Pickleball is a fun sport that is becoming more and more popular. It is a bit like tennis but played on a smaller court with some different rules. Lots of people want to try pickleball but wonder if they need special shoes or if they can just wear their regular athletic shoes. This article will explain why running shoes are usually not the best choice for playing pickleball and what types of shoes work better.
Why Running Shoes Are Not Ideal for Pickleball?
Running shoes are designed for forward motion. When you run, you mostly move straight ahead. Pickleball requires a lot of side to side motion and quick changes in direction. This puts different demands on your shoes.
Here are some of the reasons why running shoes are not the best for pickleball:
Lack of Lateral Support
Running shoes are made to support forward and backward motion. They do not have as much support for side to side movement. In pickleball, you have to move quickly from side to side to get to the ball. Running shoes can feel unstable when moving laterally.
The soles of running shoes are made for traction on straight surfaces like roads, tracks, or treadmills. They do not grip as well on the slick surface of a pickleball court. This can lead to sliding around instead of firm footing.
Cushioning Can Be a Problem
Running shoes have a lot of cushioning to absorb impact. All that cushioning is great for running but can be unstable on a pickleball court. It allows too much motion in the shoe which can lead to ankle rolls or falls.
Lack of Ankle Support
Many running shoes have low collars that provide little ankle support. Pickleball requires quick stops, starts and direction changes. You need shoes that wrap securely around your ankle to prevent rolling.
Not Designed for Lateral Motion
As mentioned before, running shoes are built for forward and back, not side to side. The way they are constructed and stability features they offer are best for straight-line activities like running, walking, or hiking. For the multi-directional nature of pickleball, you need shoes designed to move side to side.
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Better Shoe Options for Pickleball
Since traditional running shoes are not ideal for safely playing pickleball, you are better off with shoes designed for court sports like tennis, racquetball or badminton. Here are some better options:
Tennis shoes or other court shoes are designed for the quick starts, stops and lateral motions used in racquet sports. They provide stability for side to side movements and quick changes in direction.
The soles give good traction on indoor court surfaces without too much cushioning. They offer ankle support and stability to help prevent rolled ankles.
Many pickleball players wear court shoes for the best comfort and performance. Leather or synthetic leather shoes provide durability and support. Mesh panels offer breathability.
Some popular court shoe brands include Asics, Adidas, New Balance, Nike, Babolat, K-Swiss and more. Models like the Asics Gel Resolution or Adidas Barricade are great options.
Pickleball Specific Shoes
There are now some athletic shoe companies making models designed specifically for pickleball. These offer all the features needed for comfort and performance in the unique motions of pickleball.
Brands with pickleball shoes include Asics, Adidas, New Balance, Nike, Prince, Skechers, K-Swiss, and more. Examples are the Asics Gel-Dedicate 5, New Balance 1296v2, and Prince NFS.
These shoes have lateral reinforcements for side to side stability. They also have non-marking soles to avoid scuffing the court surface. Cushioning is moderate to prevent rolling. Ankle collars and lacing systems enhance support. Traction is optimized for indoor play.
Here are a few other tips for choosing good pickleball shoes:
- Try shoes on with the same socks you will play in to get the right fit
- Make sure toes have room to move but heels don’t slip
- Leather or synthetic leather uppers last longer than mesh
- Soles should flex easily but not be overly flexible
- Don’t wear brand new shoes – break them in before play
- Inspect shoe soles regularly for wear and replace as needed
- Consider adding orthotic insoles if you need extra foot support
Taking the time to get the proper footwear for pickleball protects your feet and ankles while allowing you to play at your best. Don’t just grab any old athletic shoe to play in! Go with shoes designed for the quick movements and multi-directional play of pickleball.
Proper Footwork Technique in Pickleball
Once you have suitable pickleball shoes, there are some footwork techniques that will help you play your best! Having good form reduces stress on your feet and legs while allowing you to move quickly. Here are key footwork tips:
When waiting for a shot, stay balanced on the balls of your feet. Keep knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. This athletic stance allows you to move any direction quickly. Don’t be flat-footed.
Use small choppy steps to smoothly adjust your position and prepare for your own shot. Keep steps compact so you don’t overrun the ball.
Shuffle smoothly with your feet barely leaving the ground. No big bounds or hops! Gentle movements keep you controlled.
Avoid crossing your feet when moving laterally. Step out with one foot then bring the other next to it in a “T” shape. Crossing over can make you trip.
Use the Core
Initiate movement from your core muscles, not just your feet and legs. Rotate your core towards where you want to move.
Keep knees flexed so you stay low. This gives you greater balance and control compared to moving with straight, stiff legs.
When changing direction, push forcefully off the foot opposite the direction you want to go. This powers rapid lateral motions.
After hitting the ball, carry your momentum all the way through the swing. Don’t stop abruptly – keep moving in that direction.
Get back to center court quickly after each shot. Short steps diagonal to the net get you back in ready position fast.
With the right shoes and footwork habits, you can really maximize your pickleball game! You will find moving fun and effortless.
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The Risks of Using Running Shoes for Pickleball
Using running shoes instead of proper court shoes for pickleball can negatively impact performance and be risky. Here are potential issues:
Without the right traction, running shoes can slide around on the court surface. This makes it hard to start and stop smoothly or change direction. You could end up slipping and falling.
Loss of Control
Cushioned running shoes absorb shock well but allow too much motion for precise footwork. It is hard to control the exact placement of your feet in soft, unstable shoes.
Lack of Support
Running shoes lack the lateral reinforcement and ankle support needed for quick side to side motions and sudden stops. This increases the chance of rolling an ankle.
The repetitive motions of pickleball in shoes without proper stability put more strain on feet, ankles, knees, hips and back. This can lead to pain and overuse injuries over time.
Unstable, slippery shoes slow down your reaction time since you can’t move as quickly. This gives you less time to get to the ball.
Without solid footing, you can’t put as much force into your shots. Power and swing speed are reduced compared to stable court shoes.
It takes more effort to play in running shoes, leading to faster fatigue in your feet, legs and core. This makes it hard to keep stamina over long games or tournaments.
The lack of support and traction is frustrating compared to proper shoes designed for the sport. You can’t execute shots the way you want and don’t enjoy the game as much.
Saving your running shoes for actual running and opting for supportive court shoes eliminates these downsides so you can have an awesome pickleball experience!
Pickleball Shoe Buying Guide
If you are ready to purchase some new shoes just for pickleball, keep these key factors in mind:
Type of Shoe
Look for court shoes designed specifically for pickleball or other lateral racquet sports like tennis or squash. The construction suits the game’s motions.
Reinforcements in the sole should stabilize feet and ankles during side to side movements. The midsole and upper areas help prevent rolling.
Shoe soles need to grip pickleball court surfaces without too much or too little traction. The tread pattern impacts performance.
Lightweight shoes around 10-13 ounces allow quick footwork. Heavier shoes cause fatigue while playing.
Moderate cushioning absorbs some shock but maintains stability. Too much soft cushioning hampers control.
Height of the collar and lacing system affects ankle support. The shoe should grip your ankle securely.
Court shoes for pickleball take a beating, so high-quality leather or synthetic leather increases longevity.
Get a snug fit without pinch points. Toes need wiggle room and heels shouldn’t slip. Order 1/2 size up if between sizes.
Cushioning and support features like footbeds and sockliners should make shoes comfortable for long games.
Pickleball shoes cost $50 to over $150. More expensive shoes generally offer better construction and features.
Popular athletic brands like Asics, New Balance, Adidas, Nike and others make models ideal for pickleball.
Keeping these factors and your individual needs in mind makes it easier to select high-performing and comfortable pickleball shoes. Don’t just default to your running shoes!
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In summary, running shoes are usually not a good choice for playing pickleball. Pickleball requires different footwork than just running forward. You need shoes that provide lateral support, stability, and traction for quick side to side motions and change of direction.
Court shoes designed for racquet sports like tennis are better suited for pickleball. Even better are shoes made specifically for pickleball, which are tailored exactly for the game’s movement patterns. Wearing improper footwear when playing pickleball can hinder performance and lead to injury over time.
Investing in quality pickleball shoes matched to your foot type allows you to play your best and have fun. Don’t jeopardize your game and safety by choosing regular running shoes. While it seems like any athletic shoe should work, you will notice a big difference with shoes built for multi-directional court athletics. Protect your feet and level up your pickleball play with the proper footwear!