This post has been updated in May of 2019! To read the updated blog post on buying pickleball sneakers, click here.
While pickleball may be a recreational game to some, our pickleball customers here in Rochester, New York consider it a competitive sport (yes, many are awaiting recognition from the Olympic committee). Whether you play it for fun, for fitness or to fulfill your competitive needs, safe shoes are as essential to pickleball as any other court sport. (On the theme of safety, I’ll try to remember to discuss pickleball goggles in a separate blog).
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.
Let’s start by mentioning that you must find a COURT shoe…not a running, cross-training or walking shoe all of which are built predominantly for forward motion. A court shoe is designed for motion both forward-back and side to side. They also feature cushioning for the impact to knees and back during court sports. I know it’s hard to believe, but pickleball is not large enough yet for shoes to be designed as “pickleball sneakers”. And really, there is no need as any good court shoe is already designed for these motions.
So within the family of court shoes, we’ll break it down by shoe component…
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:
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 or Wal-mart kicks! Durability of the rubber out sole is not as 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.
Okay, with that being said. There are two main categories of shoes you can consider, either of which are perfectly fine for pickleball (hooray, more choices!).
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!
Should you want to shop our selection of current and closeout pickleball shoes, feel free to do so by clicking the following links to take you shopping on our web site. If you have input as to a shoe that’s worked great for you, leave a comment so that others can benefit from your experience. Thanks for reading!
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)
TIP: Remember to wear some padded 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!
We stock WIDE width court shoes for men and ladies….look for WIDE in the item name
Some examples of wider width shoes: