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While not the first event on the annual tennis calendar, the Australian Open can be symbolically viewed as the start of the sport’s new year. This year’s action commences on February 8, giving many tennis fans their first chances to see the top players on the court since last fall. But these are unique times, of course, so some of the game’s biggest names (Roger Federer, John Isner, Madison Keys) have elected to sit out the 2021 Aussie Open because of Covid-related issues. Thankfully, the likes of Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty will still compete down in Melbourne for the first Grand Slam trophy of the season.
In addition to being a wonderful stage for watching the greats in action, the tournament also has a way of sparking the competitive fire in spectators back at home, nudging them to pull out the old rackets and order new cans of balls.
If that feeling’s ever hit you, you know that the most important piece of equipment — aside from a good tennis racket — might be your tennis shoes. We can say that with such conviction because, when we aren’t writing stories or obsessing over music, we’re out there hitting almost every weekend, too. The right (or wrong) footwear can truly make or break your on-court experience.
How to Find a Good Pair of Tennis Shoes
Because of all the lateral movements, playing styles and court surfaces, it’s essential to make the right call with your feet. Here are a few specifics to consider before making your next tennis shoe purchase.
Fit: It’s been said that an hour of tennis generates nearly 11,000 steps. That’s a lot of stress on your lower body. Your feet need to be comfy. When you walk, if you’re more pronated in your gait (i.e. flat-footed), you’ll want a tennis shoe with stability and sound lateral support. Those who are supinated (walk more on the outside of the foot) will want better flexibility, durability and heel support.
Playing Style: While the objective of getting the ball over the net is the same for everyone, we go about it differently. Some players like staying back on the baseline, so they should lean towards a shoe with a durable sole and great cushioning. If you’re more of a serve-and-volley type, aim for something lighter and flexible.
Look: Throughout history, some of the sports world’s most colorful characters (Serena Williams, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi) have played tennis. That vibrancy certainly translates to their shoes, where animated aquas and loud limes have been the name of the style game for decades. The direction you go with your look may depend on how much attention you’d like to garner while swinging—and how stringent your tennis league’s dress code may be.
What Are the Best Tennis Shoes?
If you’re hitting the courts anytime soon, you’ll want to step out in one of these pairs of top-rated tennis shoes. These tennis shoes win points for comfort, performance features and overall style.
1. New Balance Fresh Foam LAV
Like everyone else, we’re smitten over Coco Gauff. We know that natural talent has a lot to do with the sensational start to the 16-year-old’s pro career, but we have to believe that New Balance’s line of forward-thinking shoes plays a role in her success, too. Because of the Knit Bootie, the Fresh Foam LAV hugs your foot like an aunt’s embrace. And with the Fresh Foam midsole, you’ll have all the ease and bounce you need for those grueling 15-shot rallies. (If you’re more of a runner, New Balance makes a great pair of Fresh Foam sneakers for running too).
2. ASICS Gel-Resolution 8
If these ASICS are good enough to keep up with Gaël Monfils, one of tennis’ most electric players, we’re confident they can handle your line-to-line antics as well. With the well-rounded Gel-Resolution 8, a memorable outing on the hardcourt is ensured with Dynawall technology keeping the midsole stable and a high abrasion rubber sole offering durability on any playing surface.
3. NikeCourt Zoom Vapor Cage 4
Essentially a hybrid of two of Nike’s most popular tennis shoes (the sleek Vapor line and durable Cage roster), the Zoom Vapor Cage 4 delivers the best of both worlds. We’re talking a Zoom Air unit in the forefoot for responsiveness and molded traction on the upper to ensure durability. We can’t promise that you’ll get to drop shots like Vapor Cage 4 ambassador Rafael Nadal does, but we’re confident the shoes will work wonders on your return percentage.
4. Adidas Adizero Ubersonic 4
We don’t know if it’s the wild colorways — neon green, electric orange and zebra print, oh my! — or what, but these Ubersonic 4s look super fast, even on players casually warming up before a match. But beyond the head-turning silhouettes, these shoes deliver the snug fit (a sock-like liner), reactive nature (Lightstrike cushioning) and sturdiness (dense, wide tread) you’ll need to make quick work of your next opponent.
5. K-Swiss Ultrashot 3
Venus Williams’ go-to shoe, this latest installment of the Ultrashot takes performance to new heights. The breathable DuraMesh upper keeps things comfortable. The midsole is ridiculously soft and full of plantar support. And the herringbone-patterned outsole hasn’t met a court surface it doesn’t like.