Tennis is a very fast paced sport demanding lots of stop and starts, endurance, sprinting, and side to side movements. All this calls for a pair of shoes that can withstand the abuse of the sport. But, not everyone’s feet are the same. Not everyone plays tennis the same. And, not everyone plays on the same court surface. That’s why it’s important to be able to distinguish what will make a good pair of tennis shoes for you. What you need will be a delicate balance of the qualities you value most. This can include things such as durability, stability, lateral support, comfort, traction, and cushioning. But it’s up to you, not us, to decide what your feet need most. So if you’re looking for some useful advice and tips, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll guide you through the process, let’s learn how to choose tennis shoes today.
How to Choose Tennis Shoes
What’s Your Foot Type?
Everyone’s feet fit in either one of three types: pronated, neutral, or supinated. Essentially what this means is how your feet are aligned determines your feet placement, whether you’re standing, walking, or running. When learning how to choose tennis shoes, you’ll want to figure out your foot type to decide on how much cushioning, lateral support, and arch support you’ll need in your shoes.
The easiest way to find out your foot type is by looking at your tennis shoes and seeing where they’ve worn the most. Shoes with a lot of wear on the inside of the soles or around the ball of your foot means you have a pronated foot. If the outside of the heel or toes show wear, you have a supinated foot. Lastly if there are even amounts of wear throughout your shoe, then your foot type is neutral.
However, if you want a more accurate measurement, you can always perform a wet test. Simply wet the bottom of your foot with water and place it on a visible surface such as a brown paper bag or concrete. Now, check the imprint and see what it matches. If your arch is very thin, your feet are supinated. If the arch is as large as the rest of your foot, you have pronated feet. And if your arch is not too thin or large, then your feet are neutral.
Neutral – If you have an ideal foot type, congratulations! You’ll be able to wear any type of tennis shoes as long as they’re comfortable. You could also be a foot model if you wanted to.
Supinated – Having a high arch means your feet are naturally inclined outwards. This means there isn’t a lot of inward stability so you’ll want to focus on cushioning and moderate to high arch support in a pair of tennis shoes. Supinated feet also causes shoes to wear out more quickly, so look for a very durable sole as well.
Pronated – A pronated foot equates to a low arch, which means your feet have the tendency to roll inwards. This can lead to injury more often than the other foot types, so you’ll want shoes that have lots of stability and lateral support. You’ll also want low to moderate arch support.
What’s Your Play Style?
What’s your strategy when it comes to playing tennis? Are you more of a “serve and volley” player (hardly seems like anyone is nowadays). OR, are you a “baseline” player, choosing to play close to the baseline? Also important when learning how to choose tennis shoes, your approach to tennis will be a deciding factor to what you should prioritize in a shoe.
Baseline – Since you’ll be spending most of your time at the baseline, you’ll constantly be making lots of side-to-side movements. Thus, you’ll want a pair of tennis shoes with tons of lateral support, as running side-to-side puts a lot of strain on your ankles. You’ll also want a good amount of cushioning for comfort and a durable sole to withstand lots of stop and go movements.
Serve & Volley – If you’re more of a “serve and volley” player, you’ll be playing on your toes often. That means you should look for shoes with reinforced toecaps and soles so they can stand up to the constant abuse of dragging your feet along the ground. You’ll also want good arch support for comfort when you’re on your toes.
What Makes a Good Tennis Shoe?
Shoe Material: Most tennis shoes are made to be lightweight and durable. The most popular materials that are used include leather, canvas, synthetics, and mesh. Lighter materials are more breathable and flexible although not as supportive or durable. Heavier materials provide better support and durability at the cost of light weight and breathability.
Speed or Stability?: Which do you favor more: speed or stability? Tennis shoes are often designed to fit in one category but not the other. Speed-oriented shoes are more lightweight and bare-bones while stability-orientated shoes have tougher uppers, more cushioning, and are generally heavier.
Durable in the Right Places: Durability is of huge importance for tennis shoes, especially if you play on hardcourt or clay. No one wants shoes that last less than a season, and reinforcement in the right places is a sure sign that they’ll stand the test of time. Although foot type is important in determining what areas of your shoe will wear out the most, the best places for reinforcement are the toeguard, the rubber outsole in general, and the seams around the toecap.
What type of court surface you’ll be playing on the most will influence the type of shoes you’ll need. There are essentially two types of court: hard court and soft court. Hard courts consist of concrete or plastic while soft courts are either made of clay or grass.
Hard court shoes: Designed with durability in mind, hard court shoes are more supportive and can withstand more abuse from quick stop-and-go movements. There is also ample amounts of cushioning to help absorb the impact of running on hard courts.
Soft court shoes: Soft court shoes have non-marking rubber outsoles so that the court won’t be damaged. Grass court shoes have flatter outsoles and are more flexible while clay court shoes have great traction that doesn’t stick to the clay.
Multi-court shoes: You can wear multi-court shoes on both hard and soft courts. Very convenient.
How to Fit Tennis Shoes
- Should not be too snug or too loose. No more than a finger width (~.25-.5 inch) of space is ideal.
- There should be no discomfort, pain, irritation, or rubbing against your foot.
- Your heel should be firmly locked in place for stability.
- Your feet should fit width-wise and should not be able to move while in the shoe.
- There should be appropriate arch support depending on your foot type.
- There should be ample cushioning as you move forward, backwards, side-to-side, and while jumping and landing.
- Size your shoes with socks you intend to wear.
- Shop for shoes toward the end of the day, as feet swell over the course of the day.
- You’ll get more accurate results if you sit while sizing shoes instead of standing.
- Try a variety of dynamic movements, such as running, staying on your toes, and side-to-side movements.
- Traction – One of the most important factors, tennis shoes should provide enough traction on the type of court you’re playing on. Enough to keep you from slipping, sliding, or tripping but not too much that you can’t pivot on your toes.
- Lateral Support – Crucial as tennis requires lots of side to side movements, which puts more strain on your ankles. If you’re prone to ankle injuries, you’ll want extra lateral support with a good midsole, tough upper, and ankle support. A wider shoe can also increase stability.
- Comfort – Comfort is the highest priority when choosing any athletic shoes, and tennis shoes are no exception. There should be no discomfort as you move around in tennis shoes.
- Durability – Most tennis shoes are very durable, although some additions can make shoes last a little longer. An added toe guard, tough upper material, and reinforced stitching are just a few. Toe guards are also crucial for rapid start and stop motions.
- Flexibility – Important for those who favor agility and dynamic movements. Look for shoes made of mesh or canvas which are flexible materials.
- Cushioning – The cushioning in tennis shoes are often comprised of either EVA or PU. EVA is light and flexible but not as durable or offers tons of stability. PU, on the other hand, is more durable and stable, but heavier.
- Budget – How much are you willing to spend on tennis shoes? If you’re a recreational player, it doesn’t make sense to shell out tons of money on a top-tier shoe. On the other hand, if you’re competing or playing seriously, you’ll want a pair of shoes that can complement your strengths.
***Tips on How to Choose Tennis Shoes***
- Determine your foot type before deciding on what kind of shoes you’ll need
- Supinated feet should prioritize durability, cushioning, and good arch support
- Pronated feet should prioritize stability, lateral and arch support
- Baseline players should look for cushioning, lateral support, and a durable outsole
- Serve and volley players should look for reinforced toecaps, outsoles, and arch support
- Decide if you want speed or stability. Most tennis shoes fit one category but not the other
- Tennis shoes should be durable in general. Look for toeguards, reinforced stitching, and a tough outsole
- Hard court shoes should have lots of cushioning, durability, and support
- Soft court shoes should have non-marking outsoles
- Comfort and fit should be your highest priorities when learning how to choose tennis shoes