How to choose tennis shoes

How to choose tennis shoes

Amon Fearon - August 25, 2022

Did you know you need specific shoes for tennis? While the casual player can wear regular trainers, those who want to play tennis properly need to get the right clothing and footwear. But what makes a good tennis shoe and why are they worth your money? Here’s everything you need to know about tennis shoes to level up your game.


What are tennis shoes?

Tennis shoes are a special trainer designed specifically for playing tennis. They are often referred to as court shoes and have a herringbone sole that provides the right grip, stability and comfort for enhanced performance on tennis courts.

There are also different types of tennis shoe soles depending on where you’re playing. The shoe you’d wear on an indoor court, for example, is different to an outdoor court. Here’s a breakdown:

Court type

Sole type


Modified herringbone tread pattern for blend of grip and give.


Full herringbone tread to make sprinting, stopping, or changing directions easier.


Grass court tennis shoes have little numbs on the sole, almost like a cleat on a football boot. This helps prevent slipping, providing essential grip on this trickier surface.


Should tennis shoes be tight?

Tennis shoes should be comfortably tight with enough space for your feet to breathe. You want to avoid tennis shoes that feel too tight as these can become uncomfortable and cause rubbing and blisters. Too loose and your feet can slip out and move around in the shoe throwing you off your game.

Your tennis shoes will loosen over time but not dramatically. So, you won’t need to get a size smaller than usual to account for expansion. Plus, tennis shoes, unlike other shoes, don’t need to be broken in. You can play in them fresh out of the box and they will feel ready for action. That means you can just buy a shoe that feels right when trying on without having to think about the future. Allow about 3/8 to 1/2 an inch of space between the longest toe and end of the shoe.


How long do tennis shoes last?

Generally speaking, tennis shoes should be replaced 45-60 hours before the midsole is worn out. That means if you play tennis once a week, you should ideally buy new tennis shoes once a year.

Of course, there are several things than can affect this. For example, how often you play, your style of play and even your height and weight. While the lifespan of everyone’s shoes is different, here’s a list of warning signs that your shoes could be on their way out:

  • The outer sole of the shoe has worn to the midsole (your shoes are no longer squeaking on the court)
  • You notice that the shock absorption of your sole is diminished
  • If your shoes no longer lie flat on a surface, the soles could be creased
  • You notice ankle or feet pain which can be caused by tired foot support


What makes a good tennis shoe?

If you want your tennis shoes to last longer, invest in better quality footwear. As with anything, cheap shoes are made from poor quality materials which wear a lot quicker than their expensive counterparts. So, if you can, always opt for a mid-range or top-of-the-range tennis shoe to avoid disappointment. But what specifically makes a good tennis shoe?




Shoes are wider at the front to provide more balance for increased stability. There is also some kind of ankle support to protect your joints when twisting.


Tennis shoes to tend to be stiffer than normal shoes as they need to deal with a lot of lateral movement. To make them more comfortable, you can add insoles for extra cushioning if needed, but good picks should come with a balanced fit.


Tennis shoes should be lightweight to allow for free, speedy movement. If your shoes are too heavy, you won’t be able to make those swift movements when countering on the court. Of course, avoid shoes that are too lightweight as these are likely made from lower-quality materials that may not offer adequate foot support. Factor your weight into it to get the best weight shoe for you.


It’s not just the sole that perishes over time. The toes and upper section can also get scuffed from sliding or lunging. So, the material of the shoe is just as important at the sole. If you’re unsure, ask a shoe specialist when shopping for some advice as to which type is best for your style of play.


Do tennis shoes make a difference?

Absolutely. Like we said earlier, any recreational or leisurely tennis player can get away with standard trainers. But if you’re wanting to make real improvement in your technique, skill, and endurance, a commitment to marginal gains across your shoes as well as your abilities is essential. Also mentioned in our guide on what to wear to play tennis, some tennis clubs require non-marking soles and may refuse entry for incorrect trainers.

Tennis shoes are designed for optimum performance on different court types to give you the stability and range of movement you need to play a game. If you’re new to tennis, we’d recommend buying a pair of hard-court shoes to start with and see how you get on. Unless your regular court is either clay or grass, in which case, go for the relevant alternative. As you progress, you can add more types of tennis shoes to your collection.

Just remember to keep an eye on your shoes to spot those all-important warning signs of wear and tear. If you continue to play on worn out shoe, you’ll not only impair your game, but you’ll also run the risk of injury as the ankle support and shock absorption deteriorate.