Recommended age group: 7–11
Time required: one to two 60 min session(s) depending on ability
Equipment: each group will need three different types of shoe: for example, a trainer, a school shoe and a plimsoll (all the same size), or a single shoe with different materials to cover the sole; force meters (marked in newtons) and the Get a grip worksheet.


  1. Define friction as a class. Use the following definition and ask children to slide different objects over each other so they can 'feel friction’.
    Definition: friction is a force between two surfaces that are sliding, or trying to slide, across each other. Friction always slows a moving object down.
  2. Talk about where friction happens in a game of tennis: shoes gripping the court, hands gripping rackets or wheels and the ball gripping the strings (for spin). Talk about why friction is important for tennis shoes and for wheelchair tennis, identify the importance of grip.
  3. In groups, ask students to use the Get a grip worksheet to begin their investigation into which type of shoe has the best grip.
    • Each shoe is pulled across a table top with a force meter and the amount of force required to move it is measured and recorded.
    • Different groups can then try out suitable extension investigations from the sheet.
  4. Students should discuss whether the test is fair (for example considering if the shoes need to be the same weight and size). Groups can also plot their results on a graph using the squared paper provided.


  • Older and more able students can extend the investigation to consider factors such as how different floor surfaces affect grip. Students could also design an experiment to test friction in a wheelchair tyre grip.
  • Students can then discuss other design features of sports wheelchairs.


  • Students can try doing a range of exercises and activities on different surfaces and then discuss how much grip their shoes can achieve, comparing different types of footwear.