Photo: Marcus McDonald
Footwork in tennis spans a wide range of movement: running backward, lunging, sidestepping, and even sliding (think Rafael Nadal at the French Open), which is why running shoes and other nonspecific sneakers won’t cut it on the court. Mike Layton, owner and CEO of Westside Tennis in California, says, “If you start changing directions in a running shoe, you might hurt yourself because you are not going to be able to pivot on the ground as easily as you would with a tennis shoe.”
To find the best men’s tennis shoes, we spoke to players, pros, and tennis-store owners from around the country. The eight pairs below (most of which were mentioned by multiple experts) were consistently described as the best for various reasons, including being suitable for those suffering from the common complaint of plantar fasciitis. All pairs featured are designed for playing on hard courts, and our experts say that shoes suitable for hard courts will translate well to clay (and other surfaces if you play on those, too). If you already know what sort of shoe you’re looking for, use the quick links in our table of contents to the left to navigate. But if you need more guidance, read on for eight options that will have you sliding across clay or bounding up to the net in no time.
A sport that involves so much starting and stopping can wreak havoc on your gear. Layton explains that tennis shoes are more solid around the whole perimeter of the shoe and may seem clunky at first, but the bulk is necessary for the shoe to last a reasonable amount of time. If you’re wondering whether you need to replace your shoes, try this test that writer and former IMG Academy tennis trainee Emilia Monell recommends: “Place the two ends of one shoe between your hands and apply pressure — if the shoe caves in on itself, it’s lost support, and it’s time to get new ones.” Monell notes that shoes for recreational players (weekend matches or biweekly drills) can last as long as a year. But if you’re training and playing at a competitive level, three months is typically the maximum life span. Below, we’ve specified durability for each pair of shoes, ranging from “moderate,” which is the least durable, to “enhanced,” or medium durability, to “maximum.”
When you think of Andy Murray’s grinding style of play, you can probably see why he might need two ankle braces. Given how tennis calls for tons of lateral movement and frequent changes in direction, tennis shoes must be designed to handle this demanding sort of action. If you were looking for a streamlined shoe or something sleek like soccer cleats, you might be disappointed by how chunky and almost orthopedic tennis shoes appear, but the apparent clunkiness is important in creating sufficient support. Layton explains that tennis shoes are “heavier than running shoes” and “have better lateral support on the inside and outside of the shoe” to protect the ankle so you don’t strain or twist it when you’re moving side to side.
Fit and comfort go hand in hand for tennis shoes. A shoe that’s too large (or has a toe bed that is too wide) will lead to jammed and bruised toes. The alternative problem — a fit that’s too tight — can lead to bloody toenails and blisters. Mark Mason of Mason’s Tennis in New York City makes sure his customers who try on shoes in-store have enough room for their big toe between the end of their toe and the toe cap (about half an inch). “When you’re moving and you stop short, your toes need room to move, especially on a hard court,” Mason says. If you can, when trying on a shoe, imitate the explosive movements of tennis, do a few split steps, and try your side step. If you have any doubts about whether your feet are considered wide, standard, or narrow, you should give all three a try and bring in your current shoe for expert comparison.
Durability: Enhanced | Support: Heavy | Fit: Versatile
Asics is a brand long known for shoes that offer plentiful cushioning, stability, and comfort — and the Gel-Resolution is no exception to that trend. Four experts call the Asics Gel-Resolution a fantastic, stable option that, unlike many of the pairs on this list, should fit anyone comfortably regardless of the width or volume of their feet, which is why we think it’s the best-overall men’s tennis shoe. (Its stability also makes the Gel-Resolution a great shoe for general workouts, which is why also we included it in our roundup of the best men’s gym shoes.) NYU’s head tennis coach, Horace Choy, says the Resolution is very popular with his team in part because the shoe’s low profile means you’re “closer to the ground, which I personally think makes you feel a little faster.” Mason says that when customers come into his shop looking for a pickleball or padel shoe (both of which are also played on a hard court), he recommends the Gel-Resolutions for their cushioning.
Durability: Enhanced | Support: Good for sliding | Fit: Standard
“You know when a car changes its design from a 2020 to 2021 model and they change the hood? That’s kind of what Nike did with this shoe,” says Frank Green, a high-performance tennis coach in the Philadelphia area, noting the minor design differences Nike made to this shoe known for holding up to abuse from sliding on hard courts. Mason recommends the React Vapor NXT for its great Achilles and lateral support, which gives the wearer overall structural support. Meanwhile, the modified herringbone outsole provides just the right amount of grip so you feel stable but limber. You’ll find both durable rubber and tough plastic in high-wear areas, such as the inner side of the foot, to ensure the shoes don’t wear down when you skid across hard or clay surfaces.
Durability: Moderate | Support: Flexible | Fit: Narrow
Phil Parrish, tennis director of the Longfellow Health Club in Wayland, Massachusetts, recommends this pair for athletes whose feet run on the narrow side. (Nike has a reputation for designing its tennis shoes for narrower feet.) The Vapor 11 is currently the most popular men’s (and women’s) shoe at Mason’s Tennis in New York, according to Dana Mason, a buyer at the store. Nike’s Vapor line is known for being lightweight, too: Mason says that this shoe (and the Air Vapor Pro model) has no rubber in low-wear areas, making it especially efficient.
Durability: Enhanced | Support: Heavy | Fit: Wide
Parrish and Harry Tong, the host of Tennis Spin on YouTube and a buyer at California Tennis Club, call out this shoe specifically for players with wide feet since it’s available in standard and 2E widths. Parrish adds that the shoes can accommodate all-around heftier feet as well as wider ones. “You’ve got the width,” he says, “but the shoe also has a good amount of volume from top to bottom.” Aside from its accommodating fit, Karen Moriarty, co-owner of Sportech in Rye Brook, and Dana Mason of Mason’s Tennis, point to this shoe as a crowd favorite. Even though it’s designed to be an all-court shoe, Mason likes the Hypercourt Express 2 for hard courts because of the durable sole.
Durability: Enhanced | Support: Maximum | Fit: Slightly wide
Plantar fasciitis — when the band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes gets inflamed — can keep you off the court. With it, it can feel excruciating to do simple movements like pushing off and landing. If your plantar fasciitis is manageable and your doctor has given the green-light to continue playing, you should shop for shoes with cushioning in the heel, thick soles, and extra padding to reduce shock. This Babolat shoe checks all three boxes because it is designed with thermoplastic rubber and a tube-compression system beneath the heel for exceptional shock absorption. Schneider says this shoe offers intense stability, and adds that this model is cut slightly on the wider side, which is convenient if plantar fasciitis requires you to fit custom orthotics, extra-cushioned socks, or inserts.
Durability: Maximum | Support: Intense | Fit: Standard
Green recommended this classic shoe that, like the Asics Gel-Resolution 9, is designed to fit a variety of foot types. This model’s lacing has lock-in construction, which molds the tongue to your foot to create maximum stability and makes for a close fit regardless of foot type. Parrish, who has worn the shoes, notes that they have a “mid-foot shank” (the part of the shoe above your inner arch) that “takes some weight out of the shoe but gives you more stability.” He says this design element comes in handy because “tennis has become a game with more side-to-side movement, so you really need a shoe that can handle that.”
Durability: Maximum | Support: Heavy | Fit: Wide
Tong says these New Balance shoes, which are available in both standard and wide sizing, are “the softest, most cushiony, most bouncy shoe you can have in tennis.” To anyone who plans on trying them, he warns that “it took me a couple of minutes to get my feet into the shoes the first time because they are so firm when brand new.” But he explains that rigidness is a sign of a good tennis shoe and not something to be alarmed by: “You want them to hold on to you and be tight around the whole foot; you can’t have too much movement or else you will get blisters and a black toe.” He compares the feel of the Fresh Foam LAV to wearing “a soft, comfortable ski boot” in that both are very supportive and snug. They have another fan in Greg Pearson, owner of Tiki Tennis in Islamorada, Florida, who has worn all brands of tennis shoes, but finds these New Balances the most comfortable of the bunch.
Durability: Enhanced | Support: Extra-cushioned | Fit: Extra-wide
For older players, weight and cushioning are often the two most important factors when searching for a tennis shoe. The New Balance 1006 has extra-plush cushioning and offers tremendous support for players with foot issues, which has helped it win over many mature players. It’s also surprisingly lightweight as it’s designed with the New Balance Revlite foam compound, which weighs 30 percent less than standard foams yet maintains high levels of padding and stability. This shoe is available in 2E width, making it friendly to wide-footed players.
• Horace Choy, NYU’s head tennis coach
• Frank Green, a high-performance tennis coach
• Mike Layton, owner and CEO of Westside Tennis
• Dana Mason, buyer at Mason’s Tennis
• Mark Mason, owner of Mason’s Tennis
• Emilia Monell, writer and former junior and college player
• Karen Moriarty, co-owner of the Tennis Professionals and Sportech
• Phil Parrish, tennis director of Longfellow Sports Club
• Greg Pearson, owner of Tiki Tennis
• Woody Schneider, co-owner of NYC Racquet Sports
• Harry Tong, host of Tennis Spin and a buyer at California Tennis Club
Additional reporting by Sanibel Chai and Alex Ivker.
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