If you've been shopping for tennis shoes lately, then you know – there are tons of options out there. New manufacturers are getting into the court shoe game pretty frequently now. I dropped by my own local tennis retailer this week just to buy some overwrap for the grip of my racket. Next thing I knew, I had been lured into the shoe department by all of the pretty colors and fancy designs.
The Importance of Your Tennis Shoes
Why is it important to wear tennis shoes? I mean why is it important to wear court shoes?
I often see players wearing running shoes to play tennis. And I bet a lot of you do too. And if you're one of those players who feels most comfortable playing tennis in running shoes, I certainly do not have a problem with that. I think you should play in whatever makes you feel like you're playing your best tennis and if it happens to be running shoes that make you happy, then that's what you should wear.
But for the vast majority of us, it's pretty important to wear court 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, most important, 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, it 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, because you do have 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. But I don't think we need to know every bit of that lingo to make good decisions about tennis shoes.
There are two things that I do think you need to know, two terms you should know that you may not already be familiar with. Those are the outsole of the tennis shoe and the midsole. Both the outsole and the midsole are most visible if you look at the bottom of your shoe. The outsole is the actual surface, the bottom surface of your shoe, the part that comes in direct contact with the court. And the midsole is the layer right underneath that.
So the purpose of the outsole is to help provide you with that stability and traction that you need. While the midsole 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 that you can purchase. Not just different colors and fancy designs. But there are actually different types of tennis shoes and the biggest difference between them is what kind of court they're designed to be used for.
So the three types of courts that the vast majority of us play on, I don't know if there's a fourth type of court, are hard courts, clay courts and grass courts. Hard courts are what I play most of my matches on. Clay courts, I do play on occasion but not too often. And grass courts are not quite as available where I am but I have actually played a match on a grass court once. 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 of us tennis players are playing on. That's why there are three different types of shoes that you can get for each of those surfaces.
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. You'll probably see some herringbone texture on there. And you may see some other design-type things on the outsole 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. And the midsole 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 outsole and the midsole, will be designed to absorb some of that shock.
Clay Court Shoes
A clay court shoe, on the other hand, usually has a full herringbone 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. But you don't want your shoe to be caked in clay because then it becomes too slippery and you'll 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. And 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 a good idea for you. That way you know that, 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, one way you can tell is, if you're like me and you spend at least a few hours of every day in tennis shoes, you know it's time to buy a new pair when you see a new pair of tennis shoes that you think are cute. I have four pairs of tennis shoes that I rotate through right now. They're all the same model of shoe but all different colors. My recommendation is not that everyone should constantly be buying new tennis shoes. But I feel like I wear them enough that I keep several pairs in rotation.
But the reality is that if you want to know if it's time to buy a new pair of tennis shoes, what you need to do is look at the bottom of your shoe. Look at that outsole. If you notice that the outsole is starting to wear away, so that you can now see the midsole, the layer under the outsole, 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.
And you will of course that the bottom of your shoe is going to wear differently depending on the location of where you're looking as well as between your two feet. I'm a rightie and I do hav a tendency, when I'm serving, to drag my back foot, which is my right foot, just a little bit. I'm not dragging into a pinpoint stance, I'm trying to be a little more stable and have a platform stance. But I still have this little bit of drag. So I notice that on my right shoe that the toe area wears away a lot faster than any other part of that shoe and certainly faster than what's happening on my left shoe.
So if you look at the bottom of your shoe and you notice that the outsole is starting to wear away, then you need to start thinking about whether it is time to buy a new pair of shoes. I'm not saying that if the toe is wearing away, run out and buy new shoes. But just be aware that it may be getting close to time to do that.
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.
BUILD YOUR TENNIS FITNESS AND ENDURANCE
If you're really interested in building your endurance and fitness for tennis, I know you'll like my very first tennis mini-course, Simple Endurance Training for Tennis. For more information or to join the course, just click on the image below or visit: http://tennisfixation.com/endurance.
GET A BETTER SERVE FAST!
By applying the 10 simple tips to your serve that I give in this ebook, your serve can become a tool that you can use to gain control of points. It can become more powerful, more accurate, and something you’re actually proud of. Just enter your email below and you'll get instant access to this free ebook as well as weekly updates with all of my best tennis tips!
Full disclosure – Some of the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. I make a very small commission if you purchase any item using my Amazon affiliate links. Your cost is the same for these items whether or not you use these links. This does not influence my opinion of these items and I always tell the absolute truth about every item that I review. I usually do not review items that I don’t like.