Many take the importance of shoes and protecting your feet and ankles for granted. I certainly did until I rolled my ankle while walking the dog one day. When I went to the foot doctor, she said the shoes I was wearing were terrible for any exercise type since they lacked ankle and arch support, quality cushioning and were much too loose.
Around one year later, I still wear ankle braces while exercising and continue to have minor occasional irritating pain. So the lesson here is that you can’t undervalue a good pair of shoes! Pickleball is a fast-paced and fun game that requires movement in all directions, so having a pair of shoes that provides excellent support is critical.
You certainly don’t want to move to the left quickly, then roll your ankle and be down for the count for months! If you’re new to pickleball, you may wonder, what are the best shoes to wear? Even as a veteran player, you may read this article and uncover that, like me, you haven’t been wearing the right shoes this entire time!
Keep reading to learn more about the game of pickleball and the best women’s shoes to wear!
What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is an addicting game that may look strange when you first see it being played. The court and net are scaled-down versions of a tennis court, which makes sense since the game was founded from badminton when two guys started experimenting with different balls and paddles since their family was bored with badminton. However, unlike tennis, a pickleball ball is made from polyester, while the paddles are wood, like table tennis.
The rules are simple, the game is played in singles or doubles format, and the same court size is used for both. All serves must be performed underhand and cannot land in the no-volley zone of the court. No “lets” exist on the serve, like in tennis, and the ball must bounce once before being hit.
Players can only use groundstrokes within the no-volley zone, and points can only be earned during serving. The official rules have the game being played to 11 points, although some players modify this to 15 or 21.
Types of women’s pickleball shoes
One of the most significant benefits of playing pickleball is you don’t need a specific shoe type to play. For example, basketball experts recommend wearing basketball shoes when playing since they provide specific features that improve performance and ensure safety, like high-cut ankle support. When dressing for pickleball, you have the luxury of wearing various shoe types!
1. Cross-training shoes for all occasions
Cross-trainers were created to be used for many fitness activities. They offer a nice balance of stability and support, both of which are required for different sports. Most cross-trainers are made from leather pieces mixed with mesh fabric to allow for durability and breathability.
Also, this shoe type has treads o the sole that provide excellent grip to the court. Since pickleball is played on a much smaller court than tennis, less running and movement are required. Therefore, using the general cross-training shoe is an excellent choice since it provides the essential features needed for performance and safety.
- All-in-one shoe – you can take aerobic classes, cycle, jog, or play pickleball with specific shoes for each activity, or use the cross-trainer, which saves money and eliminates closet clutter.
- Functional, durable, versatile – cross trainers have all these features that make them the “shoe of choice” when engaging in multiple sporting activities.
- Performs well in inclement weather – when I say inclement weather, I mean light rain or a damp court, not a hurricane. Cross-trainers have good sole tread, which will help with gripping the ground and keep your ankles safe.
- Not for everyone – for those who are serious about pickleball or who have other strict workout regimens, like running, using a cross-trainer isn’t the best option.
2. Court shoes that provide a nice balance for the game
If you’re serious about pickleball and want a pair of shoes specifically for the game, then court shoes are the gold standard. Also called tennis shoes, the exterior of court shoes is constructed from pliable and incredibly durable leather. The sole of the shoes features exceptional tread so you can quickly move around the pickleball court and stop on a dime.
While most court shoes have a blow the ankle or low cut, a high cut also exists but is mainly used for games that require superior ankle support when jumping. As a new or veteran player, finding a good pair of court shoes is the top recommendation for this list. If you aren’t a serious player and don’t want to spend the money on a pair of shoes specific to pickleball, then the others on this list are excellent backup options.
3. The three types of running shoes to give you options
While pickleball doesn’t have nearly the running involved in tennis, finding a good pair of running shoes for the game can only help your performance; plus, you can use them elsewhere, especially if you’re an avid jogger on the concrete or treadmill. The running shoe types exist (the fourth is minimalist, which is not recommended for pickleball), including:
4. Motion control
Known as overpronation, which is having flat feet, motion control helps correct that through arch support and cushioning. Motion control running shoes were created to provide optimal shock absorption and cushioning since flat-footed wearers lack this support. The inner section of the heel construction features a stabilizer to improve stability further.
The outer sole is heavier and stiffer due to the carbon rubber material, which adds durability.
- Better trigger the quadricep muscles – this strengthens the quads and surrounding muscles to lower the risk of patella-femoral pain syndrome.
- Exceptionally durable – due to the materials and construction.
- Lowers foot fatigue – eases a steadier activation of lower leg muscles to remove some of the foot stress during exercise activities.
- Reduce the risk of injury – since these shoes are designed to correct flat feet through cushioning and arch support, they reduce injury risk.
- Incredibly expensive – since they are a specific shoe type, they run with a higher price tag.
- Less comfortable to many runners due to the less cushioning and firmer midsoles.
- Limit the foot’s natural movement – which some claim can hinder specific muscles from strengthening.
With approximately 50-60 percent of runners falling into the neutral running shoe category, this shoe type is for those with normal arches, meaning they run in a neutral pattern. Essentially, when a wearer with a neutral pattern runs, the heel’s outer portion contacts the ground first and then rolls inward by approximately 15 degrees. The rest of the foot then touches the ground in a flat pattern, pushing the foot away from the ground using the toes.
Basically, the contact with the ground begins at the back side of the foot and moves to the front with each step. Neutral running shoes are constructed with a heavier heel than the other two because the foot is evenly touching the ground with each stride, so even weight distribution is present. With the heel contacting the ground first and toes last, the rest of the foot doesn’t require extra padding.
Neutral running shoes are some of the lightest weight on this list due to fewer support requirements. At home, you can self-analyze if you fall into the 50-60 percent of athletes that can wear neutral running shoes. Simply and naturally, stand flat in regular shoes and see the way your feet lay.
The alternative is you can visit a running or shoe store to have your gait analyzed on a treadmill by professionals. The general rule of thumb is if your feet face forward in a straight position when wearing regular shoes, you probably require neutral shoes.
- Feel more connected to the ground – this improves power in the stride and enhances stability.
- Increased muscle activation – creates less reliance on the shoe to correct weaknesses.
- Less cushion foam – allows the shoe to last longer and is lighter weight.
- Lower heel-to-toe drop – improves specific injuries like IT Band Syndrome.
- Changes your stride – due to a thicker heel.
- Weakens your arch – you will slowly require more support over time.
Stability running shoes are another type of specific shoe for those with poor arch support. This added arch support is for pronators, which are those who flatten their feet (overpronate) when running or walking. The resulting construction to help support pronators is a lightweight material that won’t bear down on their feet with beefed-up arch and heel support to keep the arch elevated when the shoe contacts the ground.
- Arch remains elevated – due to the increased heel and arch support.
- Lightweight shoe – doesn’t bear down the foot when used
- Provides excellent arch support – eliminates arch problems for pronators.
- Can change your stride – due to the heel and arch support.
- May gradually require more support in the future.
7. Trail shoes that may fit your player needs
Trail shoes are an unlikely option when selecting the best pickleball shoe. If you already own them, then don’t go out and purchase a new pair specifically for the game. Trail shoes were created for those who do more off-road running in unpredictable environments.
This shoe type is not to be confused with hiking boots or shoes which are not recommended for the pickleball court. The reason trail shoes are a good option for pickleball is they feature better ankle support, improved stability over standard running shoes, and better traction due to the deeper treads. Since you’re moving quickly in all directions when playing, these features help with that support type to limit ankle or foot injuries.
- Better ankle support – since trail shoes were designed for unpredictable running trails, which could have rocks and other random hazards, you will have the best ankle support, second only to basketball shoes.
- Deeper treads – provides excellent traction, which is the superior choice for wet outdoor courts or during inclement weather.
- Improved stability – due to the deeper treads, your stability on the court is significantly improved.
- Heavier than other shoes on this list – due to the extra support and deeper treads (thicker cushioning), trail shoes are much heavier.