In my previous column, I mentioned that I had prepared this article for your sole. With the holidays approaching, it is time to think about giving yourself a gift. What? Well, don’t you?
For many years of my life, I spent a considerable amount of time running around a court on the soles of my shoes, and afterwards listening to soul music as I rested for another day. In pickleball, about all you need is a pickleball, a pickleball paddle and shoes with good soles.
A friend who walked long distances every day to stay in shape has always prided himself on wearing very cheap shoes. Before he would trash them, the bottoms of his walking shoes looked as if they had been shaved by a 45-degree miter saw.
He was almost walking on the outside of his feet as he complained about ankle and leg pain. In his mind, he was saving money with his thriftiness, but any accrued savings from decades of his thriftiness were totally destroyed in the first micro-seconds of his hip-replacement surgery last month.
Shoe manufacturers make their shoes much better today. As a teenager, I purchased my tennis shoes from Vernon Powell, and because I dragged my right toe on several shots, I wore out a pair every two weeks. Fortunately, a left-hander on our team who wore the same size and type shoe would wear out his left toe, so we exchanged shoes after two weeks, doubling our shoe life.
But because of poor sole durability, I still purchased more than a dozen pairs a year. Of course, then I might have run at 20 miles per hour, but now I need to move the decimal two points to the left for my speed.
Let’s talk about pickleball shoes, because they might be the most important upgrade for your pickleball locker — because they keep you from experiencing violent falls to the ground. Think about it: Your shoe is the only thing between your body and that abrasive court on which you play pickleball.
A very tough durable polyurethane sole might reduce the number of shoe purchases until, one damp day, you go sliding into a steel net post. Rubber soles have wonderful traction, but durability might not agree with your fixed income.
You ideally want to find something in between — something that provides enough friction to keep you upright, but not so much friction that you appear to be a statue glued to the floor.
In my decision-making, I look at the tread patterns in the front and back section of the sole. Court shoe patterns are designed to facilitate fast starts and stops, and quick pivots, while running shoes, for example, are designed for only one direction.
I am also more dependent on the upper portion of the shoe design to give me better stabilization to help override poorer balance that comes with age. Sport-shoe uppers might be made of supportive leather, canvas or a breathable mesh synthetic material. Look for a durable material across the toe of the shoe to improve durability for toe drag.
How much support is built into the center of the shoe to provide arch support and reduce twisting? Check the heel of the shoe for stability. Check for shock absorption, because you are going to be doing a lot of jumping and, unfortunately, what goes up must come down.
Shock absorption systems also help to protect you should you step onto a pebble on the court. If, for example, you can feel any dirt or dust on the court through your shoe, it certainly is not providing any shock absorption. Different brands have different shock absorption systems but they usually only put them in their more expensive shoes.
I want a shoe sole that gives me good traction on the court, and I frequently observe the tread wear on my shoes to make sure it is evenly distributed.
When shopping, I examine different shoes. I look at the soles, compare them for weight, and then twist them for some idea of support. I do this to look macho, because I really have no idea of what I am comparing.
But the better stores provide trained personnel to assist you, and also provide machines to analyze the pressure points your body puts on your feet. Depending on their findings, they might suggest different orthotics to help compensate.
We are fortunate to have some good options at the outlet stores. To support our pickleball efforts, VP New Balance–Rehoboth stocks proper stock court shoes.
While the soles keep us upright, there is very little doubt that pickleball is good for our soul because of all the nice people attracted to the sport and the ensuing laughter. The sport is rambunctious enough that your level of performance is regulated by the foods you choose to eat. Seafoods are always a safe bet, including salmon, cod and the flatfish sole. Afterwards, enjoy music for your soul. And that completes my sole topic for the week.
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.
By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point