Whether you’re a round-robin veteran or gearing up for your first beginner drill, having the right tennis shoes is a necessity. Tennis requires a huge range of movement: running backward, lunging, sidestepping, and even sliding (for Francesca Schiavone wannabes), which is why running shoes and other nonspecific sneakers won’t cut it on the court. Proper footwear will give you support for 360 degrees of movement and even a mental boost, which writer Emilia Monell can attest to. As Monell, who trained at IMG Academy under Nick Bollettieri and played for Columbia University’s varsity team, explains, “My coaches always said I had more energy the first day I got new shoes.”
There are also external factors to take into account, such as the surface: Are you partial to clay courts or hard courts? Do you toggle between surfaces based on the season? With so many considerations, it can be difficult to determine which tennis shoes are ideal for your playing style and your feet (maybe you’re one of the many who suffer from plantar fasciitis), so I spoke to a host of tennis experts, including tennis-store buyers, college coaches, and club directors about their top women’s tennis-shoe picks. If you already have an idea of what you want, skip directly to the type of shoe you’re looking for in our table of contents below. Otherwise, read on for ten options that will suit all types of players, from serve-and-volleyers to baseline loyalists.
Best overall | Best (less expensive) overall | Most comfortable | Best for plantar fasciitis | Best for sliding | Best for narrow feet | Best for wide feet | Best for older players | Most responsive | Most durable
What we’re looking for
Durability: Tennis training involves so many repetitive movements that you’ll likely find you damage your gear in the same places time and time again. I burned through many pairs of tennis shoes as captain of my high-school team, and I always wore a hole in the toe of my right shoe because I dragged my foot when I served. Mike Layton, owner and CEO of Westside Tennis in Santa Monica, California, explains that tennis shoes need to withstand a specific type of pivoting and start-stop wear and tear, so they “are more solid around the whole perimeter of the shoe.” While this construction may seem clunky at first, the bulk is necessary for the shoe to last a reasonable amount of time. Monell recommends a test to see if you need to replace your pair: “Place the two ends of one shoe between your hands and apply pressure — if the shoe caves in on itself, it’s lost support, and it’s time to get new ones.” Depending on how often you play, your shoes will degrade at varying rates. Monell offers a general guideline of a three-month shoe lifespan for players training at a competitive level. In comparison, recreational players can stay with one pair for a year.
Support: It’s not uncommon to see players (like Serena Williams) on court with tape around their ankles. Tennis is a joint-heavy sport that involves tons of lateral movement and frequent changes in direction, so the structure and support of a tennis shoe are designed to handle this demanding sort of action. According to Layton, tennis shoes “are typically a little bit heavier than running shoes” and “have better lateral support on the inside and outside of the shoe” to protect the ankle, so you don’t strain or twist it when you’re moving side to side. For players who are newer to the sport, this can be an adjustment, says Karen Moriarty, co-owner of the Tennis Professionals — Sportech in Rye Brook. “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.
Fit: Woody Schneider, co-owner of NYC Racquet Sports, says the best shoe is “the one that fits your foot the best.” The term explosive is often used to describe the movement in tennis matches, and you’ll feel that explosiveness in a bad way if your shoes aren’t the right fit. A wide toe bed is necessary for stability, but you don’t want so much room that your toes are jamming and bruising. As gross as the image is, there were multiple times when my big toenail cracked and (bloodily) fell off because my shoes were a little too big and my foot kept smashing the front during split stops. The fit of the shoe will depend on your feet (wide, narrow, injuries, etc.), so I’ve done my best to articulate which type of foot the shoes cater to in each entry below. If you can, try the shoes on in person first to see if they’re a good fit, or if you’re shopping online, make sure the store has a good return policy.
Best overall tennis shoe
Enhanced durability | Heavy support | Versatile fit
The Asics Gel Resolution came highly recommended by four of our experts and is a safe bet if you’re not sure where to get started. Layton has worn the Resolution 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 adds that they are durable and very comfortable. “I think you would fit a majority of people with this shoe regardless of skill level,” he says. Claire Ann Pollard, 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.
[Editor’s Note: Mark Mason, owner of Mason’s Tennis in New York City, noted that supply-chain issues have affected tennis shoes tremendously. Many factories have been in COVID lockdown much longer than expected, and delays in shipping have led to a shortage of available sizes and models. Mason says the Asics should be available in March, but there will likely be delays until April or May for other brands that are not currently offering a wide range of sizes.]