I’ll cast no stones here: I started wearing running shoes when I started playing pickleball, and I stuck with them for a longer time than I should. After all, you’re not moving THAT much in pickleball…how much did I really need a new pair of shoes?
However, the more I played, the more I noticed my feet start to hurt in the hours after I played, and I figured there was probably something to tennis shoes.
So, I found a cheap pair of shoes at an online shoe dealer and gave them a whirl. Voila…my foot pain was gone.
However, I still see a lot of experienced players wearing tennis shoes when they’re dinking and dropping and driving. What gives?
Maybe their feet didn’t hurt like mine, but I thought I’d lay out 3 good reasons why you need to invest in a pair of tennis shoes if you’re at all serious about improving your pickleball play.
- Shoe durability
Running shoes were made for running. Tennis shoes were made for tennis. (Thanks, Captain Obvious!).
Think of the movements you make when you go for a jog (straight ahead) vs the moves you make on the pickleball court (much more side to side). Your foot is on the ground a lot more when you’re playing pickleball, and your shoe is really gripping the court’s surface.
As such, tennis shoes are made with harder, firmer rubber and with the whole sole touching the ground. Look at the bottom of your running shoe- the rubber is softer, more scarce, and not nearly as hard.
Those running shoes are going to get ruined quickly on the pickleball court. I’ve been amazed how quickly I burn through tennis shoes…I can’t imagine your running shoes are going to last much more than 20 sessions of pickleball.
- Lateral mobility
As I mentioned above, running shoes are made for you to run in a (mostly) straight line. They are not designed for you to push from side to side like you will on a pickleball court.
While this is certainly a danger to your feet, ankles and knees, it’s also not going to allow you to move side to side like you want to and need to when playing.
So, save yourself the rolled ankle and get to more balls on the court? Seems like a win-win to me.
- Exposing your inexperience as a pickleball player / giving your opponent confidence
I’ll say it: I know I’ve got a good chance of winning when I match up with an opponent (or 2 opponents) that are wearing running shoes. Why? I know they don’t take the sport seriously enough to invest in a pair of shoes that are made for the game.
I’m far enough along in my pickleball journey to know that serious players have gear and equipment that allow them to play to the best of their abilities. They don’t use a beginner paddle…they don’t use an indoor pickleball on an outdoor court…and they don’t wear running shoes!
When I play someone with running shoes, I know they aren’t going to keep up with my team that’s going to vary our serves, be consistent with our returns, and be able to hit 3rd shot drops. I do know I might play a banger if they’re wearing running shoes, and I’ve already told you how much I love that!
So you get my gist- if you want to be a good player and be taken seriously on the courts, go get some tennis shoes…you’ll play better and be healthier for it.
Until next time…