Can You Use Tennis Shoes For Running?

There was a time in which the term tennis shoes was a catch-all for any athletic sneaker. Most people to this day view tennis shoes as a very versatile option that can be used for multiple sports. Tennis has a lot of similar movements to many different sports, so it makes sense.

Running shoes are built for a very specific purpose. Those who are serious about running should invest in a pair for the best results. With that said, many people in the past have asked, can you use tennis shoes for running? Read on to understand how the two types of shoes differ, and how it might affect running times.

Can you use tennis shoes for running? Tennis shoes can be used for running. Tennis shoes might not be perfect to run in, but they can perform at a decent level. The heavy weight on a tennis shoes gives the runner a lot of stability, which decreases the injury risk when running.

Cushioning and Overall Support

Running shoes and tennis shoes are both very well cushioned, and they provide plenty of support for athletes. The problem is, they are both designed specifically for certain movements. They work great for those movements, but don’t translate particularly well to other sports.

At its core, running is the simplest sport out there. A person is running in one direction the entire time, and cushioning and stability is geared towards that. Trying to change directions or make a lot of sudden stops in running shoes can quickly illustrate just how poorly they are designed for other sports.

Tennis shoes have significantly more lateral support. Stability is also crucial for any tennis player on the court. A player has to prepare to move in any direction once a ball is hit.

Less Cushioning

To get the proper amount of stability and feel on the court, cushioning is sacrificed to a certain degree. Speaking in general terms, running shoes are going to have more cushioning then a comparable tennis shoe.

There are obvious exceptions to this rule, but cushioning is not stressed quite as much in the world of tennis. Players need to have great feel on the court so that they can move around freely. Most players prefer a shoe to ride very close to the ground.

If a person decides to run in tennis shoes, the added stability and slightly less cushioning won’t make that much of a difference. This makes them decent alternatives, although there are other factors below that might sway a decision.

The Upper

The upper part of a running shoe is very lightweight. Since the foot is only going in one direction, there is really no need to have much of anything Inc. in the upper part of the shoe.

As long as it provides a snug, customized fit, most runners are happy. It also helps to have very breathable material, because hot and sweaty feet are only going to lead to problems during a long run.

Tennis shoes need a stiff upper, and durability is a must as well. Companies try to cut some of the weight out of the upper of a tennis shoe, but up until about a decade ago, companies still use leather at times.

A tennis player’s foot needs to be very stable inside the shoe, so using a running shoe upper is just not possible. There has to be something to keep the foot in one place.

Another thing tennis companies need to keep in mind is the way players move on the court these days. A lot of players, particularly on clay courts, slide into shots during points. The back foot at certain angles needs protection from the upper as well. If just thin fabric was used, the shoes would have a hole in them in under an hour.

Tennis Shoes Much Heavier

As the section above alludes to, the major difference between a tennis shoe upper and a running shoe upper is just some added bulk. That might not seem like much by itself, but every tiny bit of added weight is going to make an impact running.

Every runner is doing whatever possible to find an extremely lightweight shoe. It makes every stride just a little bit easier if even fractions of an ounce are cut off.

Running shoes have their own categories, and depending on the type of runner and the quality of a runner, there are different options to consider. Even a generic running shoe is very lightweight, but there are ways to reduce the ounces even more.

Some runners like the barefoot feeling when running, so they are willing to sacrifice cushioning. Competitive runners will go with spikes to get a better grip, and also reduce weight as well by stripping the shoe down as much as possible.

Many different tricks are useable to keep running shoes under 10 ounces easily. Top of the line racing models might weigh under 7 ounces.

Running With Tennis Shoes

Tennis shoes, by comparison, can feel like bowling balls. Lightweight models are usually around 13 ounces or more, while durable options can go up to 15 or 16 ounces.

Having a lightweight shoe for tennis certainly has plenty of benefits, but it is simply impossible to sacrifice things like durability, lateral support, and enough stiffness to make them too light.

Even some of the top players in the world, like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, use relatively heavy models from a six and Nike, respectively. These are top players in the world who don’t have to worry about using any pair of shoes long enough to wear out a hole. They simply like the added stability and support.

An ounce here or there might not seem like that much weight, but it can certainly add up. When running a 5K race, every additional ounce is going to add approximately 275 to 300 pounds of shoe weight. Adding several additional ounces to a shoe can make a huge difference in race time.

Examining the sole

Running shoes are designed to encourage forward movement. Take a look at the sole of this running shoe to see this clearly. Now, take a look below at the sole of a tennis shoe. It is much flatter, and wider in most cases as well. This is just the beginning of the differences between the two soles.

A tennis shoe is not going to survive without a durable outsole. Most people play on Hard courts, and they can do a lot of damage to a shoe with all the starting and stopping that goes on. Hard courts are basically cement with a pretty gritty surface, so even durable rubber is only going to withstand so much wear and tear.

Many companies go as far as offering a six-month durability guarantee for their tennis shoes. To do this, they have to provide a very thick and durable option. The sole usually curls up quite a bit more than running shoes as well. This is to help protect the shoe not only when sliding, but if a person drags their back foot on certain shots.

A lot of the added bulk to a tennis shoe is in the sole area. Running shoes just don’t need a sole like this, because they are only going to show wear in a few certain areas.

Durability

Runners typically find that they need to replace their running shoes before the sole wears out anyway. Cushioning is the first thing to go with runners, and that usually takes around 300 to 400 miles to see that happen. Unless a runner drags their foot or has some other variance in their stride, that is usually not long enough to develop a true hole in the sole.

Tennis companies basically encourage people to play until they develop a hole in their sole. That is the only way to take advantage of the durability guarantee.

Hardcourts are still pretty safe to play on with smooth outsoles, because the court is so grippy. If playing on other courts, the shoes might need replacing as soon as the grip starts to fade away. Slipping and sliding on the tennis court is just an accident waiting to happen.

Since cushioning isn’t stressed as much in tennis shoes, it’s less noticeable when it fades away. Still, pay attention to how the feet react during different stages of wearing tennis shoes. If it becomes uncomfortable playing with limited cushioning, replace them before a hole in the sole develops.

Running with a tennis sole is a very frustrating experience for anyone who is striving for a competitive time. It is going to seem like it is in the way most of the time. There is simply too much bulk for one type of movement. It’s similar to running in basketball shoes in that regard.

Pricing: A top-of-the-line performance tennis shoe is going to cost anywhere from $120-$150. Running shoes can get a little more expensive than that, but it’s safe to say that both styles are in roughly the same price range. 

With that in mind, there is no incentive to go with a tennis shoe instead of a running shoe to save a little money. Unless a pair of tennis shoes are found at a huge discount, it doesn’t make sense.

Who Can Benefit Most From Running In Tennis Shoes?

Using tennis shoes as running shoes makes the most sense for joggers who have had some stability problems in the past. A tennis shoe is going to add some extra stability for those people prone to spraining an ankle or tweaking a knee. Since the pace is not too crazy, the added weight won’t make much of a difference.

People who walk a lot might also benefit from tennis shoes over running shoes. Having a shoe with more lateral support and stability throughout is helpful to some.

Everyone else is better off running with a true running shoe. It is going to make running easier, more comfortable and fun.

What Shoe Works Best For The Other Sport?

If the budget is tight and only allows for one pair of shoes, tennis shoes take the win over running shoes. That is because it is much easier to run in tennis shoes than it is to play tennis in running shoes.

Trying to play a competitive level of tennis in running shoes is asking for trouble. Just one sudden movement laterally could cause a pretty serious ankle or leg injury. There is virtually no lateral support in running shoes, and most are a little too high off the ground.

Running shoes won’t last long on hard courts either. The sole is simply not designed to handle that type of movement in any way.

Tennis shoes might are not perfect to run in, but they can perform at a decent level. If the plan is to do a little bit of both sports, opt for tennis shoes on the lighter side. That is going to bridge the weight gap and make it more comfortable for users.

For my up-to-date tennis shoe recommendations, check out this post.

Final Thoughts

Tennis shoes are still arguably the most versatile athletic sneaker a person can invest in. Not only does a tennis shoe work as a running shoe in a pinch, but it also works well for the gym, basketball, other racquet sports and more.

Quite a few people even wear tennis shoes casually, because it is a great walking shoe available in many different styles. The Nike Challenger II was made popular by Andre Agassi decades ago, but it is still worn casually by people from all walks of life.

As a trainer, tennis shoes certainly have some limitations. The good news is that the top companies are always trying to lower the weight if possible to increase performance.

Just a decade or two ago, tennis shoes were much bulkier, and they didn’t have a great amount of breathability. It will never get to the point that it is as light as a running shoe, but it works well in a pinch. Having a dependable pair of tennis shoes works for multiple sports.

The more serious a person takes running, the more they should consider investing in a true pair of running shoes. It just makes sense from a performance and health perspective. 

Fred Simonsson

I'm Fred, the guy behind TennisPredict. Apart from writing here, I play tennis on a semi-professional level and coach upcoming talents.

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