Guide to proper pickleball footwear: tennis shoes vs. running shoes

lace up the right shoes

Pickleball, as you know by now, has taken the sporting world by storm. OK, that’s a bit dramatic, even if we admit. But as more people flock to the courts to experience the thrill of this fast-paced game, one question arises: What kind of shoes should you wear to play pickleball?

We’ll explore the importance of proper footwear and provide guidance on whether special shoes are really needed for pickleball.

What kind of shoes should I wear playing pickleball?

The right footwear can significantly impact your pickleball performance and overall experience on the court. And it may very well prevent a pickleball injury.

Some players might opt for running shoes or athletic footwear. These shoes are not specifically designed for the demands of pickleball. They may be OK for your very first pickleball match but if/when you fall in love with pickleball you will need to consider your options.

Here’s what you should consider:

1. Court Shoes: Whether it’s tennis shoes or indoor court shoes, the ideal footwear for pickleball is a court shoe. This type of shoe (sneaker?) is purpose-built to provide the necessary support for the lateral movements, lunges, and quick direction changes that pickleball demands. They offer “torsional stability,” which helps stabilize your foot and prevent rolling an ankle or hurting your knees during gameplay.

2. Tennis Shoes: Tennis shoes may be a great choice for pickleball on similar surfaces. They have a durable rubber outsole that can withstand the wear and tear of hard, outdoor pickleball courts. With their stability and cushioning, a nice pair of tennis shoes provide the necessary support for quick movements and sudden stops. A great choice for the tennis player who wants to try their hand at pickleball.

Why pickleball might be easier (and more fun) than tennis

3. Indoor Court Shoes: Playing pickleball on a softer surface, such as a gym floor or wooden court?  Consider indoor court shoes which have a softer and stickier rubber outsole. These court shoes offer a better grip on slippery surfaces. While tennis shoes can be used indoors as well, indoor court shoes provide better traction. These may also go by the names of squash or badminton shoes.

5. The Short Answer Choice: If you’ll be playing pickleball on hard and soft surfaces and want just one pair of good shoes then tennis shoes are the logical choice. They offer durability, stability, and cushioning for hard court play and also a good grip on indoor pickleball courts.

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Do you need special shoes to play pickleball?

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Yes, but special in that you need something other than running shoes, sandals, Crocs, etc. Don’t be tempted to wear running shoes or athletic footwear. These are not specifically designed for the lateral movements and quick direction changes that pickleball entails.

Specialized court shoes, such as tennis shoes or indoor court shoes, offer the best support, stability, and traction for optimal performance and safety on the pickleball court – whether indoor or outdoor. Investing in the proper footwear will not only enhance your pickleball game but also help prevent injuries.

Is there a difference between men’s and women’s pickleball shoes?

Yes, there are subtle and not-so-subtle differences between men’s and women’s pickleball shoes. Men’s and women’s athletic footwear, such as court shoes, are different. Each is tailored to their respective anatomical and biomechanical needs.

We’re guessing this may have been obvious to you your whole life but we want to make sure you choose wisely.

Firstly, men’s tennis and court shoes have a wider fit, accommodating the generally broader structure of their feet, while women’s shoes usually have a narrower fit to match. Women’s pickleball court shoes often feature a lower heel height to account for their typically smaller calves and a lower center of gravity.

The arch support and cushioning systems in women’s shoes are also typically engineered differently to address variations in foot structure and weight distribution.

Is there a difference between a pickleball shoe and tennis shoe?

There isn’t a specific “pickleball shoe” category in the market – but just wait, some manufacturer will jump on board and try to market a new pair soon.

Tennis shoes are most often recommended for pickleball due to their similar requirements. Tennis shoes feature a higher-density rubber outsole, designed to endure the wear and tear of hard court surfaces. And they provide stability and cushioning. Indoor court shoes, which are also suitable for pickleball, have a softer and stickier rubber outsole. This design has a better grip on gym floors and other indoor surfaces, reducing the risk of slipping and improving overall agility on the court.

buy only pickleball shoes

So, what’s our point?

The best shoe for pickleball are tennis shoes or court shoes – don’t take any other chances.

Is it okay to wear running shoes for pickleball?

No, it’s definitely not advisable to wear running shoes playing pickleball. Running shoes are comfortable and versatile for running – they are not a wise choice for pickleball.

Think about it. Running shoes are designed for forward movement and vertical (i.e., up and down) motions. They lack the features required for the lateral movements, quick pivots, and sudden stops that are integral to pickleball. Wearing running shoes on pickleball courts may increase the risk of slipping, lack stability during lateral movements, and compromise the support of your foot.


The right footwear in pickleball plays a crucial role in your game and more importantly your prevention of an injury or two. Buy yourself tennis or court shoes designed for lateral movements, stability, and traction. Tennis shoes are the top pickleball shoe choice for hard court play, while indoor court shoes or squash/badminton shoes are the top picks for softer surfaces.

FAQ – Pickleball Shoe Choices

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