Tennis shoes are, of course, one of the first things you need to buy before playing tennis. The shoes on your feet affect how comfortable you are, how long you’re able to last on the court, and most importantly, your level of play. If you choose the wrong pair of shoes then you risk injury and at best, sub-optimal performance.
Choosing the proper shoes when you’re playing tennis is just as important as selecting the right tennis racquet.
From beginners to pros, choosing the best shoes that fit the individual player is something every player needs to spend time researching. A lot of players opt to purchase shoes that either A) look the best aesthetically or B) cost the least. You’re going to have to find a balance between looks (if you care about that) and functionality.
You also need a pair that will help you avoid injury while optimizing for your style of play. If you try to cut costs and buy an inexpensive pair of shoes then you’ll end up injuring yourself and paying 10x more in hospital bills than you would have on a high quality pair of shoes anyway.
There are plenty of brands that tennis players prefer, notably, Adidas, Nike, Babolat, and several others. The amount of options out there make it difficult to pinpoint what the best tennis shoes for men and women are. Despite the difficulty, it’s worth it because the right pair will reduce your risk of injury and help kick serious butt on the playing courts.
Here Are Some of the Best Tennis Shoes Reviewed Against Each Other:
Tennis Shoes Name
Men / Women?
|adidas adiPower Barricade 8||Men||5/5||4/5||D-Core 6||Andy Murray|
|Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 Tour||Men||2.7/5||4.6/5||Adaptive Fit||Roger Federer|
|Yonex Power Cushion Pro||Men||4.5/5||4.2/5||Power Cushion||Stan Wawrinka|
|Asics Gel Resolution 6||Women||7/10|
Key Factors to Consider When Buying Footwear for the Court:
How comfortable are the shoes and how well do they fit? – Ideally, you’ll want to get your feet sized in a local shoe store that specializes in tennis. Make sure you have them measure you against multiple brands as their sizing may vary across the board.
Write down your different sizes for each brand so you know what tennis shoe will fit you when you do decide to buy. Make sure you’re wearing the same sort of socks during sizing that you’d be using while actually playing. Oh, and make sure they provide adequate ankle support.
What is the warranty guarantee? – Tennis shoes are constantly going to be sliding around the court and scratching itself up as you run up and down the court. A lot of players go through new shoes every six months or so, depending on how often they play and how they move around. You don’t want to worry about messing up your shoes and being out money.
Make sure you buy a pair that has reliable warranty and a good amount of time for you to be sure you won’t be too late.
How long will the shoes take to break in? – All brand new shoes need breaking in, even regular non-sport shoes. With that said, tennis shoes are no exception and you will need to break them in when you first purchase them. You may risk injury if you wear them on the court while they’re still stiff. Here’s a guide from Lifehacker.com on breaking in your brand new pair of shoes with rubbing alcohol that you can read before you play.
How good do they look? – Tennis shoes look pretty cool and you’ll probably want to get a pair that look great, right? It’s pretty easy to get an idea of what pair looks the best. Just take a look at what the pros wear or pictures online. After all, if you’re going to be wearing these often (and on a daily basis, right?) you’ll want to look your best.
Make Roger Federer jealous of how graceful you look on the court.
What court surface will you be playing on most?
Certain pairs of shoes do better than others depending on the surface you decide to play on. One of the most common public courts are hard courts, pictured above. Here’s an article on the differences between the various, unique tennis court surfaces.
What’s your foot type?
You can figure out what your foot type is by doing what’s called the “wet test.”
All you need to do is wet the soles of your foot and step onto a piece of construction paper (or the sidewalk, if you’re into that sort of thing.)
Look between the ball of your foot and your heel. If you see a huge gap then you have what’s called a high arch, meaning your feet are “supinated.”
If you don’t see a gap at all then you have flat feet, or overpronated feet.
If you’re somewhere in between then you’re neutral (that’s where I am.)
Supinated feet will see the heel and toe of the shoes wear out faster.
Overpronated feet experience the most wear inside area of the front of the feet.
Neutral feet wear down evenly on all sides of the shoes (yay!)
What’s your play style?
Are you a baseline player or do you like to be up at net? Baseline players need a lot of lateral support as they’re constantly moving sideways. On the other hand, serve-and-volley players need shoes that have extra rubber in the toecap.
Understand the anatomy of a tennis shoe
Soles and Traction
The sole of the shoe is generally the first part that begins to wear down, much sooner than the uppers.
When picking a pair, you have to figure out what sort of court surfaces you’ll be playing on most often. Here are the most common type of soles: herringbone patterns, indoor/smooth/non-marking, and clay court soles.
The design of herringbone pattern soles are optimized for lateral movements (sideways motions,) helping you to avoid slipping when you’re moving side-to-side. These soles are made to be more durable to withstand the roughness of hard surfaces.
These soles won’t stick to the surface while you’re moving laterally. Indoor soles are meant to avoid damaging the tennis court while playing, so these are the soles you want if you play indoors. However, the majority of tennis players are outdoor players, so you can most likely avoid these.
Clay Court Soles
Clay court soles are lightweight and not as durable as herringbone patterns because clay courts are generally much softer than hard surfaces, making extra durability an unnecessary feature.
Three of the most common materials that create the top of the shoe are mesh, synthetic, and combination.
Mesh uppers breathe the most and are able to stay relatively cool during gameplay. Synthetic uppers offer more support than mesh and are able to stay dry off the court. Combination uppers have the best support as well as breathability, so if you’re looking for durability than combination is your best.
Heel Counter and Collar
Heel counters/collars reinforce heel to give additional support. They keep your foot inside your shoe and gives extra durability during lateral movements.
It also helps to make sure your foot doesn’t rub too high on the shoe, making it an essential piece in comfortable gameplay.
Many brands use foam engineered to the specific brands (for example, Adidas, Nike, etc.). They protect you from impact and makes you more comfortable on your feet.
The most commonly used material for cushion is called EVA. Its major advantages are allowing your shoes to be lightweight while still remaining durable.
Make sure that the shoes offer proper support because shoes that have too much cushion can be a negative. The best cushions give you a balance of support and comfort.
How much do you weigh?
This may seem like an oddly personal question that doesn’t fit in the context of picking tennis shoes, but it’s a question you have to consider (and be honest with yourself about.)
Heavier players need to pick heavier shoes. Lightweight shoes can wear down easily if you’re applying more force on them every step as opposed to a lighter player.
It can be pretty easy to pledge unfledged, lifetime loyalty to one specific brand. Don’t go with the “safe choices.” You need to try out the different brands that are out there.
It’s guaranteed that you’ll be able to find a better pair if you’re open to trying out more than just one brand. Why limit yourself to a tiny selection of shoes?
Key summary for deciding on what tennis shoes work best
How comfortable are the shoes? Do they fit your feet well? Always get measured in person at a specialized tennis shop. Wear the socks you’ll be wearing during actual play.
Make sure the shoes come with proper warranty. Tennis is harsh on your feet and you will end up with a few holes. Be safe knowing that you can get a new pair for free if yours die on you.
Understand your play style. Baseliners will need different shoes from serve-and-volley type players. What a baseliner may consider the best might end up being horrible for the player that enjoys being up at the net and vice-versa.
Know your tennis court surface. Different shoes specialize for different surfaces. Make sure you get a pair that’s optimized for the surface(s) you’ll be playing on most frequently.
Tennis is supposed to be a fun sport so I know you probably don’t want to stress yourself out with all the minute details, but believe me when I say it’s worth the time and effort to find the perfect pair.
It can be tempting to skimp out and buy shoes that either look the best or cost the least but they’re both bad vanity metrics to consider.
You want a high quality pair that will offer support and complement your style. If you try to cut costs then you’ll only hurt yourself so in the end, you end up paying more for hospital bills anyway. Plus, no one likes being injured (opportunity cost in what you could’ve been doing if you weren’t injured.)
Do you have any specific questions about tennis shoes? I’d be happy to help.
Still not sure what you need? Although I may not be able to consult for Federer, Nadal, or anyone else who plays on tv, I can answer your questions. :)