By now, you’ve known your poor decision in choosing pickleball shoes was a disaster and you must be reading this article with a broken shoe, or the worst, broken ankle. So, for your next game, here are all the factors that ensure a quality pickleball shoe pair that’s comfortable for your feet, durable for at least a year, protects you from injuries, and above all, uplifts your game.
Although we were quite busy teaching the intermediates the art of serving and returning lob shots, for you, we made time and conducted research in several outlets of sports shoe outlets, i.e., Adidas, Nike ASICS, K-Swiss, etc. We talked to the people in charge about the features, tips, and factors that make the shoes best at performing on a pickleball court. Let aside, 5 members of our team tested them on courts for 3 weeks. Because if you don’t have the right shoe, every strategy, hack, or trick stands void.
What makes a pair of shoes best for pickleball?
Pickleball shoes are an utmost necessary for playing pickleball. You need a decent pair of shoes to make sure you get the one that truly makes the difference and for that, you need these 10 most important factors to look for. These are:
1. Indoor Vs. Outdoor Pickleball Shoes
Just like the indoor and outdoor court has differences between the earth and sky, the shoe for both court types varies similarly. Pickleball shoes are designed keeping the court surface in mind and that’s why, to complement the composite/hardwood surfaces, indoor shoes have thin soles but better grips to provide you better support on the court. For an indoor court, you need thick and soft rubbers to provide a better grab. These shoes help in maintaining your balance on the court.
Outdoor shoes, on the other hand, have a thicker upper sole and provide better traction and shock absorption on the court. Outdoor shoes are heavy than indoor ones so they stay stable on rough surfaces. So, you need to choose which court you prefer to play and then get a pair most compatible with the surface.
Here’s a twist: suppose you play in both indoor and outdoor courts. You can only afford one pair whether indoor or outdoor? What should you choose? We’d say the outdoor court, however, we were recently introduced to combination shoes that provide balance in both indoor and outdoor court. Combination shoes enable better traction, grip, shock absorption, and keep your feet stay rigid on the ground. You may need to spend a few more bucks for a combination of shoes, but you’ll still save 3 quarters of the amount required to buy 2 pairs.
You can also narrow it down based on which court you “mostly” prefer because the other one will be rare and casual.
If your pickleball shoe has a great insole, outsole, and midsole, 90% of problems will be solved straight away. For indoor, you need a soft gum rubber outsole so the shoes don’t slip away. For outdoor, the gum rubber requires to be thicker and harder so it doesn’t wear out quickly. Although both indoor and outdoor pickleball shoes, in terms of soles, varies greatly, the deciding factors are pretty much the same. The 4 main factors for having an excellent sole are:
- The linear pattern on the outsole.
- Higher-density rubber outsole.
- Cushioning of the midsole.
- Solid and rubber gum insole to cover your joints.
- To protect from impact and fall off, the outsole needs to be hard and solid.
Many brands have their own technologies for the insole. For example, ASICS has Cushioning GEL® technology for the insole and AHAR® compound outsole that results in an incredible feel and performance of the shoe on the court.
3. Toe Box
To prevent toe aches, the toe box needs to be large and wide. Because pickleball requires lateral movements, your foot is always on the move and when they don’t have enough room to move in, they’ll develop aches and soreness. A narrow toe box also causes difficulty in moving around the court.
Of course, you don’t want a whole mountain lifting your feet up. Your pickleball shoes should be lighter and easy to carry. Hefty pickleball shoes make your leg uncomfortable and drain your stamina. You can’t play longer than half an hour if your pickleball shoe weighs over a pound. Pickleball shoes usually range between 6.5 to 13 oz. The lighter the pickleball shoe, the longer you can play with them as they constantly contribute to comfort.
However, if you’re playing outdoors, the shoe will be a little heavier. Top-of-line pickleball shoes from Adidas and Nike weigh around 10-11 oz. While ASICS shoes are much lighter in weight. ASICS upcourt 4 just weighs 9 oz.
Weight also depends on the shoe size as well. Those with small feet will always be in benefit and you can’t hate them for having this atypical favor.
The material line is vast when it comes to pickleball shoes. Synthetic shoes are the premium choice for selecting the material. Many pros wear synthetic shoes. There’s a new trend of perforated shoes. These are breathable and look very stylish. However, they come with a higher price point.
If comfort and weight are your key concerns, consider mesh or soft fabrics. Contrarily, if you go for style and looks, you can simply have a rocking pair of leather shoes. If you’re considering leather shoes, make sure the bending is extensive from the midpoint. Snug-fit leather shoes adopt creases after a while.
Just like in other features, many brands go out of the box and invent something different for a shoe part. In the material compartment, the swing has the same momentum. Adidas has its own proprietary abrasion-resistant material, K Swiss uses molded polyurethane, etc
A good pickleball shoe lasts at least half a year without any wear and tear. On an estimate, that’s 60 hours of pickleball play. Durability can be ensured by the materials used to make a pickleball shoe and the technologies being used as well as your style of playing.
The shoe must have foam pads, the highest quality rubber soles, the brand’s specialized material for the overall manufacturing, and a solid insole and outsole structure, so you can choose any style, i.e., aggressive or fun, and any court type to distribute your playing hours. Durability is also dependent on shoe maintenance (coming in a while).
When to replace your pickleball shoes?
Pickleball shoes must be replaced when they’re worn out. Expert recommends every player should replace their shoes after 60 hours of play. But that depends on your style of play. Some shoes last longer than others, so here are a few signs your shoe will give when its lifespan is ended.
- You’ll often have blisters and soreness.
- The tread has vanished.
- You’ll feel itchy in your shoes.
- The shoe feels larger now.
When you see all these signs showing up, it’s time your closet should welcome a new pair.
7. Pickleball shoe size guide
The right size of shoe is exactly like a soulmate for your feet–it makes everything look and feel beautiful around you. Many people, who often complain about soreness and aches don’t have the right pair of shoes. In fact, most people don’t even know their show size. Here’s how you’ll estimate your foot size.
- Tape a piece of paper on the floor and place your foot (wearing socks) on the paper. Make sure you’re sitting on a sofa or a chair.
- Take a pencil and trace your leg. Now, mark 2 perpendicular lines; 1 vertical and one horizontal, taking the largest and widest part as edges.
This will give you a perfect estimate of your shoe size. Now add 3-4 centimeters and match the size on the chart given by the manufacturer. In addition, there are several units of measurement. For example, in USA, feet, and inches are most commonly used, but when you’re ordering from outside the US, you’ll get the measurement in metric. So make sure you’ve done your conversions first.
Getting a pickleball shoe in-store is, by far, safe. You can step in the shoe and check the size and fit by yourself. However, many online shops are now offering “try before you buy” offers, so you can order a pair based on the measurements, check when they arrive, and if the fit suits your feet, then give it a go.
Sweat is an inevitable element that you can never eliminate from your game. But one thing you can is do eliminate it from the stuff you own to play pickleball. And there’s no exception for pickleball shoes. Ventilation in the shoes is a new feature that keeps your feet dry and protects your shoes from ugly odors. If you play for extended hours, you must own a pair that provides excellent ventilation.
If you’re not comfortable in your shoes, there’s no point at all in having all the other 9 factors. You need a shoe with which you can have optimum gel cushioning and flexible mesh, the tongue and collar should be padded, and the ankle support needs to be top-notch. Also, the size must be double-checked and you must never buy a shoe with a snug fit.
Familiar with black toenails? And the ugly sprain in the fingers? That happens when you wear a pickleball shoe of the exact length of your feet. You never want to wear well-fitted shoes to stay comfortable. There should be at least 3-4 centimeters of extension in the toe box, starting from your thumb to the top shoe end, so you can easily expand your finger, make flexible movements, and yes, let’s not forget the socks also require some space to fit in.
Last and most important: the price. Pickleball shoes range between $40-$150. This year’s best-selling pickleball shoes, namely the ASICS Men’s Gel Resolution 8 have a price range of $130- $139. Adidas fall in the same price range. Nike, in this case, has an affordable range starting from $40, which means you can get two-three pairs for a year easily.
If price is the deciding factor and the higher price point goes beyond your range, you can consider having tennis shoes for playing pickleball outdoors and badminton/squat shoes for indoors. Besides, any court shoes with great torsional stability would work just fine.
Pickleball shoe Maintenance:
Pickleball shoe maintenance is directly related to its durability. The more you take care of your shoe, the longer they’ll last. For maintaining, the number one thing is washing and that’s where a great majority loses the strength of their shoe. They wash their shoe in the machine. Come on! You definitely don’t even wash your sublimated shirt in the machine, a pickleball shoe still sits so far.
So, next time, this is what you’re gonna do.
- Use dishwashing soap and a soft brush for rubbing out the dirt.
- Be gentle. Never rub the brush too hard.
- Wash with hands only and always use an air dryer after washing.
- Never use heat for washing and drying pickleball shoes.
- Wash the shoelaces separately and replace them often when they’re dirty.
- If your shoe has an ugly odor, try rubbing alcohol spray and leave them for a day.
- Never wear your shoes even if they’re slightly wet. The bacteria will multiply and cause the stink. If you can, wrap your shoes in plastic and put them in the freezer. However, remove all the food first if you’re planning to keep your shoes in the freezer.
While an average pickleball shoe life is 60 hours of play, the only way to extend it is to use a proper maintenance guide.
Which Pickleball Shoe is the best fit for you?
Not a tough question we guess… at least not now as you just read how to choose a pickleball shoe! Any pickleball shoe will be ideal now if it matches the requirement of the 10 factors discussed above. Plus, if you’re buying online, make sure to read the size guide correctly. You don’t want to be uncomfortable “still” even after scrutinizing everything.
Good luck and have healthy gameplay ahead!
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