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IN CASE you haven't heard, pickleball is all the rage right now. America's fastest-growing sport (for three consecutive years now) has created a full-on boom train, and due to the fact the sport is friendly to all ages and levels of competition, brands and entrepreneurs are rushing to develop new gear that's suitable for all types of players. It's true your pickleball paddle is the most important piece of equipment you need, but another major area to consider investing in is proper footwear. We're talking about pickleball shoes.
The team here at MH HQ continually tests all the latest pickleball shoe releases to find the best up-to-date styles for all-day play. In the past year alone, we've tested over 25 pairs of shoes to see how they respond to pickleball. Some of the best pickleball shoes are simply well-made trainers, while other shoes are modified specifically for pickleball. When it comes to the best pickleball shoe money can buy, we're firm on the Wilson Rush Pro Ace Pickler as our top pick due to its high comfort, responsive design, and under-$100 price point.
When testing to find the best pickleball shoes, we found the two most important factors to consider are traction and stability. Like workout shoes, pickleball shoes need to handle quick movements in all types of directions, so you want strong outsoles with responsive tread patterns and a midsole structure that can handle fast-twitch lateral movements. Lateral stability is super important since it can help prevent common pickleball injuries like ankle or knee sprains, so we looked for shoes that had a wider base and a stiff lower structure to provide this kind of maximum stability. With that all being said, it's time to get to our top-tested picks. Keep scrolling to see the list.
Why Trust Men's Health
For well over a year now, Men's Health has been covering the rise of pickleball. We've covered everything from the potential health benefits of pickleball (this guy lost 70 pounds by incorporating pickleball into his workouts) to the latest and greatest pickleball gear to hit the market.
When creating our guide to the best pickleball paddles, we also wanted to create a guide to the best pickleball shoes. Proper footwear is everything when it comes to making sure you are maximizing your workouts and doing them in a safe way, and so we tested our best pickleball shoes to the same standards we test our best running shoes, workout shoes, trainers, and more.
Aside from our evergreen buying guides, Men's Health also covers new and exciting releases in our awards packages. Our annual Outdoor Awards and Fitness Awards are both areas where you can find recommendations of pickleball products, or products that would translate well for use when playing pickleball—like gym bags, recovery shoes, compression socks, and more.
How We Selected
Over the past year, we consulted with Men's Health's editors and writers on the best pickleball shoes for outdoor and indoor play. Experts, including our gear and commerce editor John Thompson, tested a number of pickleball shoes and evaluated each shoe's stability, durability, weight, and price point. Special consideration was taken into account for pickleball shoes that had excellent traction and stability since we believe those two qualities are the most important in a quality pickleball shoe.
We then inspected each shoe after testing to see what features stood out, and what features of the shoe could use improvement. At the end of our testing, we made sure to highlight what makes each pickleball shoe special so players can understand which model will fit their game the best.
Lastly, we also considered top-reviewed pickleball shoes that had high praise from the pickleball community. Some players like to stick to specific brands, and so we highlight many of what we believe to be the best pickleball shoes from several of the major athletic brands.
What to Consider When Buying Pickleball Shoes
The best shoes for playing pickleball are optimized for fast lateral movements and are made to help reduce the chance of injury. Here are some other things to consider when buying pickleball shoes.
- Midsole and Outsole Construction: In general, a good pickleball shoe is going to have a wider base and sturdy construction in the outsole and midsole. These design notes help reinforce the shoe for when you have to make fast lateral movements. The goal is to provide support and to keep your foot planted when making sharp side-to-side movements. If an outsole and midsole are not designed with these characteristics, you risk the chance of your shoe collapsing, which could lead to slipping or losing traction. The downside to a supportive design like this is there is often added weight, so you do not expect a good pickleball shoe to weigh anything less than 10 ounces. When it comes to the outsole, look for a shoe that has a strong rubber with a pattern that will help grip surfaces and reduce the odds of slipping when turning your feet. When looking at the midsole, aim for a shoe that has supportive cushioning (like EVA foam) and keeps a relatively low profile. Prioritizing a midsole with cushioning too much could lead you to a shoe that sits high (like a Hoka), thus leading to a less responsive design, which could potentially lead to a greater chance of rolling an ankle when making fast turns on the court.
- Playing Indoors vs. Outdoors: Most pickleball shoes can be used indoors and outdoors, but we found there are shoes optimized for better play for each type of court surface. If you're planning on playing indoors a lot, then a pickleball shoe with a significantly strong rubber outsole (like those you see on a volleyball shoe) is going to be a good option. Indoor pickleball shoes are designed with special grooves and materials to stick to indoor courts and basketball courts (especially dusty ones). If you wear indoor shoes on an outdoor court, it's possible you won't get the same type of grip you would expect. If you're planning on playing outdoors, you don't have to focus so much on the strong outsole. Many of the best outdoor pickleball shoes have good grip, but they also should prioritize breathability and be relatively lightweight. Due to these preferred qualities, some tennis shoes and sneakers have proven to be good picks for pickleball shoes when playing outdoors.
Can You Wear Running Shoes for Pickleball?
If you're someone who's going to play pickleball casually, then you could get away with a low-profile running shoe. But if you're expecting to play pickleball more competitively, we strongly consider aiming for a pair of shoes optimized for play.
The reason we don't recommend wearing just any type of running shoe is that running shoes are made for forward motion, so there's often less emphasis on reinforcing the shoe for side-to-side movements. Running shoes also have less structure and stability than what you want in a pickleball shoe, as the running styles these days are made to be as lightweight and breathable as possible (with high cushioned stacks), which means less focus on overall support.
So to be clear, you probably should steer from wearing running shoes for pickleball if you expect to play the game on a regular basis. A proper pickleball shoe is a smart investment that will help give you traction and stability while greatly decreasing the chance of rolling an ankle or spraining a knee.
John Thompson is the Gear and Commerce Editor at Men’s Health, where he covers fashion, grooming, gear, and technology. He was previously the Style & Gear Editor at BroBible.com, and a commerce writer for TheManual.com. His interests include shopping for rare vintage clothes and following his favorite baseball team, the Kansas City Royals.
As Men's Health's Deputy Editor, Commerce, Christian Gollayan oversees all shopping content on menshealth.com. He relocated back to New York by way of Portland, where he was the Associate Managing Editor at TheManual.com. Christian's work has also been featured in InStyle, Food & Wine, the New York Post, and Tatler Asia.
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