The best tennis shoes are sort of a moving target. Whether you’re Serena Williams or a retiree playing the sport for the first time the right shoes are more important than the best, but knowing a little about your feet and your game make it easy to find a shoe that works for you. And we’ve assembled a selection of shoes that work for a variety of combinations.
Tennis requires intense lateral movement, leaping, shuffling and springing forward. You’ll put yourself at risk of injury if you play tennis in shoes that don’t provide the support necessary to change directions suddenly or move from side to side along the baseline. That means no running shoes. It also means you have to consider the type of foot you have, your style of play, and what surface you play on most frequently.
There are three main categories: neutral, supinated and pronated. Neutral means you have a balanced step; supinated indicates a high arch that puts pressure on the outside of your foot; pronated goes with a flatter arch, which can lead to ankle instability. (see Figuring Out Your Foot Type below.) Those with a supinated foot, will likely want shoes with extra support around the ankle, a wider heel and shock absorption, while a pronated foot requires more support and cushioning toward the front and excellent lateral support.
Additionally, hard-charging serve-and-volley players want a shoe that has a durable toecap while power baseliners will want as much lateral support as possible and a durable sole.
The same is true if you play largely on hard courts, where the wear and tear can be intense. Those courts will also necessitate more cushioning. Shoes constructed for grass and clay are typically lighter, softer and less likely to emphasize shock absorption. Clay shoes often feature an outsole with a herringbone pattern that allows you to maintain your balance while you slide. Grass court shoes utilize designs that help maintain traction, with uppers consisting of mesh and other synthetic material.
A lot of brands offer shoes that are designed for use on any surface. If you play on both clay and hard, for example, you might want to invest in a quality pair of multipurpose shoes rather than pigeonholing yourself with a shoe designed specifically for one surface. But if you only play on one type of surface, I’d recommend buying a shoe built for that surface.
It’s important to remember that there’s no objective “best” tennis shoe. But one SI staffer, a longtime tennis player, set out to highlight some of the best men’s tennis shoes on the market right now.
Our Top Picks
THE BEST: Asics Court FF
The Asics Court FF is a sleek, comfortable all-around tennis shoe. Worn by David Goffin on tour, the Court FF combines the best of other Asics models, like the Gel Resolution and Gel Solution Speed, to provide wonderful balance that allows both a serve-and-volley and baseline players to feel comfortable and secure.
In particular the Court FF’s light weight stood out (13.9 oz.). Because tennis shoes need to provide lateral support, a lot of models feel a bit clunky. The Court FF comes pretty much as close as you can get to running shoes while also maintaining a good level of support. That ability comes from Asics’ FlyteFoam technology, which provides a layer of cushioning in the shoe’s midsole. ASCIS claims FlyteFoam is 55% lighter than standard materials. The technology also gives the shoe greater durability.
I don’t serve-and-volley often, but I enjoyed the way the Court FFs felt when I rushed the net. The cushioning around the heel and the weight let me move quickly in short bursts without worrying about injury. I felt comfortable sprinting and stopping quickly.
Admittedly the Court FF doesn’t have quite as much lateral support as some other ASICS models, like the Gel Resolution. The tradeoff, of course, is that the Gel Resolution is heavier and doesn’t quite have the versatility of the Court FF. But for the player with a balanced foot who feels comfortable away from the baseline, the Court FF is the best ASICS has to offer—especially for a more experienced player.
The bright colors of the Court FF might clash with non-tennis clothing, and the shoe is a bit difficult to slip on, although that’s because it doesn’t have a tongue—a feature that actually contributes to the shoe’s soft fit. But those are really the only two downsides. Overall, the Court FF is a great shoe.
THE NEXT BEST: Yonex Power Cushion ECLIPSION
The Yonex Power Cushion Eclipsion is a good shoe for any surface, and I felt comfortable in it right away. Some shoes take a little while to break in—especially for me, as I have a bit of a wide foot—but I felt great in this Yonex model immediately. What stood out for me was the shoe’s stability.
I’d highly recommend this shoe for a baseline player. Even though stability is its best attribute, the shoe is relatively light and feels versatile. It doesn’t provide the forward burst of a shoe like the Court FF, but I felt great moving side to side along the baseline. It’s a really comfortable shoe, finding a good mix of breathable exposed mesh and PU (polyurethanes) on the upper portion of the shoe to supply both comfort and support. The shoe gets its name from Yonex’s power cushion technology, a layer of TPU that gives the foot extra shock absorption from the middle of the foot to the heel.
Yonex also makes a version for clay, the Power Cushion Eclipsion CL. In the 2017 French Open, Stan Wawrinka wore this shoe on his way to the final. (Wawrinka wears the standard Eclipsion on hard courts.) Wearing it was perhaps the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in a shoe on clay. The Eclipsion—both the all-surface version and the clay-specific version—offers incredible support throughout the foot, especially near the heel. With the clay edition’s dot-pattern outsole I felt as though I had better stability and traction than with most other clay-court shoes. If you’re buying a shoe for clay, I’d definitely recommend the Power Cushion Eclipsion CL.
Nike Air Zoom Ultra React
The Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 FlyKnit is Roger Federer’s choice of shoe, and the Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 Tour is probably the brand’s most popular shoe for both professionals and amateurs alike. Both are high-quality lightweight shoes, and the popularity of the Vapor 9.5 Tour in particular speaks for itself. But don’t sleep on the Air Zoom Ultra React, especially if you’re a very good or elite player.
Like the Vapor 9.5 FlyKnit and Vapor 9.5 Tour, the Ultra React is characterized by lightweight comfort. In some ways, it has a similar feel to the ASICS Court FF—it feels fast without compromising the support necessary to protect yourself.
The Ultra React is light and fast, but it also features a layer of cushioning in the heel and forefoot that provides both stability and comfort. The design is also incredibly breathable, increasing the sense of comfort that you’ll feel during an extended practice session or a marathon match.
If you buy the Ultra React, I’d recommend you consider going a half-size smaller than you typically would. The Ultra React is designed with added room near the toe, which takes some getting used to and might cause some players to experience discomfort. If you prefer a more snug fit at the front end of the shoe, you’ll want to purchase a half-size smaller or look for a different model. It all comes down to personal preference and the shape of your foot.
Nike also knows how to make a shoe look good, and the Ultra React is no exception. The white and blue design in particular looks just as good accompanying jeans and a button down shirt as it does your tennis whites.
ASICS Gel Resolution 7
If you don’t want to splurge for the Court FF but you want to stick with ASICS, the Gel Resolution is a great model. It’s one of the most popular tennis shoes on the market, and it’s a quality shoe for any level.
The Gel Resolution offers top-notch support and stability, and it’s highly durable. But while it’s heavier than the Court FF, it’s also a good shoe for a player who relies on quick footwork and court coverage—hence why Gael Monfils wears Gel Resolution 7. The shoe isn’t necessarily top of the line for either hard court or clay court, but it’s a versatile shoe that works on any surface.
While I’d recommend the Court FF for a more experienced tennis player who feels comfortable with the movement the sport requires, I think the Gel Resolution 7 is a good shoe for any level. It’s quite comfortable, and it has more of a traditional design than the tounge-less Court FF. ASICS also offers buyers a six-month outsole durability guarantee.
New Balance MC 996v3
You’ve seen the sleek design of the New Balance MC 996v3 on the feet of Milos Raonic. The shoe, which features a six-month durability guarantee, comes in multiple versions for different surfaces. I tried out the MC 996v3 for clay specifically.
I value stability more than almost anything else in a tennis shoe, and the base of the MC 996v3 felt highly stable. The shoe rides pretty low to the ground, so I felt secure as I slid around on clay, especially around the baseline. New Balance uses its ProBank technology—which provides an extra layer of stability—at the midsole to offer protection during lateral movements.
I also enjoyed the feel of the synthetic upper, crafted from knit and infused with nylon. The design fits snugly around the foot and gives the shoe more durability.
I have a slightly wide foot, and the MC 996v3 runs a bit narrow. For my foot specifically, it was a tad snug and required some extra breaking in. Normally I find New Balance shoes quite amenable for wide feet, so if you have a wider foot you should consider a different model. But if your foot runs narrower than mine, you’ll probably find that the MC 996v3 fits you well.
Figuring out Your Foot Type
So how can you tell what type of foot you have? Take the “wet test.” Pour a layer of water into a shallow pan, and get the sole of your foot wet. Then step onto a piece of construction paper or something else comparable, like a paper bag. Hold your foot there for a moment and then step away. The water imprint should indicate to you whether you have a high or flat arch. A supinated foot will have a sizable empty space toward the center near the arch, while a pronated foot’s print will show basically the entire foot with little space. A neutral foot will be somewhere in the middle, with a small dry space. (Here’s a helpful visual from Runner’s World for assessing the test results.)
Born and raised in Florida, Stanley Kay is a longtime tennis player. He plays on hard courts when he’s in New York, where he currently lives, and clay courts when he returns to Florida. He’s a power baseline player. He generally wears a men’s size 10, and his foot’s width is slightly wider than normal.
The testing method
Kay tried all the listed models, including shoes designed both for clay and hard courts. He tested them during practice sessions around New York City’s public tennis courts—all hard courts—as well as while practicing at private green clay tennis courts in Delray Beach, Fla. He also wore the shoes for everyday errands and walking, and he went on short runs (no more than three miles) in multiple pairs.