Footwear is one of the most important pieces of equipment for any sport. If fit properly and worn correctly for the right sport, shoes can provide comfort, support, and help prevent injuries.

A common question we receive is “Why can’t I wear a running shoe?” Running shoes are designed for continuous forward motion. The outsole of a running shoe typically has a flexible outsole for comfortable forward motion. Conversely, tennis shoes are designed for quick and short forward, backward and side-to-side (lateral) movements. Although the two sports resemble one another, they have entirely different movement requirements. For example, a hockey player wouldn’t wear figure skates on the ice and a tennis player shouldn’t wear a running shoe on the court.

Each tennis shoe contains four unique elements:

  1. Lateral support,
  2. Outrigger,
  3. Toe guard,
  4. Flat and thick out-soles.

Lateral Support

Tennis shoes are built from heavier and bulkier materials, focusing on the mid-foot region. This provides lateral, side-to-side, support to prevent ankle rolling among other knee and hip issues. Many find this type of material to be too stiff and bulky compared to what they are accustomed to. Although you may be used to the feeling of a running shoe it’s important to remember that the heavier and stiffer a tennis shoe feels, typically means the more stability it provides.


To optimize side-to-side movements, there’s an outrigger placed on the outside of the shoe. This provides greater foot stability for easier and quicker lateral movements.

Toe Guard

With quick stop and start movements certain areas of the shoe are more prone to wear and tear. For example, the toe area typically takes most of the force with each direction change. Some players destroy the toe area while serving. Therefore re-enforced toe guards are in place to ensure durability with each push off, toe drag or sudden stop.


As compared to running shoes, tennis shoe out-soles are flat (for greatest energy transfer and ease of motion) and typically thicker (for greatest durability). In addition, certain out-sole treads are designed for certain court surfaces. Each tread-type provides the best traction and durability based on the conditions. For example, if you play on a clay, or hard-tru, court you’d need a tennis shoe with a full herringbone tread.

Bottom Line:

Tennis shoes are an essential piece of equipment for every player. They feature lateral support, outriggers, toe guards and flat, thick out-soles. Those unique elements ensure comfort, support, durability and help prevent injuries.

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