Experienced athletes know the importance of proper footwear is crucial to peak performance. A basketball player would never wear baseball shoes when driving to the hoop. Football players don’t wear sneakers; they need cleats for maximum protection, durability, and movement.
The same is true for pickleball players. Choosing the right pair of shoes make a difference in your ability to move in different directions, improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
While there are similarities between pickleball shoes and tennis shoes, this is not the case with other athletic footwear, such as running.
According to Runner’s World, stores that sell running equipment are discovering that more runners are turning to pickleball. Besides selling running shoes, they are diversifying their merchandise to include pickleball shoes, strategically stocking them next to trail or running shoes.
Runners who turn to pickleball may be under the assumption they can simply use their running shoes on an indoor or outdoor pickleball court. However, this is not the case – Not all footwear is created equal, especially for different activities.
Let’s examine the differences between running and pickleball shoes and why keeping the two separate is important.
Running Shoe Design
Like most footwear, there are different designs and styles of running shoes that depend on a number of factors. If you’re running on pavement, road shoes offer more cushion for better shock absorption and injury prevention.
For soft or muddy surfaces, a runner would be more suited to wearing trail shoes with a deeper tread for optimal ankle support and grip. Lightweight running shoes are typically used for racing.
Key features and characteristics of running shoes include:
- An upper that is comprised of a synthetic leather and mesh combination for durability and breathability.
- Minimal heel-to-toe drop.
- Variable lacing to customize shoe fit.
- A durable heel counter for heel stability.
- Reflective materials for running at night.
- Outsoles that include a waffle pattern for traction, carbon rubber for durability and forefoot flex grooves for ultimate flexibility.
- Relatively lightweight.
When choosing a pair of running shoes, it’s essential to find the right fit rather than what may be most pleasing to the eye. Runners should consider the type of cushioning they want and choose the right supports for their running form.
Pickleball Shoe Design
Pickleball shoes may look similar to regular sneakers but are specifically made for either indoor or outdoor courts. You may want to invest in more than one pair if you fluctuate between playing indoors or outdoors.
Unlike running shoes, which are made for moving forward, pickleball footwear is often built for movement in different directions. Running shoes are geared toward a heel-to-toe stride. Playing pickleball requires a great deal of lateral movement on hard surfaces: sliding, stopping, and quickly changing directions.
When picking out pickleball shoes, here are some features that differ from running shoes:
- Durable outsoles to accommodate rubber or wood surfaces.
- Solid cushioning on the bottom.
- Better grip.
- A stiffer upper that wraps around the foot and ankle.
- A wider toe box and lower heel drop.
These features help reduce the risk of injuries such as sprains, strains, plantar fasciitis or blisters. If you incur such injuries, be sure to check out our latest guide on injury prevention.
Investing In Pickleball Shoes vs. Running Shoes
Pickleball shoes tend to last longer when used on the court, depending on the quality. If you intend to play the game for many years, it’s worth investing in a higher quality pair of shoes with more advanced technology, better durability, and support than a cheaper, low-quality shoe that looks more attractive.
If you choose higher-quality shoes, you’ll buy fewer pairs over time, saving you money in the long run. Like other sports, investing in footwear tailored to an individual player’s needs rather than catering to a budget is always best.
Running Shoes Are Not for Pickleball
If you’re tempted to use running shoes on a pickleball court, think twice. Running shoes don’t offer the same comfort level and aren’t designed for the lateral movement of pickleball.
Safety should always be a top priority. Wearing running shoes on either an indoor or outdoor pickleball court for long periods increases the risk of knee and foot injuries.
A blog post on Courtside Tennis sums it up best: “Wearing running shoes to play pickleball is like showing up to the court with a ping-pong paddle.”
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