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.
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 you feel is a good fit on your foot, with a comfortable and stable feel.
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 the K-Swiss court shoes can be worn for pickleball right now, but one is coming out specifically branded for the sport. (Check back in July for the K-Swiss Pickleball Sneaker).
Within court shoes, there are three major design components each of which is discussed below:
Any 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 the synthetics can offer as much or more stability without loss of structure that leather undergoes over time as it softens. It also helps to keep the cost down as a “plastic cow hide” costs significantly less than the real deal. Okay, in all seriousness, the key word here is stability. You’ll notice that most court shoes prominently feature a structural element on the sides of the upper that provides added support once you are laced in. So try them on and see how locked-in you feel when moving side to side.
- Insider tip: feel like you have weak ankles? Since a key driver for buying pickleball sneakers in the first place is stability on the court, consider a MID height pickleball sneaker for that more secure feel around the ankle when laced up.
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.
The Out sole (or in laymen’s terms, sneaker bottom, tread, etc.):
All shoes we stock here at Bell Racquet Sports are court shoes and are designed as non-marking. This 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. For pickleball, you 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! 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 their own combination of patterns on the tread and since all are designed for the right combination of grab and movement for court sports it’s not worth getting into.
- 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. It’s pretty much common sense.
Categories of shoes suitable for pickleball
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 outsole of an indoor court shoe requires less rubber since the rubber doesn’t go thru the rigors of wear on an outdoor hard court. Indoor shoes often feature a natural colored rubber (representing the gum rubber of years past). Tennis shoes feature a beefier outsole 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.
Hopefully this will help you narrow the field and settle on the right pickleball sneakers for you!
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 Cate Bell