If you are starting out in the world of tennis, you might assume initially that all athletic shoes are the same and will fulfill the same requirements that you have. However, a further study into these games proves that this is not the case – such as in tennis.
The game of tennis itself is quite unique due to the demands it places on your feet. It emphasizes quick starts and stops, as well as very frequent lateral movements and short sprints, and can leave you with sprains and ankle injuries if you wear the wrong shoes. Therefore, it is important to buy footwear that can fulfill the demands of the game and allow you to play at your best. To help you in making this decision, here are some factors to consider when choosing a tennis shoe.
Before making a choice on what to wear, it is important to keep the differences between footwear and tennis shoes in mind. Some of these differences include:
- Tennis shoes are designed to primarily handle the frequent stops and starts around the court in order to remain comfortable for the player
- They tend to take on a flat design that has some unique designs of treads on the sole, and this will generally depend on the type of court surface you play on (grass, clay or hard courts)
- Tennis shoes have a sturdy build compared to other athletic shoes, which take on a softer and thicker heel that lessens impact through cushioning and makes the shoe lightweight. They are also slightly heavier, especially if you are planning to use them on hard courts
- Athletic shoes, for the most part, are primarily designed for the repetitive motion of walking or running, but tennis shoes are designed to cater for lateral movements on the court
Factors to consider
The playing style
There are two kinds of tennis playing styles: the serve-and-volley player and the baseline player.
For baseline players, they:
- Mainly play along the court’s backline
- Must choose shoes that give more lateral support
- Should choose soles that are highly durable, since the lateral motion can wear them down faster
For serve-and-volley players, they:
- Tend to charge the net frequently
- Require shoes that have a medial within the arch, as well as durable toecaps (reinforced toes) since they charge their feet along the court
Type of court surface
The question of whether a tennis shoe is right for you cannot be answered effectively unless you know the surface you are using it on. The surfaces have different impacts on the shoes, and the shoe choice will go a long way to determine whether you play effectively or are susceptible to injuries as your feet bear the brunt.
As a general rule, here are the criteria to keep in mind when considering various surfaces:
Concrete (hard courts):
- The shoes must be highly durable because of the harsh nature of the court that wears shoes down very quickly. For instance, the upper is tough, very resilient and supportive.
- The materials that make up the shoe are tougher, mainly using vinyl or leather
- The soles tend to wear down faster, so you need to ensure you frequently check the shoes for signs of wear and tear, and also replace them when you need to.
Clay (soft courts), they:
- Tend to be quite forgiving to your shoes, so you can use a variety of shoes on them
- The shoe is lighter to allow for greater movements but has plenty of lateral support and tighter uppers to ensure the foot remains stable in the shoe while also protecting the joints
- The uppers tend to be made from synthetic materials, and the soles have a herringbone tread system that allows the player to grip and slide while not collecting soil
- They are designed to prevent court damage, similar to the soft court shoes, while still providing traction on slippery grass.
- They feature a combination of mesh and synthetic materials
- When looking at the midsole, it needs to have gel or EVA padding in order to give good coverage in the toes and heel areas.
There are also multi-court shoes that cater to people that might want to play on various surfaces without changing their shoes.
Fit of the shoe and your foot type
You might initially assume that all feet are the same, or the feet of most people are the same. However, it does play a major role in the shoe you select, as the wrong shoe results in pain after a game and eventual inflammation in the joints. If you are not sure, you can find out through a simple ‘wet test’, where you step on a wet surface and then step on a dry surface to find out your foot shape.
There are three types of foot shapes: over pronation, under pronation, and neutral. Here is a guideline for what to choose for each.
- Over pronation – if you happen to see your foot leaving a complete imprint without a visible arch, then you have over pronation. It is quite common, affecting about 60% of the population, and the shoes also tend to wear out around the balls of the foot. Because of this, your feet will have a tendency to roll inwards as you move, and you therefore require a tennis shoe that can stabilize your movements.
- Neutral – if you notice a moderate space in the arch area, then your feet are in a neutral shape. This is considered as the best shape, and you can wear any tennis shoe.
- Under pronation – also referred to as supination, the foot imprint leaves a very large open area and the imprinted area is very small. The tendency of the foot is to roll outwards as you move and wears out the forefoot and outside of the heel, which means that you will require a flexible kind of shoe that eliminates shock issues while allowing you to move quickly.
Finding the best tennis shoe for you requires the consideration of numerous factors, as each shoe will cater to the needs of different players. The main factors to keep in mind are your playing style, foot shape, court surface and shoe style.