Tennis Shoes vs Sneakers: Aren’t They the Same Thing?

tennis shoes vs sneakers

There are many debates in the world – Coke or Pepsi, MAC or PC, and now tennis shoes or sneakers. What is the difference between these two pieces of clothing?

There has been much debate lately over the term “tennis shoes.” Some people say that tennis shoes should only be used to describe white, canvas shoes with green or other colored stripes along the side.

Others believe that sneakers can be used for any type of athletic shoe, regardless of color or style. So, what’s the correct term? Tennis shoes or sneakers? Let’s settle this debate once and for all

The Quick Answer

When playing tennis, you should look specifically for tennis shoes, not sneakers.

According to Merriam-Webster, a tennis shoe is “a low-cut lightweight shoe with a durable rubber sole designed for use on a tennis court.” A sneaker, on the other hand, is “a light informal shoe usually made of canvas or leather and having a rubber or synthetic sole.” The first documented use of the word “sneaker” was in 1891.

So which term should you use when referring to your favorite pair of kicks? It really depends on where you are from also.

Sneakers and tennis shoes are different in many ways, but the most important difference is that sneakers do not have lateral support, which means they don’t provide much ankle stability, but this isn’t really a problem because it doesn’t make sense to wear them when playing sports like tennis. Sneakers lack shock-absorbent material as well as special non-scuffing soles; these features are found only in tennis shoes.

These differences mean you should choose whether you’re buying your footwear depending on what activity you’ll be using it for.

This means they can be less comfortable than a pair of tennis shoes for any activity other than casual wear (unless you want to take an uncomfortable walk).

Another main difference between tennis shoes and sneakers is that the former are generally more expensive than the latter. Sneakers have a long history, while tennis shoes are relatively new on the scene. One thing to note is that you can find sneakers at department stores or shoe retailers, whereas it may be difficult to find some brands of tennis shoes, only in an athletic store. 

Can you use sneakers for tennis?

Quick Comparison Table

Tennis ShoesSneakers
Use for:Tennis solely.Fashionable outfits and everyday use.
Tennis appropriate:Yes.No.
Price range:$70-180 (on average)$40-100 (on average)
Cushioning:Advanced cushioning and shock absorption technologies.Poor cushioning, not intended for long usage.
Foot support:Yes.No. (usually)
Lateral support:Yes.No.
Traction on different surfaces:Yes.No.
Durability:Can be used each day for sports(!) for up to a few months.Can be used for light activities only.
Materials:High-quality foams, rubbers, and meshes.Usually basic materials.

Shoe selection for tennis

Tennis is a sport with an emphasis on footwork, so shoes are really important.

When playing tennis, you can injure your feet if they are not properly supported, and that’s why the best shoes for playing tennis have been engineered to provide that needed support.

The decision of which shoes to buy for playing tennis can be a daunting one, especially to someone who’s new to the sport and doesn’t know which type of footwear would be beneficial. If you are confused about whether to get tennis shoes or sneakers, this comprehensive breakdown of the differences between them might be exactly what you need.

Where Did Sneakers Come From?

Sneakers are an all-purpose daily wear item that is perfect for regular activities such as walking or strolling. Made in the late 1800s, these canvas shoes were called Keds and designed by a company known as Goodyear. The main defining qualities of these shoes were comfort and practicality. They could be worn anywhere, and the rubber soles made them extremely easy to wear for long periods. They started being called sneakers because their silent rubber soles made each step extremely quiet, thereby giving the wearer an uncanny ability to “sneak around.”

Where Did Tennis Shoes Originate?

Tennis shoes share many design elements with sneakers and may have originally developed as a certain type of sneakers, but they are now an entirely different category of footwear. They are a relatively new type of athletic wear and were manufactured in 1931 by Adidas.

After the production of a type of footwear designed specifically for tennis, most players have stuck resolutely to the idea that tennis shoes are a superior breed and most of them purchase only tennis shoes for playing. The main reason for this is that these shoes have been ergonomically designed to be more durable and provide players with the support they require to play for long durations.

Tennis Shoes vs Sneakers: Spot the Difference

Sports enthusiasts and athletes know the importance of having the correct equipment and are well aware of the pitfalls of selecting low-quality products. For those athletes, it is imperative to have the correct footwear, as badly manufactured or poorly designed shoes often wear out sooner. Moreover, using shoes with poor support can cause muscular pain and hinder the player’s capacity. Therefore, all tennis enthusiasts should know the difference between sneakers and tennis shoes so that they can make the correct purchase.


Most high-quality sneakers today are made of fabrics like canvas and denim and contain soles made out of high-quality rubber. On the contrary, tennis shoes are made of material that tends to be shock absorbent, is more ergonomically designed and offers more support to the players, therefore reducing the risk of fatigue or permanent injuries.

Purpose of Use

Sneakers are designed with day-to-day activities in mind, whereas tennis shoes have been manufactured for use as sports shoes. The main thing to note in tennis shoes is that they are designed with the tennis court in mind and have been designed to allow more movement, which enhances their functional capacity. This is why most athletes prefer tennis shoes over regular sneakers on the court.

Lateral Support

One main thing to consider in athletic footwear is lateral support. If shoes do not give adequate support, it hinders the player’s ability to make quick movements and respond quickly on the field. Tennis shoes have been designed with extra lateral support to enhance the athlete’s ability to move and allows them to run faster on the court.


Since sneakers are mostly used for walking and running, they need an extra amount of cushioning to allow wearers to keep them on for long periods. In contrast, manufacturers have specifically designed tennis shoes to have less cushioning, keeping the focus on support and durability. This results in an exceptionally well-designed piece of footwear that is guaranteed to last years while ensuring maximum comfort and longevity.


While one can make a strong argument that sneakers and tennis shoes both look the same, there is a stark difference in their availability. Sneakers can be easily purchased from any shoe store and are always available in the market, whereas tennis shoes must be sought out and purchased from an athletic store or a store that exclusively sells sports goods. This might seem like a lot of extra hassle to go through, but it does guarantee a better user experience. As a tennis enthusiast, it would benefit you to visit athletic stores to find out which brand of tennis shoes is best suited for you.


One main difference between these two types of footwear is their price. Since sneakers usually require basic manufacturing using regular material, one can easily get them at a relatively affordable price. Tennis shoes, however, are a whole different ball game. These shoes have been designed keeping support and durability in mind, so they will undoubtedly cost more. While this may seem like a negative thing, it works out better in the long run, as these shoes are less susceptible to wear and tear.

Tennis Shoes vs Sneakers: Which One Should You Buy?

It is true that both types of footwear have their pitfalls and advantages. The decision about which one you should purchase boils down to its use. If you are an amateur player looking to practice once a month or so and are more inclined toward cheaper, aesthetically pleasing practical shoes, sneakers are the way to go. However, if you’re willing to explore tennis as a hobby or even as a career, it is imperative to invest in a great pair of tennis shoes. 

It is easy to see that for a tennis player, the age-old debate over tennis shoes vs sneakers only has one answer. This is because sneakers are no match for the quality and ergonomic design of tennis shoes. The intricacy of the design ensures that you will have maximum comfort while playing, and you are sure to develop an even greater love for the sport. 

Can you use sneakers for tennis?

No. They’re not designed for it. Sneakers don’t provide the lateral support needed to move on a tennis court. One other thing: Tennis shoes are about $20-50 more pricey than regular sneakers. You get what you pay for though, and tennis shoes should last much longer than sneakers, so over time they will save you money while giving you a better playing experience.

In summary, tennis shoes outrank sneakers on the court in every single way. With a great pair of tennis shoes on your feet, you stand a much greater chance of reaching your potential as a player and having a lot more relief on your feet.

What’s the difference between tennis shoes and regular shoes?

Tennis shoes are designed for more mobility. They are lighter(at times), have more ventilation, and are easier to run in. Sneakers may look the same but tennis shoes are different on the inside. Tennis shoes have extra padding around the ankles to make them comfortable while running/moving on a court whereas sneakers don’t have any of that kind of cushion and have special soles(made of rubber) for increased grip. Sneakers are heavier but allow you to run faster.

Tennis shoes are specifically designed for tennis, while sneakers can be used for other activities (running, walking) as well. Tennis shoes typically last longer than regular shoes because they are made with top-quality materials to help keep your feet comfortable during the game. Sneakers, on the other hand, do not last as long. Regular sneakers typically provide no support or protection to your feet against shock, unlike tennis shoes which absorb impact and reduce foot stress.

What defines a sneaker?

Generally speaking, sneakers are shoes typically worn for sports or casual use. They shouldn’t cost as much as athletic shoes and they should be good for running on concrete surfaces like sidewalks and roads. Their price ranges from around $30 to hundreds of dollars.

A good pair of sneakers should have a thick rubber sole, should be lightweight and comfortable to wear, not have too much cushioning, provide good arch support for people with flat arches or high arches, and other features that will help you run faster or jump higher, but not aim specifically to enhance athletic ability.

Do you call them sneakers or tennis shoes?

In a study conducted by Harvard University, 45.5% of people called them “sneakers”- mostly north easterners 41 .3 percent wearers refer to their footwear as tennis shoes.

You can call them either. Sneakers, tennis shoes, and tennis sneakers are all acceptable words to use. But an important distinction is when a certain pair of shoes is intended for a specific activity.

Tennis shoes are intended for use during the game of tennis, whereas sneakers are typically worn for casual purposes.

So when we’re speaking in the tennis domain, you should say tennis shoes, and not sneakers.

Who says sneakers vs tennis shoes?

In America, people have different names for these rubber-soled shoes depending on where they are from. In the South many call them sneakers while in other parts of the country like New Englanders use “Tennis Shoes.”

A lot of people are wearing sneakers nowadays, but not all call them by that name. There is a sharp line on the map between what Americans commonly refer to as “tennis shoes” or “sneakers.” The British tend use different terminology in their public speaking and writing about these types of footwear – they typically refer to it as “joggers” instead.

What’s special about tennis shoes?

Tennis Shoes
Lateral supportMuch more than in regular shoes.
Court CompatabilitySpecifically catered towards specific types of tennis courts.
PriceVaries between manufacturers, usually around $100
DurabilityDepends on the surface, the player, the weight and the frequency of use.

There are many benefits of wearing tennis shoes rather than sneakers. Probably the most important benefit is that they’re specifically designed for playing tennis, so they offer more support and stability than your average sneaker. Tennis shoes also provide much better breathability than sneakers, which means that your feet will remain cool and comfortable throughout the game. The durability of a good pair of tennis shoes is also highly superior to that of sneakers.

Tennis shoes provide a great deal of traction, which helps you get stable footing on the court and improve your gameplay. This makes it easier for you to change directions quickly or move forward and backward with ease. You can expect your performance level to increase dramatically when you wear the right pair of shoes.

Is sneakers and rubber shoes the same?

Today, “sneakers” are probably the most common name for this type of casual footwear. Rubber-soled shoes have been around for a very long time, though they didn’t get called “sneakers” in America until much later.

The word “sneaker” originated from the English language during the 1800’s. In England, the word referred to a child’s shoe. It wasn’t until the 1900s that “sneakers” became a common term in America for rubber-soled shoes used for running and other casual use.

Both sneakers and rubber sole sports shoes are made from a thick layer of rubber which makes them resilient and impermeable to water. Rubber sole shoes are also stable and durable, which means they may be less likely to bend or break when you step on a strong surface. They do not have a heel lift, so if you have flat feet or even high arches, rubber sole shoes will provide good support for your feet.

The only difference between sneakers and rubber-soled shoes are that the former usually refers to casual wear, while the latter refers to athletic footwear.

What kind of shoes should I wear for tennis?

People may say sneakers or tennis shoes, but there is no single correct word for what you should wear. The most important thing to keep in mind is that if you’re playing tennis…

You should be wearing a good pair of athletic shoes designed specifically for the task. Tennis shoes are made from breathable materials and rubber soles, both of which provide stability and grip.

Sneakers are typically worn for casual purposes, like everyday walks or jogs around the neighborhood. Sneakers may be more flexible than tennis shoes, but this also makes them less supportive. If you’re playing tennis with sneakers there’s a good chance that your feet will get uncomfortable after just an hour of exercise.

Can I use sneakers for gym?

Yes, you can definitely wear sneakers to the gym. Tennis shoes are great for tennis, but they aren’t necessary when you’re lifting weights or doing other types of exercise. Sneakers are just as effective, maybe even more so in some cases because they provide better flexibility and come in a wider range of colors.

Although it is better to acquire high traction and cushion shoes to train in a gym since they will be more comfortable, sneakers are not wrong for this purpose either.

How do you identify sneakers?

There are several ways to identify sneakers. The most common of these is the rubber sole which they usually have, but it is possible for some tennis shoes to also come with rubber soles as well.

Sneakers themselves will typically be made from fabric or leather, both of which are breathable and comfortable materials. You can also look at the pattern of stitching on the exterior fabric. Sneakers typically have an odd number of belts with patterns that are both similar and distinct from one another.

Sneakers are designed to be lightweight, so they will also likely feel very thin when you hold them in your hands. This type of shoe doesn’t provide a ton of support or cushioning, so if you’re planning to try to use them for sports like tennis or basketball…

Are Converse shoes good for tennis?

No, Converse shoes or any other casual shoes like Chuck Taylor All-Stars and Vans are not good for tennis. Casual sports shoes are designed to be lightweight and flexible, which means they’re not going to give you the kind of stability you need when running around a court for two hours.

How can I tell what kind of shoe I have?

If you’re not sure what type of shoe you have, there are a few quick ways to figure it out. The easiest thing to do is take a look at the ticket on the tongue of the shoes. This tag will tell you what type of shoe you have, whether it’s a pair of sneakers, running shoes, or dress shoes.

Final Thoughts

 Most people use the terms interchangeably, but there is a big distinction between the two types of shoes.

There is much debate over what to call tennis shoes vs sneakers. Some people say they are the same thing, while others believe there is a clear distinction between the two. 

What are your thoughts on tennis shoes and sneakers? Do you think they’re both comfortable, or is one of them more appealing to wear for certain occasions?

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