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Review: Best Tennis Shoes

If you've ever tried to play tennis barefoot, you’ll know it's something people only do once. Tennis shoes are a mandatory part of every tennis player's equipment and today’s modern offerings give you wide range of performance capabilities. Some shoes are great for everyday practice while others offer nimble maneuverability on the court. Some come in various widths and others have specific arch support for your foot. Check out our list of the best tennis shoe in 2021 if you’re seeking a new pair and take a look at our tennis shoe buyer's guide for more information for choosing the best shoe fitted for you and your game.

Best Tennis Shoe

Prince T22 Women's Tennis Shoes

The Prince T22 shoe was reportedly the number one selling women's tennis shoe at US tennis shops in 2013. On top, it has a mesh upper combined with synthetics for a breathable feel and the upper is also reinforced against toe drag. Inside the shoe there's a removable sock liner as well as a shock absorber in the heel. Prince offers a six month guarantee on the outsole which also features a herring bone pattern. Despite being only 13.8 ounces, I'm told the shoe offers great support and stability when running side to side.

NIKE Zoom Vapor 9.5 Tour Ladies Tennis Shoes

The Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 Tour has many of the same features as the Prince T22 but it's lighter at just 11.6 ounces. The shoe comes with a breathable mesh upper and excellent stability for side-to-side movement. The shoe generally fits exactly to size and is ready to go right out of the box. The tread is herring-bone style and durable but I've haven’t seen a durability guarantee. At around $135 a pair, the Zoom Vapor 9.5 is an expensive shoe so try out this high-performance shoe out first and then see if you want to use it for everyday practice or reserve them for those special matches when you want to feel like flying around the court.

Head Women's Sprint Pro Tennis Shoes

The Head Sprint Pro comes in between the Prince T22 and Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 Tour when it comes to weight at 12.8 ounces. That's pretty light for a shoe that also comes with a 6-month outsole guarantee and reasonable sale price typically under $80. The Head shoe is a bit wide in the toe box, which is a plus for many, but not all, players as well as having a lower arch than some other options. If you wear orthodics that's of no consequence, but otherwise here's a good option for you if you feel that other shoes offer too much arch support.

Adidas Womens Barricade 5 Classic Tennis Shoes

The Adidas Barricade series is probably the most popular series for men's tennis shoes, and it's popular with women too. The Barricade 5 is a classic style you can rely on for in-and-out day-to-day practice. It's very stable, weighs 13.8 ounces, and has a six month outsole guarantee. There's extra protection for toe dragging. Some women report that the shoe needs a little break-in time, while others say its good right out of the box. However, everyone's foot is different so you'll have to see for yourself.

K-Swiss Big Shot II Women's Tennis Shoe

K-Swiss Big Shot II Women's Tennis Shoe

The K-Swiss Big Shot II is another great compromise tennis shoe. It weighs 12.1 ounces and has a very durable outsole that comes with a six month guarantee. As with all the other shoes on the list, it offers a stable platform and breathable toe box, but provides a little less than your average arch support. K-Swiss incorporate an aptly called “Heel Grip” construction that reportedly grips your heel and keeps it in place. If you still want something lighter, have a look for the Big Shot Light, which weighs only 10.8 ounces.

Adidas adiPower Barricade 8+ Mens Tennis Shoe

Around most tennis clubs if you ask men which shoes they're wearing, you'll hear the word "Barricade" over and over. The latest edition to Adidas' Barricade line is the 8+ which has a breathable upper and superior heel cushioning. The tread is a traditional herring bone and the sole is extremely durable and comes typically with a 6-month durability guarantee.

Weighing 16.4 ounces (based on a men's size 10.5), you'll notice the shoes are little heavier than some other options. My sense is this shoe is a little less comfortable than the Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 (also on the list), but you can grind the Barricade through all your practice sessions better. If you have the opportunity, compare the various versions of the Barricade. They're all similar but each has nuances that may fit your own foot and needs better.

NIKE Zoom Vapor 9.5 Tour Men's Tennis Shoe

The Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 features Nike's "Dynamic Fit" technology which incorporates a soft material that form fits to your midfoot and arch; you can relax the fit or tighten it by adjusting your laces. The shoe is stable on quick turns and offers a seamless upper design as well as being lightweight at 13.6 ounces (based on men's size 10.5).

The shoe's tread is a herring bone pattern of Nike's XDR rubber. The only drawback to this very comfortable shoe is many people report it's not as durable as prior versions. For in and out practice, you may want to go with a different shoe like the Adidas Barricade 8+ and save this one for when it really matters.

K-Swiss Men's Ultra Express Tennis Shoe

This is probably the most comfortable tennis shoe you'll find if you have normal feet as it’s flexible, conforms to your foot, and feels plush. They’re well ventilated and also lighter than many competitor's offerings, coming in at 13.1 ounces (based on a men's size 10.5). Durability is only average, but that's typical for lighter shoes.

The tread pattern is a modified herring bone, which I think offers about the same traction as a standard pattern, and once you start to wear out the sole, that pattern probably won't make much difference anyway. My only unfulfilled desire with these shoes would be more traditional color schemes as it only comes in primarily blue/orange, yellow/blue, or red/black combinations.

Wilson Rush Pro Mens Tennis Shoe

The comfortable Wilson Rush Pro is the choice of some ATP touring pros with sleek styling, along with superior durability on the toe/sole. It has a plush inner lining and the unique tread seems to hold the court just as well (and sometimes even better) than traditional herring bone patterns. It's a reasonable 15-ounce shoe (based on a men's size 10.5) so you can look for a lighter shoe if that's what you want.

The outsole is made from Wilson's Duralast, which has a six-month durability guarantee. The upper is a synthetic leather and mesh with a slight drop between the heel and toe (6 mm), which may give some players a feeling of being lower to the court.

ASICS Men's Gel-Resolution 5 Tennis Shoe

The Asics Gel Resolution 5 comes in at 15.5 ounces (based on a men's size 10.5) but it has a lot of positives for serious players including stop-and-go traction which is about as good as it gets. The shoe relies on Asics' proprietary gel system to provide a comfortable feel while the outsole has a six-month durability guarantee, with reinforcement for those who like to drag their toe on the serve.

Unlike many other shoes on this list, the Gel Resolution 5 has better arch support but if you’re using your own custom orthotics, that may not be important. The shoe comes in many eye-catching color combinations so if you’re into self-expression, these shoes might be perfect for you.

Buyer's Guide

Tennis shoes offer a range of features which involve varying degrees of trade-offs including durability versus maneuverability, stability versus flexibility, sizing by length and width, as well as cushioning and support. There’s also materials to consider such as a leather versus mesh upper as well as the type and tread of the sole. Tennis shoes are also offered in a range of fashionable colors, which for many people is really important. Regardless of your needs, all quality tennis shoes must be non-marking as you can’t go out on a tennis court and leave skid marks all over the court. Below is a list of fundamental tennis shoe information to help you find the pair right for you.

Durability versus Maneuverability

A heavier tennis shoe is more durable but may also be less maneuverable on the court. Alternately, lighter shoes may feel great but they’ll wear out much faster because of less tread and total material on the sole. For the casual tennis player this might not matter, but if you’re on the court three to four times a week you’ll burn through light tennis shoes very quickly. It’s recommended you keep a light pair of shoes for match play and a heavier, durable pair for everyday practice.

Stability versus Flexibility

Tennis shoes must offer the stability to quickly start, stop, and change direction many times in a single point. A flexible tennis shoe may feel good standing still but it won’t respond well when you start to move and cut on the court. Alternately, a very stiff shoe can supply a lot of stability but prevent you from making you next dynamic move. The tradeoff between stability versus flexibility is something you will have to feel out for your specific style of play.

Modern tennis shoes already incorporate a footprint design that amplifies the toebox and heel. However, if you have weak ankles or prone to rolling your ankles, look for a wider toebox footprint with a little extra roll guard on the side.

Sizing by Length and Width

It’s important you choose a comfortable tennis shoe. Keep in mind your feet will expand as you play so what feels perfect on a cold dry day may actually be too small on a hot humid day in the third set. Tennis shoes run true to size and a little experimentation will help you find the right size; remember, in some cases different products run long or short.

Wider sizes are shown in either a 2E or 4E, with 4E being wider. If you have a wide foot, look for a wide shoe as narrow shoes can chafe feet and lead to injuries. On the other hand, shoes which are too wide give the feet room to roam which also can lead to chaffing and possible injury.

If you play a lot of tennis you’re going to get calluses which is normal. However, it’s not normal for you to get blisters so double check your shoe size as blisters can come from a shoe that’s too narrow or too wide.

Cushioning and Support

It’s no surprise tennis is very demanding on your feet because of all the starting, stopping, and directional changes, so a good pair should provide you with ample cushioning. While very soft cushioning may sound and feel great, it may not provide you with enough support. A good tennis shoe should firmly support your foot including your heel and arch.

If you have special foot conditions such as a low arch, you may benefit from custom orthopedic shoe inserts to support each foot properly. In that case, it’s important to know the cheap insoles provided with the shoes can be removed easily.  

Some shoes offer a more cushioned feel than others which may not translate to shock absorption during play. When in doubt, ask other players, review our recommendations for best tennis shoes, as well as consulting other online shoe reviews.

Materials and Tread

The typical tread pattern on the sole of a tennis shoes is called “herring bone”, a pattern which looks like a series of zigzags with manufacturers offer subtle variations. Regardless of whether you’re playing on clay or grass, double check to ensure the shoes tread pattern will help you on those surfaces if it’s other than a herring bone style.

Apart from the sole, tennis shoes are constructed mainly of leather or synthetic leather with the upper part of the shoe available as a breathable mesh as well as a solid piece of material. Preference over one material over another is something you’ll just have to see what feels best over the course of many matches.

Some soles are guaranteed by their manufacturers to last you a certain amount of time or the manufacturer will provide a one-time replacement for a new pair of shoes. Some tennis shoes are designed with additional material under and around the big toe so if you’re a “toe dragger” the shoe will hold up longer for you.

David Fogel
I'm an NTRP 4.5 level 50-year-old tennis player. My tennis career started late at age 14, but I made the La Jolla High School 1981 team in my senior year. My best tournament results were an "A"-level (now NTRP 5.5) USTA final in 1988 and a win in a match in the Hawaii State Open in 1987 over the #2 junior from American Samoa. Briefly, I was #2 in the San Diego seeding rankings in the NTRP 4.5s in September 2009. I keep exploring ways to improve my game, my fitness, and my on-the-court thinking. Hopefully I can help you too.
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