Welcome to ‘Buying Pickleball Sneakers’ 101
Buying Pickleball Sneakers has been our #1 read blog post! While the factors to consider when you are shopping for pickleball shoes haven’t changed, the offerings have so we’re providing some updates to our 2014 post that we know will be helpful with your pickleball sneaker selection. We sell hundreds of sneakers for pickleball each year, many in our retail store which gives us the expertise and knowledge to narrow your search.
Goal when buying a pickleball sneaker
We get so many requests for recommendations that we thought we’d share some pointers to guide you through the pickleball shoe selection process. The ultimate goal as with any athletic shoe purchase is to find a shoe that is a good fit on your foot, with a comfortable and stable feel. DO NOT WEAR YOUR RUNNING SHOES for pickleball! We can’t stress this enough! In addition to leaving marks on the court, you are at the most risk for a fall in a running shoe. A running shoe is designed to go in one direction only….forward! Now think of the movements you make on the court; forward / back, side to side. Add in pivots, quick stops, quick sprints and more. Now you see why a running shoe is the most dangerous sneaker choice for any court sport.
Why is a court shoe important for pickleball?
Simply put, court shoes are made for court sports which have a unique range of movements not used in other sports. Think about it this way; running, cross-training, hiking or walking shoes are built for forward motion. A court shoe is designed for motion both forward-back and side to side. It also features cushioning for the impact to knees and back during court sports. In our 2014 blog, we stated that pickleball wasn’t a large enough sport to have its own shoes called “pickleball sneakers”. Guess what? With the explosion of the sport, we have our first pickleball specific sneakers coming this summer from K-Swiss, a leader in court shoes and the brand with the #1 selling court shoe in the U.S.A. at the time of this writing. All of our K-Swiss court shoes can be worn for pickleball, but the K-Swiss Express Light was specifically branded for the sport.
Within court shoes, there are three major design components, each of which is discussed below:
Design Component #1 – The Upper:
Pickleball sneakers feature uppers made of leather, synthetic leather or combination of these with a mesh or fabric. Fewer and fewer court shoes are made with actual leather these days because of a movement across all sports toward lighter sneakers for more comfort. Use of synthetics in the upper of a court shoe also helps to keep the cost down as the price of leather increases. Okay, take note now, the key word here is stability. You’ll notice that most court shoes prominently feature a structural element on the sides of the upper (see picture below) that provides added support once you are laced in. The feel you want is one of having something wrapped securely around your foot once you are correctly laced in. So try them on and see how locked-in you feel when moving side to side. Make sure you have them laced properly, as you would to go out and play (no loosey-goosey lace up jobs please). This structural element of a true court shoe is a key difference between a kickaround sneaker and a true pickleball sneaker, tennis sneaker or sneaker for other court sports.
Design Component #2 – The Mid sole:
This comes down more to personal preference and your foot as it involves the height of the arch, the width of the mid portion of the shoe, etc. Again, try them on and find one that works with the shape of your foot. Some arch is typically a good thing as it will support the natural shape of your foot. How much depends on you. One key is to make sure the arch of the shoe meets up with the arch of your foot. This is part of finding the perfect fit of a court shoe to your foot.
Design Component #3 – The Out sole (or in laymen’s terms, sneaker bottom, tread, etc.):
All shoes we stock here at Bell Racquet Sports are court shoes suitable for pickleball and are non-marking. Non-marking means that you can wear them on a gym floor, wooden court or tennis court without leaving skid marks regardless of the color of rubber on the bottom of the shoe. This may or may not be true of shoes you buy elsewhere so I take no responsibility for what you leave behind in your (ahem) Skechers, Kohl’s specials or Wal-mart kicks!
Durability of the rubber out sole is slightly less important with pickleball as with tennis or paddle sports we cater to. Yes, you are starting and stopping a lot but with the exception of the most aggressive tour players, overall you are not putting the mileage in or grinding away as hard as you would be on a hard court for tennis. With the exception of touring pros, pickleball players will typically break down the insole (cushioning / support) before the outsole is worn out. Your knees and back will tell you when it’s time for a new pair! Recreational players typically need a new pair of pickleball sneakers each year. Tread pattern is also not terribly important, so I wouldn’t get hung up on the herringbone design versus other shapes and patterns. Each brand has its own combination of patterns on the tread and since all are designed for the right combination of grab and movement for court sports.
- Insider tip: Base your out sole durability needs on what level of player you are. For example, if you are touring the U.S. and playing in high level tournaments, you need a more durable shoe than someone playing in their local YMCA gym once a week.
- Insider tip: When you begin to feel achy ankles, knees or back, it could be an indicator that the underfoot support structure of your shoes is kaput and that you are ready for a new pair
Categories of Pickleball Sneakers
Indoor Court Shoes versus Tennis Shoes (otherwise known as Outdoor Court Shoes):
Indoor court shoes are so named because the wearers are typically playing indoor court sports such as racquetball, squash, badminton and volleyball. Pickleball has the unique distinction of being played both indoors and out so we recommend taking into account where you play most often. Both indoor court and tennis sneakers are built for the same type of motion, but the out sole of an indoor court shoe requires less rubber since the rubber doesn’t go thru the rigors of wear that it would on an outdoor hard court. Indoor shoes often (but less commonly these days) feature a sole that is natural colored rubber to represent the natural gum rubber of years past. Tennis shoes feature a beefier out sole for more durability. They typically weigh a bit more because they have more material in them. So if you are weight-sensitive for your sports sneakers, indoor court shoes will feel lighter on the foot and may make sense for you.
How much should I expect to pay for a Pickleball Sneaker?
As with any shoe, you get what you pay for. Now that you have invested in a paddle and a few lessons or a gym membership, don’t get derailed by an injury caused by skimping on this most important purchase! While you can buy a true pickleball sneaker for as little as $49 or so, the higher priced court shoes feature better materials, more advanced technology and features as we’ve described above. Expect to pay between $89 and $129 for a top quality pickleball sneaker.
- Insider tip: Buying a prior season’s colorway in a can save you money, similarly, a color that didn’t go over well and is on sale
- Insider tip: If you are a player who grinds through your out sole within 6 months, look for a sneaker that offers a six-month outsole guarantee so you can get a free replacement pair (shipping costs may apply, depending on the manufacturer). While these typically cost $119 and above, you essentially get two for the price of one, if your wear satisfies the manufacturer’s standards for warranty replacement.
Hopefully this will help you settle on the right pickleball sneakers for you! Shop our selection below.
Buy Pickleball Sneakers (go here to see our main page for Pickleball Shoes)
Indoor Court Shoes (includes men’s and ladies styles)
Men’s Tennis / Paddle Shoes (great for outdoor pickleball…more rubber on the outsole = more durability)
Ladies Tennis Shoes (great for outdoor pickleball…more rubber on the outsole = more durability)
- Insider Tip: Remember to wear padded athletic socks, especially if you’re new to pickleball to cushion your feet as they get used to court movement! Shop our selection of cushioned athletic socks for men and for ladies here including Thorlo Tennis Socks designed specifically as first aid for the feet!
- Insider Tip: For WIDER FEET, we offer up to 4E WIDTH court shoes for men and D WIDTH which is the widest width for ladies
Written by Bell Racquet Staff