Anybody who has ever played or watched tennis will be able to testify to the fact that it is a sport that demands a great deal of movement, that it can be utterly unpredictable from one moment to the next, and that the greatest players are those who are able to meet zinging shots with almost impossibly swift reactions. None of this would be at all manageable without the right pair of tennis shoes.
Tennis players often need to break into sudden and very fast sprint from the baseline to the net that would rival the greatest track athletes. Unlike track athletes, they also need to be able to stop abruptly and position themselves not only to receive a shot gracefully but also to send it back with accuracy and cunning. All of this requires shoes that are lightweight enough not to encumber the player, thick-soled enough to provide much-needed grip on grass, clay or indoor courts, and well-fitting enough to remain comfortable and supportive for long hours on court.
Tennis shoes are low-cut at the ankle, which is essential in order to maintain ankle flexibility for those sudden sprints and turns, as well as for jumping up to meet lobs and following through after the serve. At the same time, tennis shoes need to provide a great deal of support to feet that are forced to move so much, and for this reason the collar area of the shoe is padded and the tongue is quite thick. The best tennis shoes are lace-ups, which allow you to choose exactly how tight or loose you want them. When there is so much running and jumping to do, Velcro-fastened shoes simply can’t offer the same level of support as lace-ups.
The most common material used for the uppers of tennis shoes is white leather, sometimes with air-tex or gauze sections to increase breathability. Soles are made of rubber to ensure both bounce and grip.
Many tennis competitions and tournaments – especially some of the Grand Slam tournaments such as Wimbledon – have extremely strict rules on approved clothing and clothing colours, and have been known to dismiss players or postpone matches due to the appearance of incorrect clothing. This means that most tennis shoes are white as standard, which matches the traditional colour of tennis gear but also steers clear of likely ‘offensive’ designs.
The soles of tennis shoes are also mostly white, to comply with the rules of many indoor courts, and so it can be difficult to assert your individuality on court. That said, the best-known brands obviously ensure that their logos are clearly visible along the sides of the uppers.