper and lower body clothing can’t be white, as most Table Tennis matches are played with white balls. If you’re going to play with an orange ball, then you can’t wear orange shirts, shorts or skirts.

You can, however, use shirts with white accents or white sleeves. The shirt can also have white patterns as long as they aren’t too distracting, such as the one Ryu Seung Min is wearing.

Ryu Seung Min T-shirt
Photo: Alchetron (Ryu Seung Min)

Now that we’ve got the legal stuff out of the way, let’s talk about what you should wear!

Table Tennis Shirt Recommendations

From my personal experience, and after debating this topic with many players, we recommend wearing loose shirts, polos, or sleeveless shirts (but not to the point that they’re baggy).

Your choice of top is up to personal preference, but we strongly recommend avoiding tight shirts as they will limit your range of motion and will put pressure on your movements. This could cause a loss of power and soreness in your muscles. 

You want a shirt that is comfortable and doesn’t get in the way.

In the last club league we played, almost all of us complained that the shirt we got was too tight, not because we had ordered small sizes, but because the model was like that. We never used those shirts when we weren’t playing league matches.

The final important factor to consider is that you want a shirt that is breathable and helps wick sweat away from your body. That means looking for tops with Polyester or Synthetic materials. These are often mixed with cotton for extra comfort and odour control.

To sum up, upper body clothing is mostly up to personal preference, but we recommend using shirts that allow room for your muscles to move. Also, make sure that you don’t play with a white shirt or a tank top.

Lower body clothing

As for lower body clothing, you can wear shorts or skirts.

The same color rules and principles apply to lower body clothing; you can’t use white shorts or skirts, and it’s recommended that they’re sufficiently loose.

You can also experiment with your shorts/skirt length. Most players prefer flexible, short shorts or short skirts so that they don’t get in the way. 

Consider that the right technique requires you to squat down into the ready position, so you need a pair of athletic shorts that don’t inhibit your leg movements.

Table Tennis Shoes

Table Tennis shoes are the most important part of your playing attire. They impact how agile you are on your feet, prevent you from slipping and even help you avoid injuries!

Your shoe choice depends on the type of floors you play on. It’s no use buying Table Tennis shoes designed to be used on special rubber flooring if you’re going to use them on hard ceramic floors.

However, there are certain common qualities you need to look out for when choosing your shoes, regardless of the floor. 

Table Tennis shoes should ideally be lightweight, support lateral movement, be very grippy but not to the point that you get stuck to the floor, and have sufficient heel support

They should also be low and planted to the ground. Tall shoes aren’t good for Table Tennis because it becomes a lot easier to twist your ankles. This injury is one of the most common among Table Tennis players but it’s easily preventable by wearing the correct shoes. 

The movements we perform in Table Tennis are mostly quick side steps. This is why you can also buy shoes designed for sports with similar movement patterns such as volleyball, squash, badminton, padel, handball, and futsal.

If you play on grippy floors such as hardwood, floors treated with anti-slip paint, or professional rubber floors, then Table Tennis specific shoes are your best bet.

The most popular Table Tennis shoes among professional players are the Mizuno Wave Drive and the Butterfly Lezoline. Both models are quite expensive but they are proven to be the best.

These Mizuno shoes are Ma Long’s choice. If they’re good enough for the greatest of all time, they’re good enough for all of us!

These are the best shoes you can get. They are a combination of all the most desirable qualities, and this is why most professional players pick them. 

Ma Long Wearing Mizuno Wave Drive

If you were paying attention, Zhang Jike was also using them along with his short shorts in the photo we showed previously!

In addition to Ma Long and Zhang Jike, Ding Ning, Xu Xin, Ma Lin, and Wang Liqin all used Mizuno shoes at some point in time. 

6 out of the 12 best Table Tennis players of all time chose these Mizuno shoes to build their legacies. These 6 players combined have won a total of 20 Olympic Gold Medals. These shoes are built for legends. 

They’re grippy, low to the ground, comfy, durable, and they’re optimized for lateral movement. 

They’re also lightweight at 305 grams for each shoe. Mizuno shoes are great for quick turns and small readjustments.

The other world-class Table Tennis shoes you can currently get are the Butterfly Lezoline.

Timo Boll wearing Butterfly Lezoline
Timo Boll wearing his Butterfly Lezolines.

These are also excellent shoes. You might want to go for these over the Mizuno if you prefer lighter shoes since they’re 274 grams each (31 grams lighter than the Mizuno Wave Drive 8)

If you want to go for cheaper alternatives, there are also a wide variety of excellent Table Tennis shoes in a lower price bracket such as the Donic Waldner Flex, the Yasaka Jet Impact, and the Andro Cross Step. All of these are great and won’t break the bank.

If you play on ceramic or slippery floors, however, it’s a whole different story.

Table Tennis shoes were designed to be used in special sports flooring made of rubber and foam. Table Tennis flooring is soft and grippy. Table Tennis shoes also work great on other grippy surfaces, but you should never use them in hard, non-grippy floors, such as ceramic.

If you use Table Tennis shoes on slippery, hard floors, you won’t have enough grip. This means you will also put a lot more pressure on your joints since Table Tennis shoes don’t have as much cushioning as most sporting shoes (they don’t need it because Table Tennis floor is very soft)

Cushioning also reduces your feeling of the floor, but I can assure you that don’t want to feel ceramic floors! When playing on ceramic, or similar floors, a good amount of soft cushioning is better.

If you use low cushioning shoes on hard floors, you are guaranteed to feel soreness and even injure your joints such as your knees and your ankles.

What we recommend is either Volleyball shoes, such as the Asics Gel Rocket 9, or hard-court, low Tennis shoes.

You need grippy shoes specialized for hard floors that have some cushioning, but not to the point that the shoes get too tall. You should never use running shoes to play Table Tennis because that makes it very easy to twist your ankles when moving laterally.

To sum up, if you play on grippy floors, go for Table Tennis shoes, if not, then you should get shoes designed for more slippery flooring, such as Volleyball or Tennis shoes.

I personally play mostly on ceramic floors, I bought a pair of grippy tennis shoes and they work great! The only caveat is that they’re quite heavy.

Also, try to buy comfortable socks if you can, they make Table Tennis a lot more enjoyable. You can even find special Table Tennis socks such as the Joola Sierro that are extra flexible for added breathability, comfiness, and better floor feeling. 

Looking to buy a new pair of shoes? Check out more about the top recommended Table Tennis shoes available.

Accessories

Accessories play a huge role in Table Tennis! We recommend trying out the following accessories and you are sure to find at least one that makes your experience a lot more enjoyable.

Using accessories, you can also show off your personality while you’re playing!

Headbands and wristbands 

Headbands are very useful accessories, especially for players with long hair. 

If you have long hair, it will often get in the way. Your hair can even block your view and lose you points

It can be very off-putting, especially if you’re playing in a tournament and you lose a crucial point because hair got into your eyes. This was a typical occurrence for me and it completely threw me off every time it happened, until I got a headband. 

Whenever my hair grows to a certain length, I get my headband and all those problems go away!

They’re also very useful if you sweat and drops fall from your hair/forehead. Those sweat droplets can even get into your eyes and it hurts a lot, it can even blur your vision for a minute or two. This also happens to me quite frequently, especially in the summer when it’s very hot.

If you have this problem, then get a headband and you’ll have a much better time. 

Timo Boll Wearing Bandana and Wristband
Timo wearing his headband and wristband. Photo: ETTU

Similarly to headbands, wristbands work wonders when trying to dry up sweat. They come in handy when you’re playing a match and you want to dry yourself, but you aren’t at the towel break. 

While we’re at it, remember to bring your towel everywhere you play. It’s probably the most important Table Tennis accessory apart from your attire.

The only recess you can have in tournament matches, apart from your time-out, is the towel break every 6 points, so remember to always have a towel in your bag!

Straps and braces

Table Tennis players tend to have many knee and elbow injuries.

There are several reasons for these injuries, such as not warming up correctly, not stretching, hard impact with the floor because of improper shoes, playing on very hard flooring, and regular wear and tear for players who train a lot.

This is why you’ll find many players using straps or braces. These products help fix your joints in place so that you don’t feel pain. 

However, do keep in mind that these should be used as temporary solutions while you’re working on the cause of the problem. Many players have muscle imbalances and instead of trying to correct them, they just wear braces. 

This is only going to cause more problems down the road.

However, if you need to alleviate pain while you’re trying to fix the cause of the problem, or if your injury has no easy solution, then straps and braces are very useful.

Watches

Wristwatches are, for me, an essential accessory for playing Table Tennis, both when training and when playing tournaments.

Regular wristwatches will obviously tell you the time. This is very useful so that you know how deep into your training session you are, and having this information, you’ll be able to manage the intensity of your training. 

Maybe you started off too hard and you still have 2 hours of training left, so you should lower the training tempo and take breaks more often. Or maybe you started off slow and you’re feeling quite fresh 1 hour before the end of the session and you can work a bit harder.

There are 2 different types of watches that stand out above the rest: Digital watches and Smartwatches.

Digital watches

Basic Casio Watch
Photo: As.com

Digital watches, such as the Casio F-91W (pictured above) are great for Table Tennis players because of 3 main reasons: 

  • They’re super lightweight and comfortable. The Casio F-91W weighs just 21 grams. It’s so light that you’ll forget you have it on!
  • They tell the time directly in numerical digits instead of you having to read the hands. You can just take a glimpse at your watch in between points. You’ll know exactly what time it is and how many more matches you can play before heading home.
  • They have a stopwatch. This is very useful to time your exercises. If you’re doing 5 minutes per player, set the stopwatch before starting. When it gets to 5 minutes it’s time to change who’s doing the exercise. Then just reset the stopwatch and keep on playing.

I strongly suggest you try one of these. I’ve been using mine for years and I really miss it when I forget it at home. Having a quick read of the time on your wrist is super useful, even if you don’t need the stopwatch.

Alvaro wearing a Casio Watch
A photo of me wearing my Casio Digital Watch in tournament play

The Casio F-91W retails for just $15, giving you lots of utility for a very low price. It’s incredible value. Also, the battery life of these watches is insane at around 7 years. You can just buy it and forget about it. 

And if you don’t like how it looks, there are many models you can choose from. Some look incredibly good! (albeit at a higher cost)

Another Casio Watch
Photo: Casio

Smartwatches

Smartwatches are the most complete Table Tennis wearable accessory you can have. They’re absolutely packed with features. To illustrate our point, we’ll take a look at the $35 Xiaomi Mi Band 6.

Xiaomi Smartwatch

A Smartwatch has all the benefits of digital watches, plus the following:

  • You can receive notifications while training (you can read messages and more without having to take out your phone). If you don’t like this feature, you can obviously turn it off.
  • You can measure your heart rate to get important information about your cardiovascular endurance. You can find your target exercising heart rate in this article by heart.org. You can measure your blood oxygen level. 95-100% is considered normal.
  • You can measure your quality of sleep, that’s needed for good Table Tennis performance and adequate muscle recovery.
  • And, most importantly, you can measure your calories burned and your workout intensity. The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 even has a Table Tennis mode.

Technology has evolved to a level in which you can have all of these functions on your wrist for just 35 dollars. It’s truly amazing.

However, do keep in mind that heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and sleep quality measurements can be inconsistent. This is not specialized equipment. 

The Xiaomi Band gives an estimation of these health indicators. Sometimes it’s super accurate, others, not so much. We can’t really ask for more at the $35 price point.

The Apple Watch is more accurate in its measurements if that’s what you’re looking for, albeit at a much higher price point. 

Now you can wear the right Table Tennis clothing

We hope you find one of these ideas useful! The power of wearing the right things cannot be underestimated, as pieces of clothing and accessories play a crucial part in the overall playing experience.

Let us know in the comments below what you like to wear when playing!

Alvaro’s been playing Table Tennis since he was 15 and is now ranked within the top 200 in his native Argentina. He loves to compete in provincial tournaments and is always looking for ways to improve. Alvaro made his favourite memories with a racket in hand, and he joined the RacketInsight team to share his passion with other players!

Blade: Tibhar Stratus Power Wood | Forehand: Rakza Z | Backhand: Rakza 7 Soft
Playstyle: Forehand Looper

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