Although I’m a very friendly and loving person, but when I see people playing pickleball in their running shoes, either I want to kill myself or them. Running shoes are the worst shoes, in fact, “injurious” to play pickleball in. To make you understand why you should never wear running shoes when hitting the near court, here’s a brief analysis of pickleball shoes vs. running shoes.
Basically, running shoes are made for forward motion instead of lateral motion and you can’t safely play pickleball in shoes that don’t provide you with a side-to-side motion. Running shoes also provide cushioning in the heel compartment rather than the toe box. Also, the midsole isn’t thick and the show is quite narrow from the mid, which puts your balance and comfort at stake. And guess what? This is just an overview. Let’s dig a bit deeper.
What makes running shoes the ugliest footwear for pickleball?
Running shoes are a regular-wear for many of you and since pickleball is the game for anyone and anywhere with no strict rules and regulations, many beginners are there on the court with their running shoes “because they feel comfortable and confident” in them. Not only the running shoes is risky for your well-being, but also act as a stumbling block in your gameplay. Here are the top 7 pickleball shoes vs. running shoe arguments.
In running shoes, weight is the dominant factor because you can’t run in something weighing over a pound. That’s why running shoes are a regular-wear for many people for their lightweight and comfort. Pickleball shoes are heavier than running shoes because of the thick outsole and insole.
In running, your only motive is to move forward and stay consistent without getting tired. Pickleball asks much more than that. The torsional stability, balance, safe play, side movements, etc come at a cost of increased weight. However, many brands have now started to manufacture lighter court shoes for tennis and pickleball. The upcourt 4 by ASICS just weighs 9 oz. and feels much lighter on the court. While it’s good to know the average good quality running shoes weigh around 6.5-8 oz.
Running shoes has a heel-toe drop design, i.e., the heel is higher than the toe. Whereas, pickleball shoe has a consistent design with a wider toe box. The heel-toe strike design protects your heel from impact and sprain when you’re continually on the move and putting pressure on your feet. No doubt, pickleball shoe requires solid protection for the heel with excellent impact resistance, but the narrow toe box is the deal breaker. There isn’t a consistent movement, and thus your toe needs random relaxation to stay comfortable on the court. Unfortunately, running shoes don’t provide that and you’ll likely have an immediate sprain or rolling ankle in the middle of the game.
Running shoes has a softer insole that’s dedicated to absorbing impact and shock at best. These insoles are less durable for racquet sports as you’re mostly jumping and putting so much pressure below the knees. Pickleball shoes have a quick thick and rigid insole which works to provide balance and keep the tread design consistent.
Indoor pickleball shoes, however, have the same degree of cushioning. Some manufacturers also have specialized cushioning technology. For example, ASICS has its very own Gel Cushioning technology utilized throughout the Resolution Court Shoes Series. But one more thing these shoes provide is better traction, grab, and balance on the court when you move around. Running shoes, despite having a greater cushion don’t live up to that level. In fact, the cushion loses its comfort quickly as the spring is continually pressed on.
The entire purpose of a running shoe is to provide your feet support and carry your weight, while pickleball shoes are designed to provide you stability, traction, and torque. Only if you intend to move forward and be dependent on your shoe, then a running shoe may help you, both these conditions stand void if you’re standing on the court.
In pickleball, you need lateral support so that you can move side to side without falling or damaging your ankle. Running shoes don’t provide lateral support, and even some high-end running shoes provide lateral support through the cushion, the effect is very minimal.
In running shoes, the sole is flared while in pickleball the sole is thick and has a half-herringbone tread. The flared design cause instant injury if you take one miscalculated step from one side to another. Tread design doesn’t matter in running shoes. They’re only dropped when they lose the cushion. In contrast, pickleball shoes need to be eliminated as soon as the lines on the outsole begin to disappear, since the shoes lose their traction when they lose the tread design.
Also, the sole thickness in both shoe types varies. Pickleball shoes tend to have a thicker and more rigid outsole, so they can withstand rigorous surfaces. Running shoes don’t necessarily have thicker outsoles.
In running shoes the sole bends from the mid, making it hard to move from one side to another. This also creates strain as your feet are still in the move while you’ve stopped moving. Pickleball shoes don’t bend from the mid, and thus, stop your feet right on the moment you’ve stopped moving. This is one of the most critical factors to look for when buying pickleball shoes for agile players.
Lastly, you’re compromising all your comfort when you’re in your running shoes. These shoes aren’t good for your ankles and joints. Most likely, running shoes cause hip and joint injury if used for sports like pickleball where you constantly need support for lateral movements and excellent torsional stability.
Are the Running shoes worth it?
Running shoes are absolutely worth it—BUT FOR RUNNING AND WALKING ONLY. If you’re considering running shoes for pickleball, stop right there, rethink and change your decision. You still have time to save your joints, ankles, and feet from injuries. If you’re really tight on budget and can’t afford a new pair for pickleball, utilize any old court/tennis shoes for outdoor pickleball and badminton/volleyball shoes for indoors. Anyways, I hope the entire discussion about pickleball vs. running shoes was useful and if anything it taught you, I really wish it’s your decision to replace your running shoes with a decent court shoe. Have a safe and healthy playing time ahead!
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