Tennis is an active, physical game, and your feet have a tough time pounding the court.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just stepping onto 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 there’s a wide variety of tennis shoes – some more appropriate than others for a particular court surface and player.
From popular Nike and Adidas tennis shoes to reliable, high-performance Asics the biggest factor when deciding which tennis shoe to go for is its outsole.
Tennis footwear can be categorised by the type of surface the shoe is designed to perform on. Another important consideration is the trade-off between comfort, durability, weight and stability. Shoes which offer exceptional stability and durability are often heavier.
However, shoes which are lightweight have the advantage of speed, allowing players to reach the ball more quickly. Tennis is a game of quick stops and starts, short sprints and frequent lateral movements – this is why you need footwear that can stand-up to your game.
Think about your playing style and court surface as well as personal preferences when selecting your new pair of tennis shoes.
Tennis shoes style
It is important to be aware of the differences between tennis shoes and other types of sports footwear before making your purchase.
Frequent stops and starts while moving around the court influence the way tennis shoes are designed. Tennis shoes are typically more flat with specifically designed patterns on the sole, all depending on which type of court surface you generally play on.
Other types of sports shoes have thicker, softer heels that decrease weight, and cushioning to lesson impact – tennis shoes need to be sturdier.
Running shoes or other athletic shoes, however, are designed for the repetitive forward motion of running or walking.
Finding the perfect fit
The most important thing to get right when purchasing a new pair of tennis shoes is the fit.
The following points are important to be aware of:-
The size is perhaps the most obvious – a quality make of shoe will be available in half-sizes – small increments.
Remember to take a pair of socks with you, that you play in when trying your new shoes.
If you use thick socks this will affect your shoe size. Ideally, you should have about a half-inch (13mm) between the tip of your big toe and the front of your shoe – use the width of your thumb to check the space.
Too much space will allow movement and perhaps cause blisters.
Shoe buying considerations
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck with a new pair of shoes that felt good out of the box, but didn’t meet your expectations after hitting the court, then you know just how frustrating it can be.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to track down the perfect set of shoes, and more often than not, we have to compromise.
By nature, tennis shoes tend to be stiffer than many other types of sports shoes because they need to support a wide range of movement on court.
Some shoes place a greater emphasis on comfort than others. Look for shoes that have a generous midsole.
The insole can also provide added support – useful if it’s removable for ventilation and cleaning.
When playing tennis, sudden abrupt movements are common. You need to feel completely supported by your shoe with your foot locked in place and not sliding forward as you stop and start.
The vast majority of players use hardcourts, so shoes need to be sufficiently durable and not wear out too quickly.
One of the most critical components of a shoe’s durability is the outsole at the bottom of the shoe, which is in constant contact with the court surface.
Different styles of play cause wear in unique areas of a shoe – for example, some players drag their foot when serving and, therefore, may require a more durable toe-cap for their shoes to last.
The weight of a tennis shoe is a feature that players associate with speed.
A lightweight shoe feels fast, while a heavier shoe may tend to feel sluggish.
Shoe manufacturers are often making a trade-off between weight, stability and durability to strike an appealing balance.
The different tennis shoe outsoles
When choosing the best tennis shoe a major consideration is the court surface you will be playing on – hard, clay or grass.
Are probably the most punishing on your shoes – your shoes can also be punishing on the court. They need to be typically non-marking to avoid damage to the court surface.
Their construction must prioritize shock absorption and cushioning to provide comfort for the player.
Clay-court shoes need to provide a good grip with a pattern that won’t clog with clay and get heavy. They must allow sliding and can be lighter in weight to help fast movement.
These shoes, like clay-court shoes, are designed to give a grip but not damage the court. They usually have a studded outsole to help the player maintain balance on what may be a slippery surface.
Today, most brands like Nike, Adidas, Asics and Babolat offer all-court tennis shoes that they claim will be adequate for all surfaces. This type of shoe is probably a good and adequate compromise for most players.