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

In a simpler time, you would get one pair of sneakers for all activities from running, tennis, gym, walking, biking, even gardening, and the shoes would fit perfectly. But nowadays, it’s the other way round, the sporting activity has to fit the shoes. It has become overwhelming to buy shoes because they have become specialized. If you love playing tennis getting the best tennis shoes will help provide the necessary support and traction depending on the type of court you’re playing on.

When it comes to the gym, there are a broad mix of activities you can do and the best shoes would be cross trainers to provide stability for most of the gym activities, good cushioning for shock absorption, and non-marking outsoles so that you don’t damage the gym floor.

Tennis shoes

Tennis shoes are designed to be used on a tennis court. Apart from being able to withstand the rigorous activities on the court, they’re designed to focus more on your stability and lateral support. This is because most of the action you do on the tennis court consists of quick side-to-side movements, sudden starts and stops, and running forward to the net and back trying to make a shot.

That is why more emphasis is put on the movement of your feet and this helps to reduce your chances of sustaining injuries while on the court. The shoes are sturdier and they have flat soles which may vary in design depending on the type of tennis court you’re playing on; either clay, hard or grass courts.

The key features of the tennis shoes may also vary according to the grip needed, court, design of the outsole, and lateral support. Depending on the type of game you’re playing, your tennis shoes could have flexible uppers or flat outsoles to make it easier when diving to hit the ball which means you need to move from side-to-side and spring back and forth.

The outsoles feature an intricate herringbone pattern that provides good traction on the court. Tennis shoes go through a lot of wear and tear from all the running and skidding, so the shoes are made with firmer and durable non-marking outsoles and midsoles that are flat to give you better stability.

Gym/cross-training shoes

Tennis shoes vs gym shoes

If you love going to the gym, cross-training shoes are more economical to buy as they will perform well in most of the gym activities. They’re a nice blend of many features which makes the shoes versatile. Cross trainer soles are stable and have good traction to provide some lateral stability and general support.

They have a wider base, but they aren’t as flexible as running shoes. They’re efficient in many activities like aerobics, weight training, kickboxing, or jogging, and you can also use them to play a light game of basketball or occasionally play tennis.

The only problem is they’re not designed to excel in any one sport. Cross trainers offer moderate cushioning that is usually dense which gives the shoes a more stable feel. The upper part is usually made of leather or synthetic material which helps with ankle support while some have breathable mesh to keep your feet well ventilated and dry.

Differences between tennis shoes and gym/cross-training shoes

Cross trainers as mentioned earlier can be used for many sports activities ad although they will perform adequately on most of the sports, they’re lacking in specialized sports like tennis. However, they have a high heel drop and extra padding in the forefoot for shock absorption and are more level to the ground which helps with movement in many directions which is important in tennis. But they lack other important features that tennis shoes have.


Tennis shoes are designed to be heavier than cross-trainers or running shoes so that they can provide you with better stability and they also have a thicker outsole for added endurance. While there are tennis shoes designed for speed that are lighter, they’re still a bit heavier and tend to have thinner uppers with less cushioning so they wear out faster. If you prefer lightweight and more flexible tennis shoes, they can make for a great option to cross-trainers.

Ankle and heel support

tennis shoe

Apart from lateral support, tennis shoes will provide you with better heel stability. The quick starts and stops movements that you make on the court requires stable collars that will support your ankles and good heel counters to avoid slips. Tennis shoes also have an attached tongue to reinforce support around your ankles which locks them in place and keeps them secure. On the other hand, cross trainers are very wide and provide enough lateral support and overall stability for the various activities, but it’s not specific to one particular sport.


Tennis shoes tend to have narrower and thicker outsoles that increase the durability of the shoes especially on the gritty hard court surface and make it easier to maneuver around the court. However, the cross-trainers tend to have wider outsoles that are good for lateral stability, but it can also complicate your lateral movements on the hard tennis court and sliding even more difficult.

Tennis shoes have more intricate tread patterns than on cross trainers and the thin herringbone pattern provides excellent traction while the large treads on cross trainers help with grip on most surfaces. The soles of tennis shoes are designed to be non-marking, but for cross-trainers, they will leave marks and lines on the court that’s why they aren’t recommended for playing tennis.

Added lateral support

One of the biggest parts of the tennis game is lateral movement and tennis shoes are specifically designed to support intense side-to-side movements while still making sure your ankles and feet don’t sustain any injuries in the process. They’re designed in a way that strengthens the sides which are more rigid and the forefoot areas of the shoes.

The lateral support offered by cross trainers is very little compared to tennis shoes. The rigidity and stability of the sides and forefoot in the tennis shoes are very important because you’ll make a lot of sudden starts and stops, movement in many directions, and sliding, so you need a very firm lateral side reinforcement to prevent the upper part from ripping apart.

Toecap/ toe reinforcement

In tennis, there is a lot of toe dragging on the court which occurs mostly when you’re serving or making other overhead shots. That’s why tennis shoes are designed with a reinforced toe area to prevent injuries to your toes and damage to the upper part of the shoes when dragging. Some cross trainers are designed with toecaps while others don’t. However, their purpose isn’t to be dragged on a hard court surface but tennis shoes are designed for this purpose.


Tennis shoes have a more padded midsole than cross trainers because they’re designed for hard surfaces where there is more impact on your heels, feet, and other joints. Cross trainers are designed for indoor surface courts and gyms so they have less padding and support than tennis shoes that are designed for outdoor use. However, you can still use cross trainers for the outdoors, but they will be less durable and won’t provide you with the required shock absorption your feet will need for the heavy pounding on a hard court for a long period.


Gym/cross trainers can make for a great alternative, but you shouldn’t use them for intense play on a tennis court. Tennis shoes are specifically designed for the tennis court to provide you with the required lateral support for all the movements on the court. The tennis shoes vs gym shoes have a great information to help you choose the best shoes for going to the gym or playing tennis. If the tennis shoes are too heavy, instead of wearing cross trainers you can opt for lightweight or speed-oriented tennis shoes because they provide features needed in tennis and have better support.


Are sneakers and tennis shoes the same?

Tennis shoes are designed to be used to play tennis, while sneakers are simple shoes made with a canvas and rubber soles. You can use tennis shoes like sneakers when you’re not in court, but you can’t use sneakers to play tennis.

Can sneakers be used for the gym?

Most people tend to use the same pair of sneakers for walking, jogging, running, and even going to the gym, but it’s better to have a pair that you use to go to the gym. This helps to extend the life of your shoes and improves your workouts.

What are gym shoes called?

Gym shoes can be called trainers, joggers, running shoes, sneakers, sports shoes, tackies, etc. depending on the country you’re in.

What qualifies as a tennis shoe?

A tennis shoe is designed to provide the player with comfort, support, and excellent grip and traction when playing on the courts. There are different tennis shoes designed for different types of courts that include hard, clay, and grass courts.

Can you wear running shoes to the gym?

Yes, you can, but they will get worn out fast. Running shoes aren’t designed for squatting, heavy lifting, or aerobics.