The decision-making process when it comes to buying court shoes is something that many tennis players often take for granted. They purchase shoes because of low price or style, but without regard to the purpose shoes were invented in the first place–to protect your feet. Footwork and mobility are as much a part of the game as your serve or forehand. If your feet are not comfortable, you will have problems walking, much less focusing on your game.
Bringing in your old court shoes to the shop when it’s time for a replacement and having a tennis pro examine them can seem a little like the role medical examiners play in a crime drama. It’s a problem-solving approach to determine what is going on when you play. For example, if the forefoot has a lot of wear, you may not need a shoe that emphasizes heel cushioning. Wear and tear on your feet can also tell the story of a foot that slides too much inside the shoe or chafing from feet that perspire too much because of poor ventilation and material that does not wick away the sweat.
There is probably no sport that demands as much lateral movement and changing directions as tennis does. If your feet slide inside the shoes a lot, you probably have poor fitting shoes or need more lateral support. Many companies provide bridge-like structures that limit lateral movement of the foot. You will not only suffer less abrasion, you’ll also have improved response when you change directions.
If your soles frequently break down due to friction, it’s time to start shelling out a little more for your footwear. Many court shoes now provide soles manufactured by tire companies that come with a six month warranty. These companies are experts at developing tire rubber that supports vehicles weighing up to several tons and that lasts for tens of thousands of miles. If they can do that, they can definitely manufacture a durable sole for a tennis shoe.
Perspiration is another major issue with many tennis players. After a few rounds on the court, their feet get hot and uncomfortable. This leads to perspiration, which in turn can lead to chafing and painful blisters. If these blisters are severe enough, it can mean spending some time on the shelf while they heal. If this is your problem, look for shoes with adequate ventilation that keep your feet cool. Many shoes have synthetic materials that wick away perspiration so your feet don’t feel like they have been wrapped in sopping wet towels.
Another element of our so-called ‘shoe forensics’ is to look at sole compression a different problem from the aforementioned friction wear. All the impact that you subject your court shoes down will more or less compress the soles. The question is whether or not it’s excessive. A discussion with your tennis pro about your playing habits and history will probably give the most accurate answer, since almost no two tennis players are alike when it comes to how they wear out their tennis shoes. If after taking all these factors into consideration, you find that the shoes are not durable enough for you, it may be due to a lack of cushioning. You will need to take a closer look to see if the shoe uses materials like EVA that are more impact resistant and provide better cushioning. If left unchecked, impact injuries can lead to stress fractures of the foot.
If you are jealous of a tennis playing friend who has the latest style in footwear, check the urge to buy a pair for yourself. What works for your friend may very well not work for you and risking the well-being of your feet just to look cool won’t help your game and may even force an unwanted sabbatical from the sport you love. Choose the court shoes that are right for you and will allow you to think about how to improve your forehand instead of how you’re going to afford a podiatrist.
Christopher Mohr is a freelance copywriter in the San Diego area. He writes on topics including sports, business and technology. Prior to his writing career, he worked in IT and customer service.