When I first took up squash, getting the right advice for equipment is very hard if you don’t have someone knowledgeable to talk to. This is especially the case if you’re not a member of a club. I’ll attempt to demystify the options and choices in buying squash gear, listing what I think is the best kit on the market and what factors to look out for when buying.
First things first, the racket is where you should spend the majority of your budget. For a beginner, a good racket can cost in the region of £30-50, while the top professional rackets can be bought for £80-100. When you’re a beginner, you should be looking for the right weight and balance. Ideally you want a slightly heavy racket at 150-160g unstrung, with a head-heavy balance. This will help you develop your muscles early on in the game, and you will be able to feel the swing much more with a head-heavy racket. Good bargains now are old Dunlop ICE Pro and M-Fil Pro rackets which are slightly head-heavy1 but still a decent weight, and at £40-50 they’re affordable considering they used to be top of the range rackets not too long ago.
For more advanced players, your racket choice usually falls into two groups: those that prefer head-light rackets, and those that prefer head-heavy. The best of the head-light rackets is the Dunlop Aerogel Tour, which at 145g is the heaviest of the Aerogel range. They feature excellent stiffness, probably the stiffest rackets you can buy, and the Tour is the most head-light of the range. I’ve played with the Pro and Ultimate rackets too, and they’re all very similar rackets, but I prefer the Tour as I think it has the perfect balance of weight and balance. If you prefer head-heavy rackets, then the Prince O3 Speedport Black is an excellent racket, offering a big sweet spot, excellent motion through the area giving greater head speed, and good touch. I find the racket glides through the air effortlessly, and gives cleaner hits more consistently with its large sweet spot. You can get some very hard hits with it, but I find it’s harder to control the more difficult shots, especially the ones requiring more wrist work. At around £110 online, it’s also a little expensive, but worth it if you like the balance.
Most players would happily play with the stock strings on a racket, but not all stock strings are created equal, especially the M-Fil strings on the Dunlop Aerogel range which gives a very wooden and dead feeling. I found that restringing them with Technifibre 305 or Ashaway Powernick 18 transformed the racket in the same way a good set of tyres transform a car; much more feeling, control, and power. I tend to prefer a lower tension too, around 24lbs, and the Aerogel comes with very tightly strung strings which don’t help its lack of feeling. On the other hand, the Prince O3 Speedport range come with fairly decent strings and it’s probably not worth restringing them when you first get them unless you own multiple rackets and want them all with your own string and tension level.
When you’re starting out, it’s probably fine to use whatever trainers you have in the cupboard, however when you get more advanced and start moving about quicker, a good pair of squash shoes are a very worthy investment to prevent injury and improve your movement. Currently, the best shoes overall in value and performance are Hi-Tec’s 4SYS shoes specially designed for squash. They are used by several top 10 players, and when I compared them to the Adidas Stabil, I found them to be more stable and more comfortable. The best news comes when you discover you can get them for £50-60, much less than other top squash or court shoes. I’d recommend going into a retail shop to get these shoes though, as you can never be sure what size you are for that specific shoe and you do need a very good fit.
Very little squash specific clothing is made nowadays, so you have to pick and mix clothing from other sports that are most suitable. The best squash shirts are mesh t-shirts that allow the body to breath and are very lightweight. I’ve found that Adidas running shirts are very good to use for squash, as are their tennis shirts (although they can be prohibitively expensive to buy). Other similar style of sports share the same characteristics, such as tennis, indoor football, and badminton, all have clothes that are very suitable for squash. Each shirt should cost between £10-20 online, although the best tennis shirts sometimes retail for over £50!
The best shorts are long running shorts (who wears short-shorts anymore?) that are a good fit, but are breathable, flexible enough for lunges, and a good length — about a couple inches above the knee. Badminton shorts offer the same features although are harder to find, but tennis shorts are sometimes too thick and aren’t flexible enough. These shorts cost about £20.
A large sweatband on the forearm of your racket hand is a good measure to stop sweat dripping down your arm into the palms of your hands, and are also in a handy position to wipe away sweat from your face. If you have long hair, then it may be advisable to have a buff or headband to keep your hair in check and stop sweat dripping into your eyes. Don’t go for a headband unless you want to look like [David Bedford](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bedford_ (athlete))2.
Finally, most socks are adequate for squash, although if you are having problems with your feet then try some long distance running socks out.
Most clubs more require juniors to wear eye guards, although it’s not required for the adult game, it is recommended. I personally don’t wear any, but I’ve tried on Dunlops I-Armour Protective Eyewear and they fit very well and don’t really impede your vision at all. It’s up to you whether you think you play dangerous enough opponents to warrant having eye protection, but most players will recognise a dangerous situation and will play a let of stroke instead of risking to hit you.
Don’t skimp on balls, get the Dunlop ones from Sports Direct, they’re the cheapest by far by charging three pounds for three balls. Start off on the blue beginner balls and progress up to the red dot, single yellow, and finally the professional double yellow balls. Use the balls until they break, but save a couple newer ones for important matches as your practice balls can become quite slippery which will affect their bounce.
Finally, while this may not be part of your equipment, if you want rapid improvement in your game there is no better way than one-to-one squash tutoring. See your local club for tutors, the basic level 1 or 2 tutors may charge around £10 per hour, rising to £60 per hour for a top level 5 tutor.
This article is just a taster of the minefield that is squash sports equipment. As I mentioned above, it’s best to get the advice of a professional from your squash club, or you can ask on the Squash Game forum where there are plenty of experienced players to answer your questions, but hopefully this will answer at least some of your questions.