Guide to tennis shoes – what to wear on grass, clay and hard courts
Your playing style changes depending on the court surface, so why wear the same tennis shoes? Here’s what shoes you need for grass, clay and hard courts. Tennis is a very different sport whether you’re playing on grass, clay or hard courts. Watch any of the majors and it’s clear to see. On Wimbledon’s lawns, the ball stays low and fast. But over at the clay courts of Roland Garros, the game is a little slower and the ball can bounce up higher. Your style of play needs to adapt to the court surface, and your shoe is the first thing to think about – it is, after all, always in contact with the ground.
Grass court tennis shoes
Serve-and-volley players have always done well on grass courts thanks to the speed of the ball off the surface. It rewards those with a big serve and who can get to the net fast.
Your shoe needs to match you step for step. It needs:
- Good grip because grass courts can be slippery, either because of dew or because it’s worn down over time
- A flatter outsole so that they don’t damage the court – in fact, players at Wimbledon have to wear completely flat tennis shoes
- Flexible upper so that when you run forward towards the ball, your feet are not constricted
- There’s less need for durable outsoles on grass courts since the surface is softer underfoot and doesn’t damage your shoes as much as hard courts.
Clay court tennis shoes
Since clay courts are a little slower, baseline play is the number 1 style – players with lots of power can stand back and unleash huge shots. As such, there’s a need for stability and lateral support – that’s because you’re moving side to side before setting your feet for the shot.
You’ll also need:
- Great grip since the dusty clay courts don’t offer you much traction
- A well-designed outsole that releases clay from its grooves and doesn’t leave marks on the court
- Durable sides so your shoe doesn’t get damaged as you slide for a ball
- Lateral support as you move side to side along the baseline
- A tight upper that keeps your foot secure as you move around the court
Hard court tennis shoes
Hard courts are sometimes considered a neutral ground – a mid-point between clay and grass courts in terms of bounce and speed of the ball off the court. It suits many different playing styles, with both fast and powerful players evenly matched.
The hard courts demand a lot from your shoes though. So you’ll need:
- A tough outsole that can handle the demands of a hard court surface
- Cushioning and bounce-back because the hard court can be unforgiving on your feet and legs
- Tough upper that gives you stability when you’re moving around the court