Shoe Management

Some players look for the shoe bargain; while others have a lifelong commitment to one tennis shoe brand/style.  But a reader asks how many pairs should you have at one time and how do you “manage” them?

A Reader Asks …

After the post and comments about “Racquet Management,” this request came in:

“Please ask your readers how often they change their sneakers? I recognize that the surface and frequency of play greatly impact this issue, but is there an accepted standard for how long tennis shoes tend to last? I would love to hear comments from your readers on this! Many thanks and keep up the great work. Best regards, Tim Norbeck”

George’s Pattern

I am one of those players “locked in” on a brand and model … and have played for 30 (?) or more years with New Balance (now) model 806.  Having a wide foot, I need their 2E size.

Playing six days a week in the Florida heat, I usually come off the court dripping down to my toes; so my shoes need time to dry out (inside in the air conditioned house).  With that as a backdrop, I buy three pairs of shoes at a time and rotate daily through them.

And with that and playing exclusively on HarTru (except for one week in October at Newk’s camp), those three pair tend to last about one year.  For me, the soles never wear out; the leather tends to separate from the sole of the shoe (usually on the front right side).

How about YOU … Brand? Style? Numbers of pairs? Lasting how long?

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9 thoughts on “Shoe Management

  1. Like you George, I have a wide foot and likewise need a 2E. Years ago K-Swiss was my choice, then they changed their shoes. I went to New Balance. While I liked the fit, I felt I was compromising support for comfort. For the past few years I’ve been in Babolat. They sell a wider model(s) and they’re super comfortable right out of the box. They offer pretty good support as well. I always buy two pair at a time and rotate them each day. I also use a wooden shoe tree to help absord the moisture and retain the shape.

    I remember reading an article that said that Rafa, whose shoes of course are customized for him, wears a very snug fitting shoe about 1/2 size down. He does this because he feels it enables him to zoom around the court and maintain balance.

    Alan, i remember reading the same that Rafa liked his shoes tight. go figure. thanks, george

  2. I’m also hooked on New Balance size 9 B width. It fits my foot perfect with only one pair of socks. I have 4 pairs of shoes that I rotate using the best 2 for tournaments & matches and the other 2 for practice & running. Yearly, I buy 2 new pair and use the 2 oldest for non tennis use. The one issue I have is the cushion in the sole wears out.

    John, but during tournament season, you are playing singles AND doubles every day! wow. george

  3. kswiss leather. white. herring-bone tread (clay) .slightly heavier than some, but very supportive. they have worked for me for 30+ years. I’ll never use another. i wear one pair until they wear out.

    Joe, ONE pair of shoes!? Aren’t they still damp the next day? george

  4. I have been playing in the Asics Gel 7 for the last several years but they are getting very hard to find since Asics stopped making them a couple of years ago. I keep thinking about trying something different but I guess I am a creature of habit.

    Being in Houston, I have the same heat and humidity issue that George has but I only play 3, sometimes 4 times/week so I am usually able to rotate 2 pair. I play almost exclusively on hard courts and a pair of shoes rotated this way typically lasts 4-6 months.

    David, no question that the hard courts will take much more out of the shoes than the soft. thanks, george

  5. I’m a “shoe bargain” man – when I see a recognised tennis model of certain brands on offer, I will buy several of them. Most players will need several shoes anyway – 1 for league matches (best and newest), 1 for practice (the cast-off league match pair), 1 for astro/grass (multi-dimpled) and 1 completely bare (ie no tread) for those rare occasions playing on carpet. Oh, and a pair to lend a friend because he’s forgotten his…..

    Andy, Roy Emerson told me that they used to save their most worn shoes to play the hard court surface; so the soles wouldn’t grab too much. thanks, george

  6. A soleful topic for a very smoky day here in Northern California, George. I’ve become an “if the shoe fits, wear it” guy. I started playing tennis 20 years ago when my knees refused to let me play basketball anymore. I learned the value of real tennis shoes the hard way by not wearing them, rolling my ankle after jumping to hit an overhead (those were the days), and then spending two months in a walking boot while my “dancer’s fracture” healed. When I got back on the tennis court I wore heavy “high top” Prince shoes for several years. Our son finally convinced me to try some Adidas Barricades, and they were a revelation— lighter, lower to the ground, and very stable. They were my “go to” shoes until Adidas changed the lasts and narrowed the toe box after they signed the Djoker. As I’ve aged, gravity has won in many respects. My feet have flattened out and I now need size 15 shoes with a wide toe-box. K-Swiss Big Shots served me well until they stopped making size 15 (perhaps the CEO is a small-footed person with a Frank Lloyd Wright complex?). I’m currently wearing the new FILA tennis shoes because they have a wide toe box and good stability. When I find a model I like, I buy two pairs, then two more when they eventually go on sale. I sweat a lot, so I alternate between two pairs to let them dry out between matches or practice sessions. Unfortunately I only get to play on hard courts, except for an occasional mistimed clay court match at Newk’s (I’m looking at you, Terry Kahn). Playing on hard courts, it’s the treads and soles that wear out first. Maybe I should give New Balance another chance, but my limited recent experience was that the uppers were of poor quality and wore out long before the soles. I think there are two related topics of interest. The first topic is insoles. Most shoe companies now save a few pennies by using really thin, cheap insoles. The first thing I do with new shoes is replace the insoles with better ones— Spenco cross-trainers are my current favorites. The second topic is socks. I used to wear two pairs of thin socks to prevent blisters, but I now go with one pair of the thickest Thorlos. If I’m playing singles, I put a fresh pair of socks on between sets when it’s hot out. Take good care of your feet — you only get one pair. John Wooden, arguably the greatest coach of the 20th Century, always started from the bottom up by teaching his players how to put on their socks and tie their shoes to prevent problems [].

    Joe, size 15??!!! I find the New Balance soles last a long time on soft; but the uppers separate. On Socks… i wear two pair: thin wick-away and Thorlos on top. thanks george

  7. For me, Asics have been my choice for many years. The shoes are lightweight, durable, fits comfortably, but snug enough so that my foot
    does not move around. I play mostly on hard courts, so I need good support and no slippage in the heel-toe direction. Otherwise, my big toe will be slammed up against the inner toe box of the shoe, producing a condition called “black toe” in which you eventually lose the toe nail. Also, Asics are snug-fitting and stable to be able to withstand the side-to-side pressure on the foot. I don’t need my foot to move inside the shoe, giving me blisters or a possible injury. I always wear two pairs of socks to cushion and help absorb sweat. Rotating with another pair helps prolong the life of the shoes from taking hard punishment on hard courts. When wear is apparent, don’t wait too long to replace your shoes. Having reliable footwork on court is essential. A good fitting and comfortable pair of shoes can be a testament to that.

    Glenn, even playing on soft courts all year, i am still a victim of tennis toes! thanks, george

  8. George

    Shoe topic, but in a different direction. For several years I’ve had some minor neuropathy in my feet, which led me to try wearing shoes a half size larger than I regularly wear. Unfortunately, I found myself tripping/falling several times, causing several injuries. I went back to my “normal“ size shoe (2 pair of ASICS Gel 7) and have had no problems since.

    Dave. Glad to hear you found the right sole-lution! Thanks. George

  9. Hi George

    I am the opposite of most of your responders. I have very narrow feet. Because of that, I need a shoe that fits snuggly, and even then I tie them pretty tight to help with stability. (I actually don’t tie my shoes until I go on the court so that I don’t cut off the blood circulation in my feet.) My shoe of choice is ASICS Solution Speed for clay and Resolution for hard courts. But as Mr. Brand pointed out, these are getting hard to come by in the popular sizes. For some reason, none of their other shoes fit me as well. The problem with making a change, as all of your readers know, is that there are no stores that offer a sufficient variety of makes and models so we can do some comparison shopping. And it’s very time consuming to go the Internet route of ordering, trying on, returning, rinse/repeat.

    In Naples I have four pairs that I rotate because I often play twice a day. In NJ I have two for clay and one for hard courts

    The most important thing I do is, before I go on the court for the first time, I replace the factory insoles with Superfeet orthotics. Anyone who wears custom orthotics knows the benefits of proper support. I happen to be one of the lucky ones who can wear the generic products. Warning, as any avid runner will tell you, do not use gel inserts. They cause more problems than they solve.

    Jim, good info. thanks, george

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