Tennis Shoes vs. Sneakers: Which To Choose?

For many people, "sneakers" and "sports shoes" are the same thing. However, there are a few noteworthy distinctions in the sneakers industry. For instance, how are tennis shoes different from plain old sneakers? If you're struggling to choose between these flashy pairs of footwear, fear not! In this post, we'll go over the most significant distinctions between sneakers and tennis shoes. 

Tennis shoes are a particular branch of sneakers optimized for use on the tennis court. Typically, tennis shoes provide more stability and grip at the expense of flexibility and comfort. It may not feel as comfortable to wear a pair of tennis shoes in day-to-day life, but they should improve your tennis game and reduce the risk of sprains. While tennis shoes cost more than generic sneakers, they provide optimal shock absorption and lateral support for serious tennis athletes. 

It's easy to get tennis shoes mixed up with plain sneakers, but there are many differences customers should keep in mind. Below, we'll review all the significant features of these shoes so you can make an informed purchase. 

A collage of tennis shoes on orange background and Pair of white male sneakers on yellow background, Tennis Shoes vs. Sneakers: Which To Choose?

Are Sneakers And Tennis Shoes The Same Thing?

According to most athletic apparel stores, tennis shoes are a specific type of sneaker. Both of these shoes have similar design elements like a rubber sole, but tennis shoes should have more features that make them tennis-friendly. 

For instance, tennis shoes are usually flatter than regular sneakers and not as flexible. The relative lack of flexibility provides superior stabilization and durability. Since tennis players have to sprint frequently, these shoes should have shock absorption and a slightly heavy bottom to provide support.  

Sports shoes for tennis

Tennis shoes also have unique patterned bottoms to provide a better grip on different court surfaces. To prevent leaving marks, tennis shoes should have anti-skid features. 

Find out more on this Amazon link.

To get a better sense of what separates tennis shoes from other sneakers, be sure to watch this video:

Do You Say "Sneakers" Or "Tennis Shoes?"

Female Tennis Player Hits Powerful Backhand Shot

Technically, "sneakers" should refer to the general category of comfortable, rubber-soled shoes, while "tennis shoes" should be considered a subset of sneakers. 

However, since sneakers have a long association with tennis shoes, some people use these terms interchangeably. In fact, recent surveys suggest most New Englanders prefer the term "sneakers" while others use "tennis shoes," "gym shoes," or just plain "shoes" for the same product. 

Generally, these different terms are just the result of regional differences. While fascinating from a historical point of view, these unique names can be confusing when you're shopping for sneakers...or tennis shoes!

If you're looking for a pair of tennis-specific shoes, you should always double-check the manufacturer's details before making a purchase. Be sure the company explicitly says the shoes are designed for tennis.

Can You Wear Tennis Shoes For Other Sports?

Couple running

Although tennis shoes were designed for tennis, that doesn't mean they won't work in other sports. For instance, many runners claim they have no issues using tennis shoes on their morning jogs. There are also plenty of badminton and basketball players that use tennis shoes for their respective sports.

Just keep in mind that professional tennis shoes aren't made with any other sport in mind. If you play a sport that requires a lot of fast and intense movements, tennis shoes may get you by. 

However, suppose you're planning to specialize in a radically different sport. In that case, it may be a better idea to invest in a multifunctional sneaker or a shoe model designed for your preferred game.  

Can You Wear Sneakers For Tennis?

Close up of sporty woman tying shoelace while kneeling outdoor, In background bridge

Since tennis shoes are technically sneakers, you should get by with sneakers for a tennis match—right? Well, it all depends on what kind of sneaker you're using. Some high-end sneakers are indistinguishable from official tennis shoes, while others are made more for looks than lateral support. 

Tennis players also have to consider whether their sneakers will leave skid marks on the court. Professional tennis shoes must have non-scuffing soles to prevent this unsightly issue. 

Bottom line: You can use sneakers for tennis, but you shouldn't use a low-quality pair. Ideally, your sneakers should have shock absorption, anti-scuffing features, and a good grip pattern. Players should feel confident, comfortable, and in control as they play tennis. 

If you're thinking of using sneakers for your tennis shoes, you should first look into the category "running shoes." Many tennis players claim most pro running shoes are OK on tennis courts.

Find out more on this Amazon link. 

By the way, you could check out our post entitled, "Are Running Shoes Non-Stick?" to learn more about this sneaker variety. 

Can You Wear Sneakers With Business Casual?

Sneakers are no longer just for sports. Indeed, it's likely you already wear a pair of sneakers on your off days. But does that mean you could sneak sneakers into your office on casual Friday?

Unfortunately, it's not easy to give a "yes or no" answer to this question. Not only are there so many varieties of sneakers, every office has unique dress code policies. Therefore, it's best to check your company's dress code before deciding whether to wear a pair of sneakers. 

That being said, most offices don't have an issue with dressy shoes that blend in with semi-professional attire. If your shoes are neutral-colored and don't draw attention to themselves, there's a good chance they will be OK in your office. Your best bet is to buy a pair of shoes labeled "dress sneakers." 

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If you have doubts about whether your sneakers are business-friendly, you should probably switch them before heading to work.

Are there Different Tennis Shoes for Different Courts?

Clay tennis court with Tennis player legs. Roland Garros french open tournament

Although there are multi-surface tennis shoes, you'll find plenty of models designed for each of the three primary tennis courts: hard, clay, and grass. So, if you prefer to play on any one of these surfaces, it may be worthwhile paying extra for a court-specific shoe. 

For instance, tennis shoes made for hard courts tend to have the most cushioning and durability. Obviously, when you're literally pounding the pavement, you want your feet to have a little extra buffer room! In addition to providing shock absorption, hard court tennis shoes have enough durability to stabilize your feet as you sprint. 


Another significant feature that should be on all hard court tennis shoes is non-scuffing technology. These shoes also tend to have a semi-herringbone pattern to provide grip and stability. 

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Hard Court

In contrast to hard court shoes, clay tennis shoes usually have full herringbone patterns to prevent clay pieces from gunking up your outer sole. These tennis shoes may also have less durability than hard court tennis shoes. Since clay isn't as "hard" as a hard court, clay shoes focus more on flexibility and breathability.

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Grass Court

Lastly, grass tennis shoes share many of the features in clay shoes, but they could have a different outsole. Instead of herringbone, you'll often find grass tennis shoes with nub-patterned designs.

This outsole helps provide superb traction even when you're moving on a slippery grass surface. Speaking of slippery surfaces, grass tennis shoes also feature moisture-wicking properties to provide optimal traction. 

Find out more on this Amazon link. 

Please remember, there are plenty of multi-surface tennis shoes that will get you by on all three of these courts. However, it's recommended that you pick a tennis shoe model that fits your favorite surface for the most benefits. 

If you're still struggling to pick the ideal tennis shoes, please watch this informative video:

By the way, did you know you could wash some tennis shoes in the washer? To learn more about this topic, you've got to check out our post, "Can Tennis Shoes Go In The Washer & Dryer?" 

Sneakers Or Tennis Shoes? You Choose!

A collage of tennis shoes on orange background and Pair of white male sneakers on yellow background, Tennis Shoes vs. Sneakers: Which To Choose?

As the name suggests, tennis shoes are the best choice for athletes who want to up their tennis game. Even though tennis shoes are technically sneakers, not every pair of sneakers is made with tennis in mind.

You should always carefully review the specs on your sneakers before making a purchase. Generally, the more traction, shock absorption, and durability your sneakers provide, the better they will be for intense tennis sets. 

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