Tennis Shoe Buying Guide
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Choosing a Tennis Shoe
Tennis is an active, physical game, and your feet bear the brunt of the abuse. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’re just stepping on to the court for the first time, choosing a tennis shoe is an essential part of the game. There’s no shortage of playing styles and court surfaces in tennis, and thus no shortage of various tennis shoes. From popular Nike tennis shoes and Adidas tennis shoes to reliable, high-performance Asics tennis shoes … the best tennis shoe for your unique needs is out there, but you’ll need to do your research. Here you’ll find a helpful guide for selecting tennis shoes that will provide superior support and comfort on whichever court you play.
Tennis Shoes vs. Other Athletic Shoes
Think twice before throwing on a pair of old running shoes before you hit the court. Running shoes are typically lighter and designed for a runner’s forward motion. Tennis shoes, on the other hand, are all about providing optimal support for the rigorous lateral movements of tennis. You also want to ensure a lightweight yet sturdy design that will keep you moving freely and quickly.
When choosing the best tennis shoe, your local tennis court plays a big factor. Just like tennis balls, there are shoes that are designed specifically for each court surface: hard, clay, and grass. Let’s take a look at the differences:
Hard Courts: Hard courts can be punishing on your shoes, and your shoes can be punishing on the court as well! Hard-court tennis shoes typically are non-marking to avoid scuffing the surface. Their construction prioritizes shock absorption and cushioning to provide you with comfort and support on the harder surface. Many tennis shoes offer six month durability wear guarantees on the outsole.
Clay Courts: Clay courts are much softer than hard courts and this means a different type of shoe. Clay-court tennis shoes are typically composed of synthetic uppers, a herringbone tread pattern that won’t clog with clay and offers grip that still allows for sliding, and a lighter weight that allows for speed and improved maneuverability.
Grass Courts: Like clay court shoes, grass-court tennis shoes are designed prevent damage to the court and have a nub patterned sole to give you improved traction on potentially slippery grass. Uppers are typically made from synthetic and mesh combinations.
All Courts: Today, most brands — like Nike, Adidas, Asics, and Babolat — offer all-court tennis shoes that are designed to handle the subtleties of all three court types. If you aren’t looking for one specific surface type, these multi-purpose shoes may be your best bet.
Do you stick to the baseline? Or are you more of an old-school serve-and-volley player? Your style of play is an important factor in determining the best tennis shoes for you. Baseline players will want a durable sole, superior cushioning, and strong lateral support for the continuous side-to-side movements. If you find yourself frequently charging the net after a serve, you’ll instead want a durable toecap and improved flexibility for the balls of your feet.
The more you learn about your foot type, the better prepared you’ll be to find shoes with features you need to perform your best and avoid injury on the court. There are three foot types and several ways to determine which is yours:
Pronated: Players with pronated feet will notice excessive shoe wear on the inside area near the balls of the feet. If you step in water with your bare feet and leave a mark on the ground, you’ll see that the whole impression of your foot appears with little or no visible space. If you are among the 60% of the population with pronated feet, you’ll want to find shoes with superior lateral support to prevent injury to your knees or ankles.
Supinated: If your shoes are worn down on the outside of the heel and forefoot, you likely have supinated feet. Your wet feet test would reveal a large empty space in the center arch area of the foot mark. Players will want to invest in shoes that provide greater flexibility and shock absorption, plus added space for the heel.
Ideal: Players with even shoe wear and a balanced/neutral foot mark in the wet test have an ideal foot type that is suitable for most tennis shoes.