The Main Differences Between Tennis Shoes and Basketball Shoes

Modern technology has elevated the quality of shoes we see on the market today. From various all-purpose running shoes to sports-specific shoes, it makes sense to choose footwear designed for each activity.

Basketball and tennis shoes are among the two most popular shoe types. Whether you’re a collegiate athlete or a casual player, selecting the right shoes is one of the most important decisions you can make. Learning the differences between the two allows you to decide what shoes to wear.

This guide will share the differences between basketball shoes vs. tennis shoes and how to choose the right pair of shoes.

Differences Between Basketball Shoes and Tennis Shoes

There are key distinctions that separate basketball shoes and tennis shoes. Let’s dive in.


Basketball is a dynamic sport requiring you to change direction, jump, sprint, and adapt to different intensity levels. Typically, basketball shoes often have reinforced material around key areas. This includes infused synthetics and plastic caging systems. They aim to provide stability to help support the feet during their abrupt movements.

While basketball shoes offer more structure, tennis shoes are designed to support medial and lateral movements. Tennis players tend to include 60 to 80% of their training on lateral movements [1].

Particularly, these shoes tend to have extra reinforcements inside the forefoot area and a beefed-up arch structure to prevent your feet from rolling when playing tennis. Also, tennis shoes come with an internal chassis system to hold your feet in place as you perform quick changes of direction. Not to say they are barebones in other areas, but it’s more minimalistic throughout compared to a basketball shoe.

There are some key areas that tennis shoes will have additional reinforcements that basketball shoes tend not to have. For example, they have prominent arch support and torsional rigidity. You’ll see their toecap area strengthened to withstand the toe and foot drags across the ground, especially when a tennis player backs pedals or steps forward.


Basketball shoes come in high, mid, or low-tops, each appealing to a different style of players.

  • High top: The upper portion wraps around the ankle providing maximum ankle support—however, this extra coverage more weight to the shoe.

  • Mid-top: Mid-top shoes allow for greater flexibility while providing ankle support.

  • Low-top: These shoes are designed to provide increased agility and speed.

While basketball shoes may come in various ankle cuts, tennis shoes always have a low-top design. That’s because a tennis shoe must provide ankle mobility. A high-top would only restrict mobility, which again affects lateral movement.

Despite the low-top ankle cut in tennis shoes, the overall build and design account for ankle support.



Basketball undoubtedly is a jump-heavy sport; whether taking a shot, contesting a shot, or grabbing a rebound requires frequent jumping. While cushioning doesn’t necessarily prevent injury, they give basketball players a sense of springiness and explosiveness [2]. Many manufacturers design their basketball shoes with a thick layer of foam, especially on the soles, to offer impact protection by distributing the forces more evenly.

Since tennis doesn’t require an athlete to jump constantly, the focus on cushioning becomes less about protection from impact and more about movement propulsion and responsiveness. Tennis has a lot to do with reaction time, meaning it’s important that the shoe can quickly react to a ball flying towards you.

The cushions of a tennis shoe tend to be lighter and lower to the ground. Every millisecond matters in tennis, and the cushion system accounts for that. There is still some cushioning in the underfoot, allowing a tennis player to preserve precision and maximum speed. Consequently, tennis shoes are noticeably less bouncy but faster than basketball shoes.


The sole of basketball shoes has a unique herringbone pattern. This design provides greater traction, especially when basketball players perform quick stops.

The tennis shoe you wear should be designed for the type of court you play on. Hard court shoes feature highly durable rubber. This means the rubber isn’t very pliable, and the thread of the traction pattern runs deep. As a result, these court shoes can withstand asphalt, concrete, and other abrasive surfaces.

A tennis shoe built for clay courts is slightly less aggressive and durable. They are constructed with non-marketing properties to preserve tennis courts.

Tennis shoes designed for grass surfaces have the softest rubber, and the shoes have threads with circular dots. If you’re unsure about the type of tennis court you’ll be playing on, consider the multi-surface shoe. Their outsides have versatile traction patterns to grip different surfaces while still providing durability.

Heel to Toe Drop-off

There is more variety of movement patterns in basketball than just lateral or linear running. Basketball shoes have a somewhat flat platform to promote stability. However, you’ll still see a slight heel-to-toe drop-off between four and nine millimeters.

The purpose is to maximize stability and prevent foot shifting inside the shoe. Running shoes typically have a significant heel-to-toe drop-off since it’s designed to propel you forward.

Tennis shoes have a completely flat platform that your foot sits on. When playing tennis, there is less forward movement and more side-to-side action. As a result, stability while accelerating, stopping, and cutting is more important. This is the one argument for using tennis shoes to play basketball since the flat platform keeps you stable for on-court play.

Wide Foundation

With so many changing moves and pivots, it makes sense that the basketball shoe is designed to be wider than the tennis shoe. That’s because the more ground the basketball shoe covers, the more stable you’ll feel during movements that require unusual angles.

Opposite basketball shoes, a tennis shoe has a more sleek, compact design that isn’t wide on the forefoot. A narrow base promotes a quick linear stride and lateral movement, which is what tennis players prefer.


Due to the additional cushion, structure, and support components, basketball shoes are much heavier than tennis shoes. They use extra foam, thick rubber outsoles, and plastic torsional shank plates, all made specifically the specific movements in the sport.

In tennis, weight matters. Even a few ounces of additional can cause leg and foot fatigue. A tennis shoe is designed with less cushioning, minimal structure, subdued support components, and sometimes a fully synthetic upper. As a result, having lighter material and fewer components allows a tennis player to move from side to side quickly.

Can You Use Basketball Shoes for Tennis

playing on the tennis court

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Yes, you can wear tennis shoes to play basketball. Tennis and running shoes are versatile in that they can be used to play practically any sport.

When playing basketball with tennis shoes, make sure to use hard-court shoes. These have thicker rubber outsoles to help absorb the shock from a basketball court’s hardwood or concert floors.

You don’t have to spend much money on one pair of shoes, making tennis shoes perfect for people who play multiple sports.

However, wearing tennis shoes to play basketball has its drawbacks. Here’s why:

  • No Ankle Support: Since tennis shoes have a low-top design, they won’t give your ankles much protection. This can cause sprains and injuries.
  • Off-Balanced on Shots: Every tennis shoe has an uneven sole, so you can sometimes feel off-balance.

Can You Play Tennis in Basketball Shoes?

dribbling a basketball

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Yes, you can wear basketball shoes to play tennis. However, it’s not recommended for people who play tennis frequently.

Basketball shoes aren’t designed for the lateral movement that tennis requires. We recommend you don’t wear basketball shoes for tennis.

These shoes can’t withstand the friction of playing on the court, especially around the shoe’s front. Also, tennis shoes are less bulky and lighter, helping players facilitate quick movements.

This lack of lateral mobility can cause knee, foot, and ankle problems. Not to mention, you trip or fall easily.

Also, there’s a noticeable difference in the weight of a basketball shoe. The extra foam cushion and plastics cause them to weigh heavier. After a few matches, you’ll quickly feel foot fatigue from your pair of shoes. Also, excessive cushioning with constant movement could be a recipe for shin splints.

However, the biggest reason to avoid wearing basketball shoes when playing tennis is for durability reasons. Foot slides across hard surface courts can have your hoop shoes tattered quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are some commonly asked questions about basketball shoes and tennis shoes.

How do Running Shoes Compare to Basketball and Tennis Shoes?

dashing player

Most beginners will use running shoes to play basketball or tennis. Running shoes are made for straight line movement. They typically have a more pronounced arch to propel forward movement.

While running shoes can be suitable for running up and down the court, they aren’t ideal for the lateral movements of basketball and tennis. Without much lateral support, a quick cut could easily end in spraining a knee or twisting an ankle.

On the bright side, running shoes are lightweight due to their fully synthetic upper and minimal structure. As a result, it provides the responsiveness and flexibility you need to play sports. The easiest way to sum up running shoes is that they are designed to be an extension of your foot. This means the cushioning is minimal in areas needed for jumping and cutting.

Is Basketball or Tennis Shoes Better for Wide Feet?

A basketball shoe has a wider forefront, making it suitable for people with wide feet. Also, people with high arches will find basketball shoes more comfortable due to the extra cushioning.

Should You Choose High-Top or Low-Top Basketball Shoes?

It’s best to choose shoes based on your needs. For example, guard and wing players make more cuts, meaning quick movements and sharp angles. Low-top shoes allow them to run faster without losing performance.

Conversely, forwards and centers may provide high-top shoes. As power players, the ankle protection and padding can offer extra stability, especially when grabbing rebounding or playing in the post area.

Which Should You Choose?

Remember that basketball and tennis shoes are constructed to optimize and facilitate movements specific to their respective sports. If you’re a casual player, there isn’t much harm in playing basketball with tennis shoes or vice versa occasionally. However, we recommend investing in the right pair of shoes for frequent play.

If you do decide to use tennis shoes to play basketball, we only recommend looking at hard court or multi-surface shoes. That’s because they feature a herringbone pattern for improved traction and grip. This provides enough grip to accelerate and stop. Whether pulling up for a jump shop or staying in front of your defender, basketball requires plenty of abrupt movements.

One Shoe for Tennis & Basketball?

Of course, if you decide to play tennis in basketball shoes, you’ll want to go in low-cut shoes. Many newer hoop sneakers have a lightweight upper and laterally reinforced overlay. While you won’t find a flat platformed- basketball shoe, some have minimal heel-to-toe drop-off. This lets you stay balanced in your stance on the court.

Make sure to basketball shoes with durable outsoles. For Nike, you can search for the label EP or Jordan-brand shoes and look for PF. These labels signify that they have additional durable soles. This ensures that your new pair of basketball shoes won’t wear down quickly.

Final Thoughts on Basketball Shoes and Tennis Shoes

tennis shoes on soft court

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Basketball and tennis are two completely different sports, each with unique movements. Tennis shoes are made to slide laterally, while basketball shoes are geared towards supporting diverse sets of movements.

Ideally, you should buy two separate shoes for each sport. However, not everybody can spend hundreds of dollars on the latest shoes easily. The key is to pick a hybrid shoe to play tennis and basketball with.



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