Whether you’re an avid pickleball player or new to the sport, it’s essential to wear the proper sports apparel for your next match. The most important item you must have to be high performing yet avoid injury is a good old pair of shoes. However, not every shoe is up to the challenge in this fast-paced and exciting sport.
Before diving in, I have a silly but funny story about my cross-trainers. When commuting to work, I take a train to the subway and walk a block to the office. Obviously, wearing dress shoes during this commute is inefficient and wasteful as they are exposed to all the indoor and outdoor New York City elements.
Therefore, like most others in the office, I wear cross-trainers to work and then change into my dress shoes, which are kept under my desk. However, while I was on vacation for two weeks, the office got rearranged for efficiency, and I had amassed ten pairs of dress shoes under my desk, which had to be stored in a large box until I returned. When I got back, the friendly running joke was that I am the “shoe store man!”
With that being said, don’t wear dress shoes to play pickleball! It’s on the do not wear list! However, there are many types of appropriate shoes to wear during a match.
Keep reading to learn more!
What is Pickleball?
Before jumping into the good stuff, it’s essential to understand a little more about the game you’re planning to purchase shoes for. Pickleball is an outdoor or indoor paddle sport that involves two or four players who must hit a hollow polymer ball over the three-foot net using solid paddles. The purpose of the game is for two sides hit the ball back and forth until it goes out of the predetermined court lines, or a rule infraction occurs, at which point the opposing player gains a point.
History of pickleball
Invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington by Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell, pickleball got its name because it reminded Joel Pritchard’s wife said the game reminded her of the pickle boat in crew where rowers form a team from the leftovers of other boats. One Saturday afternoon, Pritchard and Bell were returning home from golfing and saw their families were incredibly bored. Therefore, they set up badminton, but the shuttlecock went missing.
This prompted the two adults to experiment with different rackets and ball types. A Wiffle ball was initially determined to be the ideal option, but a Cosom Fun Ball offered an improved playing experience and was more durable with all the hits. Along with the Wiffle ball, table tennis paddles were initially used and replaced by plywood paddles.
As the game progressed, the inventors determined that the net was too high, so they lowered it to three feet for better ball driving over the net. Almost instantly, the game became popular with the neighbors and relatives, so the three founders formed Pickle Ball, Inc. in 1968. The organization filed its first annual report in 1972 and trademarked Pickle-Ball the same year.
To satisfy the demand for this growing sport, the company manufactured pickleball kits, balls, and paddles. Interest in the game spread from the Pacific Northwest to warmer climates. In 1976, the first pickleball tournament was held in Tukwila, Washington, and even received a mention in Tennis magazine.
In 1984, USAPA (United States Amateur Pickleball Association) was formed and published the official rulebook. By the early 1990s, the sport was being played in all states. Since then, the U.S. Pickleball National Championships have been held in Palm Springs, California, every year and are co-hosted by the CEO and co-founder of Oracle, Larry Ellison.
The other major tournament is the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida, which began in 2016.
Types of men’s pickleball shoes
Since pickleball is on a smaller court than tennis, you don’t need to have specific shoes, as a variety of categories will work. These include:
1. Multi-purpose cross-training shoes
Cross-training shoes were developed to be used for different sports and are constructed from a combination of mesh fabric with various leather pieces enmeshed into the material. Cross trainers usually have a tread on the sole to allow for proper grip. Since pickleball doesn’t require as much running as tennis, due to a smaller court, cross trainers are a good option for the game since they have more general features than other sport-specific shoes.
2. The excellent for pickleball court shoes
The exterior of court shoes is pliable leather, which is incredibly durable and allows for some breathability. The bottom of the court shoes offers superior tread to allow for easy movement on volleyball, basketball, tennis, and pickleball courts. Featuring either a high, below the ankle, or low cut, court shoes are engineered to deliver stability on indoor and outdoor courts allowing for movement in all directions.
Higher-cut court shoes are best for games that require increased ankle stability during jumping. While all options are this list get the job done, since the movements and actions in pickleball most closely replicate tennis, court shoes are the best option for the game.
3. The not-so-basic, three types of
Running shoes are always an excellent choice since you will be running around on the court, and they offer the proper stability and cushioning for heavy activity and support. However, there are three types of running shoes that you could be used depending on your foot type and how you run, including:
Neutral running shoes are best worn by those with normal arches in the foot, so they run with a “neutral” pattern. This means that when running, the outer section of the heel initially contacts the ground the rolls inward (called pronation) by fifteen degrees, with the remainder of the foot reaching the ground in a flat pattern. Then, finally, the foot pushes off from the ground using all toes.
Between 50-60 percent of runners use the neutral running style. Therefore, neutral shoes are designed with heavy heel cushioning because the foot evenly contacts the ground with even weight distribution, so additional padding isn’t required across the entire foot. Neutral running shoes tend to be lighter than others since they have fewer structure supports, like plastic posts, which help enhance stability.
Neutral running shoes can either be full- or semi-curved, which means the shoe’s sole doesn’t contact the ground at once, which equates to faster running. To better understand if you need neutral running shoes, then you can self-analyze the way your feet lay when standing flat in shoes or have your running gait examined on a treadmill by an expert. The rule of thumb is that when wearing regular shoes, you are probably neutral running if your feet face forward in a straight position.
Stability running shoes were designed to, you guessed it, add a higher level of stability for those who may have issues maintaining safe arch support while exercising. These athletes are called pronators because they overpronate or flatten their feet when running. Stability running shoes are made with lightweight extra support in the heel and arch sections to ensure the arch is elevated.
The downside is this shoe type is heavier but highly comfortable.
6. Motion control
Motion control running shoes are best for those with severely flat feet, which is officially referred to as “overpronation.” This running shoe type was engineered to deliver the best stability and shock absorption with the most support for over-pronators and those with a stockier build. Motion control running does typically have an added stabilizer on the inner section of the heel counter to provide enhanced stability.
Meanwhile, the outer sole is constructed from carbon rubber, which is stiffer and heavier to add durability.
7. An unlikely option, trail shoes
Trail shoes are running shoes designed for those who like off-road, more unpredictable environments and should not be confused with hiking boots or shoes. Trail shoes offer deeper treads for improved traction, better stability than typical running does, and better ankle support. Each of these features is important on the pickleball court since you need to move quickly in all directions without injuring your feet or ankles.
Q: What is the average lifespan of a pickleball shoe?
A: Shoe durability is based on the number of miles expected to get out of the unit. For a pickleball athletic shoe, the typical lifespan ranges from three-to-five hundred miles. This varies greatly depending on the wearer’s weight and the amount of jumping they do.
Most recreational pickleball players don’t have specific pickleball shoes; they wear them when doing other forms of exercise, walking around town, etc.
Q: What is a gait analysis?
A: A gait analysis is a scientific review of the way in which your feet contact the ground when running to determine the best type of shoe that will provide the most stability and comfort to your feet during use.
Q: Where is the best place to purchase pickleball shoes?
A: Once you must determine the best category of shoes to meet your needs on the pickleball court, you can purchase shoes online or in a store. Experts recommend buying shoes in a store (unless your online retailer has free returns) because you gain the advantage of trying on assorted sizes to determine which is the most comfortable and offers the best fit, support, and stability. Also, many shoe stores can perform gait analysis on the spot to determine the best shoe for your needs.
If you choose to purchase in a store, be ready with your top two categories so that you can compare the features of each.