Pickleball Shoes vs Tennis Shoes: Is There a Difference?

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Since its inception in 1965, pickleball has been compared to tennis. And why not? Both of them use a net, a small ball, and a paddle or racket. But while they may be similar in some ways, there are several key differences between these two sports. This is why players of each sport should have different shoes. I hear you asking, “But why?” So, in this article, let’s compare pickleball shoes vs tennis shoes and know their differences.

Main Differences When Playing Pickleball vs Tennis

Aside from the rules and equipment, playing pickleball is a lot different than tennis. To begin with, pickleball courts are much smaller than tennis courts. While both of them require forward and lateral movements, pickleball players don’t need to move as fast as tennis players. Therefore, they don’t get tired as much as those in tennis. But more importantly, most of their courts differ in terms of surfaces. So yes, shoes matter a lot.

Related Post: Pickleball vs Tennis Compared: Similarities and Differences

Pickleball Shoes vs Tennis Shoes: What’s the Difference?

If you’re not familiar with pickleball and tennis, you might not be able to immediately spot the difference between their shoes. But if you place them side by side and take a closer look, you’ll realize that they are not the same. To give you a better idea, below is the comparison between pickleball shoes and tennis shoes.

Outsole Design

The outsole of a shoe is the part that touches the ground. Pickleball shoes generally have hard, flat outsoles and are without marks. This design offers a better grip and superb traction, allowing players to switch direction lightly but quickly. On the other hand, tennis shoes have a thicker and more durable outsole. These softer outsoles have modified herringbone patterns so that tennis players can make fast side-to-side movements.


Some people use the terms “sole” and “tread” interchangeably, but in fact, they are not exactly the same. In simple terms, the sole refers to the entire foot, while the tread is the part of the sole that actually touches the ground. But then, they have the same purpose, that is, to make sure that the shoes have the right grip depending on the usage. Therefore, the tread of pickleball shoes is harder compared to tennis shoes.

Toe Box Design

As the name implies, the toe box of a shoe is the area that surrounds your toes while wearing it. Pickleball shoes typically have a high but narrow toe box, which helps prevent players from getting bruises on their toes while making quick stops. Meanwhile, tennis shoes have a wider toe box and a more durable construction that can withstand frequent dragging. Remember that tennis courts are much bigger than pickleball courts.


The materials used for cushioning in pickleball shoes and tennis shoes are practically the same. However, the latter have thicker and more enhanced cushions, considering the size of tennis courts and the length of each rally. On the contrary, the cushion in pickleball shoes can be a bit thinner but just enough to endure impacts during a match. They have more cushion in the forefoot, while tennis shoes have more in the heels.


Generally, a pickleball shoe is lighter than a tennis shoe. Aside from the cushion, the shoe itself is designed to be lightweight for improved speed and mobility of footwork. On the other hand, the heavier weight of a tennis shoe is designed for support and stability in wider spaces. There’s no standard weight difference between the two sports shoes, though. You just need to look for the appropriate weight as you move around.


Regardless of the sport you’re into, breathability is very important to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Since pickleball shoes are lighter than tennis shoes, they are more breathable. Most of them have upper mesh designs that increase airflow, which reduces the chance of having sweaty feet. But aside from being heavier, tennis shoes are tighter than pickleball shoes. This lack of space also makes them less flexible and breathable.

Can I Wear Tennis Shoes While Playing Pickleball?

Yes, but it does not mean that you always should. Despite the differences mentioned above, you can still wear tennis shoes for pickleball. If you are playing pickleball softly and for recreational purposes only, tennis shoes are fine. But if you’re serious about the sport and joining tournaments, you should wear shoes that are specifically designed for pickleball. Otherwise, you may feel discomfort or experience foot injury during plays.

Another thing, is deciding whether to use tennis shoes for pickleball also depends on the surface of the court. For instance, if the outdoor pickleball court has the same surface as that of an outdoor tennis court, you can wear tennis shoes. Note, however, that there are several types of pickleball court surfaces. Most tennis shoes are not compatible with indoor pickleball courts, though. This is also why you should consider not wearing them.

Can I Wear Running Shoes for Pickleball?

No, unless you want to injure yourself. Running shoes are specifically designed for forward and backward movements, not for quick lateral movements. They also don’t offer the same support and stability in traction needed in pickleball. Like pickleball shoes, running shoes are lightweight and have cushions for better shock absorption. But if you wear them for pickleball, your feet will easily get tired and feel discomfort.

Final Thoughts

Since pickleball is relatively new compared to tennis, a lot of shoe manufacturers are still not producing pickleball shoes. Sad to say, some of them take advantage of the popularity of the sport and sell tennis shoes as pickleball shoes. Also, before you buy pickleball shoes, know the type of court surface that they are compatible with. At the end of the day, choose the shoes that you’re comfortable with while playing the sport. 

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