HOPING TO SPIN IT TO WIN IT? Then you’ll want to invest in a solid pair of sneakers to help you bring your best game to the pickleball court. Just as with selecting a paddle, everyone has their own preferences—cushioning, toe box size, fit, etc.—but there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when buying pickleball sneakers. If you’re ready to be the King or Queen of the Court, read on.
WHY THE RIGHT SHOES MATTER
Sneakers protect and support your feet, and when a certain game is played entirely on your feet, sometimes for hours at a time (or until it’s 5 o’clock somewhere), what could be more important than that? “The wrong shoes can result in blisters, plantar fasciitis, Achilles pain, and other disorders that can sideline you for extended periods of time,” says Mike Branon, pickleball coach and author of the 2021 book Pickleball & The Art of Living; he notes that you may also want to consider sole or heel inserts if your podiatrist recommends them. “Good court shoes are important to prevent injury.”
Of course, no sneakers are the magic bullet for improving your game; that’s where hard work comes in. As Branon puts it, “Once you reach a baseline of quality, performance improvement is marginal. You’re better off working on your shots than expecting your shoes to carry you to victory.” That being said, the right pair can help you look and feel good while you put in the work.
HOW TO FIND AN ACE PAIR
When she’s considering a shoe, pickleball pro Callie Jo Smith says, she looks for something “comfortable, lightweight, and long-lasting—something like a tennis court shoe that is able to last on a rough surface for a long time.” That’s a smart strategy.
“Running shoes and casual sneakers can result in sprained ankles, foot pain, and trips and falls,” Branon says. Since pickleball is played on tennis courts, shoes marketed as tennis shoes are fine, though pickleball-specific sneakers may boast additional features tailored to the game, such as extra lateral support for stability.
The main factors to look for in a good court shoe are support, comfort, a lightweight build and durability, says Branon. “If you play a lot and/or tend to wear down particular spots on your shoes—that’s the left toe for me—consider getting a pair with a six-month warranty to cover excessive wear and tear,” he advises.
The key to being sneaker savvy is to experiment; it’s different strokes for different folks, different footwear for different court flair.
“Everyone has different anatomical features and subjective comfort levels; find what works for you and stick with it,” Branon says. “I may swear by the Adidas Barricade model, while someone else may prefer Nike or New Balance. Again, I’d rather spend time perfecting my third shot drop than obsessing about footwear. But without the proper court shoes, injury or discomfort can ruin your experience. Put in the time to get the right shoes and you can put in the time to play your best pickleball.”
Amazing pairs of sneakers that will have you cheering “Game On!”
1. ACACIA SPORTS PROSHOT
These pickleball sneaks were designed specifically for the sport; their specs include high-abrasion contoured outsoles with higher drag guards (which come in particularly handy for the frequent swift sideways movement in pickleball), a wider-fitting toe box, and a lightweight rubber outsole. They’re lined with honeycomb gel silicone insoles to enhance shock absorption and keep air circulating in the shoe’s interior as you handle lateral moves and quick turns with ease. Pro tip: Since the shoes are unisex, women should order a size smaller than their typical size. $130, acaciasports.com
2. NIKECOURT AIR ZOOM VAPOR PRO
The next generation of the much-praised NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor X, these shoes manage to be lightweight yet powerful, whether you’re sinking that fateful third shot or going for a difficult volley. They boast asymmetrical lacing to steady you during explosive lateral movements and a soft foam midsole for quick-reacting cushioning. We also like the smartly crafted outsole, meant to bolster your grip on the court when sliding for a shot. And if style matters to you as much as support, five color options are available for men and five for women. $120, nike.com
3. TYROL STRIKER PRO V PICKLEBALL SHOES
We’re partial to the colorful hues—orange and electric blue for men; electric blue and pink, plus a black option, for women. But don’t let the playful colors fool you: These pickleball sneaks mean serious business. Designed for performance, they are a favorite of more advanced players thanks to the wide toe box, whose purpose is to enhance comfort during lengthier matches; a Vibram outsole for incredible support; an open-weave mesh upper for superb ventilation; and a rubber toe guard. That toe protection, coupled with the outsole and exterior heel counter (that supportive material on the back of the shoe)—can help keep you from rolling your ankle. $130, tyrolpickleball.com
4. FILA VOLLEY ZONE
This sneaker was designed in collaboration with the Pickleball Academy in Naples, Florida, making it the first shoe developed for, and by, pickleball players— and it shows in thoughtful details, like a herringbone rubber outsole for extra traction and durability, an energized midsole for extra cushioning, and a pickleball paddle logo on the tongue. $110, fila.com
5. ADIDAS BARRICADE TOKYO TENNIS SHOES
Made with Primegreen, an innovative fabric from the apparel giant that contains no new plastic, these tennis shoes are available in a range of colors and feature foam pods in the heel and Adidas’s Bounce cushioning in the midsole for state-of-the-art comfort. We also love the special lacing system, which pulls down the tongue to mold to the shape of your foot and keeps it firmly in place. $140, adidas.com
6. ASICS GEL-RESOLUTION 8 WOMEN’S TENNIS SHOES
In the romance between fashion and function, we can’t think of a better match made in pickleball heaven than these smart sneakers, which are a delightful combo of pink, navy blue, and rose gold. For one thing, the shoe’s fits-like-a-glove upper lets you pivot swiftly on the court. And the gel-technology cushioning in the heel and forefoot offers a boost as well as plenty of shock reduction, which may make for happier recovery days. Gents, don’t worry: There’s a sharp-looking men’s version, too. $140, asics.com
7. WILSON RUSH PRO 3.0 PICKLEBALL SHOES
An updated version of the fan-favorite Rush Pro line, these sneakers are designed with swift changes in direction in mind so you stay stable while going for that lob or dink. In addition to the top-notch pivot support, we appreciate the relatively minimalist upper, intended for great breathability and comfort. Another neat feature is the Rubber Medial Drag Pad, which offers extra protection if you drag your foot (it also helps the shoes’ longevity). $125, pickleballcentral.com
8. BABOLAT SHADOW TOUR
These performance sneakers let you move with grace and ease while providing a good deal of shock absorption—ideal for those who zigzag all over the court. The really standout feature is the meticulously designed sole, created in partnership between Babolat engineers and those other experts when it comes to the rubber hitting the road: the engineers at the Michelin tire company. It’s crafted with a three-dimensional grip and Michelin rubber to offer superior range of motion on indoor courts. $120, holabirdsports.com