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A friend of yours invited you to play tennis but you don’t have the proper gear. You have a pair of running shoes lying around and you’re wondering if you can wear them for tennis.
You can wear your running shoes for light tennis. However, they are less durable and supportive than tennis shoes, making them not ideal for playing competitively. Using running for playing tennis at a higher level can damage the shoes and cause injuries to the wearer.
Ahead, we will look at the difference between running shoes and tennis shoes and what makes tennis shoes better for tennis. We will also look at the drawbacks and what to expect if you use running shoes in tennis.
Running shoes Vs. Tennis shoes: What’s the difference
To an untrained eye, tennis shoes and running shoes look similar. Especially the ones made by ASICS. However, there are a lot of differences in technology and built that set them apart.
#1 Stack height (material between your foot and the ground): Running shoes are designed with comfort in mind. That is why running shoes have thicker midsole material which results in a higher stack height.
Tennis shoes, on the other hand, are designed for stability and more ground contact. This is important for quick lateral movements, cuts, and sharp changes in direction. To do that, the shoe needs to be low and close to the ground.
#2 Cushion: As mentioned, running shoes have a thicker foam which equates to a softer landing feel. It is important for absorbing impact and protecting the joints from repetitive pounding.
Tennis shoes also have a good cushion, however, it is less than most running shoes. Tennis shoes have to sacrifice cushion in favor of stability.
#3 Lateral support/Stability: Running shoes are designed for one thing alone – forward motion. And although stability shoes have lateral support, it doesn’t come close to the support needed for aggressive side to side movement.
Tennis shoes are equipped with stability systems designed to provide midfoot stability on lateral movements. An example of this is the DYNAWALL technology developed by ASICS. It’s like a hard piece of plastic placed on the lateral sides of the shoe to keep your foot in place.
#4 Durability: There are lots of durable running shoes, but even the most durable of them all will break if you apply aggressive lateral movements, cuts, and turns. It simply isn’t designed to be used in such a way.
Running shoes have less outsole material, thin upper, lack protection at the sides and the front of the shoe.
Most tennis shoes have thicker outsoles extending to the sides and even in the toe box of the shoe to provide more protection against dragging. In addition, they usually have a thicker and reinforced upper.
#5 Weight: A great running shoe is usually a light running shoe. That is why running shoe companies reduce the unnecessary materials used in the shoe or replace them with a lighter alternative. And year after year, running shoes keep getting better and lighter.
Tennis shoes are also relatively light, but because of the stability features, support and extra protection that is needed for the sport, tennis shoes are usually way heavier than running shoes.
#6 Traction: The outsoles in most running shoes are usually placed only in places where there is ground contact when running. And, they are designed to be run on pavement in a forward direction.
There is also a lesser lug pattern on the outsole of running shoes, resulting in a lesser grip on multidirectional movements and sudden stops.
The bottom of tennis shoes is fully covered with multidirectional outsoles making them stick better on multidirectional movements and sudden changes in direction.
|Feature||Running shoes||Tennis shoes|
|Durability||Less durable||More durable|
|Traction||Less aggressive||More aggressive and multidirectional|
Using Running Shoes for Tennis
You can use running shoes for tennis when you’re playing casually with your friends or just trying out another form of exercise once every two weeks. After all, it’s a waste to spend another $100 to get yourself a new pair of tennis shoes that you won’t use often.
However, wearing running shoes when you’re playing at a higher level or you’re playing tennis more than 2 times a week is not ideal. I recommend you get yourself a pair of tennis shoes.
Running shoes don’t have the support and stability it requires for advanced plays like aggressive lateral movements, cutting, turning, quick stops, and sudden changes in direction.
In addition, running shoes aren’t durable enough to handle those kinds of plays for long periods of time.
What to expect when using running shoes for tennis
It’s important to know what to expect in case you decide to use your running shoes for tennis. That way, you will be able to prevent injuries or downplay movements until you get a pair of tennis shoes.
#1 You might roll an ankle – Because running shoes have high stack height and have no lateral support, it’s easy to roll an ankle. So chasing the tennis ball on opposite sides of the court could become a challenge.
#2 It’s slippery on-court – Since most running shoes minimize the outsole to only the spots of ground contact, that also means it will provide less traction on lateral movements and sudden changes in direction.
#3 Your shoe will be damaged – Since running shoes use lighter materials, it also means it’s less durable. So when you use it for aggressive activities such as tennis, expect it will get damaged faster.
#4 You will feel unstable – Running shoes are designed to increase the efficiency of your heel-to-toe transition. That means it tips you forward by sacrificing stability.
#5 It’s less responsive – Because the midsoles of most running shoes are soft, it decreases the shoes’ responsiveness because it delays ground contact and absorbs some of the force you exerted. That means reacting to the tennis ball may have some delay.
#6 It can hurt your feet – Wearing running shoes in tennis may result in chafing, blisters, or even dead toenails. That’s because your feet may slide around the shoe and cause friction or trauma.
Related post: Why Your Running Shoes Hurt Your Feet and What to Do About It
The best alternative to tennis shoes
If you don’t want to get a pair of tennis shoes at the moment, don’t worry! There are a few athletic shoe options that may be sitting on your shoe rack that can provide enough support to play tennis.
- Basketball shoes
- Volleyball shoes
- Badminton shoes
- Cross trainers
Like tennis shoes, these shoes are designed for lateral movements and sudden changes in direction. So if you have them lying around, use them instead of your running shoes.
I included cross trainers because most have decent stability and traction. Also, most athletic people already have a pair of cross-trainers at home. That includes CrossFit shoes like the Reebok Nano X.
There’s a reason why there are specific types of athletic shoes for different sports. And although you can use shoes for any sport, it might limit your ability to perform.
If you’re just trying out a sport or just want to do it to have fun with your friends every once and a while, then it’s perfectly reasonable to not buy a sport-specific shoe.
But if you’re beginning to do a specific sport more often, then I highly recommend that you buy yourself a pair. It will keep you safe and allow you to perform at your best.