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The Top 5 Best Shoes for Pickleball

A good pair of pickleball shoes can significantly boost your on-court performance and, more crucially, keep you safe.

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Pickleball or court shoes may not be as glitzy or glamorous as paddles, but finding the right pair can make a huge difference for your on-court performance and, more importantly, safety. Way too often, I'll see players show up to the courts in a pair of running shoes or trainers, and the whole time I'm watching them, I'm dreading the classic ankle roll.

But before we discuss any specific shoes, I want to make one thing clear: you must wear a pair of court-specific shoes on the pickleball court. Tennis, pickleball, even badminton, basketball, or volleyball — any court shoe will be better than a runner because of their lateral support.

Realistically, because their outsoles are optimized for a tennis hard court, you should narrow your search to a tennis or pickleball-specific shoe. In fact, considering they have a decades-long head-start in technology and R&D, tennis shoes will generally perform better than pickleball shoes. This list will include mostly tennis shoes, with the only pickleball-specific one identical to its tennis sibling; only a stitched "pickleball" branding in the upper denotes its specificity. Make of that what you want.


Not all tennis shoes are created equal, especially not for use on the pickleball court, and these are the characteristics you should be looking for. 

Lightweight: There are two styles of tennis shoes: structured stability shoes and lightweight speed shoes. Stability shoes shine when put through the wringer on long runs to the net and lateral movement along the baseline. Speed shoes are better for quick changes of direction and responsiveness. As you can imagine, speed shoes translate much better to the pickleball court, where you're making more sprightly, reactive movement. Since they're made for tennis, these lightweight shoes are still plenty supportive, so you don't need to go all out for support with heavier, stability shoes.

Comfort: Comfort is king in any sport, but it's particularly important in pickleball because of the sheer amount of time we spend on-court. Comfort is also key to giving you that weightless, springy sensation since that's how you can make the shoe feel like it disappears on your foot. Of course, comfort is subjective, but to give yourself the best chance of finding something comfortable, look for shoes with less rubber on the upper. This generally applies to lightweight shoes because they don't require as much material for added structure.

Durability: Durability is another area where tennis shoes shine because of the rigorous movement tennis requires. Even if they are slightly less durable than their structured, stability counterparts, lightweight tennis shoes are still made for tennis so they will hold up great on the pickleball court.

Now, let's discuss some of the best shoes that combine all these characteristics into a complete package.

5. New Balance Fuel Cell 996 v5

The New Balance 996 v5 comes in a tennis and pickleball-specific variant, but as I mentioned earlier, there is literally no difference between the two. If anything, the stiched word "pickleball" on the upper adds a bit of weight. I'm kidding... (not really).

Otherwise, the 996 ticks all of the boxes for the above criteria — it weighs 347 grams in a size 9 US, so it's one of the lightest shoes out there, and it's also extremely comfortable. Out of the box, it's one of the most naturally fitting court shoes I've ever thrown on my feet.

The upper is made from a flexible and breathable knit, and the tongue is well-padded to prevent any potential lace bite. It has no awkward pressure points, and despite all its comfort, you still feel very locked in and stable because the outsole is wide and provides a very grounded sensation.

Durability-wise, there is a lot of exposed knitted material, but it is quite dense, so it maintains its structure well. New Balance has also added a healthy amount of rubber in the toe box and on the medial side, where you tend to drag your foot the most. I've never had a problem with durability on my 996s, so they should last for at least six months.

4. K-Swiss Hypercourt Express 2

If the 996 perfectly represents the modern, lightweight tennis shoe, the Hypercourt Express has more of a classic, timeless design. Despite that traditional style, it's still relatively light, coming in at 380 grams in a size 9 US. (Anything under 400 grams can be considered light).

The Hypercourt's traditional style makes it a bit of a unique shoe in the sea of modern and techy tennis footwear nowadays. It has that classic, wide-in-the-toe box, narrow-in-the-heel fit, which many people have grown accustomed to over the years. It also has a steeper drop, so it slants you onto your toes, keeping you in the ready position. For those of you who have played court sports for years or even decades, this shoe will make you feel most at home.

In terms of durability and structure, it's up there with the best. It's fully wrapped in rubber, which means that it will hold its shape for a long time, and you'll never have to worry about poking a hole in the upper.

There aren't any bells and whistles with the Hypercourt — it's a classic and made for those of you with experience who aren't looking for anything extra.

 
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3. Asics Gel Resolution 9

The Asics Gel-Resolution may be the heaviest shoe on this list, but it also shows how technology and innovation, when done right, can make for huge improvements in performance characteristics. It's certainly more of a structured, stability shoe, but it's still packed with modern elements that make it feel much quicker than you would expect for one that weighs 395 grams.

The Dynawall sidewall provides incredible energy return on lateral cuts — it feels like the shoe pushes you back in the other direction with almost more force than you applied. It's a unique sensation, but it makes for a springy feel you would usually associate with much lighter shoes. Other stability shoes have similar tech, but it feels more refined on the Gel-Resolution 9, which isn't surprising considering this model that Asics has been perfecting over the last 15 years.

It's also a very comfortable shoe. Again, because it's been around for so long, many players have grown accustomed to how it feels on foot, and over the last couple of generations, Asics has been investing most of its R&D in improving its comfort.

Of course, because it has more structure all around, its durability is on a whole other level compared to the other shoes on this list. It's bulletproof — you can easily get a year out of it, even playing five times a week.

The Gel-Res is such a good shoe that it could have been number one on this list, but because it is a little heavier, it isn't the best shoe for pickleball, specifically. That said, if you don't care too much about weight, you should give it a shot.

 
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2 & 1: Asics Solution Speed FF3 and Nike Vapor Pro 2

Each shoe has been excellent up until now, but there have been little compromises here and there. On paper, our number one and two shoes are exactly what you want for pickleball, and I have a tough time picking a clear winner.

Like the 996, the Solution Speed FF3 and the Vapor Pro 2 tick all the boxes for the above criteria, but they just do it a little better. They feature mostly mesh uppers, so they are extremely comfortable, but they also have ample amounts of rubber in key wear zones to make them durable.

At 370 grams, the Vapor is pretty light, but the Solution Speed is in a league of its own, weighing a ridiculous 325 grams in a size 9.5 US. That makes for a totally unique experience on the court; it's so weightless that you almost forget you're wearing it. The outsole also has a significant amount of rocker, similar to a running shoe, so it helps you through your gait cycle when you're running for a ball.

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Now, 375 grams certainly isn't featherweight for the Vapor Pro, but it's not weight that has pushed it so high on this list; the most outstanding characteristic here is comfort. It has a soft and adaptive upper that melts onto your foot with zero pressure points. The outsole is also quite low to the ground, which gives a nice natural feel for the court, and the lockdown and support are impressive for a shoe so comfortable.

 
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Because the Solution Speed is so light, I will have to give it the number one spot, but you can't go wrong with either of these or really any shoe on this list.

If you want to try on any of these shoes, you can visit our awesome shoe fitters in-store or check them out online.

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