Gear Guide: Different Shoes For Different Surfaces
Tennis Warehouse breaks down the differences in shoes for grass, clay and hard courts
With the European clay season concluding on Sunday at Roland Garros, and ATP World Tour tournaments kicking off on Monday in Stuttgart and 's-Hertogenbosch, it’s officially grass-court season!
Many people wonder if a hard-court shoe will be suitable on a clay court or even a grass court. While you can get away with it, there is a reason why there are specific shoes for specific surfaces. Each surface plays a little differently and your game and footwork can change depending on what surface you are playing on. Let’s take a look at what the distinctions are between these three types of shoes.
Despite grass-court tournaments only lasting for a few weeks on the ATP World Tour tour, some players are fortunate to enjoy grass tennis all year long. Like clay, grass is much softer on your body and joints. While there are not a ton of grass-court shoe options to choose from, this surface tends to play fast and you will definitely want the correct shoes on court.
Grass court shoes have outsoles which feature "nubs" or "pimples" that are reminiscent of cleat-like-shoes. Outsoles with nubs provide great grip for players on what can often be slippery grass. Despite the aggressive tread, the outsole shouldn't do any damage to the court and will help players feel comfortable moving quickly on this fast surface. Unlike hard-court shoes, these cannot be used on other surfaces.
Clay courts are typically the slowest of the three surfaces and while you may not be able to master the movement right away, finding the right shoe should be simple!
You will want a shoe with the right levels of traction to help you move gracefully on the court, as well as lateral support to keep you supported when sliding into shots. What mainly sets all these shoes apart is the outsole. The outsole of a clay court shoe will typically feature a full herringbone (zig zag) tread pattern, which offers great grip on this slippery surface. This pattern won't allow the clay to lodge to the outsole as much as the tighter hard court tread designs, so you can get more traction when you try to start, stop or change directions. If the clay does build up, a couple of taps to the side of your shoe from your racquet should knock all the clay loose from the outsole. The herringbone design also makes sliding from side to side more predictable. You can perfectly glide into a shot and recover, but also have the traction needed for moving forward and backward.
Clay-court specific shoes often have a tighter knit upper, which will come in handy if you plan on playing on clay on a regular basis. This not only aids in stability, but helps keep the clay from entering your shoes. These shoes won't come with an outsole guarantee as the clay is usually much gentler on your outsoles. However, sometimes the shoes will offer added durability on high wear areas where your feet might drag.
The most popular and common tennis court surface is a hard court. This court is also the most demanding when it comes to outsole durability. Depending on where you play, you may encounter a gritty, slower hard court or possibly a slick, more slippery, quick court. Either way, the soles of hard-court shoes are usually built to handle the demands of this surface.
Most often, they feature a modified herringbone pattern designed to give you the perfect blend of grip and give on the court. Hard-court shoes will often feature ample cushioning and a midsole that will help transfer energy into every step you take, as well as absorb shock from the harder surface. They usually feature a tough upper that will aid in support and durability. The toe area is often built up and protected for you toe draggers out there, as a gritty hard court can do some damage to your shoes.
When choosing a hard court shoe, there are usually two types you can choose from. The first is a durable, stable option that comes with a six-month outsole warranty. This means if you wear out that outsole in under six months, the manufacturer will send you another pair. The second option is a speed-oriented shoe. These are often lighter in weight and have been made to offer a faster feel. The outsole usually has a little less grab, but more give, and they have a tendency to wear out faster. Hard-court shoes are the most versatile shoes and, while not ideal, they can be used on clay or grass courts.
To find the perfect pair of shoes for the surface you play on and for more information, head to Tennis Warehouse.