Tennis Shoes: A Buyer's Guide
By Candice Sabrina
While the term “tennis shoes” is commonly used in reference to athletic shoes of any type, you should not wear running shoes, walking shoes, or cross-trainers when playing tennis. These types of shoes do not provide the correct support and can increase the risk of foot and ankle injuries. In addition, such shoes can also damage the tennis court surface.
There are several criteria tennis players should consider when selecting tennis shoes. First, the court surface you primarily play on will dictate the type of tennis shoe you need. Second, the characteristics of your feet and body will determine what type of tennis shoe is most comfortable and effective. Finally, as with any type of shoe, different people value certain shoe attributes and qualities more than others.
Tennis players that play on hard court surfaces should choose tennis shoes that are durable and resistant to wear. Repeated play on hard (i.e. concrete) courts will wear the tread off the soles of tennis shoes. Loss of tread leads to loss of traction and increased slipping. In addition, the part of the tennis shoe that covers the big toes should have extra protection on the outside. Tennis players often drag their toe while executing shots, especially the serve. It is crucial for right-handed players that the inside toe area of their right tennis shoe have extra protection to prevent premature wear. This area of the tennis shoe is particularly vulnerable because most right-handed players drag their right foot when serving, and often when executing forehand groundstrokes.
Tennis players that play primarily on soft court surfaces (i.e. clay) should select tennis shoes that are comfortable and provide good traction. Durability is less of a concern. It is also vital that the tennis shoe have a smooth, flat sole. The knobs and bumps found on the soles of running shoes and cross-trainers can damage clay court surfaces. In fact, most clay court facilities do not allow players to wear such shoes, instead requiring appropriate tennis shoes.
Feet and body characteristics are an important consideration when selecting tennis shoes. People who are prone to blisters must wear tennis shoes that fit properly and are well cushioned. Advances in tennis shoe technology have created cushioning systems that are lighter, more comfortable, and better at removing moisture. Body type is also an important consideration in tennis shoe selection. For example, larger and heavier players may prefer heavier shoes that provide extra support.
Finally, as with all types of shoes, personal preference and taste often determines what type of tennis shoe a person purchases. Many players desire a tennis shoe with a certain look or color scheme. On a more functional level, some players may select lightweight tennis shoes in an effort to enhance foot speed and agility.
After you determine the type of tennis shoe is right for you, it is important to select a shoe that fits properly. Because tennis involves a lot of sprinting, cutting, stopping, and starting, you should select a tennis shoe that fits snugly across the width of the foot. You should, however, make sure that your tennis shoes have at least a half-inch of space between the toes and the end of the tennis shoe.