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Tennis Shoes vs Running Shoes vs Basketball Shoes

a pair of running shoes

When I started playing tennis a few years ago, I just used a pair of running shoes for the first year.

They did the job reasonably well, but as my game improved and I started playing better opponents I started to have some issues with my grip as well as some niggly injuries in my knees and ankles.. I decided to invest in some tennis shoes.

To this day, it has been a wise decision, as I can move better around the court and I don’t get injured as much.

I thought for this blog post I’d compare three common types of sport shoe; tennis shoes, running shoes and basketball shoes.

What are the differences between tennis shoes, basketball shoes and running shoes. Check out this article to learn more.

Which type of shoe is the most popular?

In terms of search volume online, both running shoes and basketball shoes are equally popular at 450,000 searches a month. Tennis shoes are a bit less popular at 165,000 searches a month.

Chart showing the most popular shoe types comparing basketball, tennis and running shoes.

What’s special about tennis shoes?

At a quick glance, there might not look much of a difference between tennis shoes and other sports footwear.

However, one of the main characteristics of tennis shoes is the support you get for side-to-side movement, as well as running forwards and backwards.

In standard trainers and running shoes, you have some good cushioning for running forwards and backwards but not for lateral movement, which forms a big part of the tennis game during baseline rallies.

Furthermore, the sole won’t wear out quite as quickly if you play tennis with tennis shoes, compared to using just ordinary running shoes or trainers.

Finally, if you’re playing tennis indoors, tennis shoes won’t leave scuff marks on the court, which could easily happen with other sports shoes.

That’s one way to annoy the sports club owners!

tennis player hitting a shot

Do you need different tennis shoes for different court surfaces?

Generally yes, but it depends.

There are differences playing on clay, grass and hard courts, and you should pick the right footwear to suit the surface.

Hard courts

For hard courts, you need a durable tennis shoe with a sole that won’t wear out too quickly. The sole should feature a modified herringbone pattern which will give you sufficient grip and give on the court.

One of the main advantages of the hard court tennis shoes is its versatility as it can also be used on clay and grass (although if you play at a higher level you may wish to purchase specialised clay and grass court shoes)

clay tennis court

Clay courts

Clay is the slowest court surface but if you ever watch the French Open, you’ll see how much the players slide on the court. Clay court tennis shoes feature a full herringbone pattern on the sole, which give excellent grip as well as excellent support and cushioning for all the lateral movement and sliding around the court.

Another plus for buying a specialised clay court tennis shoe is that it’s designed to stop the clay dirt getting inside the shoe at the top, which can easily happen when you’re sliding around all over the place!

Grass courts

Grass is the fastest surface to play on, and although you can use hard court shoes on this surface, a specialised grass court tennis shoe will give you better grip. Unlike the other two shoe types which feature a herringbone pattern, this shoe type features more of a pimple or nub design on the sole, which is a little bumpy. This will really help you grip if you’re a fast mover on the court.

This article goes into a bit more detail on the different types of tennis shoe.

running man

Can you go running in tennis shoes?

Yes, although running shoes are a better choice overall, tennis shoes will give you enough stability if you go running because they have enough cushioning.

Also, because they are designed to support your feet with lateral movements, running in tennis shoes will reduce the risk of turning on your ankle, or spraining your knee. However, tennis shoes are heavier than running shoes so you will tire quicker if you plan on running long distances.

How often should you replace them?

It depends how often you play, as well as your playing style. It’s best just to check the sole of your tennis shoes once in a while and see if any part is wearing away. A general rule is that tennis shoes should last about 6 months if you play a couple of times a week.

My tennis shoes wear away a lot more near the toe. I use the pinpoint stance when I serve which means I drag my right foot forwards to join my left during my serving action.

I play once a week and replace my shoes about every 8 months.

Can you play basketball in tennis shoes?

Both sports have sudden movements in all directions and as a result, you can probably play basketball in tennis shoes without too much bother. However, it’s probably in your interest to have basketball shoes for basketball and tennis shoes for tennis, especially if you play regularly.

What are running shoes?

Running shoes come in a variety of different styles and designs. Primarily, they offer a lot of support and cushioning in the heel area, but you have to consider your running style too. The heel-to-toe drop will be different for runners who land on their heel more, compared to those who land on their toes and those who land on the middle of the foot.

Another key factor of running shoes is that they are generally very light. If you’re performing 1000’s of strides during a running session you’re going to get tired very quickly in a heavy shoe, and put more strain on your body.

Unfortunately, running shoes lack support for side to side movement, which makes them a risky choice for racquet sports and basketball.

Can you wear running shoes for tennis?

playing tennis doubles

Technically yes, but it’s not advisable.

Although running shoes are lighter which can help with your overall movement, they don’t offer any support for sideways movement which is crucial in tennis. It means you can easily pick up ankle or knee injuries.

Furthermore, running shoes won’t last very long, especially if you play on hard courts. The sole is going to wear out very quickly and you’ll need to replace them quite often. Put simply, if you want to play tennis to a good level, and stay in good shape, get some tennis shoes!

Can I wear running shoes for basketball?

If you’re playing just for fun, and not that often, you can probably get away with it. However, the issue is the lack of support running shoes have for lateral movement. Basketball is a fast paced sport with players moving in all sorts of directions. Without this cushioning, you are susceptible to picking up ankle, knee and hip injuries.

Is it ok to wear running shoes for walking?

Yes, because both actions just involve forward motion, some comfortable and well cushioned running shoes should be fine for walking. However, there are other factors to consider such as the shape of your feet and the type of walking you’ll be doing.

This article goes into a bit more detail about this.

Also, you need to think about cost. If you go walking in your running shoes regularly, they’re going to wear out faster.

Can you wear running shoes as everyday shoes?

Again, this is ok, but you’ll be getting through pairs of running shoes a lot quicker as the sole wears out. It’s probably best just to use running shoes if you go running and just a standard pair of trainers if you’re out and about.

Can running shoes be used for training?

It depends on the activity you’re doing, but generally you should be ok. On the plus side, you can save a bit of money by just using one pair of running shoes for working out and for running. Also, you don’t have to change into another pair of shoes between activities which can save you a bit of time.

However, they’re going to wear out quicker, and that means taking the time to find a new pair, and buying them. Also, although running shoes have plenty of support in the heel area for forward motion, if your training activity has lots of lateral movement, you run the risk of turning over on your ankle or picking up other nasty (or niggly) injuries.

How often should you replace running shoes?

A general rule is to replace them every 300-400 miles but a lot depends on your technique, your body weight, running surface and your running style. Like tennis shoes, it’s best to check the soles of the shoes every week or so.

What are basketball shoes?

Basketball shoes have one main thing in the common with tennis shoes; support and cushioning for movement in all directions. Basketball players change direction incredibly quickly so the shoes need to support this type of movement, to help with shock absorption and to help prevent ankle, knee and hip injuries.

However, they are quite bulky and heavier than running shoes.


Can you play tennis in basketball shoes?

Yes, but it’s probably not a good long term solution. They are a much better option than running shoes because they offer support for forward, backward motion and lateral movements. Both basketball and tennis involve these kinds of movements so the specialist shoes are designed to help you feel comfortable and support your feet in the right way.

The only issues you might face are the weight of the shoe and the traction. Basketball shoes tend to be slightly heavier than tennis shoes, so you will likely tire more quickly especially in long matches. Also, basketball is played on wooden floors and so if you play tennis in a pair of basketball shoes, you might have some minor issues with grip, depending on what surface you’re playing on.

Are basketball shoes good for training?

You can for certain activities, but it depends what you’re doing. If you’re on the treadmill, a pair of heavy basketball shoes will slow you down over time, meaning you’re better off with a lighter pair of running shoes.

For other activities, you should be ok. If in doubt, seek the advice of a fitness instructor.

 Of course if you play basketball regularly and go to the gym, using one pair of shoes can save you a bit of money and leave more space in your gym bag, but the shoes will wear out a bit quicker.

Is it bad to run in basketball shoes?

Yes. Running shoes are a lot lighter than basketball shoes, so you will tire a lot quicker if you decide to go running with them on. You’re also more likely to pick up an injury if you’re not using the correct footwear.

playing basketball

How often should you change basketball shoes?

They should be changed quite regularly. Basketball involves a lot of quick sprints, jumps, sudden changes of movement, and quick stops, all on a hard wooden floor. Therefore the shoes do take quite a pounding.

Of course it depends how often you play, but a general rule is that for college players, you should change every couple of months.

Professional players can change shoes every few games.