The following guide is helpful for finding the best tennis shoe based on the wide variety of surfaces tennis is played on, from grass to concrete to clay.
Most tennis courts where amateurs play are consistent with a hardcourt surface or concrete covered in a tennis court surface. As the surface is harder, the best shoes should have two vital components: grip and cushion.
The hardcourt makes the tennis ball move faster when it’s hit, meaning you’ll need to do more running and cutting while playing.
Due to the hardness of the court, cushion is also incredibly important to keep your feet from getting hurt, so shoes with a lot of foam in their soles will be important as well. This, however, will add weight and make them tough to use on other tennis court surfaces.
Grass is softer and slows down the tennis ball when it makes contact. Grass is also relatively slick, meaning the main thing your tennis shoes will need is tread for cutting.
Without the right tread, your feet will go out from under you and you could seriously injure yourself.
Cushion is not as important on grass, as the grass and soil naturally provide a certain amount of cushion. So aim for shoes that are lighter in terms of overall weight, but heavier on the grip of their soles.
Also, never wear your grass tennis shoes on a hardcourt–it will strip the tread right off.
Clay and grass tennis shoes are relatively similar, in the sense that they don’t require much cushion but need a lot of tread.
However, grass soles will have a circular tread, whereas clay soles will have a long, jagged tread.
There should also be a round area on the ball of the foot that can act as a brake while playing from side-to-side. This is a subtle difference but an important one for the very best players, who are usually the ones who have the opportunity to play on a clay court.