How to Choose Tennis Shoes
This is our unbiased guide to tennis shoes. Its unbiased because we sell ALL tennis shoes, certainly the majority of shoes that are available for sale in the UK (and Europe). The majority of our staff play tennis regularly and we have also taken account of customer feedback from our store in Northwood.
Why do you need tennis shoes ?
That is the most common question we get asked in our store at Northwood, Middlesex (London). The main difference (apart from specific grip) between tennis shoes and running shoes (or general trainers) is that tennis shoes are designed to keep your feet from moving too much from side to side. A good pair of tennis shoes should also have good ankle support, with some kind of built up backfoot and forefoot support (eg air bubble, gel, or similar). We regularly see people spending a fortune on a tennis racket, but then play tennis with a general pair of trainers on. Common issues caused by not having the correct footwear are...ankle injuries, dodgy knees, even back pain issues.
Common mis-conceptions (gleaned from comments heard in-store)
"Surely my £20 pair of trainers, that were reduced from £120 are perfectly Ok for all sports" Our Answer: Different sports require different types of support and grip.
"I bought a pair of Asics or K-Swiss or New Balance for £20...so why are yours so expensive?" Our Answer: Certain brands also make basic general trainers AND shoes for a variety of different sports. Just because a bargain is available in a particular brand of shoes does not make it the right shoe for different sports. We sell different shoes for tennis, badminton, squash and running. NO..You cannot use the same pair of shoes for all these sports.
THE BASIC DECISION:
Generally speaking, the top of the range shoes from each brand have more support and are more durable. The more you play, the better the shoe that you need. For casual players, a basic pair of tennis shoes is fine for durability, but it will not have the maximum amount of support. All the brands seem to provide shoes at a variety of price points and there are major differences between shoes that have an RRP of £100 to those that have an RRP of £50. Obviously you have to weigh up the equation in your head of budget vs durability vs amount you play vs amount of support you require. The surface you play on also matters eg you need a more durable shoe on hard courts than you do on a carpet or artificial grass court. If you have any kind of ankle, knee or back issues, you should go for a shoe with as much support as possible (generally more expensive RRP). The other basic decision is one of weight. All the brands are producing shoes that are either more durable and stable OR ultra light (probably not as durable).
DIFFERENT WAYS OF CHOOSING A TENNIS SHOE:
1. Choose by Court Surface:
Tennis shoes come in a variety of different sole types, which suit the different types of tennis court surfaces. The category with the majority of tennis shoes is the "All Court" category, which work on all court surfaces. On our website we have conveniently arranged all our tennis shoes in that way to make your life really easy.
All Court Tennis Shoes - These can be used on all surfaces and the majority of our customers go for these. These have the normal herringbone pattern, good for all courts.
Carpet Court Indoor Tennis Shoes, with smooth soles, self explanatory and can ONLY be used on indoor carpet courts.
Grass Court (with pimples) and OMNI Sole Tennis Shoes, which are best on artificial (or real) grass. The omni ones are really good on artificial grass and they also provide extra grip on normal hard courts.
Clay Court Shoes - most suited to clay courts, but can be worn on any surface as they have classic zig zag pattern.
Lightweight Performance All Court Tennis shoes - Our most popular category, as we carry all the specialist lightweight tennis shoes provided by the manufacturers. This category can include shoes from all the other categories as the defining characteristic is light weight.
2. Choose by best selling / recommended ranges:
The other way to choose tennis shoes is to go for a particular range (not necessarily brand) of tennis shoes. Pro players these days make so much money that they do not need to worry about free shoes or even how much they get paid top wear those shoes. I think they pay particular attention to the amount of support that they get from particular shoes, how they suit their particular style of play. These ranges often cross over into womens and kids shoes.
The grand daddy range is the Adidas Barricade, which has been in existence for nearly 20 years and been used by more top players than any other range of tennis shoes. For the best mix of durability, comfort and support, it is hard to beat. Players who have used the shoes over the years include Tim Henman, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. It is noticeable that when players change their clothing/shoes contracts, they find their Barricades the hardest to give up. The Barricade is still going strong and has been through a number of incarnations over the years. The classic original model from 15 years ago is still available as a Classic model. it is that good. I suppose the price is a grumble for some, but if you want the best...Barricade Boost is a recent innovation which provides really lightweight support and bounce in the rear foot. A recent innovation from Adidas has been the Adizero Range which is ultra light, but not as durable as the Barricade range. Barricade Club and Barricade Court provide the Barricade look at a good budget but are not as durable or supportive, but some players like that "close to the ground" minimalist support.
The Zoom Vapor Tour Range favoured by Roger Federer is a lightweight shoe that suits players who place more importance on lightness of foot and speed over chunky support and durability. It is probably our best selling shoe and comes in a vaiety of different colours at different times of the year. Although a stable enough shoe, it provides lightweight minimalist support. Rafa Nadal plays with the Lunar Ballistec, which is also a lightweight shoe, but more stable and supportive than the Vapor Tour. It is also more durable if you are a toe dragger while serving. The best bet for those that prefer solid, chunky, stable support and more durability is the Nike Zoom Cage, favoured by a lot of ATP Pros. The Vapor Tour and the Ballistec have been classic shoes for a number of years and are loved by so many people that even an innovative company like Nike have not changed them much over the years apart from some amazing colour combinations!
Relative newcomers to the tennis shoe scene, Asics produce some of the best tennis shoes currently available. Building on their excellent pedigree from the running world, their shoes are brilliantly supportive with the use of their propietory "Asics Gel". Solution Speed and Solution Lyte are their lightweight support ranges, while the Resolution provide the solid, durable, stable support favoured by a lot of players.
Babolat Propulse have built up quite a reputation and a following as a wide, supportive, durable shoe. Fantastic heel support, great durability with the Michelin rubber and an extra ankle strap which makes the shoe REALLY stable. Loved by people with ankle issues. Babolat's new offering JET looks fantastic and is really lightweight. We await proper customer feedback about this shoe. No news so far means its quite durable though !
K-Swiss shoes are the "go-to" tennis shoe of hundreds of die hard tennis players around the country. Who am I to argue with that ? They make a huge range of classic tennis shoes in a number of different sole units, are fairly wide, are quite durable and also come in newer zappy colours, which is a bit of a departure from their trad colours of the past. The new Hypercourt Express, with their synthetic uppers are some of the most durable and grippy shoes that we have seen from K-Swiss. The Defier has been selling well for over 20 years, with only a few tweaks here and there in the basic design. It is that good !
Like Asics, by building on their flair, knowledge and expertise in the running and fitness world, NEW BALANCE have come up with a fabulous range which is also available in a regular and a wider fitting. This has proved really popular for those that require a wider fit. The shoes are ultra stable (would have to be to cope with Milos Raonic!) as the sole unit is flat, without a mid-foot break, which makes them ideal for sliding on clay...but are great on most surfaces.
Yonex tennis shoes are light, durable and really well cushioned (with their system "power cushion"). Really came up on the tennis radar when Stan the Man won the French Open. Like their tennis rackets, Yonex tennis shoes are becoming really popular amongst those in the know. Japanese technical know-how and quality control ensure fabulous quality.
I am always amazed why Wilson tennis shoes and Head Tennis Shoes are not more poular than they are, as two of the biggest tennis based companies around, they make fabulous tennis shoes, which tend to be ignored alongside the "non-rackets" brands. The cognoscenti will tell you that they have both been making specialist tennis shoes for years, with their latest offerings some of the best around in terms of durability and comfort. More and more of the younger tennis pros are gravitating towards Wilson, Head and Yonex.