If you’re an everyday runner, you might be wondering if tennis shoes are good for running. In this blog post, I’ll take a look at the pros and cons of using tennis shoes for running. Hopefully, I’ll give you enough information to make an informed decision.
So, are tennis shoes good for running? The short answer is both YES and NO. It depends on your running gait, how many miles you’re going to run and how frequently you run. Tennis shoes and running sneakers may look very similar but the outsoles of each shoe are quite different. It’s these differences that lead many people to come down on one side or another when asked if tennis shoes are good for running. Some people believe that the cushioning in most tennis shoes will help prevent injuries while others argue that there isn’t enough flexibility to allow your foot to move naturally while running.
Here’s what a person Reddit comments when he switched from his tennis shoes to the running shoes.
Also Read: Running in crossfit shoes
Table of Contents
Tennis Shoes vs Running Shoes
Here are the following major factors that set a major difference in running shoes and tennis sneakers. You should check out these factors before deciding to wear your tennis shoes for running.
Tennis Shoes Are Stiffer
There is a difference between the kinematics of running and tennis sports activity. Running is all about forward motion, while tennis game involves quick and abrupt side-to-side movements.
Tennis shoes are stiffer because they are made to stabilize your foot when you’re trying to hit a ball that’s moving at high speeds. To do this, the shoes have super tough, hard soles to help you stop and move quickly in any direction.
When you run in tennis shoes, your foot doesn’t properly land and absorb impact because the sole is so hard and stiff. On the other hand, running shoes fit like a glove. Their midsole is super thick and soft, due to which running shoes are super flexible in the forefoot region.
The cushioning of the running shoes is designed for the repetitive pounding of the runner’s feet by keeping in mind the distance and time. In this way, running shoes allow your foot to land softly and spring back up with each step you take. That’s what makes running so much more efficient and enjoyable.
Tennis Shoes Are More Stable
Tennis shoes have a flat sole with lesser stack height so that it remains closer to the ground and offer more stability. In this way, tennis players can have a better feel of a tennis court to move around freely. On the other hand, running shoes have a heel drop of more than 5mm to push your body forward during the landing phase of running activity.
Tennis shoes with flat soles can be used for short runs or speed work sessions as they provide a better feel of the ground, which is good for half-distance marathons. However, if you’re a heel striker, you need a proper high-cushioned running shoe that will ensure the proper shock absorption.
Furthermore, if you overpronate, I would not advise you to wear tennis shoes for overpronation. Since running activity mostly includes forward motion, runners with overpronation issues face severe ankle rolling issues in high-speed running.
If you check out the literature, you would find most of the overpronation-related researches is done on the runners as they are most likely to be suffered from injuries due to overpronation. Due to a difference in mechanics of foot movement on the court and during running, tennis players with overpronated feet are less likely to be suffered from its aftermaths during the game.
Due to this reason, there are specific stability and motion control running shoes in which a medial post system is embedded in the midfoot to restrict the inward movement during fast running activity. You can check my guide on running shoes if you want to know more details.
On the other hand, tennis shoes do provide lateral stability. But, it is not structural like the one you would find in the motion control running shoes. In tennis shoes, you would find a system of high-density material panels on the walks of the midsole so that the midsole does not bend when a tennis player takes a sideways movement on the court.
Tennis Shoes Have a Rigid Upper
Tennis shoes are made of high-quality leather upper to ensure a secure and supportive fit. On the other hand, running shoes consist of a breathable engineered mesh upper for a comfy flexible fit.
There are synthetic overlays on the sides of the running shoes to enhance the support. But, tennis shoes’ whole upper is comprised of the synthetic leather upper. Since tennis shoes are more rigid, this is the major reason for the heavyweight of tennis shoes.
Tennis game involves quick abrupt movements, due to which the flexibility of mesh can cause rolling of the foot. Furthermore, tennis players don’t need enough breathability as runners would need in a long-distance strenuous running activity.
In this research of important running shoe features, 97% of participants agreed on the upper breathability feature of the running shoes. If feet can get sweaty, they may suffer from an itching sensation and blisters as they start rubbing with the socks due to increased friction.
The left one is the ASICS tennis shoe. You can clearly observe the difference that the upper of ASICS tennis shoes is made of polyurethane (synthetic leather), while the major portion of ASICS running shoes is made of engineered mesh.
Also Read: Tennis shoes for bunions
There is a significant difference between the rubber treads pattern on the outsole of running shoes and tennis shoes. The outsole of the tennis shoes is specifically made for traction on the court.
On the outsole of tennis shoes, you would find a fish-bone or zig-zag treads pattern. These are also called herringbone treads. They don’t damage the tennis court and offer the necessary grip. The herringbone pattern also releases clay from the grooves easily.
On the other hand, running shoes have thick rubber pods on the outsole that are meant for shock absorption and designed for concrete (i.e. roadways).
In the image above, the left one is the sole design of tennis shoes and the right one is the sole design of running shoes. You can see running shoe outsole features thick rubber pads to enhance shock absorption.
For tennis shoes, durability matters a lot. During the abrupt sideways movements on the court, the foot tries to poke out of the shoes.
Moreover, the sides of the upper may also rub with the court surface. The thick leather upper of tennis shoes provides protection to the back foot while playing different tennis shots. If tennis shoes would feature a thin mesh upper like running shoes, they would rip off right away.
Also, the outsole of tennis shoes is made of hard rubber to withstand resistance while playing on the cement courts. The constant stopping and sliding on the court exert a lot of friction force on the tennis shoes, due to which the rubber of tennis shoes is more durable. So, with regards to the grip and durability, there would be no harm if you wear tennis shoes for running.
Experts generally recommend to change your running shoes when you run for 300 to 500 miles. The reason is that, with time, the cushioning starts losing its properties and the rubber starts wearing down and losing its grip.
On the other hand, tennis shoes are likely to be replaced when tennis players start observing the holes to the point that they can fully see the insole, or they start slipping on the courts due to smooth rubber. This usually happens in 50 to 150hrs, depending upon your tennis shoes, tennis court, and your game. So, while using tennis shoes for running, make sure that they are in new condition.
How Do Tennis Shoes Affect Running Economy?
If you check out my guide on heavy running shoes disadvantages, you’ll see that an increase in 100g of the weight of a shoe can increase the consumption of oxygen by 1percent. Furthermore, the addition of 100g of weight to the shoes can also decrease your running speed by 1.1%, if you’re running at a speed of 7.8mph. You can also check out this study to analyze the effect of weight on the running economy.
Now, the weight of tennis shoes is usually more than 14oz (400grams) to 16oz (450grams). On the other hand, the weight of running shoes ranges from 9oz (250grams) to 12oz (350grams). Due to a huge weight difference, it can somehow affect your running economy if you run in your tennis shoes.
Possible Injuries Runners Can Face in Tennis Shoes
Tennis shoes seem to be a good alternative to running shoes, if you’re a casual runner, strike with midfoot and opt for short-distance running.
However, you need to take care of the following injuries that could arise if you’re a heel striker and do regular running in your tennis shoes.
- Plantar Fasciitis (due to less shock absorption and thin sole of tennis shoes)
- Knee pain (can be worse if you’re a heel striker)
- Sprained ankles (if you’re suffering from overpronation)
Also Read: Running shoes for ball of foot pain
Choosing Tennis Shoes for Running: Final Verdict
|Running Shoes||Tennis Shoes|
|Running shoes, having different types (neutral, stability, motion control) are designed by keeping in mind the running gait of a runner.||Tennis shoes are designed for ankles stability. Their lateral support is designed to prevent tilting of the foot during short bursts in the tennis game|
|Running shoes are ideal for heel strikers due to thicker heel cushion for shock absorption||Heel strikers can suffer from back and knee pain if they run in tennis shoes|
|Running shoes lateral support is designed to support the forward motion for runners suffering from overpronation. The support depends on the running shoe brand.||Tennis shoes do have lateral support. But it does not consist of a specific structure as in the running shoes. The high-density material on the midsole wall of the tennis shoes is built to keep your foot in a flat position.|
|If you’re a regular runner and involved in a long-distance (more than 5K) running activity, get a dedicated pair of running shoes.||Tennis shoes are suitable for a couch to 5K program|