Tennis Shoes vs Athletic Shoes (Everything You Need to Know!)

Proper fitting shoes make all the difference whether you’re running, walking, or playing a particular sport. Walking and running are the most popular and natural forms of exercise and wearing the wrong athletic shoes can cause you to end up with aching heels or shin splints. Tennis is a specialty sport when it comes to the kind of shoes you should wear on the court.

Tennis shoes 

Some people might mistake tennis shoes for sneakers, but they’re designed specifically for the game of tennis. They’re intended to help you with your left to right foot movements as opposed to other types of sports. Tennis is a fast-paced sport that demands a lot of starts and stops, sprinting, endurance, and side-to-side movements and all these calls for shoes that can withstand these abuse. We all have different feet and we all can’t play on the same court so you need to know the right tennis shoes that will suit your needs.

You must wear shoes that are specifically designed for tennis because they’re made to provide you with support, cushioning, and traction that you need on the tennis court. The kind of traction that you’ll need on a tennis court is very different than you would need if you were running or walking. The different types of court surfaces you’ll play on influences the type of shoes you’ll need to wear.

Different types of court surfaces


This is the most popular tennis court surface because of its durability and low-cost maintenance. It’s made with concrete and a top layer of acrylic or synthetic material. This court is tougher on your shoes and they will wear out quicker. This means the shoes you wear should be more durable, supportive, and with an upper and sole that can withstand the abuse from your quick movements. They should also have enough cushioning for absorbing impact and flex grooves to help with natural motion. A reinforced toe cap will protect the high wear areas.

Clay court

Clay courts are made with bricks and crushed stones and are the lowest playing court surface which gives you a higher bounced compared to other courts. The shoes you wear should have a non-marking outsole for strong grip or traction and the zig-zag herringbone tread pattern to prevent the clay from lodging onto the outsole giving you a better grip. They should also have a tight-fitting upper and more lateral support since it’s hard to get a proper footing on clay.

Tennis shoes vs racquetball shoes

Grass court

A grass court is the most traditional among all the surfaces and the most demanding in maintenance. The grass is known for its slipperiness so you need superior traction on your outsoles that are similar to that in the clay-court shoes. These shoes have an outsole that is flatter than the other tennis shoes and has small rubber nubs all over the outsole to provide enough traction and avoid sliding on the slippery or wet grass. The soles of the shoes are flexible and are made with non-marking rubber.

Athletic shoes

The athletic shoe you used to wear in the past has very different support and protection to the ones that are available in the market today. Today, a lot of focus is put into the shoe’s design to ensure that you’re safe and comfortable. These athletic shoes have to have to provide a certain level of cushioning and protection to help your joints in movement and soften the shock impact caused by all the jumping and running on the court. There are different types of athletic shoes you should choose from.

Walking shoes

Walking shoes don’t absorb as much shock as running shoes, but they should have enough cushioning to keep you comfortable. They should have flexible soles and designed to protect your feet and ankles from blisters caused by rubbing and friction. They should fit properly so that they can support your arches.

Running shoes

Running shoes have an added layer of cushioning and support to protect your joints from the repeated shock impact when your feet hit the ground at high speed. They’re also more flexible at the balls of your feet and a durable outsole for better traction and stability.

Training shoes

Also called cross-trainers, are multi-functional and versatile shoes. They provide good shock absorption so you can use them on the treadmill, cardio, weightlifting, or aerobics. However, they don’t provide the same cushioning or flexibility for high-impact sports.

Sport-specific shoes

Some athletic shoes are specialized like basketball shoes that are designed to provide better shock absorption and ankle support to protect your joints from all the running and jumping. The soles are also specifically designed for the court. Football shoes have spiked soles for traction while golf and baseball shoes have cleats for traction on turf.

Difference between tennis shoes and athletic shoes

The sole

Athletic shoes are made of a three-layer sole with an outsole made of carbon rubber for durability and segmented to allow more flexibility and grooved for traction. The midsole is made with shock-absorbing foam that provides good cushioning and air sacs or gel for support, and the sock liner provides added shock absorption and arch support. In contrast, tennis shoes have very slim and thin soles with very little padding. They’re very flexible and pliable with specific designs on the outsole for traction and to help with your agility on the court. The heels are thinner and harder to give you stability when making different moves on the court.

The upper

Tennis shoes are designed to protect your feet from all the skidding, jumping, lunging to the net, and lateral movements you make on the court. The upper is a bit stiffer than other shoes and they have a reinforced toe to protect your feet and help it last longer. Athletic shoes have a roomy toe box and a heel counter to prevent your feet from slipping excessively. Most running shoes are made with a synthetic upper, but some walking shoes have leather.

Lateral support

Tennis shoes are specifically designed to be used on a tennis court. When walking or running shoes focus more on cushioning, tennis shoes are more focused on lateral support and stability when you’re on the court. This is very important in the game of tennis when you’re making quick movements or side-to-side cuts, instead of heel-to-toe running. Cushioning is also important in tennis, but not as much as lateral stability and a low to the ground feel. If your feet are lower to the ground on the court, you will have more lateral stability and this is the reason tennis shoes have less cushioning than running shoes.

Cushioning and support

Athletic shoes like running or walking shoes provide support, cushioning, and stability every time you wear them. When you walk or run, you’re moving in one direction, forward, that’s why the shoes are designed to help your body cope with the forward motion. The heels and toes have cushioning to reduce the impact when your feet strike the ground. Although they have little lateral stability, it’s not significant because side-to-side movements aren’t common in running, but in tennis where tennis shoes have more lateral stability.


Tennis shoes are a bit heavier but slimmer to improve your agility, but running shoes are lighter than tennis shoes. Although running shoes have more cushioning, the cushioning material is lightweight so that you don’t feel like you’re carrying bricks on your legs when running.


Tennis shoes are a part of the different types of specialized shoes in athletic shoes, but they’re very different from other athletic shoes in that they’re made specifically for playing tennis. However, you can wear them outside of the court, but you can’t wear just ant athletic shoes to play tennis and the tennis shoes vs athletic shoes comparison have shown why tennis shoes and athletic shoes are different.


Is there a difference between walking shoes and running shoes?

Running shoes have more cushioning in the heels and forefoot. Walking shoes don’t need a build-up heel because your heels strike the ground first while running a build-up heel provides more stability.

Can you wear running shoes for walking?

Generally running shoes have more cushioning at the forefoot and heels and walking needs less padding than running. Wearing the right walking shoes will help prevent injuries and make walking more enjoyable.

Is it bad to run in tennis shoes?

It’s not bad, but tennis shoes are designed to provide lateral support and if you’re running for long distances, they can be harsh on your feet.

Are tennis shoes good for walking?

Tennis shoes are a bit stiff and aren’t designed for forwarding motion like running shoes. Running shoes have an elevated heel and a good convex shape at the midsole that helps with the forward motion.

Do you need tennis shoes?

Yes, especially if you’re playing tennis. If you’re a regular tennis player, you will need a pair of tennis shoes to help with your performance.