Is it important to wear court shoes while playing tennis?

If you’ve been shopping for tennis shoes lately, then you know – there are tons of options out there.

Often you see players wearing running shoes to play tennis instead of actual tennis shoes. If you’re one of those players who feels most comfortable playing tennis in running shoes, you should play in whatever shoe is the most comfortable and helps you play your best tennis.

But for the vast majority, it’s pretty important to wear court tennis shoes. That is, to wear shoes that are specifically designed for tennis. This is because these shoes are made to give you the support, the cushioning and the traction that you need on a tennis court. We all know that tennis requires, not just a lot of running around, but it requires that you make quick starts and stops as well. The sport also requires a lot of lateral movement, and so tennis shoes are made to provide you with exactly the type of support and cushioning that you need in these situations. And the traction that you need on a tennis court is certainly much different than you would need if you were running. Even if you’re out running on a road, especially because you are dealing with these short starts and stops, quick steps, small steps, longer lunging steps, and so a tennis shoe is really made to provide you with the best possible shoe for those special situations.

Parts of the Tennis Shoe- Now, tennis shoes, just like any fitness shoe, have a lot of parts to them. There is a lot of lingo that surrounds tennis shoe anatomy.

There are two things that you need to know, two terms you should know that you may not already be familiar with. Those are the out-sole of the tennis shoe and the mid-sole. Both the out-sole and the mid-sole are most visible if you look at the bottom of your shoe. The out-sole is the actual surface, the bottom surface of your shoe, the part that comes in direct contact with the court. And the mid-sole is the layer right underneath that.

So the purpose of the out-sole is to help provide you with that stability and traction that you need. While the mid-sole is usually where you’ll find some of the cushioning that you get on court to help make the shoe as comfortable as possible.

Different Tennis Shoes for Different Tennis Courts- As you may already know, there are different kinds of tennis shoes. The biggest difference between them is what kind of court they’re designed to be used for. There are actually different types of tennis shoes for different courts. Because there are many to choose from making your decision should not be just about the different colors and fancy designs unless you are not looking to use them for a specific purpose.

Three types of courts that the vast majority play on are all weather (hard courts), clay courts, har-tru courts and grass courts. Hard courts are usually paved asphalt to create the court with layers of colorcoating. Clay courts are just that, a court made up of clay in a field. Lastly we have grass courts. These are just as they sound to be, a tennis court of just grass and painted lines with the net. Some of you may play more frequently on clay courts. Some of you may even have access to grass courts. But those are the three types of courts that most tennis players are playing on. That’s why there are four different types of shoes that you can get for each of those surfaces. Choosing the right type of shoe for the style of court you play on can make a significant difference in your game play as well.

Hard Court Shoes-The first type of shoe is made for hard courts. If you look at the bottom of these shoes, they are covered in a variety of patterns and things on the bottom. There will probably be some herringbone texture on there. You may even see some other design-type things on the out-sole of those hard court shoes. The job of these hard court shoes is to give you traction. They are also made to be durable because hard courts can be very hard on your shoes. The mid-sole will be designed to give you some cushioning because playing on hard courts can be harder on our joints. It’s a little more jarring out there with all of the starting and stopping. So the sole of the shoe, the out-sole and the mid-sole, will be designed to absorb some of that shock. No sport shoe that has black out soles should be used on a hard court.

Clay Court/Har-Tru Shoes- A clay court/har-tru shoes on the other hand, usually have pattern going across the outsole and this is to help grip into the clay on the clay court without retaining a lot of that clay in the sole of the shoe. You don’t want the clay to stick to the shoe, although it will somewhat anyway. But you don’t want your shoe to be caked in clay because then it becomes too slippery and you will slide around too much and can even slide and fall. So you will see on a clay court shoe that the outsole is usually a full herringbone pattern. There is also normally more lateral support in the upper part of the shoe on a clay court shoe because so much more sliding is going on. And, believe it or not, the upper part of the shoe is usually a little bit tighter and normally is not a mesh type fabric because it helps keep the clay from getting inside the shoe.

Grass Court Shoes- Finally, there is the grass court shoe. This really is a specialized shoe. The bottom will have little nubs or rubbery cleats to help grip into the very slippery grass surface. And this shoe is only for using on grass courts. You can’t really use this on hard courts or clay courts.

Now of these three types of shoes, the hard court can pretty much be used on any of the three surfaces – on hard courts, clay courts or grass courts. It may not perform for you quite as well on a clay court or certainly it won’t perform as well on a grass court. But it will be more than adequate. So if you have a club where there are hard courts and clay courts available and you’re never quite sure what you’re going to be playing on, getting a hard court shoe is probably the best decision. That way whether you play on hard courts or clay courts, you’ll have a good shoe.

How Often Should You Replace Your Tennis Shoes?- How often should you be buying new shoes? How do you know when it’s time to replace your tennis shoes? Well, way you can tell is, is look at the bottom of your shoe. Look at that out-sole. If you notice that the out-sole is starting to wear away, so that you can now see the mid-sole, the layer under the out-sole, that tells you that the traction on your shoe is starting lose some of its depth. You are not going to get as good of a grip out on the court and it may be time to go get a new pair of tennis shoes.

There is a rule of thumb on this and it is that, if you play tennis 2 to 3 times a week in one pair of shoes, you probably need a new pair of shoes about every six months. But that is just a rule of thumb and your experience may differ. I think it’s better to look at the bottom of your shoes and judge what is going on to help you make the decision whether it’s time for a new pair of tennis shoes.

Works Cited: April 1, 2016 by Kim Selzman–