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How to Buy Tennis Shoes

Shoe Design

You know your foot type. Now you need to understand how shoes are designed so you can choose a pair that performs well for you.

There are four main components to consider:

Upper

The top portion of the shoe, or the upper, is usually made of leather, synthetic leather, or a combination of materials. If you need extra support, look for laces that thread into reinforcements going down the sides of the shoe; they'll add stability. When you try a shoe on, be sure the upper is comfortable against the top of your foot and isn't too tight. If you drag your toe when you serve, check for a durable toecap. And if you hit your forehand from an open stance (that is, with your body more parallel than perpendicular to the net), you'll benefit from additional material along the medial portion of the upper since that area often slides along the court and wears down faster.

Insole

This is the portion of the shoe that your foot rests on. If you've had foot problems and wear orthotics, make sure the insole is removable. In most cases it will be, allowing you to replace it with an over-the-counter or custom orthotic that provides extra cushioning and support.

Midsole

The midsole is the section that lies between the shoe bottom and insole. It's generally made from ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) foam or polyurethane (PU) and often supplemented by air or gel inserts. The midsole supplies much of a shoe's cushioning. It can be tough to tell when the midsole breaks down and ceases to perform, but as a rule of thumb, a two- or three-day-a-week player will wear out a midsole in five months. Players who are extremely aggressive on the court will go through midsoles more quickly due to the pounding they give their shoes. If your shoes don't feel as cushioned as they did when they were new, the midsole may be shot. You should consider buying a new pair.

Outsole

This is where the rubber meets the road. The outsole's design affects the traction you'll get on the court. A herringbone design that forms a tight, wavelike pattern performs best on clay, because it allows you to slide into position for a shot and also gives you enough traction to move well across a sandy court; and outsoles with the most variation in the design (a little herringbone here, a wider groove there) give you the best traction on hard courts.

An outsole should also be durable enough to stand up to your style of game. If you play often or wear out shoes quickly, look for heavy-duty outsoles and get a pair with an outsole warranty; if they don't last, you can get them replaced by the manufacturer.

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