OluKai Created Island Footwear for Everywhere. Now, They Unveil a Pickleball Shoe

OluKai's pickleball shoe resting on a court with pickleballs and a paddle

How many pairs of flip-flops have you owned over the course of your lifetime? They're one of those products that we see as replaceable, probably because many break before summer ends.

OluKai, a Hawaiian-born brand, wanted to create a sandal that could seamlessly transition from the beach to a dinner date. They saw a need for well-constructed sandals that you'd want to wear everywhere.

As they pushed into close-toed shoes, the "drop-in heel" became the brand's signature, inspired by the Hawaiian tradition of removing your shoes before you enter someone’s home.

The feature allows wearers to treat their closed-toed shoes as slides or traditional shoes.

But OluKai knew they could innovate outside of sandals and casual footwear.

OluKai branding of people in a Hawaiian style boat

Their designers heard countless golfers tell them that as soon as they leave the greens, their golf shoes come off. 

So, OluKai designed golf shoes that breathe while maintaining club-appropriate looks with an island twist.

Now, they've entered the world of pickleball.

Like their golf shoes, sandals, and close-toed lines, the pickleball shoes had to be comfortable enough to be worn anywhere.

“We wanted the whole experience to be an option – wearing them to, during, and after a pickleball session without a second thought,” OluKai's design team says.

But it also needed to be functional. After all, so many hastily-made products pop up in the market that are really just tennis shoes in disguise.

OluKai didn’t want to spin off a pair of green, pickleball-branded tennis shoes. They wanted to make something specifically designed for dynamic pickleball.

So how’d they make the transition to something so functional as a pickleball shoe?

OluKai's family of pickleball shoe colors

Building a Quality Pickleball Shoe

It may seem like a no-brainer, but designing a pickleball shoe does require input from pickleball players. 

So, they conducted interviews with players of all skill levels to understand what that actually means.

OluKai’s design team found that a truly functional pickleball shoe needed some specific elements that distinguish it from tennis footwear:

Multi-directional traction: To accommodate for variations between indoor vs. outdoor courts, the shoes had to be designed to grip almost any playing surface.

“There’s lots of frustration with traction in one setting over the other,” OluKai says, illustrating a common complaint from recreational and pro players alike.

Closeup detail of the bottom of OluKai's pickleball shoe

Comfort without stuffy materials: Pickleball players often hit the courts for hours at a time, and much of the sport is played in either warm climates or during warmer seasons.

So the cushioning around the shoe itself needed to provide plenty of durable support without being overbuilt.

“Ultimately, the more layers of fabric, the hotter the shoe is going to get.

"We had to combine efficient use of space with mesh patterns and breathability to make sure the shoe remains comfortable to wear,” the team says.

MORE, not less, support than a tennis shoe. The pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, so wouldn’t a pickleball shoe need less support? Of course not.

“The sheer level of durability and traction needed for a pickleball surface combined with shorter, choppier movement of players (planting feet quickly, etc.) was super important and led to some unique opportunities for us to enhance the performance of the product in addition to stressing comfort,” the design team says.

They tested the design for months among average recreational players all the way up to a tour-playing professional.

Related: Adding Weight to Your Pickleball Paddle: The Complete Guide

"I love how comfortable the shoe is on court and lightweight,” says pro Hannah Blatt. “But my favorite thing about the shoe is all the color options - they are all so cute!” 

Courtside Footwear for Pickleball Players

You can see all the color and expanded sizing options for the pickleball shoes here.

There are currently three colorways available in men's and women's sizes: 

But if you're looking for sandals, boots, or casual footwear, consider some of these other courtside-friendly options from OluKai:

  • Kūkulu sandals: Crafted with water-resistant materials, this redesigned beach sandal offers superior traction for smooth transitions between the pickleball court and the beach, or the post-game party/cookout.
  • Sunbeam slides (above): An everyday, anywhere slide for all your day's activities featuring built-in support.

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