As tennis and pickleball players, we devote a lot of time and effort to improving our game. We seek out the advice of qualified instructors to take private lessons and attend drill clinics. Many of us also spend time online, researching and reading reviews to help us make a decision on what brand of racquet or paddle we are going to purchase and play with. A few of us are even wise enough to pick up a few pointers from the great instructional videos which are available online at pickleballchanel.com.
However, with all of that going on, I see too many players not paying attention to the type of shoe they wear when playing.
I will apply this theory more to pickleball players than to tennis players. Most tennis players have been participating in the sport long enough to understand the importance of wearing a proper tennis shoe while they are on the courts.
As the popularity of the sport of pickleball continues to explode, many players who are new to the game have never played or participated in a court related sport and don’t realize the importance of wearing proper shoes. By this, I mean shoes that are specifically designed for the movements encountered in tennis and pickleball.
I have had players in my clinics say to me, “These are my walking or my running shoes,” and my response is, “Well, if you have a specific pair of shoes for walking or running, then shouldn’t you have a specific pair of shoes for playing pickleball?”
The simple fact is, wearing improper shoes on the court is an accident waiting to happen!
So what makes the design of these shoes so special for the sport we are competing in? Let’s compare the differences in a traditional running/cross training shoe and a tennis shoe.
Running shoes are designed for forward movement and stride. They are constructed of soft mesh upper material to allow comfort and cooling within the shoe as the foot swells and expands during the process of running. These shoes have soles with wider, flatter edges and toe boxes to spread the distribution of the force of your foot impacting the ground.
Tennis shoes, while being designed to absorb impact with the ground, are also designed for lateral movement with more of a rounded sole edge and toe box. The upper part of a tennis shoe is designed for firmer support. The insole is going to support your arch from inside the shoe, while the midsole provides the cushion for your ankle and knees. The more support you get from the midsole, the less wear and tear you’ll feel on your joints, and the outer soles are designed for more endurance and longer tread life.
Because of the endurance of the outer sole, tennis shoes break down inside on the inner sole before they wear out down on the outer sole.
Shoe manufacturers recommend replacing your shoes after sixty hours of playing use. I have found that a good rule of thumb is if you play on a regular basis, you should replace your shoes about every three months.
If you prefer to shop online, I recommend to have your foot measured at a shoe store and try on a couple of different manufactures shoes before making your purchase.
Also, most shoes nowadays are sufficiently cushioned and arch supported, so unless you have specific issues, don’t spend any money on additional support/cushioned insoles, invest in a good pair of well-cushioned socks.
And last but not least, let’s not forget the fashion factor. Shoes today are just as much (if not more) of a fashion statement as they are a piece of performance equipment! Both of my daughters grew up playing tennis and I am happy to say that because of their love for the sport they are both, now as adults, still avid tennis (and pickleball) players. However, in hindsight, the truth is they really liked the fact that dad would always take them shopping for new tennis outfits!
So get off on the right foot, your feet will thank you! You will also discover that you have more mobility and better balance on the court, and you just may find that some of those aches and pains which you have been blaming on getting older were actually being caused by not wearing a good pair of sneakers when you play.
Shoe Quick Tips
- Plan to spend $75 to $125 for a good pair of shoes.
- If you play every day, buy two pair and rotate them on a daily basis.
- Break your shoes in before playing in them.
- Don’t wear your shoes for bumming around, wear them only for playing.
- Machine wash your shoes on a regular basis in the cold water, gentle cycle and air dry them in the sun or under a ceiling fan. Do not put them in a heated dryer.
Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. Contact Coach Wayne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.