Even for beginners, a tennis shoe is an essential piece of kit.
You’ll destroy running shoes within weeks, and you’re also more likely to get injured as they don’t provide the right support for the multi-directional movement of tennis – especially the lateral (side-to-side) movement that puts you at risk of turning your ankle.
Tennis shoes are lower to the ground for stability and they have stiffer, more durable and supportive uppers.
They’re also made with highly durable outsoles with traction designed for the movements of tennis, firm heel counters, toe guards to protect the shoe from the abrasion of toe drag and often have stabilising features on the lateral and medial sides of the shoe.
They can improve your game by enhancing your playing style and helping you to move more quickly and confidently along the baseline or around the court.
We tested these on a hard court, and assessed them for stability, support, speed, comfort and breathability.
We’ve linked to women’s shoes here, but all are available in both men’s and women’s versions.
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The best tennis shoes for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Mizuno wave exceed tour 4 AC: £129.99, Sportsshoes.com
- Best for stability and support – Asics gel revolution 8: £120, Asics.com
- Best for budget – Artengo tennis shoes TS500: £39.99, Decathlon.co.uk
- Best for weight – Wilson kaos mirage:£150, Wilson .com
- Best for cushioning – Yonex power cushion eclipsion 3: £125, Yonexshop.uk
- Best for speed – Head sprint pro 3.0: £120, Head.com
- Best for breathability – Babolat SFX3 all court Wimbledon: £94.99, Babolat.com
- Best for combining speed and support – Asics solution speed FF 2:£130, Asics.com
- Best for sliding – Nike court react vapor NXT: £159.99, Zalando.co.uk
Mizuno wave exceed tour 4 AC
This is a lightweight shoe at 280g (women’s), with standout levels of comfort, and it safely accommodates a wider foot without feeling too roomy. It is more cushioned that you might expect for a lightweight shoe and this felt great when we came down hard, although it puts the shoe a touch higher from the ground than others in this category.
The upper is extremely durable and provides good support and reasonable breathability. The D-flex groove in the midfoot is designed to help to you turn and accelerate with power, and the shoe certainly feels responsive and agile on court, aided by traction that’s just right – reliable but not too sticky. Overall, it’s a nice balance of weight, speed and stability (although other shoes in this review provide more of that), with exceptional comfort.
Asics gel resolution 8
Best: For stability and support
Asics designs its tennis shoes according to style of play, and this one is for baseline hitters who need plenty of stability and support for lateral movement. The dynawall support on the lateral side of the shoe, along with a firm heel counter, reinforced upper with great lacing and a one-piece outsole combine beautifully to make it the most stable and supportive shoe we tried.
It isn’t quite as breathable as others we tested but it’s there and the upper provides such a perfect balance of support, flexibility and durability that you can forgive it that. It’s very comfortable, traction on the durable outsole is superb and the midsole has enough cushioning to absorb impact while maintaining a low-to-the ground, agile feel. For such a stable shoe, it manages not to look too sturdy and it suits a narrower foot.
Artengo tennis shoes TS500
Best: For budget
Although it’s designed for intermediates, this lightweight shoe would also suit beginners who can’t (or don’t) want to invest big money but want a tennis-specific shoe. It’s very comfortable, ventilation panels stop it feeling too sweaty and it has a decent level of cushioning. It’s not as durable or as supportive in the upper and around the perimeter as the more expensive brands, so it won’t suit aggressive players or those who need high levels of support and stability, but there’s enough there, particularly in the forefoot. It has the requisite toe guard and a durable rubber outsole that provides good traction too.
Asics solution speed FF 2
Best: For combining speed and support
This trainer is designed for players who cover the court, rather than staying at the baseline, so thought has been put into features that aid acceleration as well as lateral movement. Of the faster shoes we tested, this had the best combination of speed and agility plus support and durability in the upper. As a result, it’s not the lightest speed shoe we tried, but still sits firmly in the lightweight category. The front and back of the outsole have been separated, which gives a flexible, dynamic feel on the court, the “twisstruss” panel in the midsole designed to enhance quick transitions keeps its promise, and the traction is just right for quick movement around the court. It’s very comfortable and suits a narrower foot.
Wilson kaos mirage
Best: For weight
An innovative, agile tennis shoe with a sleek profile, it’s very light at 253g (women’s) and will see you nipping around the court with ease. The bootie design is secured to the foot by a single strap but this is very well placed and locks the foot down beautifully, eliminating the need for fiddling about with laces to get the right fit.
It has a sensitive, low-to-the ground feel and it’s very comfortable although the upper needs a little bit of wearing in on court, which doesn’t take long. Ortholite foam insoles add to the comfort, and heel support is reliable and comfortable. There’s a drag pad on the medial side to protect against abrasion and the grip on the flexible outsole is superb for fast changes of direction. Breathable mesh panels kept feet cool on a hot day. A great shoe for fit, fast players who want as little weight as possible on their feet.
Yonex power cushion eclipsion 3
Best: For cushioning
This is the most cushioned of the shoes we tried but it still maintained good energy return to keep us moving swiftly around the court. The ground feel isn’t super-sensitive but these would especially suit heavier players who come down hard on their shoes, those with joint problems and those who like the plushest of cushioning.
The heel support is excellent, as is the traction on the outsole, which offers a little bit of slide if that’s how you like to play. It has a graphite plate under the midsole to aid stability, a plastic overlay on the upper provides good support and durability, and it’s slatted to aid ventilation. These shoes come up a little big so you could probably go half a size down from your street shoe size.
Head sprint pro 3.0
Best: For speed
The lightest shoe in Head’s footwear range and a good choice if you like to cover the court. It’s a nippy, responsive ride – low to the ground with good traction on the outsole that allowed a bit of slide, and a TPU heel counter that provides firm support. It has good stability for a speed shoe, it’s comfortable out the box and accommodates a wide foot, plus its low profile gives it a tick in the style stakes. There is ventilation in the midsole and in the durable, supportive upper. It comes up reassuringly high on the ankle with a comfortable padded heel collar.
Babolat SFX3 all court Wimbledon
Best: For breathability
Babolat bills this as feeling “like a slipper” and we agree – you may find yourself giving an audible sigh as you slip your feet in. Everything about this shoe has a plush feel – the cushioning, the upper, the insoles. It’s a classic-looking tennis shoe that will suit people with very wide or deep (or both) feet – very narrow feet may wallow about and compromise performance. They also come up big, so opt for a size down from your street shoe size.
The breathability is excellent, with the majority of the upper being mesh. This does mean that the upper is not quite as supportive during lateral movement as other shoes in this review, but it would suit players that aren’t throwing themselves about at high speed and want comfort and cushioning with reasonable support and great traction. It has nice deep, secure heel support and the outsole is made from Michelin Original rubber, so it’s going to last and last.
Nike court react vapor NXT
Best: For sliding
A heavier shoe designed to withstand the force of sliding for more advanced, aggressive players, this has a plastic covering on the medial side and front of the upper, and a drag pad on the upper medial side. We found the plastic a little lacking in flexibility, but this may change with more wearing in, and it certainly adds to the shoe’s durability credentials.
The herringbone pattern on the stiff outsole also has sliding in mind, and does its job beautifully. A softer foam sits under the arch with a firmer foam on the outside of the foot, designed to help you push off in faster movements. It has good lateral stability and the bootie construction makes for a great fit, sitting close and secure to the foot.
The Verdict: Tennis shoes
What makes a good tennis shoe is unique to every player – dependent on their physical fitness and style of play, the shape of their foot and their preference on how it looks. That said, the Mizuno wave exceed tour 4 AC will suit a wide range of players. It’s closely followed by the Asics gel resolution 8, which is a popular and well-designed shoe for players who need more stability.
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