If you’re reading this you’re likely aware that Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America. This hybrid racquet sport has taken off in popularity and is being played anywhere from private clubs to community centre gyms. The ‘anyone can play’ atmosphere has allowed the sport to grow so quickly but has caused oversights in the equipment department. We have seen casual and serious players alike using lower quality paddles and shoes, even running shoes! Pickleball requires lots of lateral movement as well as lunging forward and back; your traditional running or athletic shoe is built for movement in a straight line and won’t have the support required to stabilize your foot when moving in different directions. A court shoe, be it tennis or indoor court, is designed specifically for lateral motion, it has what we call torsional stability. This will help prevent rolling or spraining an ankle as well as slipping or falling on the court. A proper court shoe has a higher density rubber outsole which is built to withstand more wear and tear than a classic running shoe.
Currently there are only a couple Pickleball specific shoes and they’re only available in the USA. What we recommend is to use a tennis shoe for pickleball if you are playing on hard courts and a squash / badminton shoe if you are on a softer surface such as a gym floor or wooden equivalent. The tennis shoes have the durable rubber for hard court wear and are very stable and cushioned, the only difference with the indoor shoes is that the outsole is a softer and stickier rubber so it gives better grip on those slippery gym floors than a tennis shoe. If you are playing on both surfaces and just want to buy one pair of shoes go with tennis shoes, they will last longer and as long as you keep the soles clean you will be fine indoors.
So what shoe is right for you? Unfortunately if there was a perfect shoe everyone would be wearing the same thing which is why it’s important to try on shoes in store to find the right fit. We are looking for a snug fit without being uncomfortable and without slipping in the heel. Ideally you want a small amount of space (thumbnail length) between your toes and the end of the shoe to allow your foot to expand a bit on court and to avoid black toenails! The shoe should feel like an extension of your foot and not like a heavy boot that slows you down.
We have always maintained across all racquet sports that shoes are your most important piece of equipment. Many players can use a variety of racquets or paddles but potentially only one shoe is going to fit your foot. The shoes allows you to move effectively and worry free on court which liberates you to focus on your next shot and not limit your play because of you footwear. So stop by the store and ask us about your next pair of Pickleball shoes, after all we are the experts!