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Best tennis shoes - January 2020
Tennis is one of the sports that involve agility with proper foot coordination. This sport is played on a variety of indoor and outdoor surfaces like grass, clay, carpet, and hard courts. And, the nature of these playing surfaces has an effect on the composition of tennis footgear.
This page tackles all that you need to know about athletic tennis shoes. Detailed here are the essential pointers you need when scouting for your first or next pair of tennis footwear.
The must-haves of a tennis shoe
Generally, a good pair of tennis shoes should be able to tick each item on this checklist.
- provides stability during side-to-side court coverages, lunges, jumps, and quick pivots
- is constructed with an added heel support
- is designed with adequate shock-absorbing properties
- is assembled using solid materials on high-wear zones (hard-wearing outsole and reinforced toecap)
- is devised with a non-marking outsole
- offers traction to enable intense sprints and twists with no slipping
- feels light and doesn’t drag the foot down
In a nutshell, the best tennis shoes are those that deliver the right level of support, agility, and endurance, and are shaped to your preferred style of play.
Tennis shoes are designed using supportive features for lateral stability. These come in the form of synthetic overlays that hold up the upper, as well as plastic shanks, and outriggers.
The purpose of the added synthetic layering is to lock the foot down. Midfoot shanks or plastic supports under the arch of the foot are there to prevent unwanted foot twisting and to promote heel strength. Outriggers make the forefoot section of the sole wider than in other athletic shoes for added balance.
Apart from stability features, tennis shoes offer support in the heel to keep it from rotating when it should be planted firmly on the ground. Collar padding is added in varying thickness, which gives protection to the ankle.
The strenuous sport itself and the abrasive court surfaces can pose a lot of harm to the foot if played with a less durable tennis shoe. Tennis trainers are built with abrasion-resistant features to take on the harshness of the court. These come in the form of reinforced rubber toe caps and heavy-duty outsoles.
Lots of high-performance tennis trainers are offered with an outsole durability warranty. This is one of the tell-tale signs that the shoe can outlast repeated pounding, especially on the hard court. The guarantee allows you to have your tennis footgear replaced within six months from the time of purchase in case it sustains considerable damage on the outsole.
Cushioning and impact protection
Heel-to-toe midsole cushioning isn’t as vital as lateral stability when it comes to tennis shoes. But you’d want to pick a tennis footgear that offers ample underfoot shock absorption. Technically, these are made into dense foams, air bags, and silicone-based gels. Such midsole cushioning units are made to buffer the feet from impact and prevent the possibility of foot discomfort and injuries.
The weight of your tennis shoe affects your ability to perform on the court. Speed tennis shoes, made with a minimalistic construction, are typically lighter than stability tennis shoes. The latter is loaded with supportive features that add weight to the footgear.
Choosing the right pair of men’s and women’s tennis shoes
Deciding on which tennis shoe will suit you best requires a careful assessment of your foot type, foot size, playing style, and preferred materials. More importantly, you need to have a better understanding of the kind of tennis court you’ll be playing on. Knowing these essentials will help you achieve your ace game. These are further detailed in the subsections below.
Know your playing surface
Below are the general compositions of clay, grass, carpet, and hard courts and the corresponding structure of tennis footgear that match these. There are also multi-court or all-court tennis shoes, made with non-marking outsoles that can be used on clay, grass, and hard courts. These are typically used by recreational and entry-level players who’d like to do practice games on various court setups.
Hard court (outdoor)
- made of unforgiving and rigid material which can be challenging for the feet
- often covered with an acrylic layer to offer greater bounce consistency than other court surfaces
- can vary in speed, though they are faster to play on than clay but not as fast as the grass courts
Hard-court tennis shoe components
- offers stability and support that are needed during lateral footwork
- made of a durable upper that can withstand abuses from quick stop-and-go movements
- devised with an ample amount of cushioning to help absorb the impact
- has flex grooves to assist with natural motion
- typically constructed with a high abrasive-resistant, non-marking outsole
Tennis athletes avoid ultra-lightweight shoes on the hard court even if these feel fast and offer a low-to-the-ground advantage. Such weight-saving attribute can have a tradeoff on the durability aspect.
Clay court (outdoor)
- constructed using crushed shale, stone, or brick
- clay courts tend to slow down the ball and produce high bounce making big serve difficult and taxing for serve-based players to dominate on this surface
- a type of court that favors baseline players
Clay-court tennis shoe features
- created using a non-marking outsole with superior traction
- made of herringbone tread pattern that doesn’t collect dirt in between grooves
- built with a tight-fitting upper
- either made of solid leather, tight mesh, or synthetic upper that prevent dust and fine particles from entering the shoe
- offers lateral support since clay allows you to slide naturally than in grass and hard courts
- designed with durable sides
Grass court (outdoor)
- made of grass grown on hard-packed soil
- the fastest type of tennis court
- the bounce of the ball inclines to be low and fast
- suits the aggressive movers or the serve-and-volley players very well
- grass surface is more forgiving to the body compared to hard court
Grass-court tennis shoe makeup
- provides natural cushioning
- assembled with a non-marking rubber outsole
- comes with little rubber nubs that offer traction on slippery and wet grass
- made with a sole that’s low-to-the-court
Carpet court (indoor)
- one of the fast-paced court types, second to grass
- the ball bounces low on this court
- made of a textile surface with rubber or nylon matting on the concrete ground
Carpet-court tennis shoe attributes
- has a smooth, flat sole which is played on indoor carpet court only
- made with lateral support for swift starts and quick stops
- consists of materials that are lightweight
Choose between stability and agility
Brands have segmented their tennis shoe collections into speed and stability types. To make the hunt more manageable for you, we’ve enlisted the significant attributes of tennis shoes belonging to these categories.
Stability tennis shoes
- built to hold the feet securely while providing ultimate comfort and confident steps
- crafted with supportive uppers
- have an abundance of cushioning through the midsole
- constructed with durable outsoles
- many of the stability tennis shoes from different brands come with a six-month outsole durability warranty
Speed tennis shoes
- assembled using lighter materials in the outsole
- uppers are lightweight and made of minimal designs
- have a low-to-the-court profile with moderate cushioning
- equipped for the more aggressive player who slides often
- these are not as durable as stability tennis shoes
- although these grants stability, they flex more efficiently with the foot than stability tennis shoes
Define your playing style
As you immerse in the game of tennis longer, you’ll notice that you’re beginning to develop a particular playing style. Either you become a baseline or a serve-and-volley player. Your preferred method of play is influenced by how you move around the court.
If you spend the majority of your time at the back end of the court, then you’re a baseline player. You wait for the ball and take shots by constantly moving sideways. Because of this footwork technique, you would want to search for tennis shoes with stable lateral support, highly durable outsoles, and midsoles with sufficient cushioning.
If you’re the type who likes to dart towards the net often, then you’re a serve-and-volley player. For this type of playing style, it’s advisable to have shoes with heavy-duty outsoles and fortified toecaps. Since volleys tend to force you to perform constant toe dragging, it would also be fitting to find shoes with added layers of protection around the forefoot.
Get the right fit
Your performance on the court is greatly influenced by the fit of your tennis shoe. To know the right fit, you need to understand your foot type and foot length, plus the shoe widths offered by the brands.
Before we jump into the description of the different foot types and shoe widths of tennis shoes, here’s a quick guide to finding your right shoe size.
- Always purchase tennis footwear that comfortably fits your bigger foot.
- There ought to be a half an inch space between the edge of your longest toe (which could be your first, second, or third toe) and the tip of your shoe.
- Sizes can vary among shoe brands. So it’s best to try on a pair in the store to get the feel of the shoe and the suitable size for you.
- Try not to force your foot into an ill-fitting shoe as this can lead to foot, ankle, leg, knee, and even lower back discomforts.
- You can adjust the fit of the shoe by wearing thicker socks, replacing the insoles, or adjusting the lacing patterns.
- The heel should fit snugly to prevent slippage, and the same goes with your midfoot, but it shouldn’t be too tight.
Foot types are generally categorized into pronated, supinated, and neutral. But how do you know which of these categories your feet belong to? The amount of wear on your outsole or the flipside of your shoe tells so much about your foot type.
If there’s a noticeable degree of wear on the inside or medial side of your sole, then you have a pronated foot. Unfortunately, this type of foot is usually prone to injuries. So, if you have a pronated foot, it’s advisable to find a supportive and sufficiently cushioned tennis shoe to achieve the right fit.
You’ll know if you have a supinated foot if the shoe you wear regularly thins out fast around the outside of the heel. If you have a supinated foot, you have the tendency to wear out your footgear faster than those with pronated and neutral types. Thus, you’ll need tennis footwear with an extra-durable outsole.
If there’s an even level of wear on your entire outsole, chances are your foot is neutral. You may pick any kind of tennis shoe as long as it offers you comfort, lateral stability, and, most importantly, it’s fully equipped for the specific playing surface they’re created for.
Generally, tennis shoes for men come in D (standard), 2E (wide), 4E (extra wide) width measurements. For the women, the options are 2A (Narrow), B (standard), D (wide). The standard (medium) width for men is D, while it’s B in women.
Understanding tennis shoe components
Like most athletic footwear, your tennis shoe is divided into three parts: the upper, midsole, and outsole. These and the other standard elements of tennis shoes are further detailed below:
As presented earlier, the outsole is a vital section of your tennis footgear. It’s the bottommost section of the shoe that automatically tells which court surface it’s supposed to be played on. Shoes for clay surfaces have intense grooves in a herringbone pattern to release dirt. The outsoles of hard-court shoes have a modified herringbone pattern with less depth in the grooves.
Just above the outsole is the midsole, which is either built with a thick, raised heel or a low-to-the-ground structure. This middle section of the shoe helps absorb impact and reduce foot discomfort. Like in some running shoes, the heel portion of certain tennis trainers contains the most substantial amount of cushion.
The cushioning properties come in the form of foams, air bags, and silicone-based pads. Some of the examples are standard EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), Boost, Bounce, Cloudfoam, Adiprene, Zoom Air, Fresh Foam, REVlite, Asics Gel, and Solyte.
Aside from cushioning, the midsole section of tennis shoes also offers stability through the use of TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) or top materials like carbon fiber. The use of durable and stable materials for these can add up to the cost of the shoe. Midsole support is standard among stability tennis shoes, thereby making them pricier than other tennis shoes.
The midfoot shank, lodged under the arch of the foot, provides support against torsion by refocusing the flex point to the forefoot. Some of the midsole support technologies developed by sports brands are Sprintframe, Torsion System, Trusstic System, S-Curve, and PCS (Plantar Support Chassis).
This refers to the covering of your shoe, which usually comes with a lace-up opening or a one-piece bootie construction wherein the tongue is attached to the collar. The majority of tennis shoes are done utilizing highly durable uppers like synthetics. Some tennis trainers are made with a combination of synthetic with mesh which is generally lightweight to promote flexibility on the court while offering breathability as well.
It’s the section of the forefoot that folds when you stand on your toes. The vamp is usually made of a soft material like mesh to make it flexible. These are sometimes perforated to enhance breathability.
Toe dragging is common among tennis players. Most tennis shoes are built with reinforced toe caps to prevent the front part of the shoe from tearing apart too soon. It’s an extra layer of rubber at the tip of the shoe that sometimes spreads along the medial side for added protection.
Tennis shoes are commonly made with lacing setups that don’t easily come undone. Such tennis-specific lacing systems allow you to cinch up your shoes to your preferred fit. These are meant to keep the foot snugly in place as you battle off under compromising matches.
For added stability, a plastic or composite insert is fitted to the rear side of the shoe. This prevents the heel from twisting during sudden turns and stops.
Like in most basketball shoes, the outrigger is the protruded part of the sole that’s located at the lateral side of the forefoot. This gives the shoe a broader platform to increase balance as the player push for shots at multiple directions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all tennis shoes equipped for long practices and games?
Athletic tennis shoes are designed with technologies that can withstand the practice session and game-day demands of the sport. However, in the US, lifestyle sneakers are also called tennis shoes, which are not court-ready.
Brands commonly categorize the sports-specific ones under tennis shoes, while the fashion sneakers or tennis-inspired kicks belong to the lifestyle section. Tennis-specific shoes are built with court-ready outsoles with a wide forefoot platform and supportive features that help stabilize the foot.
Can I wear my running shoes for tennis?
A lot of people prefer wearing their running shoes for tennis. But, it’s advisable to wear court-specific tennis shoes even in practice games. Running shoes are generally designed with thick, padded heels to cushion the impact that comes with running or walking. However, tennis shoes come with stability features to support the foot when making quick multi-directional turns and lateral moves.
Is it okay to play tennis in my basketball shoes?
Both basketball and tennis involve lateral movements and fast breaks or stops. However, it’s best to get a tennis-specific shoe for such sport to minimize foot discomfort and injuries. Here are some of the reasons.
- Tennis shoes are generally offered in low-top with minimal padding, allowing freedom of movement. Higher ankle collars found in basketball shoes may constrain specific tennis footwork techniques.
- The grip performance of tennis shoes is designed for the more abrasive concrete, while those for basketball are for hardwood. Even the non-marking, clay tennis shoes come with grooves that minimize the chances of collecting dirt.
- On average, tennis shoes are devised with heavy-duty outsoles and additional toe reinforcements since outdoor tennis courts can be abrasive to the footwear.
- Tennis shoes come in lighter packages than most basketball shoes. The added weight can affect the player’s maneuverability and speed on the court.
Can I use my clay-court tennis shoe on hard court?
There’s no strict rule that prohibits you from doing so. But your clay-court shoe may not have sufficient cushioning and traction suitable on concrete. Your clay-court footgear will not last long on the hard court. This is why hard-court shoes are made with heavy-duty outsoles for durability.
How about using my hard-court shoes on clay court?
You might notice that the outsole tread patterns for clay and hard court seem the same since they are made of herringbone or zigzag designs. However, they are different in form and function.
The soles for hard court trainers are thicker and denser to outlast the demands of concrete surfaces. Using hard court shoes on clay can damage the court. This is why clay court shoes have flat herringbone tread to quickly release dirt, maintain surface integrity, and achieve better traction.
What to wear if I like to play on different types of courts and only want one pair of shoes?
If you’re new to the game and wanted to do a couple of practice rounds on clay, grass, and hard court, you might want to try an all-surface, all-court, or multi-court tennis shoe with a modified herringbone pattern.
Eventually, you might want to get a pair of shoes appropriate for each court since those come with high-performance specifications that prevent you from stumbling or sliding.
What are the best tennis shoes for every budget?
The most affordable tennis shoes are up for grabs for as low as $65 to $80. Some of these are the Adidas Barricade Court, Adidas GameCourt, New Balance 696v3, Asics Gel Dedicate 5, Asics Gel Game7, and NikeCourt Lite 2.
High-performance speed tennis shoes tend to be more cost-saving than stability tennis shoes. The added technologies that make the shoe stable have a direct effect on the price. Standardly, speed tennis shoes are priced way below $150.
Where can I easily order tennis shoes online?
Purchasing tennis shoes online can be overwhelming. RunRepeat, a shoe review site, lowers the stress level as it features the best tennis shoes in the market complete with valuable descriptions. It also gives you vital testimonies coming from users and tennis shoe experts.
You don’t have to go to another tab or page to order your next tennis shoe as the site automatically links you up to a host of online retailers. It provides you with price and style comparisons so you can make better choices. Plus, you can pick your desired size and colorway instantly.
When is the right time to replace my existing tennis shoes?
Here are some of the signs that tell that it’s about time to retire your tennis shoe in place of a new pair:
- If the tread pattern loses grip
- If you feel an unusual soreness in your foot, ankles, knees and lower back after playing
- If your tennis shoes no longer squeak on hard court
There’s no precise metric that determines the exact lifespan of tennis shoes. However, on average, it takes about 45 to 60 hours before the midsole begins to wear out. If, for instance, you practice and play twice a week for an hour each, you might need to replace your shoe in approximately 6 months.
15 best tennis shoes
- NikeCourt Zoom Cage 3
- Asics Gel Court Speed
- Asics Court FF 2
- New Balance Fresh Foam Lav
- Adidas Adizero Ubersonic 3.0
- Asics Gel Resolution 7
- Asics Gel Solution Speed 3
- NikeCourt Air Zoom Zero
- Adidas CourtJam Bounce
- Adidas Adizero Defiant Bounce
- Nike Air Zoom Vapor X Clay
- K-Swiss Hypercourt Express
- Asics Gel Resolution 7 Clay
- Asics Gel Game 7
- Asics Solution Speed FF
A score from 1 to 100 that summarizes opinions from users and experts. The average CoreScore is 78. More...