What can take the smile away just as quickly is an injury or bad set made from wearing the wrong shoes. “I’ve witnessed a significant number of injuries, [and] most of these injuries can be attributed to players underestimating the importance of wearing appropriate court shoes,” says Laura Gainor, the founder of Vossberg Gainor, the world’s first Pickleball marketing agency.
Not sure if your sneakers make the cut? We’ve tapped pickleball pros, coaches, and aficionados to get info on what makes a good pickleball shoe. Then we took their recs and sifted through countless reviews to find the best pickleball shoes for every need (including two pairs from the brand worn by pro pickleball player Parris Todd, shown above).
Read on to learn which shoes you should sport on the court, and to find your perfect pair so you can have your strongest, most confident game yet.
What Makes a Good Pickleball Shoe?
Alia Rieker, pickleball leader at Life Time Colorado Springs, says to look for a shoe that supports good lateral, forward, and backward movement; isn’t too heavy; and has a tread (the bottom part of the shoe) that can hold up well over time.
What if you’re a beginner — can you use a sneaker you already have, like your favorite running shoes? That’s a big “no” from Nike Global Trainer and pickleball enthusiast Betina Gozo Shimonek. “The biggest thing NOT to do is wear something like a running shoe, which has a lot of support in the heel to keep you moving forward, but not a ton of support moving side to side.”
What about your typical cross trainer? For your first few times on the court, Reiker, who trains a ton of first-timers, says it’s OK to wear your favorite cross-training sneakers, as they typically offer more lateral support compared to running sneaks. But she emphasizes to be careful and to eventually invest in a pair of more court-specific shoes for pickleball. “To protect your toes, ankles, knees and hips, you should eventually purchase a good pair of court shoes to support their movement on the pickleball court,” the coach explains. As the sport explodes across the US, there are more and more sneakers being marketed as pickleball shoes, but other court sneakers (such as those designed for tennis or even indoor volleyball) are a good choice, too.
Another detail you shouldn’t overlook: the toes. You’ll want to make sure your toes move around well in the shoe, Reiker says. “Do they have enough room to grip and clinch, but also splay out and stretch?” she adds. “If my pinky toe is getting pinched in, it impacts how my whole foot moves.” Reiker recommends going to a store to try on some shoes and test out the sneakers with a few common Pickleball moves, “walk around the store, do some quick stops, jump around — really feel the shoes out and see how happy or sad your feet feel in them.”
Not sure where to start? Click through to check out our list of picks.