The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Pair of Tennis Shoes for Your Game

Sports athlete picking up ball with tennis racket. Female player using a technique with her running shoes to pick up during game on blue hard court. Closeup of feet, neon yellow fashion footwear.

Key Points

  • Tennis shoes are different from other athletic shoes in that the movements performed are unique to the sport.

  • Shoe types differ depending on the style of play and court surface.

  • When picking tennis shoes, it's important to factor in foot type, comfort, durability, cushioning, weight, traction, and budget.

Tennis is a sport that requires agility, precision, speed, and endurance. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a newbie learning the ropes, choosing the right gear and equipment can significantly impact your game. The intricacies of tennis can be hard to grasp at first. Although Carlos Alcaraz makes gliding around the court look effortless, like he did at the 2023 US Open, tennis requires extreme stamina, perseverance, and hand-eye coordination.

What style best suits your skill set? Are you a player who likes to trade power shots on the baseline, or are you a serve-and-volley finesse strategist? Unlike team sports, where you can feed off the energy of teammates, tennis is primarily a singles sport. It's on you to figure out how to outwit your opponent. One way to get a leg up on the competition is to equip yourself with the right tennis shoes.

Those new to the game should fight the urge to reach for just any athletic trainer. The Nike Zoom, or any running shoe for that matter, provides ample shock absorption to alleviate knee stress but requires the runner to continuously move forward. Tennis differs in that players move side-to-side throughout the game; in that regard, tennis shoes need to be laterally stable.

Curated writer and tennis expert Brandon Maki says, "Running or athletic shoes are made to move in a forward motion and are generally softer cushioned, especially in the heel for that motion. Tennis shoes, on the other hand, are built with a much more durable sole to handle the wear from the court surface and also are constructed to have better lateral stability for moving around for the ball on the court."

There's a lot to consider when picking the right shoes. We decided to break down the most important factors to keep in mind before buying your next tennis shoes.

Determine Your Foot Type

It pays to understand your particular foot type before even thinking about the style or brand to place your trust in. Being conscious of your foot's curvatures is crucial in making an informed decision.

Pronation refers to the natural inward rolling of your foot when moving around. Overpronation is when the foot rolls excessively inward, placing extra stress on the arch and ankle areas. Those with flat feet typically have a broad foot foundation with little to no inward curvature. Individuals with this foot type would do well to select shoes with adequate arch support and stability. 

Neutral feet have a moderate arch with an even weight distribution across the foot. People with neutral pronation have feet with a slight inward curve from the heel to the ball of their foot. If this sounds like you, look for a balanced shoe with moderate stability and cushioning.

Feet with high arches have a distinct upward curve in the middle of the footprint. Those with this foot type often experience underpronation (also known as supination), leading to increased pressure on the outer edge of your foot. A well-cushioned shoe with a soft midsole will be necessary to excel in tennis.

Choose the Right Type of Shoe

Hoopers know that when it comes to new basketball shoes, choosing ones based on where they play is as essential as anything else. Outdoor courts require sturdy bases able to withstand the ground and pound of pavement. Heavily tractioned outsoles work best for indoor courts due to the constant directional shifts. The same thought process applies to tennis shoes. What surfaces do you play on?

All-court shoes are the most versatile of them all. Whether hard court, clay, or grass, these shoes stand up nicely against all surfaces. They strike an ideal balance between support, durability, and traction.

Although clay-court shoes offer excellent grip, they have advanced sliding capabilities, allowing users to glide across the court. The bright orange surface of the French Open paints the perfect picture of when such a shoe works best. Moving side to side on clay courts presents a different challenge than other surfaces. These types of shoes spotlight herringbone or zigzag patterns on the outsole for better traction on loose surfaces.

Hard court shoes have durable outsoles and ample cushioning that hold up against solid surfaces. This shoe style provides high-level stability for the lateral movements and directional shifts this court warrants.

Then there are grass court shoes. Players competing at Wimbledon wear shoes with minimal treading to prevent damage to the court while still having enough grip to quickly change directions. Those that are a fan of grass should do the same.

A cheerful man and woman walking on tennis court

Choose a Comfortable Fit

The fit of your shoe extends beyond just tennis players but is paramount when considering safety and performance. Anyone who has ever worn ill-fitting shoes on the court can attest to things like discomfort, blisters, sprains, or worse.

Knowing the true size of your feet is the first step to achieving maximum comfort. No matter how much support and cushioning a shoe has, placing it on a foot it can't hold properly is a recipe for disaster. Consider having your foot measured at a shoe store, as the size variance between brands is easy to overlook.

Most importantly, try on multiple sizes and styles. Walk, jog, and make the types of moves you'd make on the court to ensure they provide the necessary support. You won't really know until you try them out for yourself.

Consider Weight and Durability

The weight of your shoes impacts your speed on the court. Lightweight shoes are ideal for those who like to rotate between net play and baseline action, while heavier shoes benefit those who like to slug it out at the back.

Tennis is a demanding support that puts stress on your shoes. Look for shoes with reinforced toe caps and sturdy outsoles that withstand the wear and tear they are bound to face.

Check for Breathability

Whether playing outside in the scorching heat or in a temp-controlled indoor court, tennis requires a level of physicality that leads to sweaty feet. Shoes with breathable uppers containing mesh or lightweight fabrics are crucial in keeping your feet cool in matchplay.

Consider Cushioning and Support

Tennis involves constant movement, including lateral strides, forward sprints, backward motion, and timely jumps when powering down an overhead smash. Adequate cushioning is pivotal to absorb shock and protect your feet from injury. Look for shoes with a well-cushioned midsole made from cutting-edge materials like EVA and polyurethane to provide comfort and sufficient shock support. Pay close attention to a shoe's heel counter as well. A sturdy heel stabilizes the rearfoot, preventing excessive heel movement when flying around the court. 

Check for Traction and Grip

Shoes with advanced traction soles help players maintain control and prevent slipping on the court. Tennis shoes have different outsole patterns depending on the surface they're meant to play on. Herringbone and multidirectional patterns best suit hard courts, while subtle designs work best on clay and grass courts.

Consider Your Budget

Everyone has a budget they must work within when choosing tennis shoes. The quality of the materials, sophistication of the technology, and prestige a brand name carries reflect how much a shoe sells for. Although there are plenty of cost-friendly tennis shoes to choose from, it could be worth investing in a high-quality pair to help prevent injury, not to mention the perceived long-term value higher caliber shoes provide.

Love Your Feet 

Sharpening your skills is most effective when you have the right shoes to do them in. There is a laundry list of things to consider when choosing tennis shoes, but taking time to consider your foot type, comfort, cushioning, and durability helps you make an informed decision for your specific needs. With the right tennis shoes in tow, you'll be better equipped to excel on and off the court.

Subscribe to Sneaker Guru to catch up on more sneaker news and reviews.

Was this article helpful?