Running Shoes Vs Tennis Shoes – How Do They Differ?

running shoes vs tennis shoes

On the surface, running shoes and tennis shoes look the same. Tennis players may be tempted to continue with the same shoes that got them through three sets all the way through three miles. 

The question is, will it work? Here are a few key differences between the two types of shoes that every tennis player should be aware of.

Are tennis shoes the same as running shoes?

Tennis shoes are specifically designed for use on the tennis court, which has a completely different terrain than running. A low to ground feel and lateral stability is what makes them so effective at playing this sport ofcourse!

A minuscule difference in cushioning can be felt between most sneakers when compared with their counterparts who play golf or soccer but Tennis Players need just as much support since there isn’t any quick turns involved like those other two sports do.

Are running shoes OK for tennis?

Although running shoes are not designed to help you change direction laterally, they can provide some support for side-to-side movement. Therefore if all that matters is your forward motion and nothing else then a runner should be fine using them in place of their tennis footwear as long as it has enough cushioning or extra material on top like orthotics (insert: which will make sure there’s no stress placed upon any joints).

The only thing that will make your game less-than-perfect is if the shoe doesn’t have good lateral support – otherwise known as stability or shock absorption in its sole like many running sneakers do (especially those with rubber soles). You shouldn’t worry too much about what type of shoes you wear while playing this sport: it all comes down to how well each individual player takes care of themselves.

If you’re a proficient player and play very often, running shoes wouldn’t be okay for you. You can and should buy shoes that are catered specifically for tennis.

Are running shoes OK for tennis?

Differences Between These Shoes

Rapid Movements

When our feet hit the pavement, again and again, running shoes protect them. They help support our body in forward motion. Heels on running shoes are designed to be soft, cushiony, and thick. They decrease the impact on the leg as you run.

However, the design of running shoes does not support rapid movements in tennis like the side-to-side lateral movements or forward and back movements. To save a few grams on the weight, manufacturers of the running shoes don’t support the need for lateral movements since it is not essential for runners.

For lateral movements, there’s a lot of stability needed which is present in tennis shoes. Hence, they work effectively for such quick and frequent movements. Tennis shoes are built stiff, heavy and sturdy as compared to shoes of other sports. 

The soles are flat and durable to ensure a tight grip and less chances of sliding. This prevents stumbling and enables smooth, rapid movement.

Cushioning & Support

Most running shoes are designed with some level of cushioning with them. Cushioning is important because there’s a considerable amount of force exerted on the feet each time. A thick layer of cushion absorbs shock waves and reduces pressure on the knees and joints. 

Since running shoes help with forward movement, they are built to address impact that occurs only when you are moving in a forward direction. This means only the heel and toe areas are sufficiently cushioned for comfort.

Since there’s no sideways movement involved in running, there is hardly any lateral stability designed into running shoes. In tennis shoes, there’s less cushioning compared to running shoes. They place more focus on lateral protection and less on underfoot padding.

Minimal Field Contact

Padding is a crucial factor for running shoes. On the other hand, tennis shoes don’t require much of a padding effect. The focus of tennis shoes is rather on lateral support and stability. 

This is due to the fact that running majorly involves heel-to-toe movements while tennis is more about lateral cuts.

The design of tennis shoes places more emphasis on keeping the contact between the field and the feet as low as possible, instead of adding a cushion in between. 

Additionally, there is obvious emphasis on lateral stability too. When the field contact is more, the stability is better. Especially for lateral movements.

Heavy Vs Lightweight

Speed matters while running. Heavier running shoes tend to slow down the pace of a runner. Hence, running shoes are often on the lighter end. On the tennis court, speed is comparatively less crucial. 

Tennis gives more importance to being light on the feet and being able to switch directions quickly. This doesn’t mean that tennis shoes are entirely stiff or hard. They are still lighter compared to skating or basketball shoes.

Running shoes are lightweight, flexible and well-cushioned. They emphasize on comfort rather than supportive, stiff and durable design which is essential in tennis shoes. Running shoes are flexible and have a natural bend which allows for easy transition from heel to toe. 

Therefore, you may notice people wearing running shoes casually on a daily basis too. However, you cannot see people using tennis shoes in a casual way. They are a bit heavier and sturdier. 

They are designed to protect the sides of the feet, therefore they are stiffer and less flexible. Tennis shoes in lighter weight and more flexibility are also available in the market, but they may also offer less support than needed.

Sole Design

In terms of sole design, durability isn’t a factor in the running shoes’ design. They need to get replaced when springiness is lost or the cushioning gets worn out. 

On the other hand, tennis shoes are used until they can no longer achieve a smooth surface which offers minimal traction. In doing so, the soles and outsoles are grinded down.

Tennis shoes generally come with higher durability compared to running shoes. This is due to the complex and harsh movements performed in tennis. They impact the sole roughly which causes them to lose their durability.


Running shoes are designed for surfaces like tracks, cement roads and nature trails. Their adherence to the surface and padding type is hence created differently.

Tennis, however, is often played on a flat court, either made of grass, clay or hard acrylic, needing less padding for uneven surfaces.

Heel-To-Toe Drop

The heel on running shoes is placed slightly higher than the toe, which creates a downward slope. This gives the shoes a hint of forward lean. The difference is known as the heel-to-drop. 

It affects the way feet land on the ground. Tennis shoes have a low drop or completely zero drop. This allows higher stability on all forward and side to side movements.

What kind of shoes should I wear for tennis?

Shoes for tennis need to consider these factors within them: compatibility for the surface which is played, durability and lateral support.

If you play on a clay court then you will need shoes that have good grip on them because natural clay doesn’t have an abrasive quality to it – a smooth bottom in a tennis shoe will reduce your chances of making a sudden change of direction or sharp turn.

Conversely, if you’re playing on a hard court then you’ll want shoes that have a good level of traction because the surface is harder and can cause one to slide.

Running shoes don’t usually have enough lateral stability for tennis players because they are designed for forwarding motion only. Tennis shoes are built with extra support in mind so that when you move from side to side, your feet will be covered.

Can I wear tennis shoes to the gym?

Of course,  you can wear tennis shoes to the gym. That’s what I always do. From my understanding, this is a BIG misunderstanding because it seems like people get mad when you wear tennis shoes to the gym and not your appropriate attire for working out (running shoes). You can definitely wear tennis shoes to the gym if that’s comfortable for you and if they don’t have a lot of tread so they won’t damage the machines or the floor. I’ve actually never seen anyone get mad about it, but I’m sure it’s happened before.

Some people might argue that you’re not getting the full benefits of your workout if you’re not wearing running shoes, but from my experience, as long as you’re doing the exercises correctly and you’re not pounding the ground with your shoes, it doesn’t really matter. I think it just comes down to what you’re more comfortable in.

So, wear your tennis shoes to the gym if that’s what you feel most comfortable in.

What makes a shoe a tennis shoe?

A shoe that is dedicated to the sport of tennis,  is a tennis shoe. I know in the past, tennis shoes were defined as a sneaker in which the toe area is open so you could see your toes.

Basketball shoes, for example, are very high and cover the ankle, that’s because the sport requires you to jump and land on your feet repeatedly.

Tennis shoes, in my opinion, are built for comfort and stability. From the toe area to the back of the shoe where it curves around your heel. They’re made with lightweight material, they’re flexible and allow you to stretch when you play tennis so you don’t hurt yourself.

Not only comfort, tennis shoes should cater to your movements from side to side all the time.  You should be able to run, jump and stop quickly without having to adjust your shoes.

So, a tennis shoe is a shoe that is built for the sport of tennis, in order to provide comfort and stability for the player. They are typically made with lightweight material, flexible, and cater side to side movements. If you’re not playing tennis,  they can also be worn as casual shoes.

Final Thoughts

That wraps up the key differences between running shoes and tennis shoes. You cannot go ahead with athletic running shoes on the tennis courts. There are several drawbacks in terms of weight and design that can potentially hinder your game. 

Running shoes are not compatible with any of the lateral movements performed in tennis. We hope you have a clear idea of which one is better suited for your next tennis match. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top