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 just 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 having to compromise.
I’m going to run you through some key attributes that you can use to help evaluate your next set of shoes.
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 lateral movements which are essential when hitting the court. That said, some ten-nis shoes place a greater emphasis on comfort than others. Typically, you’ll want to look for shoes that offer a generous midsole. The insole can also provide added support, which you may consider replacing if it’s removable for some 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. At the sole of a tennis shoe, the width of the shoe at the front can help provide a platform for balance, which helps the shoe 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 a shoe’s sole to help increase stability and prevent the shoe from 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 when it’s wrapped inside the shoe. Ideally, you want your foot to feel locked in place so that it’s not slid-ing forward as you start and stop.
The vast majority of tennis players participate play on hard courts, so shoes must be durable enough. One of the most critical compo-nents of a shoe’s durability comes from the outsole at the bottom of the shoe, 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 fre-quently comes into 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 foot when serving and, therefore, may re-quire a more durable toe cap in order for their shoes to last.
The weight of a tennis shoe is a feature that many players associ-ate with speed. A lightweight shoe feels fast, while a heavier shoe may tend to feel somewhat sluggish. Shoe manufacturers are often making 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 made in the stability or durability of the shoe.