Shoes are an often overlooked but essential piece of tennis gear. With greater ankle support and grip than traditional trainers, wearing the right pair can be the difference between winning and losing (and also ensuring your ankles last past your 30s).
The key elements of any good pair of tennis shoes are a sturdy sole and a well structured upper. The sole should have some flex but will generally be more solid than a traditional trainer – especially around the heel, toes and outer metatarsal. The upper needs to be breathable and lightweight, but also supportive enough to keep the shoe stable around the foot.
We’ve spent the summer testing out the latest batch of tennis shoes. Here’s what we thought of them.
New Balance Fuelcell 996v4
Open the box and it’s hard to look past the striking red colourway (you can also choose white with blue accents). Take them out of the box and you’ll be surprised how light they are. Weighing just over 350g for UK 9.5, the Fuelcell 996 may be a shoe many would dismiss as purely focused on mobility and speed, but after several hours of play we found it was surprisingly supportive – and it didn’t need breaking in either.
The enlarged support unit by the outer metatarsal gave a solid platform for quick changes in direction and shored up any lateral imbalance, giving greater confidence when moving side to side on court.
The 996 is a decent all-rounder, supplying that crucial extra support for the knees and ankles, while also being speedy enough to get you around the court. The knitted upper has a sock-like feel and gives the shoe enough support, but some may find it a little hot on very warm summer days.
Asics Solution Speed FF 2
As the name suggests, this lightweight shoe is designed to improve your mobility across the court. The asymmetric lacing system and high heel counter provide a close fit, eliminating those pesky heel slips.
Due to the firm yet malleable rubber added to the upper of the Solution Speed FF 2s the breaking-in period for this shoe is very short: after around six hours of play it was comfy, while maintaining a decent level of support.
As with most speed-focused shoes, its lateral support is not as good as other models on the market. However, the sturdy sole and close-fitting upper delivers for players looking to gain a speed advantage over their opponents.
Asics Gel Resolution 8
One of the best-known lines of tennis shoes, the Asics Gel Resolution is popular with both pros and club players. While it may be billed as a durability shoe, Asics has obviously worked hard to trim the fat and have avoided making it feel clunky or too heavy.
Compared with its speed-focused stablemate, the Asics Solution Speed FF 2 above, the Gel Resolution 8 offers great stability with a stiff sole that felt responsive and gave a better sense of balance and comfort when moving through the court. While it’s certainly not as nippy as the Speed FF 2, it did feel more supportive when moving laterally.
The Gel Resolution 8 comes highly recommended for those who want a decent amount of stability and support. Even though it’s a sturdy, built-to-last shoe, it’s responsive enough to get you around the court.
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If you need help getting to low balls and a bit of extra support to keep your balance, the Adidas Barricade is the shoe for you. With a focus on stability and stiffness, the newest iteration allows even the most unbalanced players to feel anchored when moving around the court.
With asymmetric lacing and a unique torsion support system in the middle of the sole, the Barricade offers unrivalled support for lateral and diagonal movement. While no featherweight, the Barricade is by no means sluggish, and the polyester upper and slanted heel counter gives the shoe a close fit.
While it may need a bit of breaking in, especially with such a high heel counter, the benefit you get outweighs the hour or two it may take to get the shoe feeling comfortable.
Nike React Vapor NXT
The most high-tech shoe available from Nike, the React Vapor NXT lifts some of the best features from Nike’s other sporting lines and drops them into a well-rounded tennis shoe.
While the React Vapor NXT is certainly not the lightest shoe Coach tested, there’s a nice blend of comfort and stability. With an exceptionally lightweight Flyweave upper, the shoe is comfortable and breathable, while the slipper tongue and closure ensure you get a close fit without having to pull your laces too tight. The soft, cushioning sole that strikes the right balance of being supportive without being too flimsy.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the React Vapor NXT was the durability and grip. Even on the slipperiest carpet courts it offered incredible levels of traction, while the outsole and rubber guard on the inside of the foot make this shoe one of the most durable available. This makes it ideal for players seeking an exceedingly comfy shoe that won’t need replacing for a long time.
Yonex Fusion Rev 4
While the slipper-style shoe has been tried by many, very few brands have succeeded in making a truly court-worthy pair. But the Yonex Fusion Rev 4, with its soft, malleable upper and glove-like fit throughout the ankle and top of the foot, really are a stand-out pair of tennis shoes.
Comfort and fit may be the most obvious characteristics of the Fusion Rev 4, but Yonex’s decision to include carbon fibre supports in the shank of the shoe means it offers increased stability, alongside a low heel-stack design. This gives the feeling of being closer to the court, allowing for quicker change of direction and responsiveness.
Wilson Rush Pro 3.5
In the past, Wilson has struggled with footwear. As with many tennis brands, the leading racket manufacturer felt the need to make shoes, but more often than not they were mediocre. However, the latest iteration of the Rush Pro (now made by Salomon) is a solid all-round shoe and may be the best piece of footwear Wilson ever made.
The soft, lightweight upper is exceptionally breathable, and a solid two-piece midsole offers extra stiffness and support when twisting. The Rush Pro is a well-balanced shoe and a fine choice for intermediate to club level players.
Will Grice works in audience development and is a recovering journalist and tennis fanatic. He has played tennis for close to 20 years, and currently plays for two clubs in Hertfordshire competing in both singles and doubles. He contributes to Coach’s coverage of the sport.
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