If you happen to stroll through my closet one day, you won’t find many shoes. I have shoes for “casual things,” “sporty things” and “nice things.” That’s about it. But when it comes to pickleball shoes, I’m as serious and shoe-obsessed as they come. Picking the right kind of shoe for your pickleball game is an endeavor that should be taken seriously. I’m here to guide you through the process.
What is the best kind of pickleball shoe? If you’re playing indoors, it will be an indoor court shoe similar to what a badminton or racquetball player would use. If you’re playing dedicated outdoor pickleball courts, then getting a tennis shoe will be your best bet.
Is there any such thing as a pickleball shoe?
At the time of this writing, there are unfortunately no such things as pickleball shoes. But that’s not bad news. There are plenty of other options for pickleball players like you and I. You just have to know how to find them.
How to find pickleball shoes
It’s hard to search for pickleball shoes since there is no such thing as a pickleball shoe.
What you have to do instead is pretend like you’re shopping for another sport. So if you play pickleball indoors, just shop for squash, badminton, or racquetball shoes. If you play pickleball outdoors, shop for tennis shoes instead. This will give you the best results instead of just shopping for pickleball shoes.
But in general, the best way to shop for pickleball shoes is to just search for court shoes. That will lead you in the best direction.
Why getting the right type of shoe is important
There are many reasons why you need to have the right kind of shoe for pickleball. The first and most important reason is to keep you from getting injured. It’s far from perfect, but a proper athletic shoe will help to keep you from getting foot and leg injuries.
The other reason why a good shoe is important for pickleball is it will help keep you stable and confident on the court. Tennis shoes and court shoes are designed to grip their respective surfaces. The more grip you have, the better you can position yourself on the court. And as you know, proper positioning is a huge part of pickleball.
Pickleball is a frantic, fast and sometimes crazy sport. There’s a lot of shuffling, turning, twisting and contorting. But the most common type of movement is from side to side. These are called lateral movements, and pickleball players do them constantly.
This is the reason why special shoes are made for racket sports athletes. Unlike running shoes, court and tennis shoes are made specifically for these lateral movements. The shoes have more bulk in the middle of the shoe to help support you as you move from side to side efficiently.
Athletic pickleball players
If you’re super athletic and can move easily all over the court, then you should be paying more attention to what you put on your feet. The more mobile you are on the court, the more stress you’re going to be putting on your body. Getting the right kind of shoe will be crucial for allowing this to happen while staying away from the doctor.
Make the smart decision early to wear the right type of shoe. Your future self will love you for it later on.
Shoes to avoid
There are some shoes that you should avoid when playing pickleball. Staying away from these shoes will reduce your chances of being injured.
- General running shoes
- Lounge shoes of any kind
- Hiking boots
- Open shoes of any kind
- Trail running shoes
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve pretty much eliminated every shoe in your closet. And you would be right. The reason why I’ve eliminated these shoes is that you are much more likely to injure yourself if you play hard in these shoes.
And yes, you can get injured!
Please don’t think that you can’t get injured playing pickleball. You can. And if you love pickleball as much as I do, then the last thing you want to do is stay home nursing an avoidable injury while your friends are out playing.
I’ve heard plenty of foot injury stories throughout my time playing pickleball. They’re not pretty, and quite frankly, they’re terrifying. One of the most common stories I hear is about people crossing a foot over to get a cross-court dink and rolling their ankle in the process. The reason why they rolled their ankle is that they were wearing the wrong type of shoe.
Keep in mind; I’m not saying that wearing the right type of shoe will make you invincible. You can still get injured doing any sporting activity, but your chances are reduced when gearing yourself out properly.
Speaking of rolling your ankle, let’s quickly talk about running shoes.
All about running shoes
Most people who start playing pickleball for the first time will play their first game in whatever athletic looking shoes they have in their closet. The thought process goes something like this: “Oh hey, these look ‘tennisey,’ they should work fine.” Whenever I hear this I want to play the Price is Right buzzer out loud.
It makes sense though; I did the same thing when I first started. I played in my running shoes for a few months before I switched.
But the cool looking shoes that you pulled out of your closet are most likely going to be running or training shoes of some kind and not proper court shoes. In other words, not the kind of shoe that you want to wear for pickleball. People typically don’t go out and buy shoes specifically designed for tennis or other racket sports if they’re not a participant. So the chances of you having bought a pair for casual wear is next to zero.
Running shoes are a bad idea because they’re not designed for lateral movements like we talked about earlier. They are designed for running, which means going straight forward. They are lightweight, flexible and have very little support on the sides. This is the last thing you’ll want for pickleball.
Again, people who use running shoes aren’t going to be moving side-to-side, so manufacturers don’t have to add bulk to the sides. That, in turn, makes the shoe lighter which is great for runners.
This is me folding up my running shoes. You’ll never be able to do this with a court or tennis shoe. Look at how flexible the shoe is. I’m able to do this because there’s not much meat on this bone. In other words, the shoe is so flexible because it has no lateral support.
That lack of lateral support translates to your ankle easily rolling and you being out of pickleball for months.
The two types of shoes that are fine to use
There are two types of shoes that are great to use for pickleball. These shoes will give you the grip, stability, and structure that you need to be an effective pickleball player. The types that I recommend are court shoes and tennis shoes.
This is the best option for most pickleball players. What are court shoes exactly? Simply put, court shoes are athletic shoes designed for indoor court use. Here are some basics about court shoes:
- Parts of the sole will be rubber.
- Has stability on the sides.
- Bends at the toe box instead of in the middle.
- Is specifically designed for indoor court use.
- Not as bulky as tennis shoes.
When we talk about court shoes, what we’re talking about is an all-purpose indoor gymnasium shoe. These types of shoes can be used for any indoor court sport like volleyball, badminton, racquetball, squash and of course, pickleball. A lot of people in the pickleball world recommend new players get court shoes because they’re used in so many sports, and thus, have already been heavily tested and reviewed. They’re also less expensive than tennis shoes for the most part.
The other important aspect of court shoes is the rubber sole. This is how you know if a shoe is a court shoe or not. As I mentioned earlier, the rubber sole allows players to grip the gymnasium floors easier without sliding. But keep in mind that if the floors haven’t been cleaned in awhile, then you may slide around a bit. Simply wet your shoes and you’ll be good to go.
Tennis shoes are another great option for pickleball players if you’re looking to play mainly outside. You can use your indoor court shoes for outdoor play if you want, but it may tear up the rubber. So it’s best to have a tennis shoe if you’re going to be playing on dedicated outdoor courts. Let me give you a quick look at tennis shoes.
- The sole will be flat, but not have any rubber.
- Is heavier than most other shoes.
- Very bulky.
- Has very strong stability on the sides.
- Bends at the toe box instead of in the middle.
- Is specifically designed for tennis court use only.
After I gave up on running shoes, I bought a few pairs of tennis shoes until I came on the ones you see above. These are my personal favorite tennis shoes from ASICS, a very high-quality shoe manufacturer.
Tennis shoes are not the athletic looking shoes that you buy at a casual shoe store. Tennis shoes are bulky, tough and heavy. Believe me, you’ll know when you put them on. But tennis shoes are great for outdoor pickleball and can be used indoors as well.
The best shoe to wear
The best pickleball shoe to wear will be dependent on where you play the most often. As you’ve probably guessed, I have two types of shoes. One pair of court shoes for indoor gymnasiums and another pair for outdoor play.
If you want to use a show for both situations then just get a pair of solid tennis shoes. They will work well for either situation.
In terms of brands, you can’t go wrong with ASICS. They make some of the best shoes around, but that doesn’t mean that you have to buy from them. You can also look at other brands like Adidas or New Balance.
I hope that this article about pickleball shoes was helpful for you. One day, there will be shoes designed specifically for pickleball, but for now, tennis shoes and court shoes are our best option. Got anything to say about pickleball shoes? Let me know in the comments below!