Tennis Shoes vs Sneakers – The Surprising Differences

Whether you’re looking for a versatile gym shoe or casual footwear, you’ve probably been faced with the question: tennis shoes vs sneakers.

To make matters more confusing, people often refer to sneakers as tennis shoes and vice versa. But there are some key differences, which we’ll pinpoint today, so let’s get started.


Sneakers or Tennis shoes?

What Are Tennis Shoes?

tennis shoes vs sneakers shoes

As the name suggests, tennis shoes are primarily designed and used by tennis players. Their construction provides the player with optimal grip, support and comfort while competing on the court. Such shoes include rubber soles and either a canvas or leather upper.

This type of footwear was originally referred to as “plimsolls,” however, they were also known as felony shoes. This is where their connection to sneakers comes from, but we’ll expand on that later.

The name changed to tennis shoes around the 1800s and 1900s. This was due to the aristocrats wearing them when playing the game, a widely popular sport during that era.

From this point, manufacturers began developing more distinct features specifically for the tennis shoe genre. The upgrade provided the player with more support, stability and traction to optimize their performance.

Watch this video to know more about the importance of tennis shoes on the court.


Types of Tennis Shoes

Tennis shoes are typically available in three types. This depends on what surface the wearer is playing on—hard court, clay or soft grounds, such as grass. If you’re a serious tennis player, it’s essential to get this right. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Hardcourt is probably the most common surface to play on, and it’s also the most demanding for your shoes. Hardcourt footwear must have a durable outsole and ample cushioning to protect you and itself. An excellent example is the ASICS Gel-Court—it includes gel cushioning and sturdy outsoles.
ASICS Men's Gel-Court Speed Tennis Shoes, 9, White/Black
  • PGuard Toe Protector: Enhanced toe durability.
  • Seamless Construction: The use of seamless materials reduces the potential for irritation and friction caused by traditional stitches and seams.
  • Rearfoot and Forefoot GEL Technology Cushioning System: Attenuates shock during impact and toe-off phases, and allows movement in multiple planes as the foot transitions through the gait cycle.
  • Trusstic System technology: Reduces the weight of the sole unit while retaining the structural integrity of the shoe.
  • Clay court tennis is a slow-paced game in comparison to hardcourt, and it requires a shoe with ample lateral support. It’s also best to find an outsole that’s made specifically for slippery surfaces. One example is the ASICS Men’s Gel-Resolution 7, which is an exclusive clay court shoe.
ASICS Men's Gel-Resolution 7 Clay Court Tennis Shoes, 6, Black/Sour Yuzu
  • Rearfoot and Forefoot GEL Technology Cushioning System - Attenuates shock during impact and toe-off phases, and allows movement in multiple planes as the foot transitions through the gait cycle.
  • I.G.S (Impact Guidance System) Technology - ASICS design philosophy that employs linked componentry to enhance the foot's natural gait from heel strike to toe-off.
  • Trusstic System technology - Reduces the weight of the sole unit while retaining the structural integrity of the shoe.
  • Solyte Midsole Material - A lighter weight midsole compound than ASICS standard EVA and SpEVA midsoles. Also features enhanced cushioning and durability.
  • PGuard Toe Protector - Enhanced toe durability.
  • Sand or grass courts are much softer than the two above, and can be slippery underfoot. You also don’t need as much cushioning, but a reliable grip is imperative. Outsoles with small pimples or bumps are excellent—they should also be flatter and more flexible to enable fast movements.

If you want to read more about tennis shoes, see our review of the best tennis shoes for high arches.


What Are Sneakers

Sneakers is a widely used term for a variety of athletic footwear, most of which aren’t as “sports specific” as tennis shoes. Sneakers, however, are comfortable and easy to pair with leisure attire or sportswear.

what are sneakers shoes

They’re available in a range of designs, everything from simple to extravagant colors and patterns. Materials also differ between canvas and leather, to fabrics like mesh for the upper and rubber on the outsole.

Unlike tennis shoes, you aren’t supposed to wear sneakers to a game. They aren’t designed for a specific sport, which means that they lack certain features, which could compromise your comfort and performance.

Sneakers are widely available. There are also many high-end brands, and even celebrities, who’ve created their own. Such often become collectibles that are worth a lot of money.

Types of Sneakers

Compared to tennis shoes, you have a broad range of sneakers:

  • High-top sneakers are those that extend slightly above your ankle. These are commonly used as athletic shoes, particularly in basketball. However, they’re also a favored fashion statement. A prime example is the Reebok ROYAL BB4500H XW.
Reebok Men's Royal BB4500H XW, Velvet Black/White Rubber Gum, 6.5 M US
  • High-top sneaker with mid-cut design featuring Reebok logos at side and counter
  • Removable ortholite sockliner
  • High-abrasion rubber outsole
  • Low-top sneakers reach just below the ankle. These are very casual and not common for sports. They come in various materials, but the most popular example is canvas, like the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star.
Converse Men's Chuck Taylor All Star Core Ox Charcoal Sneaker Men's 7.5, Women's 9.5 Medium
  • Classic cotton canvas upper
  • Vulcanized rubber sole for durability
  • Classic All Star patch, rubber toe cap, toe bumper and striping
  • Imported
  • Authentic
  • Mid-cut sneakers are somewhere in between high-top and low-top. They’re also quite versatile and can even be worn for certain sports. The Converse Street Canvas Mid Top Sneaker is a good example of such a shoe.
  • Sneaker boots are (as the name suggests) a combination of a sneaker and a boot. They range from combat-looking styles to rubber boots, like the PUMA Women’s Fenty x Chelsea Sneaker Boots. It’s not always an effortless style to pull off, but if you get it right, it’s fantastic.
  • Slip-on sneakers are incredibly versatile, and an excellent choice if you’re an avid walker. The best example of such is the Skechers Men’s Go Max-Athletic. It’s a super walking shoe that’s effortless to slip into.
Skechers Men's Go Walk Max-Athletic Air Mesh Slip on Walking Shoe Sneaker,Charcoal/Orange,14 M US
  • Super Lightweight mesh fabric upper for ideal fit
  • Skechers go Walk max midsole and outsole for high level cushioning and support
  • 5Gen sole - proprietary lightweight injection-molded compound with memory retention helps absorb impact
  • Goga max technology insole for maximum support and cushioning
  • Flexible rubber sole provides durability and stability
  • Leather sneakers are probably the most popular style at the moment. These range from classic Adidas and Nike to the more vintage-style, like the JOUSEN Men’s Leather Sneakers.
Jousen Mens Sneakers White Mens Casual Shoes Soft Breathable Fashion Sneakers for Mens(852 White 07)
  • 【High-Quality Upper】The white sneakers vamp is made of the best quality PU leather,which is soft and comfortable to wear on the feet,It's not easy to get dirty.Also, provide advanced upper stitching workmanship to make the men's shoes durable enough to last a long time.
  • 【Lightweight & Comfort】Soft mesh lining keep your foot cool and odor free,If your feet sweat and swell after walking for a while these white shoes are what you need!!
  • 【Outstanding Protection】JOUSEN mens shoes casual have a soft and thick design on the heel,TPR rubber outsole provides the ultimate no-sliptraction,When you walk,you can feel the comfort and soft support from these sneakers!
  • 【Different Occasion】Sneakers for mens are great for any season,you can wear them on many occasions.such as,shopping,driving,office and so on.these casual shoes is also a wonderful ideal gift too,especially for back school,celebration,better for Valentine's Day,Father's Day,Christmas,Graduation,Halloween,Thanksgiving Day's gift etc.
  • 【Warm Tips to Size and Wash】White shoes for men are all American sizes,you just need to choose according to your usual size.When you've cleaned your shoes,dry them in the backlight rather than in the sun.

Watch this video for more information on sneaker types.


Sneaker Brands

Almost all shoe brands offer their version of sneakers. Because of this, we can’t possibly list them all. Instead, we’ll share with you the most popular brands:

  • Nike: This is a world-renowned brand, known for its quality and appearance. What makes Nike attractive is the significant variation in its price range—it caters to every budget.
  • Adidas: Similarly to Nike, Adidas is also well known. However, its options tend to run on the pricey end.
  • Air Jordan: Yes, Air Jordan is part of the Nike portfolio, but it deserves a special mention as it’s one of the most famous names in the sneaker genre.
  • Converse: This classic sneaker brand produces anything from canvas shoes to leather. They’re comfortable and versatile.
  • Reebok: In the world of athletic shoes, Reebok is a big shot. It’s known for innovative technologies and stylish options.
  • Vans: The old sailor shoe has come a long way. Vans offer canvas uppers and non-slip rubber outsoles—fantastic casual shoes.
  • Asics: For anyone who loves extra support, Asics is generally their go-to.
  • PUMA: This German-based brand has become a global name, famous for its athleisure shoes.
  • New Balance: As another manufacturer emphasizing comfort and support for various foot-related conditions, it’s the desired choice for many.
  • Fila: Famous for its slip-on shoes with thick outsoles, Fila offers stylish options suitable for any casual day.

It’s fair to note that most of these brands also produce tennis shoes.


Why Are Sneakers Called Tennis Shoes?

white tennis sneakers

Sneakers and tennis shoes are essentially the same. From the beginning, sneakers was an alternative name used for tennis shoes, much like felony shoes. The reason behind the name “sneaker” was because of the outsoles. They were so quiet when walking, enabling the wearer to sneak around, hence the connection to criminals.

In the U.S., however, a lot of people have different opinions about what to call sneakers and tennis shoes. For many, any athletic shoe is a tennis shoe, where others prefer calling them sneakers. It usually depends on where you’re from.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are Tennis Shoes Good for Walking?

Tennis shoes are primarily for the court, designed for lateral movement and stable traction control. They’re made to support the player while their legs bend and remain in a forward-leaning position to hit the ball. Because of this, they aren’t decent walking shoes.

When you walk, you want enough cushion and padding in the shoe to protect your legs from impact. Another crucial aspect of such footwear is heel-to-toe support, similarly to running shoes. The uppers are slightly stiffer, enabling an even roll from heel to toe during your gait cycle.

With that said, you can easily find tennis shoes that you can use for walking. But, if you’re an avid walker, covering long distances weekly or even daily, then proper shoes are imperative. If you’re looking for walking footwear, please read our review of the best Nike walking shoes.


What’s Special About Tennis Shoes?

Athletic shoes, such as running, walking and cleats, are all designed for a specific sport, meaning that they include the required features. Tennis shoes allow the wearer to move in every direction by providing lateral stability. Their outsoles are usually more durable since the courts can be unforgiving to the rubber.


Tennis Shoes vs Gym Shoes

Gym shoe is another term for sneakers. The main difference between tennis shoes and gym shoes is that the latter is suitable for gym workouts, such as lifting weights, light cardio, among others. In the same way sneakers are, they’re flexible and offer decent cushioning.



So Which One?

When it comes to tennis shoes vs sneakers, it can cause some confusion mainly because they’re essentially the same. However, over the years, tennis shoes developed distinct features, enabling them to support the player and last longer. Sneakers, on the other hand, has become more of a fashion statement.

Still, the range of sneakers is broad—you can choose anything from high-top to low and mid, as well as leather and slip-ons. Tennis shoes, however, come in three general categories depending on the surface they’re used on.

We hope we helped you understand the differences. We’d love to hear from you in the section below and please share with friends and family.


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