What is the Difference between Tennis Shoes and Sneakers?

Is there really that much of a difference between tennis shoes and other athletic shoe choices? While many athletic shoes will overlap in the support they offer, only shoes made for your specific sport will fully give you the protection and range of motion you need. Here are some decisive difference between tennis shoes and sneakers.

Difference between Tennis Shoes and Sneakers

Tennis shoes offer a good grip that supports multi-directional quick steps on the tennis court to provide the best possible traction to play tennis. Sneakers are simple everyday shoes with rubber soles and canvas topping, therefore they cannot perform like tennis shoes on the tennis court.

Different athletic shoes are designed to both protect you while you do different movements and to make it easier to do those movements efficiently. You will need to know what common movements your sport entails, and the support offered by different shoes, in order to make the safest and most responsible shoe choice.

Tennis shoes are designed specifically for tennis movement, so wearing tennis shoes to play tennis can prevent potential injuries far more effectively than other athletic shoes. Let’s take a look at the comparison of tennis shoes and basketball shoes, volleyball shoes, and cross training shoes. But first, let’s take a look at the support that tennis shoes offer and how they can help you avoid injuries playing tennis.

Tennis Shoes vs Athletic Sneakers

SportCommon MovementsSupport Needed
RunningForward, little to no lateralForward motion, cushion, flexible fronts
Trail RunningForwardForward motion, rough terrain, heavier tread,
WalkingForward, no lateralForward motion, cushion, rigid fronts
Weight LiftingSquatsStability and balance
HikingForwardForward motion, rough terrain
DanceMulti-directional movementsMulti-directional support, less grip on soles
TennisMulti-directional, quick stops and turnsMulti-directional support, traction, ankle support, cushion

As you can see, of the sports listed above, tennis shoes support a variety of movements that are not necessary to support in other athletics. Running and walking, for example, are primarily forward-moving, while tennis requires movement in every direction.

Weight lifting shoes focus on the need for stability and balance as you squat and keep good form. This means less cushion than a running or tennis shoe, to allow for grounding.

Trail running and hiking shoes both provide heel and side support to help you manage rough or uneven terrain. Hiking shoes offer more the heavier they get, with the lightest being great for smoother terrain, while the heaviest is great for long hikes on multiple terrains.

tennis shoes might give you ankle support and shock absorption, but they won’t necessarily be able to keep you from rolling your ankle while walking up a rocky hill. Similarly, both dance and tennis shoes support multi-directional movement, but tennis shoes are made to have traction, and too much traction on the dance floor can lead to your foot staying in one spot and your knee twisting to another.

While some shoes could potentially be used for more than one activity in moderation, finding a sneaker that is specific to your needs could mean the difference between getting great exercise and a visit to the doctor.

Sneakers and tennis shoes are two common ways that the average person might describe any range of close-toed shoes on their feet. This is all well and good until you need to make the right choice of shoe for a certain activity. You will not want just any shoe when you start up a new sport, as every athletic shoe offers a different range of support, cushion, breathability, and flexibility.

You might be wondering if there is really much of a difference between the two terms. Well, there definitely is. While “sneakers” really is a more general term for athletic shoes, a tennis shoe is technically a shoe that was made specifically for tennis. You also might be wondering if you can use your tennis shoe for any athletic activity, or if you need to invest in another type of sneaker.

Is Tennis Shoes Same As Sneakers?

The main difference between the two is that tennis shoes are designed for playing tennis while sneakers are for walking or running. These two types of shoes can be commonly found in any shoe store.

Court sneakers are shoes that were made for sports that are typically played on a court, such as tennis, basketball, and volleyball. You might think they would be easily interchangeable, but that is not necessarily the case.

While it is true that there is less of a difference between these types of shoes (most court sports do require multi-directional movement, and solid treads), there are some key differences between them.

Tennis Shoes

  • Low upper
  • Traction
  • Shock absorption

Basketball Shoes

  • High upper
  • Traction
  • Shock absorption

Volleyball Shoes

  • High or low upper
  • High Traction
  • Less shock absorption

tennis shoes tend to have a low upper, meaning they cut below the ankle. Basketball shoes, on the other hand, have a high upper, to support the high jumps and heavy landings associated with basketball.

Volleyball Shoes are focused on traction, and being as lightweight as possible. tennis shoes are going to provide more stability and cushioning, which will add extra weight to the shoe – but being super lightweight is not necessarily a priority for tennis.

While you could probably get by using your hard-court tennis shoes to play volleyball, as long as you aren’t going to be playing more than casually, it might be harder to swap a basketball shoe for a tennis shoe.

Jumping and, inevitably, landing requires a lot of support, especially around the ankle. The high uppers of basketball shoes will give you the support you need to execute these jumps while still staying relatively protected. A tennis shoe isn’t going to provide as much support and could result in injury.

Can You Play Tennis In Sneakers?

If you’ve ever played tennis, you know that you will move in every direction, trying to get to the ball. There are a lot of side-to-side movements, as you shuffle from the left side of the court to the right and back again. You will run forward to meet the ball, backward to catch it, and twist and turn in every way in an attempt to keep the ball in play.

You can play tennis in sneakers, but tennis shoes are better for tennis because they are designed to support and stabilize the foot and ankle while you’re practicing or competing. Sneakers are not made to support the foot when it moves laterally.

Because you use your entire body to tennis, and because of the quick multi-directional movements, some common tennis injuries include:

  • Ankle Sprain
  • Meniscus knee injuries
  • Tendinopathy at the knee
  • Hip injuries

According to Elizabeth G. Matzkin, MD, a Surgical Director, you can potentially avoid ankle sprains by making sure you are wearing the correct shoes, namely athletic shoes designed for tennis. tennis shoes support multi-directional, full-body movements, with appropriately supportive parts and cushions for shock absorption.

Similarly, having appropriate shoe support can potentially lower the risk of experiencing knee or hip injuries. Proper shoes are essential to keeping you injury-free on the court, as they can keep you supported even if you accidentally make an inappropriate movement.

Proper shoe support for tennis includes the following:

  • Multi-directional movement support including low heel drops and midsole cushioning
  • Solid tread
  • Shock absorption for playing on a hard court
  • Traction, depending on the court
  • Ankle stability

Tennis shoes are designed for quick multi-directional movements, starts, and stops. They are also made for playing on a flat surface. If you know for sure what type of court you will be playing on, you can find tennis shoes that are specific to certain playing surfaces such as concrete or clay.

The amount of traction you will need will depend on your court – harder courts require less, and softer courts, like clay, need more. In the same vein, shock absorption is more important when you are playing on a hard court.

Finding out the average cost of tennis shoes and invest in a pair is recommended. Regardless of your playing surface, tennis shoes should all offer appropriate multi-directional movement support and ankle stability to allow you to safely play tennis and reduce your risk of injury.

Difference Between Tennis Shoes and Trainers

Training shoes are not built to support you for extensive tennis playing. However, if you are just a casual tennis player and only play on a hard court, they can be a better option than a running shoe.

Pros of Cross Trainers for Tennis

  • Lateral movement support
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Durable materials

Cons of Cross Trainers for Tennis

  • Less shock absorption and cushion
  • Potentially less traction

Cross trainers are built to support the lateral and multi-directional movement, which is a necessity in tennis. However, they won’t serve you well for shock absorption, and might not have the traction you need on a tennis court.

If you play on a cement or asphalt court, the traction of a cross trainer is probably sufficient. Softer courts like clay could potentially be more slippery. tennis shoes are often designed with different court types in mind, allowing you to determine the amount of traction you need.

Understanding the difference between tennis shoes and other sneakers is very important. While you might find that other types of athletic shoes will meet some of your tennis needs, only shoes made specifically for the sport you are playing will properly and fully support you while you play. For a casual tennis player, it might be okay to use the sneakers you already have, but make sure that you have proper multi-directional support, ankle support, shock absorption, and traction for the amount you want to play.