Why use special shoes for tennis?

by thrandur on August 17, 2009

Tennis shoes are the base for a better game.

You bought the best racket money can buy, a couple cans of new balls, and got the latest outfit from the Gap, or wherever you shop; so you’re all ready for a great game of tennis. Wait a minute! You forgot something very important, and something that most players probably give only minimal attention to. What about tennis shoes?

Many people have the mistaken belief that any old pair of running shoes, as long as they are white, with perhaps a touch of color for the fashion-minded, will serve for tennis as well. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Why use special shoes for tennis?

Why use special shoes for tennis?

The movements in tennis place an extraordinary amount of stress on the feet, and especially on the vulnerable Achilles tendon, and are completely different from the movements and stresses of running. In running, the problem is repetitive stress on the knees and arches, but the movements tend to be forward and repeated at a regular tempo. In tennis, depending upon your style of play, movements are erratic, with frequent and abrupt changes in direction. So, in addition to the stress on knees and arches, you have extra stress on ankles and Achilles tendons to deal with. Good running shoes provide arch support, but are not designed to protect adequately in games like tennis or basketball.

Like any sport, tennis requires balance for good performance. Good balance requires a stable platform, and in tennis, that platform is your feet. If you want to maximize your performance and enjoyment of the game, and avoid what can be serious injury, it pays to invest in a good pair of shoes that are especially designed for tennis.
I learned this the hard way several years ago. I was working in northeast China, and played tennis regularly at the Liaoning Province Sports Institute with my Chinese counterparts. One Sunday morning, while diving for a baseline ball, I moved my upper body in one direction while my legs were moving in another, tearing my Achilles tendon. I was on crutches for three months while it healed. Had I been wearing high cut shoes, instead of a pair of low cut running shoes, I might have avoided injury, or at least minimized it.

What do you look for in a pair of special tennis shoes? First and foremost is comfortable fit. They should be sturdy enough to provide support to your arches and ankles, but flexible enough to move with your foot as you play. There has to be lateral support to prevent ankle rollover, especially if you’re a baseline player. If you’re the type player who likes charging the net, you need a shoe with a reinforced toe, but if you’re a baseline player, it is more important that you have shoes with durable soles. On grass surfaces, shoes with little bumps on the sole help with traction. For clay surfaces, you need a fine tread to avoid damage to the court.

Get the most out of your game, and protect one of your most important assets. Invest in a good pair of special tennis shoes.

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