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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pickleball Shoes

Good shoes take you to good places...

The equipment requirements for pickleball play are minimal for an individual, consisting mainly of a paddle. But an often ignored piece of equipment just may be the single most important item to have – proper shoes. I was reminded of that recently when I began shopping for new shoes. Unfortunately, my old shoes were discontinued.

I started to play pickleball with cross-training shoes. After every day of play, my calf muscles were in pain. Orthotic inserts helped but were never 100% effective. Then I switched to tennis shoes and the pain disappeared. The USAPA recommends a court shoe to fit the stresses of pickleball play. Our game requires the body to move forward, backward, and side-to-side. Players need a shoe that provides stability on the inside and outside of the foot to support lateral movement. Court shoes made for tennis or even volleyball fit the bill.

Sarah Ansboury wrote an article explaining her recommendations.

Perhaps because I grew up playing tennis, I have always considered good court shoes as important as a good racket. And the same is true in pickleball. If you aren’t wearing court shoes already, please make the switch…your game and your feet will thank you.

Why You Need Court Shoes

My older students often scoff when I bring up court shoes. They tell me, “When I was a kid we had one only pair of sneakers….” Perhaps we have become obsessed with safety. When a child rides a bike now he may wear a helmet, elbow and knee guards. But court shoes are not only safer they will help your game. Court shoes, regardless of manufacturer, have a few common characteristics:
  • Court shoes typically have a smooth sole. Running shoe soles have ridges and are designed
    to go forward. In pickleball, we need to move in every direction. Cross trainers often have “nibs” that tend to stick to the floor/court surface. When moving backward to retrieve a lob, these ridges or “nibs” can cause you to trip and fall.
  • The smooth sole on court shoes facilitates lateral (side to side) movement which is critical at the non-volley zone line.
  • Court shoe’s soles typically flare out a bit on the bottom providing greater stability.
  • Increased padding near the laces promotes comfort so you can play longer.
  • From time to time, I will have a student with the curved soled shoes that is supposed to “promote weight loss” come for a lesson. In my opinion, these shoes should never be worn on the pickleball court.
Finally, if you play both indoor and out, you might want to invest in both indoor and outdoor court shoes. Indoor shoes will get chewed up by the outdoor surface. Likewise, outdoor shoes tend to slip a bit more when playing on a wooden, indoor, floor.

Correct Fitting is Important

A good pair of court shoes sells for about $100. Though from time to time you might be able to find bargains online, make sure you know exactly how the shoes will fit.  Your court shoe size is likely NOT the same as your shoe size, so take the time to go to a tennis shop or specialty sports shoe store where you can be properly fitted. An older friend found that her persistent foot pain was being caused by the fact that her correct court shoe size was 8W when her shoe size was 7.5B, so it is important to get fitted properly. Nike’s tend to run a bit narrower, and New Balance is one of the few brands that offer Wide sizes.

I typically wear Nike Ballistics when I am teaching (because of comfort) but I play in Head shoes which are a bit lighter. Currently, I own 4 pairs of the Head Nitros. It is best to try as many as different brands as you can. When you find one you like, perhaps buy several pairs. When you buy a shoe from one of the major brands like Head, Babolat, Nike, Asics or Adidas you are also purchasing a warranty. You can justify the higher price of a good court shoe when it comes with a 6-month warranty. If the soles wear down or something isn’t quite right they will replace them when you send them back. I know a few people who use this system fairly regularly!

An excellent video by Keith Bing called Pickleball Shoes discusses the finer points of shoes.

1 comment:

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