Pickleball is a fun sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It is played with a paddle and a plastic ball on a badminton-sized court. Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors and is a great activity for all ages. As the sport has grown in popularity, more and more people are wondering what type of shoes work best for playing pickleball. A common question is whether basketball shoes can be used to play pickleball.
An Overview of Pickleball Shoes
When choosing shoes for pickleball, there are a few key factors to consider:
- Traction – Pickleball requires quick starts and stops, so shoes with good traction are important to prevent slips and falls. The outsoles need to grip the court surface well.
- Support – Lateral support is important in pickleball to allow stable side-to-side movements. The shoes should have a solid sole that prevents rolling of the feet.
- Cushioning – Cushioning helps absorb impact and reduce stress on the joints. Midsole cushioning is a key feature in pickleball shoes.
- Weight – Pickleball requires agility, so lightweight shoes are preferable to bulky, heavy shoes. Excess weight can slow down movements.
- Breathability – Pickleball is active and can cause sweaty feet. Breathable uppers allow ventilation to keep feet cool and dry.
- Durability – Dragging the feet and quick lunges can wear out shoes. Pickleball shoes should use materials that are sturdy and long-lasting.
Many companies now manufacture shoes specifically designed for pickleball. But if you don’t want to buy special pickleball shoes, other athletic shoes like tennis, badminton, or cross-training shoes can work. The key is finding a shoe that offers the right blend of traction, support, cushioning and light weight.
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Why Basketball Shoes Aren’t Ideal for Pickleball
- Basketball Shoes – Basketball shoe outsoles are designed to grip and pivot on indoor hardwood basketball courts. The tread patterns and rubber compounds give great traction for lateral cuts and quick stops.
- Pickleball Shoes – Pickleball is often played outdoors on tennis or sport court surfaces. The shoes need tread patterns that can grip these slick outdoor surfaces and granular coatings better than indoor basketball courts.
So while basketball shoes provide fantastic traction indoors, they won’t grip as well outside on pickleball courts. You may find yourself slipping in basketball shoes during outdoor play.
- Basketball Shoes – Basketball requires a lot of high impact jumping for rebounds and slam dunks. So basketball shoes have thick, well-cushioned midsoles to absorb these heavy loads.
- Pickleball Shoes – There is much less vertical leaping in pickleball. Midsoles don’t need to be as thick and heavy. Pickleball shoes focus more on stability and lateral support over heavy cushioning.
The thick cushioning in basketball shoes makes them less agile for quick pickleball movements. All that padding adds weight and reduces court feel.
- Basketball Shoes – The average men’s basketball shoe weighs around 14-20 oz. Basketball shoes need to be durable and supportive for a bigger, heavier athlete.
- Pickleball Shoes – Pickleball shoes are much lighter, averaging 10-13 oz. Lighter shoes improve maneuverability which is key in pickleball.
Basketball shoes’ heavier weight reduces agility and speed around the court. Their bulkiness also provides less stability during pickleball play.
- Basketball Shoes – Basketball shoes are high tops that wrap around the ankle. This gives lateral support for quick cuts and jumps. Thick midsoles and wide outsoles provide stability.
- Pickleball Shoes – Pickleball shoes are low tops with less ankle coverage to allow flexibility. They have lower profile outsoles and less bulky midsoles tailored to pickleball movement patterns.
The high tops and wide base of basketball shoes reduce mobility for pickleball movements like side shuffles or drop shots.
When Basketball Shoes Work for Pickleball
Basketball shoes aren’t the best choice for pickleball for the reasons above. But in certain scenarios, you can make basketball shoes work if needed:
- Indoor Pickleball – On indoor courts, basketball shoes provide better traction than most athletic shoes. Their cushioning also helps on hard indoor surfaces.
- Beginner Pickleball Players – For new players who are learning and moving slower, basketball shoes offer more support and stability. As skills improve, lighter pickleball shoes become more important.
- Ankle Support Needs – Players recovering from ankle injuries may benefit from the extra ankle coverage of high top basketball shoes during play.
- Budget Constraints – Basketball shoes you already own are cheaper than buying new pickleball shoes. They can work in a pinch if you are on a tight budget.
While not perfect, basketball shoes can get you through a pickleball game if needed. Focus on indoor play and don’t expect top performance compared to purpose-built pickleball shoes.
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Pickleball Shoe Recommendations
Here are some top shoe choices specifically designed for pickleball:
ASICS is known for performance athletic shoes. The Gel-Rocket 9 is their latest pickleball shoe model.
- Lightweight at 11.2 oz
- Full-length Gel cushioning
- Durable rubber outsole with good traction
- Supportive synthetic leather upper
- Lace-up design with padded tongue/collar
The Gel-Rocket 9 offers excellent comfort with great support and stability for pickleball play. It grips outdoor and indoor courts well while staying light on your feet.Shop on Amazon
New Balance makes very popular tennis shoes and their 696v3 is perfect for pickleball.
- Super light at 9.4 oz
- PROBANK stability technology
- NDurance rubber outsole
- C-CAP midsole cushioning
- Durable synthetic/mesh upper
- Padded tongue/collar
The 696v3 has a featherlight feel to enhance quickness and agility on the court. It excels at both indoor and outdoor pickleball with excellent grip.Shop on Amazon
Mizuno is renowned for advanced athletic footwear. The Wave Pickleball shoe is engineered for serious players.
- Mizuno Wave Plate for stability
- Dynamotion Fit in the upper
- XG rubber outsole for longer wear
- Lightweight at 11.6 oz
- Breathable design with padded tongue/collar
- Ideal for indoor or outdoor courts
Mizuno Wave technology gives great shock absorption and energy return while remaining stable and supportive. A top performing shoe for experienced pickleball athletes.Shop on Amazon
How to Choose the Right Shoes?
When selecting pickleball shoes, keep these tips in mind:
- Try them on in-store if possible to test fit and comfort
- Prioritize light weight, traction, and support/stability
- Ensure adequate cushioning for your playing style
- Choose athletic shoe brands known for quality and performance
- Breathable mesh uppers work best for hot outdoor play
- Pick court specific outsoles based on where you play most
- Buy shoes with durable materials/construction to maximize longevity
Proper pickleball shoes can enhance your game by keeping you moving fluidly and preventing injury. While basketball shoes work in certain cases, shoes designed specifically for pickleball really maximize your performance on the courts!
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Frequently Asked Questions About Pickleball Shoes
What tread pattern should I look for in pickleball shoes?
For outdoor pickleball, look for a herringbone or multidirectional tread pattern to allow traction in all directions. Avoid excessively deep or aggressive treads which can pick up debris. Finer tread patterns work best for slick sport court surfaces.
How should the shoes fit?
Pickleball shoes should have a snug fit in the heel and midfoot to keep your foot stable during play. But allow a little wiggle room for the toes. Well-fitted shoes reduce risk of blisters while giving needed support.
How do I know when to replace my shoes?
Replace your pickleball shoes about every 6 months or sooner if you notice the traction wearing down, excessive creasing in the sole or the cushioning feels compressed. Worn out shoes lose support and can cause injury. Write the purchase date on your shoes to remember when to swap them out.
Should I choose leather or synthetic uppers?
For pickleball, lightweight synthetic leather or mesh uppers allow more breathability. Leather is fine too but can get hotter during active play. Synthetic leather is more affordable but mesh can rip more easily. So weigh your priorities for upper materials.
Do I need special shoes for indoor versus outdoor courts?
You can use the same pickleball shoes on both surfaces. But some shoes optimized for outdoors on asphalt won’t grip quite as well indoors. And deep outdoor treads pick up dust inside. Prioritize where you play most when choosing court-specific shoes.
Pickleball’s popularity has surged as more people discover its fun, social nature combining key elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. Having proper footwear enhances your pickleball game by allowing quick, injury-free play. Basketball shoes can work in certain cases thanks to their cushioning and ankle support. But their poor traction, bulky weight, and design make them less than ideal. For best performance, choose lightweight, breathable shoes with stability, support, and grip tailored specifically to the demands of pickleball. Then you’ll be able to shuttle around the court and rule the dink with confidence!