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Why the Right Pickleball Shoes Make a Difference

by Jason Flamm on

They say, "The shoes make the person," but the question we care more about is:

"Will pickleball shoes make me a better pickleball player?"

We'll dive into finding the proper footwear for pickleball and whether or not certain shoes will make you a 5.0-level player.

(Spoiler alert: they won’t. But, it turns out, they do still matter)

Let’s step into it, shall we?

"What type of footwear do you typically wear when playing pickleball?"

With a total of 5,745 votes, 43.7 percent said they wear pickleball-specific court shoes on the pickleball court. In a very close second, 38.4 percent said they wear tennis court shoes.

The rest said they basically wear whatever they have around the house – like basketball shoes. Really?

Tennis Shoes or Court Shoes – Is There a Difference?

When we talk about regular shoes for everyday use, we tend to call them sneakers or tennis shoes. Yet, if you ask a tennis player what they wear while playing, they say court shoes. That’s confusing. 

As it turns out, court shoes are different from what we normally wear when, say, walking our dog or even going for a jog. 

Court shoes are specifically designed for tennis, pickleball, squash, racquetball, and more, offering stability, traction, and support essential for court movements. Court shoes can come in high-cut, mid-cut, or low-cut styles. 

For instance, basketball shoes are typically high-cut to reduce the risk of ankle sprains. Pickleball court shoes may come in low-cut or mid-cut styles to allow for more freedom of movement. 

Court shoes often have a sturdy sole with a good grip to prevent slipping on the court surface as you move laterally, forward, and backward. They also have cushioning to absorb shock and reduce impact on the feet, making them suitable for high-impact activities.

Do Court Shoes Matter for Pickleball?

Proper footwear is crucial in pickleball, as in tennis, because players make quick, repetitive lateral movements on a hard court surface. Wearing the wrong pair of shoes can cause foot discomfort and injuries such as ankle sprains or stress fractures.

K-Swiss Pickleball Supreme Shoes for Men

The wear and tear from inadequate shoes can also cause strain on your joints, leading to knee or gait problems in the future.

Pickleball court shoes are designed to have a low-profile sole and good traction to allow quick changes without slipping. The midsole is usually cushioned, providing shock absorption and support for the feet during high-intensity movements. 

Additionally, pickleball court shoes often have a reinforced toe cap to protect against toe drag, a common occurrence in sports. If you’ve ever noticed a hole in the sole of your shoes, especially around your big toe, you know precisely what that toe drag is about.

How to Find the Proper Pair of Court Shoes for Pickleball

Of course, not all court shoes are created equal, and not every shoe is right for every pickleball player. You must find the right shoe for you and your unique needs.

K-Swiss Express Light Pickleball Shoes for Women

Here are some things to consider when shopping for your next pair of pickleball court shoes.

Preferred playing surface

Before we get into other factors like comfort and durability, it’s essential to consider what type of playing surface you are most likely to play on. If you’re primarily an outside pickleballer, you may need a different shoe than if you play primarily inside.

For outdoor pickleball

For outdoor pickleball, select shoes with a durable outsole and a supportive EVA foam midsole. These shoes usually have a wider appearance and thicker soles, designed to provide optimal support for rapid side-to-side movements on harder surfaces. 

Also, make sure your shoes can handle different weather conditions. While you probably don’t need them to be waterproof, having a bit of water resistance can help them last longer. Ideally, the sole doesn't slip when touching a wet surface.

For indoor pickleball

Indoor court shoes should offer grippy rubber soles for more traction without limiting movement. Having your feet slip out from under you while moving side-to-side is a quick way to end up on the sideline.

Indoor shoes are often lighter and less focused on durability than outdoor shoes because they will not take as much of a beating.

Cushioning and comfort

After ensuring your shoes are stable for the surface you’re playing on, you’ll want to focus on cushioning and comfort. There’s nothing worse than playing pickleball all day only to discover you’ve developed blisters or calluses on your feet. 

Check to see how breathable the material in your shoe is. We all sweat – and some of us far more than others – so having a shoe that minimizes the effect of perspiration can keep your feet cool and dry and prevent extra friction between your sock and shoe.

Proper fit

Of course, proper footwear is critical no matter what activity you’re doing. But we’re not just talking about the size on the label. Some shoes have a wider toe box than others, which is particularly important for those who suffer from bunions or bunionettes or who have wide feet.

Perhaps the best way to investigate the shoe you’re interested in is to read online reviews from people who have previously worn that particular style. Finding someone who has feet that are similar to yours can prevent you from making the wrong purchase.

Ensure your pickleball court shoes fit snugly but comfortably and don’t rub against the top or sides of your foot too much. Your toes should be able to move freely, and any weird seams or edges inside the shoe could cause a problem down the road. 

Durability and price

Last but certainly not least, consider how durable and costly your court shoes are. No one wants to pay a lot for shoes that will only last a few months. This is another part of shoe research where message boards and reviews are useful.

Fortunately, there are enough options on the market, and big shoe brands like K-Swiss offer pickleball court shoes in a variety of styles and price points. 

How Often Should You Replace Your Pickleball Shoes

It’s hard to judge exactly how long you should keep your current court shoes before replacing them. It ultimately depends on how much you play pickleball and what type of movements you make.

For instance, if you tend to drag your feet a lot, you may wear out the sides of your shoes first. Personally, because my right foot supinates, I tend to "crush" the outside sole of my shoe. This only exacerbates my rollover problem and causes me to buy a new pair of pickleball shoes every six months. 

If you’re relatively new to pickleball or court shoes, you may need to try out several pairs before finding what works best for you. 

For regular footwear, podiatrists recommend replacing your shoes every six months to a year. Waiting until your shoes completely break down can cause serious ankle, foot, and knee problems. 

Choose a brand you trust

In the shoewear business, credibility means everything. Most people have 1-2 brands they are most loyal to because they know what to expect, and our feet are so important for quality of life.

Since pickleball court shoes are still relatively new in the market, it can be challenging to know which brands to trust.

K-Swiss has been more prominent over the last year in developing quality pickleball court shoes. They’ve sponsored several pro pickleball players, and a quick look at online retailers shows hundreds of four and five-star reviews on their shoes. 

They offer many styles, colors, and features for indoor and outdoor pickleball play. 

Back to our question from above, "Will they instantly help you dominate in rec play?"

Probably not. But you’ll be more comfortable and look good while trying to.


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Jason Flamm

Jason Flamm

Jason is a writer from St. Louis. He’s been a coach in several sports and is currently working on his pickleball coaching certification. He loves to teach and share his passions.

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