Shoe Buying Considerations
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck with a new pair of shoes that felt good out of the box, but didn’t meet your expectations after hitting the court, then you know how frustrating it can be.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to track down the perfect set of shoes, and more often than not, we end up making tradeoffs.
In this section, we’re going to run through some key attributes that you can use to help evaluate your next set of shoes.
We find it helpful to nail down the most critical two or three before we begin our search because it helps narrow our options.
By nature, tennis shoes tend to be stiffer than many other types of shoes because they need to support a wide range of motion, including the lateral movements essential when hitting the court.
Despite that, some tennis shoes place a greater emphasis on comfort than others. Typically, you’ll want to look for shoes that offer a generous midsole. However, the insole can also provide added support, which you may consider replacing if it’s removable for extra comfort.
When playing tennis, sharp or abrupt movements are common. Whether you’re moving side to side hitting groundstrokes, coming forward and approaching the net to volley, or moving back to track down a lob, your shoes must provide adequate stability.
The stability of a shoe can come from a few different places. For example, the width of a shoe’s sole can help provide a platform for balance, which allows the shoe to feel stable.
Furthermore, the sole of a shoe needs to have enough rigidity to handle the quick start and stop movements around the court. Many shoes will use a rigid plastic insert called a shank toward the middle of their sole to increase stability and prevent twisting.
Last but not least, a shoe’s upper is often associated with stability, particularly at the ankle, but also with how secure your foot feels wrapped in the shoe. Ideally, you want your foot to feel locked in place so that it’s not sliding forward as you start and stop.
As a result, a shoe’s lacing system tends to play a role in stability too.
Most tennis players enjoy the sport on hard courts, so shoes must be durable enough to stand up to the beating they take.
One of the most critical components of a shoe’s durability comes from the outsole at the shoe’s bottom, which is in constant contact with the court. However, it’s not the only part of the shoe that must be durable.
The toe of a tennis shoe also frequently comes in contact with the court, and the forward upper section of the shoe can scrape the court periodically during a slide or lunge.
Different styles of play can lead to wear in unique areas of a shoe, and every player has distinct movements that can also lead to unexpected wear. For example, some players tend to drag their feet when serving and, therefore, may require a more durable toe cap for their shoes to last.
Before buying your next pair of tennis shoes, it can be useful to inspect your current shoes to see which areas need extra protection and then keep that in mind as you evaluate shoes.
The weight of a tennis shoe is a feature that many players associate with speed. For most players, a lightweight shoe feels fast, while a heavier shoe may feel somewhat sluggish.
Shoe manufacturers often make a tradeoff between weight, stability, and durability to strike an appealing balance. If you remove material from a shoe, it will become lighter, but there is usually a sacrifice in the shoe’s stability or durability.
It’s worth keeping in mind that as the size of the shoe changes, so does the weight, and one factor to keep in mind as you consider moving up or down a size to achieve the ideal fit.
The adidas Adizero Ubersonic 3 is an example of a lightweight shoe that’s popular for both men and women.
Different shoes come with varying levels of arch support, which can help alleviate pain. The vast majority of tennis shoes feature moderate to low-end arch support to appeal to the broadest range of players.
However, if additional arch support is needed, it’s common for players to replace the insole of their tennis shoes with a custom insert.
Depending on the climate you play in, ventilation may be more or less of a priority. In hot weather, proper ventilation can be crucial to help keep your feet dry and prevent blisters.
Also, keep in mind that your shoe’s color will play a role in how hot your feet get. Light colors reflect the sun’s heat, and darker colors absorb it, which will cause your feet to get warmer.
The Nike Air Zoom Vapor X is an excellent example of a shoe that prioritizes ventilation, keeping weight down.
The type of socks you wear can play a role in how cool and dry your feet stay, so it’s worth considering the socks you wear. Plus, you can always bring a change of socks to swap out during a match.
The outsole of a tennis shoe is directly responsible for the traction a shoe offers. Players tend to appreciate shoes that offer excellent grip on hard courts, but at the same time, provide a bit of give when stopping.
The material, texture, and pattern of the outsole contribute to the traction a player will feel when moving around the court. Of course, the court surface makes a huge difference as well.
For example, clay court tennis shoes use a herringbone tread or pattern throughout the bottom of a shoe, which helps clay release naturally during movement on the court while also providing consistency or predictability in slides.
Level of Play
Generally, the more expensive a tennis shoe, the more features it will offer that cater to an advanced player’s needs.
Keeping that in mind, beginners might consider opting for a less expensive tennis shoe that provides reliable performance but doesn’t have all the bells and whistles.
Ultimately, it’s a preference, and there’s nothing wrong with springing for a high-end pair, but newer players won’t typically put as much stress on their shoes, so you may find the premium features overkill.
It’s a similar recommendation we make for buying a beginner tennis racquet.
Last but certainly not least, price tends to be a significant consideration when evaluating or purchasing a new pair of tennis shoes.
Setting a budget before shopping around for shoes is a great way to narrow your options. Plus, you don’t need to overspend to find a quality tennis shoe as many affordable models offer excellent performance.
If you’re looking to save some money, it’s best to avoid buying the latest and greatest shoes when they first come out at their highest price. Instead, waiting a season or purchasing last year’s model is a great way to save.
Another great reason to wait a season before buying a newer model shoe is to see how they fair with other tennis players. Purchasing shoes that have received positive reviews from hundreds of customers will help make for a confident purchase.