Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Although we often refer to sneakers as tennis shoes, if you’re at all serious about tennis, you don’t want to wear your sneakers on the tennis court. One distinction between your casual tennis shoes and shoes specifically made for tennis is their tread. According to Mike Layton, owner and CEO of Westside Tennis, “running shoes have more of a one-direction tread.” They’re not made for 360-degree movement like tennis shoes. While they may have pretty good grip, “if you start changing directions in a running shoe, you might hurt yourself because you are not going to be able to pivot on the ground as easily as you will with a tennis shoe.”
The other big difference is the structure and support of a tennis shoe, which are essential for handling those quick changes of direction. Because of that, “tennis shoes are typically a little bit heavier than running shoes, and they have better lateral support on the inside and outside of the shoe,” he says. “They are more solid around the whole perimeter of the shoe.” To novice players, this can be an adjustment, says Karen Moriarty, co-owner of the Tennis Professionals — Sportech. “You might be shocked when you put a tennis shoe on and think, ‘Oh my God, these feel so much stiffer than my running or walking shoes,’” she says.
While the technology behind men’s and women’s tennis shoes is the same, Harry Tong, creator of Tennis Spin and a buyer at California Tennis Club, says the real difference is in the width. “They are both built the same way, but a woman’s shoe is narrower. Women’s shoes come in a B width whereas men’s come in a D width,” he says. “Being in the right width and size shoes is very important to performance.”
To find the best tennis shoes for women, we spoke to six tennis professionals. Here are their picks.
Layton has worn Gel Resolutions for years and says, “It hits all of the requirements for a good tennis shoe, including good lateral support and stability. I’ve had foot issues in the past but not with these.” He also says they are durable, long lasting, and very comfortable. “I think you would fit a majority of people with this shoe, regardless of skill level,” he says. Claire Ann Pollard, the head coach of Northwestern University’s women’s tennis team, calls the Asics Gel Resolution her favorite, and Moriarty says they are consistently a top pick for her customers.
This is “the viewers’ choice and the critics’ choice of the year,” says Harry Tong, the host of Tennis Spin and a buyer at California Tennis Club. “It is supercomfortable all around and fits all types of feet,” Tong says. “I’ve tried it on myself, and they have done a very very good job with this shoe. It’s a shoe that 90 percent of people will love.” Tennis magazine even named it 2020’s shoe of the year.
Moriarty, who wears these shoes herself, describes them as “a fast shoe with good flexibility.” Tong agrees, saying, “the Zoom Zero has great cushioning and flexibility for quick change of direction. The attached-tongue design and heel insert keep you in the shoe for secure stop-and-gos.”
For a comfortable, durable shoe at a good price, Phil Parrish, tennis director of the Longfellow Sports Club in Wayland, Massachusetts, suggests Lottos. “They are lightweight but still have some cushioning to them,” he says. “It’s great to be low to the ground and light, but [sometimes] you need something more than that.”
Both Tong and Greg Pearson, owner of Tiki Tennis in Islamorada, Florida, recommend these shoes. Tong compares them to Adidas Ultraboost. They’re “the softest, most cushion-y, most bouncy shoe you can have in tennis,” he says. “You want tennis shoes to hold onto you and be tight around the whole foot. Because of all the stop-and-go, you can’t have too much movement in the shoe or else you will get blisters and a black toe.” He compares the feel to “a soft, comfortable ski boot,” and says, “I would recommend it to anyone.” And Pearson says, of all the brands of shoes he’s tried, “New Balance are the most comfortable.”
Because of the extra support and stability they provide, it’s important to remember that “tennis shoes, in general, are not as comfortable as running shoes,” Moriarty says. But of course, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a bad fit. If you find many tennis shoes to be too narrow, Tong says the Wilson Rush 3.0 is “the go-to shoe for people with slightly wider feet.”
This is another great shoe for players with wider feet, Tong says. Parrish agrees, and Moriarty says this is one of the most popular shoes with her customers.
Moriarty says this shoe is consistently a top pick at Sportech. According to Tong, the shoe’s low profile lets players really feel the ground: “You can call it a minimalist shoe for players looking for a no-frills shoe with enough support for the all around player.” Parrish adds that “a lot of people wear them” and, since “Nikes tend to run narrow in general,” he recommends these for people who have trouble finding a snug fit in other shoes. Tong agrees that this is a great option for players with narrow feet.
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