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You could probably name a slew of shoes on the top of your head, but do you know the difference between tennis shoes vs sneakers?
Although many people use the terms interchangeably when talking about casual footwear, there are certain differences between the two that make one better for sports like tennis and pickleball than the other.
There are typically four key differences between sneakers and tennis shoes; these include cushioning, grip or traction, design, cost, and availability!
Which one should you be wearing when playing tennis? Let’s find out!
What Are Sneakers?
The sneaker is technically a cloud term that covers all kinds of casual shoes, as well as those designed for a specific purpose. For example, you may have a running sneaker or a walking sneaker. Most of the time, sneakers are also comfortable to wear in many different settings. They also come in a wide variety of designs, colors, and materials.
Some sneakers are low-tops made out of rubber soles and canvas or denim. Since these shoes are casual, they are not made with enough lateral support for high-intensity sports, including tennis. Other sneakers are made with exercise in mind and may have more leather, plastic, and rubber used throughout.
Where Does the Word “Sneaker” Come From?
Interestingly, the word sneaker was affiliated with the British Navy during the 18th century. Special rubber-soled shoes were crafted to help the sailors walk without slipping across the deck of their ships. “Sneaker” was used again during the early 1900s by Keds, a shoe company, to market their latest design.
Henry Nelson McKinney said the shoes were called sneakers because of their soles that didn’t make sounds when moving. In other words, those who wore sneakers could sneak around.
The funny part of this story is that Keds stole the design from a company called Plimsolls, which first debuted a soft rubber sole shoe in the 1830s!
What Are Tennis Shoes?
Tennis shoes are a kind of sneaker that was made strictly for tennis. The design of the shoe supports those who need to quickly move and slide across the tennis court without getting injured. Tennis shoes are less commonly found outside of athletic supply stores or online, which can make them a little difficult to find.
Unlike casual sneakers, tennis shoes are made with shock-absorbent and breathable materials. The lateral support protects the foot from rolling, and there is enough padding to cushion footsteps. You may find that, while tennis shoes look thinner than some sneakers, they tend to be on the heavier side.
Additionally, tennis shoes have a longer break-in period than regular trainers.
Differences Between Tennis Shoes vs Sneakers
Now that you know a little more about tennis shoes and sneakers, let’s take a look at the characteristics that make these styles different. There are four key differences to consider:
- Grip or traction
- Cost and availability
Take a look at your sneakers. There is a fair amount of cushioning surrounding the entire shoe. Most of the time, when you are wearing a pair of casual sneakers or ones for running, the motion is always straightforward or back.
The cushioning of a regular sneaker is designed to support this repetitive forward motion. The more cushion you have, the more impacts get absorbed. Your feet feel less fatigued, too.
Tennis shoes do not have that level of cushioning. Rather, the shoes support the sides of the foot. This is why tennis shoes look thinner than sneakers despite being heavier.
Did you know that the soles of tennis shoes are non-scuff? Well, they are. It has to do with their grip. Tennis shoes have much tougher soles than sneakers since the grip is made for the constant motion around the court. Players jerk left and right, dart forward, then stop abruptly. The tread on your tennis shoes needs to react to the surface of the court so you don’t trip and get hurt.
Moreover, tennis shoes are made to grip clay, grass, and hard court surfaces. What they cannot do is grip mud, gravel, and dirt. If you flip tennis shoes and running sneakers over to look at the tread, you will find that the sneakers have soles that are smoother with a couple of lugs for grip.
When you compare tennis shoes and sneakers side by side, you will find that one has much less lateral foot support than the other. Sneakers designed for walking and running are made for forward movement. This means that the toes and heels are padded to absorb shock throughout the foot.
You also get some return of momentum, helping propel you forward. Running sneakers are also rigid in the middle but will bend at the front of the foot to prevent the foot from moving too much in the shoe.
It’s different with tennis shoes. Although there is some padding of the entire foot, tennis shoes focus more on lateral stability. Since there are a lot of side-to-side motions in tennis, it is important that the ankle and lateral sides of the foot are protected. Additionally, tennis shoes have a low stack height, so you aren’t lifted.
So while tennis shoes might look similar to running shoes in design, tennis shoes would be absolutely miserable to run in!
The following video also provides some insight on tennis shoes vs sneakers:
Cost and Availability
In a perfect world, everyone would have tennis shoes for their outdoor racquet sports. Unfortunately, the materials recreated to make tennis shoes more and more supportive have caused their price tag to increase.
Yes, all sneakers have a vast range depending on the design and materials included. However, tennis shoes must fit certain qualifications for the sport, so the manufacturers cannot always afford to use less intricate details or provide thinner soles.
Not only that, but tennis shoes are not easy to find as casual or running sneakers.
If you are just starting out with tennis, it is recommended that you hold off on buying specific footwear for the court. Try out a few matches in regular sneakers. As you gain more experience, you can then make the choice about whether to purchase tennis shoes.
Can I Use Tennis Shoes for Pickleball?
Most of the time, picklers will choose an indoor court shoe when playing pickleball inside. What’s an indoor court shoe? It’s different from your general running or cross-training shoe, which are padded around the toes and heel. Court shoes and tennis shoes are both designed for lateral support. That said, a court shoe feels more like a walking sneaker.
On the other hand, tennis shoes are an excellent choice if you plan on playing outside. You can use indoor shoes on an outdoor tennis court, but the surface could end up tearing the rubber. Therefore, it is best to protect your feet with tennis shoes while playing outdoors.
Do You Have The Right Sole For Tennis?
Now that you know the differences between tennis shoes vs sneakers, you should have a clearer idea about which one you need. Keep in mind that while tennis shoes are sneakers, sneakers are not always tennis shoes. Consider what you need for the sport you play, whether it is tennis, pickleball, or something else. Wearing the correct footwear will improve your game and provide support where you need it most!
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
The differences between tennis shoes and sneakers are many. Tennis shoes are designed specifically for quick movements across the tennis court. This means that there is support for the sides of the foot, as well as a special tread made to grip the court. Meanwhile, running shoes are designed for running, not sliding, and do not have the same grip on the tennis court surface as shoes made for the sport.
Tennis shoes have a number of names, including shoes, sneakers, trainers, athletic shoes, and so on. Sneakers can also be called the same thing. The difference between shoes made for tennis and regular sneakers is the materials and the tread. If you want to play tennis with the correct shoe, do not choose a regular sneaker. Choose a shoe that comes with a tennis court tread!
Any rubber-soled shoe, be it a running shoe, sneaker, or actual tennis shoe designed for tennis, can be referred to as tennis shoes. This is because rubber-soled shoes were designed in the 18th century for the British Navy to get a better grip on the slick decks of the ships.
While you can use sneakers for tennis, it is not always recommended. The fact of the matter is that shoes designed for the tennis court are going to be much more comfortable and supportive to play in. The breathable materials will keep your feet cooler than a thicker sneaker. Furthermore, sneakers do not have the same tread as tennis shoes, which are designed to grip the tennis court better than running shoes.