If you're interested in joining the ever-growing ranks of pickleball, your first move should be investing in a pair of pickleball shoes (but don't forget a paddle, either).
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The sport is best described as a cross between badminton, tennis and ping-pong. As such, it calls for shoes that can handle quick direction changes and the hard surfaces of playing courts.
Before you start shopping, check out our handy guide to the best pickleball shoes of 2023 for men and women.
How We Chose
To get the lowdown on the best shoes for pickleball, we turned to David Dutrieuille, pickleball player, coach and national director of pickleball at Life Time. Then, we selected the following pairs based on criteria including:
- Cushion level
- Ankle movement
A Quick Language Note
We make deliberate choices about the language we use when it comes to gender. While more brands now carry gender-neutral options, you’ll still typically see brands market their products to men or women. Shoes are no exception.
The main difference between most men's and women's shoes lies in the shoe width and size. In some cases, men's shoes are built to support greater weights. So people with bigger bodies may want to opt for men's versions, whereas people with smaller bodies may prefer women's versions.
1. Best All-Around: K-Swiss Express Light
Sizes: 7 to 14 (men’s); 5 to 12 (women’s)
Dutrieuille likes this pair of K-Swiss pickleball shoes as a solid all-around option that won't break the bank. They're also the first court shoes specifically designed for pickleball, according to the manufacturer. As such, they're lightweight, breathable and fantastic for indoor and outdoor courts.
The heel includes a grip lining to prevent heel slippage, while added material on high-wear areas protects the shoes from abrasion during intense matches. The shoe also offers extra support in the midfoot to boost stability.
2. Best Outdoor Shoes: New Balance Fuel Cell 996v5
Sizes: 7 to 15 standard and wide (men’s); 5 to 12 standard and wide (women’s)
These tennis shoes are among the the best outdoor pickleball shoes, Dutrieuille says. They feature proprietary FuelCell foam in the midsole to propel you forward quickly to meet the ball.
The outsole of these best outdoor pickleball shoes is rugged, providing the traction and durability you need to dominate the outdoor court. A knit upper offers stretch and support in strategic areas, keeping you comfortable and secure throughout your match.
3. Best Indoor Shoes: Salming Viper 5
Sizes: 6.5 to 14 (men’s); 5.5 to 10 (women’s)
While built for racquetball and squash, Dutrieuille says these shoes are also a solid choice for the best indoor court shoes for pickleball. "Their gum rubber material is amazing," he says.
This pair will keep your feet snug and close to the court for lightning-fast, flexible movements. The outsole boasts a super sticky grip to prevent sliding, while a removable insole offers improved foot grip during take-off.
The shoes also feature a molded heel counter for stability and a reinforced midsole to prevent twisting at your ankles.
4. Best Budget: Asics Gel-Rocket 10
Sizes: 6 to 15 (men’s); 5 to 14 (women’s)
Not sure yet if pickleball is the sport for you? Ease in with the best Asics pickleball shoes, which are budget-friendly, multi-purpose indoor court shoes. They offer a flexible upper, which allows your feet to bend more naturally and move more freely across the court.
These shoes also feature a reinforced midsole for greater stability during quick transitions. Gel technology cushioning in the heel provides greater comfort and shock absorption when landing.
Bonus: These shoes come in more color combinations than other options on our list.
5. Best High Top: Nike React Hyperset
For those who want a little extra ankle protection, opt for a pair of high-top pickleball shoes. These Nike court shoes offer a little more support and stability than your average sneakers, while helping you maintain agility while playing.
These also have a grippy rubber outsole, which is a must-have for pickleball sneakers, according to Dutrieuille.
Buy it: Nike.com; Price: $120
5 Factors to Consider When Shopping for Pickleball Shoes
There are shoes built specifically for pickleball, but other court shoes will also work. In fact, pickleball shoes are nearly indistinguishable from true tennis court shoes, Dutrieuille says. Same goes for squash, volleyball and racquetball shoes.
Just steer clear of running shoes. "Most running shoes don't have very good lateral stabilization due to the forward-moving nature of running," Dutrieuille says.
As such, running shoes aren't appropriate for the quick side-to-side transitions you'll need to make during a pickleball match. ****
The fit of court shoes is typically more snug than other types of shoes. However, when you try on a pair, Dutrieuille suggests checking that you have about a ¼ to ½ a thumb's length between the top edge of the shoe and your big toe. Also, no part of your foot should ache or hurt from pressure being applied by the shoe, he adds.
We all have different definitions of comfort. Even if a pair of court shoes technically fits well, you may not find them comfortable. After all, court shoes offer varying levels of cushioning and support. So, try on several pairs of court shoes and note how you feel in greater or less cushioning and support features. Choose the shoes you prefer.
Every shoe brand has its own marketing lingo, which makes it tough to know what materials to look for in a pickleball shoe. When shopping, check that the pickleball shoes have a mesh upper for breathability, foam or gel cushioning in the sole and a grippy rubber outsole designed for a hard court, Dutrieuille says.
You want your shoes to last. So, seek pairs with a reinforced midsole and upper and a thick rubber sole.
However, be prepared to replace your shoes every three months or so if you play pickleball regularly (three or four times per week). "I personally go through one pair every three weeks," Dutrieuille says.
The cushioning in your shoes wears out over the course of several weeks of playing. Replacing your shoes often may help protect your joints from the impact of the sport. "When your knees, lower back and ankles start to ache for no reason, this is usually your body telling you it's time to get new shoes," Dutrieuille says.
You may be able to replace your shoes less frequently if you play pickleball less than three or four days per week.