For those of you who are just getting into the sport of tennis, or perhaps are looking for a fresh pair of tennis shoes since your old ones are worn down and need to be replaced, we’ve put together this buying guide for what we consider to be the 10 best tennis shoes you can buy in 2021. We’ll cover some of the basic and fundamental information before getting to the meat of things.
Differences Between Tennis Shoe Types
If you’re completely new to tennis, you might not be aware that there are a variety of shoe types, to match the court style as well as the functionality you prefer. These are broken down into the following categories: clay court tennis shoes, hard court tennis shoes, grass court tennis shoes, lightweight tennis shoes, and stability tennis shoes. The former two are developed for the two most prominent tennis court surfaces, meaning footwork and game change ever so slightly, and the maintenance of optimal footing on both of these surfaces require slightly different shoe choices.
The grass-court is likely the least prominent of all tennis court types since the upkeep required to have them suitable for optimal play is significant. The latter two are more about your personal in-general preferences when it comes to athletic footwear. Now we’ll go into a bit more detail:
- Clay Court Tennis Shoes
When it comes to clay court tennis shoes, the main difference between these types and other shoes is the tread pattern. Typically, you will find that clay-centric tennis shoes feature a full herringbone treading, which helps to keep clay out of your outsole, meaning nothing gets lodged in there to loosen your grip on the court.
It is also great for giving you a lot of grip in general, along with a grounded feel, stopping power, and ability to change directions just a bit smoother on clay. The upper of these types of tennis shoes is also typically a tighter-knit upper, and that helps to keep the clay from entering your shoe.
- Hard Court Tennis Shoes
Now we have the hard-courts, which require a style of shoe that has a modified herringbone pattern, that gives you a balance between grip and flexibility since you don’t need to worry about a clay surface muddling your step. On top of this, the hardcourt tennis shoes will often have a lot of cushioning internally as well as a supportive midsole that will aid in shock absorption and attenuation. The upper on these shoes is often tough, to help provide support and stability to your foot, and not so much made for debris getting inside.
- Grass Court Tennis Shoes
Despite being the least common, grass courts are often great for those who like to play fast, serve big volleys, and charge at the net. When it comes to grass-specific tennis shoes, they typically have the flattest soles, as grass is very sensitive to treading, but ample traction, as grass can get slippery after being worn in. These types of shoes will, similarly to clay-court tennis shoes, be tight-knit and give you a locked-in feeling.
- Lightweight Tennis Shoes
If you’re someone looking for the edge on the court, footwear can definitely be what a game comes down to. If you prefer a light-on-your-feet style of shoe, some of the things to look out for to ensure the shoe you like is “lightweight” are the following specs: low weight, aerodynamic design, and low-to-the-ground midsole. These aren’t necessarily specific to one kind of court shoe but are an overarching shoe type that you can find for each court.
- Stability Tennis Shoes
Similar to the lightweight tennis shoes, these shoe types aren’t meant for just one kind of court. If your style of play features many jumps, slides, multidirectional sprinting or just a lot of directional changes in general, you may like stability-style tennis shoes. What this usually means for shoe designs is the fact that they are snug throughout the heel and midfoot areas, with typically stiffer and stable construction to keep your foot firm yet agile enough to be ready for any situation on the court.
Now, onto our list of what we consider to be the best tennis shoes to purchase in 2021, with every court-type and shoe-type being equally represented across the list.
11. Nike Air Zoom Vapor X (Clay Court)
First up for our clay-focussed tennis shoes are the Nike Air Zoom Vapor X. These have been improved from previous iterations due to its updated Dynamic fit system, which wraps around the midfoot area and the arch for a sock-like feel.
The Vapor X, like other shoes in the series, has a Zoom Air unit located in the heel and a Phylon midsole that is low-to-the-ground, giving you ample stability as well as responsive cushioning. The midsole also features a TPU midfoot shank providing you with great lateral support and stability.
The Adaptive Fit construction of the Vapor X helps wrap your foot starting from the laces all the way down to the bottom of the arch for solid support. The upper consists of a mesh that keeps the shoe lightweight and breathable and the outsoles are made of a durable XDR compound with a herringbone pattern to grip the clay court with ease. There is also added traction on the perimeter of the shoe, allowing for even stronger lateral shifts in direction, and thicker treading in traditionally high-wear zones.
These are overall a solid pick if you plan on playing mostly on clay-surfaces, as it is geared towards clay courts, but it isn’t without its faults. The Vapor X’s laces tend to be a bit too short, so if you have a particularly large instep or prefer ample lacing, these may not be the best option. This is more of a mild inconvenience for most, as you can replace the laces, but for many avid tennis players, you’d rather the shoes be ready out of the box.
+ Supportive midsole and TPU shank
+ Snug mesh prevents any clay or debris from entering the shoe
+ Tight herringbone pattern has excellent traction
+ Fairly lightweight
– Shoelaces are too short and may require a different set.
22. Adidas SoleCourt Boost (Clay Court)
Next up for Clay court tennis shoes are the SoleCourt Boosts by Adidas. These tennis shoes feature a comfortable lightweight mesh upper with a TPU that wraps around your foot for optimal stability and support. You’ll also notice Adituff-engineered RPU dots on the upper that provides abrasion-resistance for your forefoot area.
Inside, the midsole features a 3D-molded heel counter that was constructed to have an anatomical fit with solid comfort and protection for your underfoot. Adidas Boost technology is also present internally and adds to the comfort and responsiveness of your shoes giving every stride a noticeable bounce.
The outsole of the SoleCourt Boost Clay’s consists of adiWEAR 6 that provide ample durability and a grippy herringbone tread for all the traction you would need. These shoes overall provide you with a great balance of grip and give, and remarkably, the soft upper doesn’t hinder movement at all.
Unfortunately, there are a few slight issues with the SoleCourt Boost shoes – one of which is the fact that for those of you with narrow feet, the forefoot area may feel too wide and roomy. The second issue is that for some, the ankle collar is a bit too firm and can be irritating against the ankle without any layering in place, creating some discomfort.
+ Durable and tough upper with TPU and Adituff RPU dots
+ 3D-molded heel counter and Adidas Boost midsoles
+ Outsole is very tough and grippy
+ Overall a good balance between grip and give
– Wide forefoot area, not ideal for those with narrow feet
– Ankle collar may rub uncomfortably against your ankle
33. Nike Zoom Cage 3 (Hard Court)
For the hard courts, we have the Nike Zoom Cage 3, which has a full-bootie construction that wraps around your whole foot for a snug and supportive fit. The lightweight rubber overlay helps provide structure to the shoe that moves with you while not constricting at the cost of durability.
The midsole features an external TPU shank, giving you lightweight torsional stability, as well as a Zoom Air unit in the heel that is low-profile yet also incredibly responsive and supportive. The external heel clip Nike put into the Cage 3 is molded to lock your heel in place. Similar to other Nike shoes, the Cage 3 features an XDR rubber outsole with a zonal herringbone tread pattern to give you a mix of traction and flexibility, as hard-court surfaces are not as preoccupied with debris like clay or grass. These shoes are a solid pick if you need collar padding, as well as support and comfort across the whole foot without a lot of break-in time.
The Cage 3’s aren’t perfect, though, as getting in and out of the one-piece upper can be a bit tricky, and sometimes the cage feature can press down on your forefoot. Both of these issues are mild inconveniences, but if you are particularly picky, this is definitely something to watch out for.
+ Snug and supportive one-piece upper
+ Lightweight, ample cushioning and support
+ Great tread pattern for hard courts
+ TPU shank and heel clip keep you supported and grounded
– Can be a hassle to get off and on
– Upper can sometimes press down on your forefoot
44. K-Swiss Bigshot Light 3 (Hard Court)
Now we have the Bigshot Light 3’s by K-Swiss, which are meant primarily for hard tennis courts. The upper is composed of Flow-Cool synthetic material for great breathability. There is also Durawrap-light technology to help prevent any excessive toe-drag, as well as Stay-Tied laces to stop your lacing from coming undone.
These relatively small quality-of-life improvements really sets it apart and stacks up to create a product that is well thought-out and constructed. The midsole is a molded EVA that helps your foot stay cushioned and also provides ample shock absorption. The midfoot support chassis is a rigid structure, great for stability and support, with a Dri-Lex lining to prevent any moisture buildup over the course of a long tennis match.
The outsole is an AOSTA 7.0 rubber compound, which is a high-density outsole that provides incredible durability from the heel to the toe. The pattern is a versatile mixed herringbone pattern that lends itself to hard tennis court surfaces, with a drag-guard located in high-wear areas to improve the outsole’s overall longevity. With all that in mind, the Bigshot Light 3’s are hard-to-pass-up tennis shoes, as they are supremely comfortable shoes that work well on hard courts.
With that said, there are a few drawbacks to these shoes, namely the fact it feels a bit heavier than other more lightweight tennis shoes, even the ones by K-Swiss themselves. The other issue is that it’s not quite as flexible as other options, especially if you’re used to the K-Swiss Ultrashots, for example. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind a bit more heft to your shoe, you’ll be rewarded in return with a lot of stability, useful features, and traction. These are perhaps one of the best tennis shoes given its price-to-performance ratio.
+ Breathable Flow-Cool upper
+ Reduces toe-drag and stops laces from coming undone easily
+ Solid EVA midsole and support chassis to keep you locked in
+ Durable AOSTA rubber outsole with ideal treading for hard courts
– Bit heavier than other shoes, not ideal if you prefer lighter shoes
– Not as flexible as alternatives
55. Lotto Mirage 100SPD (Grass Court)
In our last court section, meant for grass, are the Lotto Mirage 100 Speed tennis shoes. These shoes feature a Nylon/PU fusion upper with a Kurim rubber toe-cap that is abrasion resistant, with a cage that helps support your foot regardless of quick directional changes. The mesh-to-rubber ratio found on the cage upper is the ideal amount, as it has just the right amount of ventilation to prevent any sweat from being trapped, yet the locked in and secured feel is still present thanks to the PU overlays.
Internally, the midsole is composed of a Lotto Syn-Pulse technology cushioning that provides you with cushioning and comfort, in tandem with shock-absorbing Enerturn technology. With both of these in place, you’ll have both comfort and energy return with no compromise on either.
There are two options for your Ortholite insoles, one which is more firm and the other that is more cushioned. It is up to your personal discretion which you prefer, or which would suit your personal playstyle better.
There is also a molded heel-cup that helps lock in your feet, with a snug tongue to keep your ankle and top of your foot comfortable and equally ground in place. These shoes are overall meant to fit snuggly, as to avoid unwanted movement in the toe-box, so if you like shoes that feel like extensions of your own foot, the Lotto Mirage provides just that. These shoes really shine if you’re looking for a light, stable, comfortable and responsive play on a grass court, and the fact you can choose an insole option that caters more to your preference is a great touch.
The issue with the Mirage 100 Speed is the fact that while they are meant to be on the snug side, these shoes aren’t quite so good off the court. While you’re active and in-play, you’ll appreciate the fact that they are bound to your feet, but when you’re done with your game, you might feel like you need a second pair just for the trip back home.
If you’re someone who intends to use your shoes for more than just grass-court tennis, including other activities, the Lotto Mirage 100 Speed isn’t the best pick. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for strictly tennis shoes or don’t mind a snug fit when doing other activities, more power to you.
+ Breathable and highly durable PU/Nylon fused upper
+ Midsole features Syn-Pulse cushioning and Enerturn technology
+ Choice of two different insole options: firm or soft
+ Molded heel cup and cushioned tongue
– Might be too snug for some when off the court
66. Babolat Jet Mach II (Grass Court)
Our final pick for grass courts is the Jet Mach II by Babolat. Initially developed for clay courts, the Jet Mach II also saw an all-court model released. This model features a Matryx 2.0 high-performance technical fabric upper, which is specifically designed to meet tennis-specific needs, with Kevlar and Polyamide fibers strategically woven into certain zones for a more lightweight and stable feel – almost custom-fit.
Internally, the midsole is a Tri-Fit slim, giving you an ideal balance between comfort and stability on grass courts, and a stability arch with four rigid fiber straps reinforcing it around the upper. As for cushioning, Babolat put in the KPRS-X shock absorption system, with a counter that ensures a greater amount of stability and shock attenuation, while minimizing energy loss from impact and maximizing responsiveness of the ride.
Finally, the Michelin outsole features Active Flexion technology, aiming to provide you with optimum agility, quick footwork, precision, and speed. It also has an S-pattern that allows for quickly changing your direction without compromising grip on a grass court, along with improving overall traction compared to more traditional designs. Babolat has also included additional rubber protection in typically high-wear areas to increase the longevity of the shoe.
Likely the only prominent issue with the Jet Mach II is the fact that because it’s developed with grass in mind, the breathability takes a hit to ensure that debris and liquid do not permeate the shoe easily. Because of this, your feet may run a bit hot in them, especially during intense games. It should also be noted that they run half a size smaller, typically.
+ Matryx 2.0 upper, provides lightweight feel and stability
+ Tri-Fit slim midsole, stability arch and KPRS-X shock attenuation
+ Outsole is ideal for a variety of surfaces even beyond grass
+ Sleek looking design
– Runs half a size smaller
– Breathability could be better
77. ASICS Solution Speed FF (Lightweight)
First up to represent our lightweight picks is the ASICS Solution Speed FF’s. These shoes have a high-performance Flexion Fit upper, giving you form-fitting comfort that doesn’t end up skimping out on support. Internally, there is an Ortholite sockliner that gives you added cushioning and more importantly, keeps your feet cooler and drier during intense games.
The Midsole of the Solution Speed FF’s feature rear and forefoot GEL cushioning systems to add a bit more traction internally, with the midsole itself being a FlyteFoam compound that offers you a lightweight and cushioned experience – similar to what you’ll find in their high-end running shoes.
The outsole is made from ASICS High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR), which has abrasion-resistant qualities, high durability, comfort and gives you a cushioned ride. This outsole is great for a variety of surfaces and is ideal for those of you who prefer a lightweight shoe to remain nimble across the court.
Unfortunately, the Solution Speed FF isn’t ideal in every way, as the ankle area could do with added padding, even if it adds a bit of weight, and the ventilation of the shoe is also a bit lacking despite its sockliner providing moisture-wicking. The upper also has a bit of a weird sound it makes in motion, and for some that is annoying.
+ High-performance Flexion Fit upper
+ Ortholite Sock-liner keeps your foot cool
+ GEL cushioning insole, FlyteFoam midsole for cushioning and support
+ AHAR rubber is very durable
– Ventilation is a bit lacking
– Could use more padding in the collar
88. Nike Court Air Zoom Zero (Lightweight)
Next, we have the Court Air Zoom Zero tennis shoe, by a brand you’ve grown accustomed to seeing here by now. The upper on this shoe is a synthetic and mesh combination that features Flywire technology for added durability and comfort, with a lacing system that helps reinforce that ‘second-skin’ feel.
The midsole of the Zoom Zero is a Zoom Air unit top-loaded to bring the unit closer to the ground, giving you more responsiveness during game-time. The back of the Zoom Air unit is bottom-loaded to also increase responsiveness in the heel area.
Inside the midsole is a TPU shank to give your midfoot added stability yet remain lightweight and quick on your feet. Nike also put in place an integrated crash-pad to give you a clean heel-to-toe transition. The outsole of the Air Zoom Zero is a material that features a toe-wrap on the medial side – which is great if you integrate sliding into your playstyle.
Despite being a fairly lightweight and comfortable design, the Nike Court Air Zoom Zero is not without its drawbacks. Likely the two biggest issues are the fact that while the upper is durable, it needs more ventilation, as your feet tend to heat up during play, and the upper tends to hug your foot tightly, creating pressure on your instep in some cases. These two issues are definitely not ideal, especially if you want a well-ventilated shoe or have a high instep naturally.
+ Durable and close-fitting upper
+ Lightweight and features full-length Zoom Air unit
+ Stability TPU shank helps keep you supported
+ Extra protection via toe-wrap
– Upper isn’t as breathable as it could be
– Upper hugs your foot tightly; puts pressure on instep
99. ASICS Gel-Resolution 7 (Stability)
Now for our stability shoe section, the ASICS Gel-Resolution 7 makes its appearance. It has a synthetic upper that maintains shape and durability, which is great for when you’re sliding or in constant motion, along with a Flexion Fit Upper. It is meant to provide comfort without sacrificing any support, and succeeds at it.
There is also gender-specific cushioning, with the female models having a lower-density top layer in the midsole area, and the male version having a higher density top layer. The tongue and collar are both amply padded for optimal support, and the rear and fore-foot GEL cushioning system helps to attenuate shock and impact.
ASICS also included a PGuard Toe protector in this model, for enhanced toe protection, which you’ll appreciate if you’re big into the sliding action. Finally, the outsole features the superb AHAR material which is strategically positioned across the outsole for ultimate resistance to wear on tennis courts. Despite all these protective qualities, the Gel-Resolution 7’s are also surprisingly lightweight.
With all that said, the Gel-Resolution 7 does have a flaw in its construction. Despite all of these great qualities, the upper sacrifices breathability in order to maintain security and support. If you’re someone who needs to have a highly breathable tennis shoe in order to not feel overheated, the Gel-Resolution 7’s aren’t the ideal choice. If you aren’t one of those people, and want a pair of capable tennis shoes, they’re a great pick.
+ Highly durable and comfortable Flexion Fit upper
+ Men’s midsole has a high-density top midsole-layer
+ Ample padding and cushioning across the board
+ Durable AHAR outsole, and toe protector
– Upper is not very breathable
1010. Adidas Barricade Boost (Stability)
Our final shoe is the Adidas Barricade, which has a low-top bootie construction. It features a breathable and sturdy mesh upper, with a soft and stretchable tongue for added comfort, and a lacing system for a sock-like feel.
The upper has a unique seamless forged mesh design with areas of support and stretch, helping to ensure a custom fit that adapts to your every move. Cushioning inside the Barricade is courtesy of the Boost cushioning system that feeds off the energy you put into every step and gives it back.
The ankle area of the Barricade also has geofit memory-foam construction, meaning you’ll be getting a lot of support and stability while playing your game. The Barricade’s chassis has been created to adequately support your midfoot, while providing more freedom in the forefoot.
There is also an abrasion-resistant Adituff outsole that also wraps around the toe as well as the medial foot to prevent any foot drag that may occur during play. Overall, this shoe was designed with a mixture of comfort and support in mind, to always keep you stable. Easily some of the most comfortable tennis shoes available today.
What is probably the biggest issue with the Barricade Boost, regardless of its support and stability, is the fact that it requires a fair amount of break-in time before the plastic arch molds to your foot shape, as it starts off fairly rigid out of the box. For many people, the reward of having a completely molded, comfortable and stable shoe is worth a few sessions of breaking in. If you aren’t one of those people, though, and prefer a shoe that is playable right out of the box, these may not be your first choice.
+ Highly sturdy and breathable mesh upper
+ Ample support from the upper and chassis’ construction
+ Very comfortable and cushioned interior
+ Adituff outsole wraps around the toe for protection
– Has a fair amount of break-in time before feeling completely molded
To conclude, we’ve run down the different aspects of different tennis shoes on the market today. The type of court you’re playing dictates what structural changes are implemented compared to regular tennis shoes.
We have also hopefully given you choices for some of the best and most comfortable tennis shoes for all the most prominent courts and preferences. Whether you are planning to play on hard courts, clay or grass, this list has an available option, each of them being some of the best tennis shoes overall. Whether you prefer stability over weight, or vice versa, our list has you covered. We made it so that no matter what your specific needs are, there are at least a couple of shoes here for you to look into.