3 Best Clay Court Tennis Shoes in 2024

Brenton Barker
Brenton Barker on
3 Best Clay Court Tennis Shoes in 2024
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Investing in a dependable, performance-ready tennis shoe that matches your step-by-step is highly recommended. This is especially true when playing tennis on a clay court. This type of surface requires a reliable pair that offers more stability, lateral support, and solid grip.

Clay courts can be pretty challenging even to seasoned professional players. Great pros like Roger Federer or Daniil Medvedev had some hard times playing on dusty clay courts, except, of course, the fantastic king of clay -- Rafael Nadal.

To help you pick the perfect pair for your style or other specific needs, we’ve listed below the best clay court tennis shoes among all the pairs we have inspected. We have tested all pairs in the lab and in the clay court for this guide. Head on to take a closer look at our top picks.

How we test clay court tennis shoes

For this selection, we carefully analyze all the footwear in the catalog. This includes scrutinizing each shoe inside the RunRepeat testing lab. We double-check the materials, weigh and qualify all technical components found in the footwear. We also test them in actual games of tennis.

Our whole approach includes:

  • Procuring all the clay court tennis kicks from a wide variety of brands using our own money. We do not accept sponsorships from third parties to keep our reviews 100% objective.
  • Subjecting the shoes to hardcore tennis matches to assess their out-of-the-box comfort, fit, support, and break-in period. We take note of the traction, cushioning, weight, breathability, responsiveness, durability, et cetera.
  • Chopping up the shoes into chunks to look over everything behind its springiness, breathability, speed, and others. We test the shoes inside our lab to have scientific facts support what we feel outside our lab during our games.

Best clay-court tennis shoes overall

What makes it the best?

The most incredible tennis shoes that we have tested on clay courts is the ASICS Gel Resolution 9 Clay. This tennis shoe didn’t give ankle injuries even the slightest chance of taking over despite our constant slides and side-to-side maneuvers. Also, we didn’t have to worry about the shoe giving up on us because durability is its middle name!

The surefootedness that the Gel Resolution 9 Clay offered during our lateral movements is truly unparalleled. We verified this back in our lab when we assessed its lateral and torsional stability. In both tests, in which we shifted our weights while wearing the pair and twisted the pair with our bare hands, the Gel Resolution 9 Clay proved to be unyielding, thus stable. 

With Gel Resolution 9 Clay, we are also able to endure longer rallies without experiencing stress on our joints and feet. We found that this is because of the generous stack height, which we measured to be 31.7 mm at the heel and 21.5 mm at the forefoot, 6.7% and 8.6% higher than the averages.

Dragging our feet on the clay court also didn’t damage the shoe. In fact, when we performed our Dremel test in our lab, the shoe’s upper and heel padding stood perfectly strong, both earning 5/5 in durability. One issue that arose is its lack of ventilation, which our smoke test evinced. With not much smoke escaping, we rated its breathability a 3/5. While this may suffice for some players, we advise those whose feet tend to quickly sweat to opt for more breathable pairs for a more pleasurable experience.

Pros

  • One of the most durable tennis shoes
  • Unbeatable support and stability
  • Highly secure foot lockdown
  • Not so heavy given the construction
  • Fantastic impact protection
  • Very fun and responsive cushioning
  • Amazing in-shoe comfort
  • A fine balance of stiffness and flexibility

Cons

  • Not very breathable
  • Needs breaking in
Full review of ASICS Gel Resolution 9 Clay

Clay court tennis shoes with the best stability

What makes it the best?

No other clay court tennis shoes we have tested measured up to the Adidas Barricade 13 Clay when it comes to stability. With this tennis shoe, we had control over our direction changes, rapid stops, and lateral maneuvers. We easily adapted to the clay court surface without losing our balance and risking any ankle injuries. 

Our footing confidence is completely boosted, thanks to the lateral stability brought by the Adidas Barricade 13. Our manual tests made us realize that we shouldn’t have even bothered twisting it and shifting our weight while on it, as it didn’t budge, which translated to excellent steadiness and support. The heel structure of this tennis shoe also kept our ankles in place, steering us away from sprains and fractures. We investigated further in our lab and found that the heel counter scored 4/5 in rigidity. 

We also found its outsole durability impressive, as our Dremel only left a 1.06 mm depression. Although it is 4 mm over the average dent on tennis shoes, we found this remarkable for a clay court shoe, plus the fact that its outsole is slightly thicker than the standard at 4.2 mm. One gripe, though, is its lack of proper ventilation. We confirmed this by looking at the upper under our microscope, which revealed a thick and extremely tight weave of mesh, with almost no visible air vents. If you require breathability, this isn’t the shoe to pick up.

Pros

  • Exceptional stability and support
  • Incredibly durable upper and outsole
  • Generous impact protection
  • Fun and responsive cushioning
  • Highly secure foothold
  • Wide and steady platform
  • Good level of flexibility
  • Excellent grip but can slide too
  • An ounce lighter than the predecessor

Cons

  • Lacks breathability
  • Heel drop can be too drastic for some
Full review of Adidas Barricade 13 Clay

Classically deep red in color, clay courts are normally made of crushed stone, brick or shale and are notoriously difficult to play on. The textured terrain is hard work on the player but it demands more than just skill; it calls for the perfect pair of tennis shoes that can help keep your movements and shots in control during each point.

Clay court players require an agile, supportive shoe with grip in just the right places, and manufacturers have listened by coming to the party with some clay court specific offerings.

In this technical exposé, we uncover the details as to what elements make for clay court specific footwear. From innovative traction with a herringbone pattern to lateral support, special materials to keep the clay off the shoes to medium cushioning density, join us as we dissect each element, and discover the subtle nuances that transform a pair of tennis shoes into your favorite clay-court companions. So, lace up and let's dive foot-first into the world of clay court tennis shoes, where every slide, pivot, and volley is about to meet its game, set and match.

Why do people buy clay court tennis shoes

People buy clay court tennis shoes for two primary reasons:

  1. Specific performance advantages unique to a clay court surface that these shoes offer - we’ll get to them shortly, and
  2. Because some tennis clubs actually have rules that require you to only wear approved clay court shoes. They do this for two major reasons:
    • To preserve the condition of their court: Although clay courts are cheaper to construct, they do take significant additional ongoing maintenance and clubs don’t want Johnny-come-lately or Jodi-come-lately to mess it up.
    • To protect the players: That means you! Clubs are aware that slipping is a major cause for concern and they don’t want to be held accountable for any injuries you might incur, especially if it’s as a result of you wearing inappropriate footwear. 

Five ways that clay courts change your game… (and how they affect your footwear choices)

Matches on the clay suits a versatile tennis player, one who is capable of nearly everything. And likewise for the accompanying shoes - they need to be able to compliment the difficult nature of clay court sessions as much as the player does. Here’s why:

  1. Longer rallies: Clay court tennis often results in longer rallies forcing you to improve your decision making. With that comes the need to consider how your shoes will remain comfortable yet stable, reliable yet agile.
  2. Improve mental toughness and endurance: As any tennis player that’s been involved in the game a while will attest, playing on the clay is hard work. It takes skill, time and practice. A good pair of clay court shoes will be an asset, not an expensive liability. They need to be able to handle extended play sessions on relatively rough surfaces. Look for a herringbone pattern on the outsole for extra grip; because slipping is one less thing you need to worry about mid-point.
  3. Enhanced patience: Playing on the court means you’re not just slamming down winning forehanders every third shot, it means every point is earned and deserved with long rallies becoming commonplace. Consider a pair of clay court shoes that are lightweight so that your endurance doesn’t get easily hampered by a heavyweight pair of anchors.
  4. Shot versatility is a necessity:  A variety of shots including spins and angles are required to win points on the clay, and with that in mind a lightweight shoe design is helpful as it enables quick reflexes, fast sprints, and sudden stopping and accelerations.
  5. Softer surface: So we all know by now that playing on a clay court is hard, but the reality is that it is in fact a softer surface which therefore provides less stress to the body. To be clear, the court surface itself is soft but the difficulty level of playing on this surface is hard. For this reason clay court shoes don’t require a lot of cushioning compared to their hard court counterparts. 

Herringbone: The pattern for traction

Clay court tennis shoes are engineered with a specialized clay court outsole pattern that enhances grip and traction. This multidirectional ‘v-shape’ weave creates a zigzag which is known as a herringbone pattern - it provides the optimal bite into the clay surface, allowing for quick starts, stops, and agile lateral movements while still allowing you to slide comfortably and reliably.

{Suggestion for the RunRepeat team: Insert an image similar to this [click here], which demonstrates the herringbone pattern.}

Thin and light means flexible and supple

As clay is a softer and more forgiving surface than hard courts, clay court soles are thinner and lighter meaning the soles can be more flexible and supple. This allows the player to move across the court with maximum efficiency. Additionally the player may notice that they can really ‘feel’ the surface underneath their feet. And a player with a good understanding of the surface they’re playing instantly has a competitive advantage.

Lateral support for maximum stability

Playing on a loose surface like clay creates some unique challenges and with those demands in mind these shoes need to prioritize lateral stability. Reinforced midfoot and heel structures prevent unwanted rolling, ensuring that players can confidently execute rapid lateral movements without compromising balance.

Shoes with the highest level of lateral stability feature specific materials and technologies built into the shoe to hold your feet securely on those lateral movements and quick cuts.

Natural cushioning

As a general rule, because the nature of the clay surface allows for some give, clay court shoes don’t require too much cushioning, thus the surface itself creates a natural type of cushioning effect.

There should be enough cushioning in your shoes to be comfortable, while still maintaining the feeling of being close to the ground.

Agility for the win

Agility is crucial for success on clay courts, where fast movements are essential in reaction to the somewhat unpredictable bounce of the ball. Aside from their herringbone pattern on the outsole, clay court specific tennis shoes are made to be lightweight with a small amount of cushioning - when combined these three elements keep you as agile as possible: responsive, comfortable and connected to the court.

Keeping the clay at bay

Another situation that clay court shoe manufacturers have considered is something that becomes pretty obvious to players pretty quickly: that is, the difficulty that players have in keeping their shoes clean after some clay court time.

Clay will show up and it seems to stick to seemingly anything, and especially on shoes. Some clay court tennis shoes have closed or externally tight-knit or closed uppers specifically designed to act as a barrier to prevent bits of clay and dust from getting inside.

  • Hot tip: When playing on a clay court we recommend that you wear a darker version (black for example, but red ideally) of your regular white tennis shoes. Otherwise your white shoes will absorb some of the red clay color (or green, in the case of Rubico courts) and they can be difficult to keep clean and crisp.

The ventilation and breathability compromise

One of the negative consequences to the exterior materials being clay resistant is that the closed off nature of the shoe upper means that ventilation, and therefore breathability, is limited. If you’re making the move from hard court tennis shoes you’ll definitely notice this. It’s a trade-off you may need to consider.

Subtle features that slide their way to victory

Beyond the famous herringbone pattern used on their outsoles, clay court tennis shoes also have smaller, more subtle features that help you slide around the court safely and securely:

  1. Clay court shoe outsoles feature subtle grooves and channels which complement the herringbone pattern, and allow you to perform controlled slides while maintaining stability.
  2. Medium-midsole cushioning offers responsiveness for adjusting slide length and direction. The synergy between outsole grip, fluid slides, and cushioning responsiveness creates controlled movement and allows for slides that would impress any tennis player on the pro tour.
  3. Controlled sliding enables reaching wide shots and setting up drop shots effectively. Defensive situations transform into offensive opportunities. Advantage: You!

Maintenance 101

Like the courts themselves, clay court tennis shoes require a bit more maintenance compared to regular all court or hard court tennis shoes, and for that reason we’ve included some maintenance tips to consider.

Clay particles are similar to dust particles and will find every crevice of your shoes possible, and worst still are particularly stubborn to remove. Along the stitching, in and under the tongue, in the outsole, all through the midsole and even insole, around the upper… really everywhere.

Here we’ve tried to keep it simple, affordable and practical while still maximizing the longevity of your shoes.

Pre-match preparation

  • Before stepping onto the court, use a soft brush on your shoes to remove dried out clay and dirt. It’s a great idea to keep a brush in your kit bag for this exact purpose.

Post-match care

  • After a match, take a few moments to clean your kicks. Dampen a clean cloth with water and then gently wipe away any residual clay from your shoes, including the soles underneath.
  • Allow your shoes to air dry naturally. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or heat sources. Be sure to remove the insoles and allow them to dry separately. 

Off-season maintenance

  • Take time to inspect your shoes for signs of wear, tear, or damage. Pay attention to the outsole, midsole, and upper. Addressing minor issues early can prevent them from escalating later.

Rotation strategy

  • If you frequently play on clay, consider having multiple pairs of clay court shoes and rotating them. This gives each pair ample time to ‘recover’ between matches. 

Frequently asked questions

Can I use all-court or hard court tennis shoes on clay?

Yes, for most tennis players wearing your regular tennis shoes on a clay court is a satisfactory option and saves investing in a pair that are clay-court specific. There are two drawbacks to this:

  1. Regular tennis shoes are more slippery on clay courts, and you are therefore more injury-prone, and;
  2. Some clubs enforce a dress-code whereby clay court specific shoes are required. It’s best to check beforehand, just in case.

Can you wear running shoes on clay courts?

In many situations technically yes you can, but as with the previous question it should be considered a short term solution only. Be aware also that some clubs may enforce rules which will mandate shoes with a clay court appropriate outsole.

If you're playing a lot of tennis, we would suggest investing in a pair of tennis specific shoes at the start, and a pair of clay court specific tennis shoes if you’re dedicating time to playing on that surface.

What’s the number one thing I should look for?

Comfort. Everything else might be nice to have, but none of it is of any use to you if the shoes are not comfortable to begin with.

Author
Brenton Barker
Brenton Barker
Brenton is an Australian with 20 years of experience coaching WTA and ATP professional tennis players, whom have won a total of 10 international professional Tournaments. Brenton holds a Degree in Sports Coaching and was the former Head Tennis Coach at the Japanese Government Sports Science Institute. Brenton was also a former Manager & Head Coach of Australia’s Governing Sporting Body, Tennis Australia, and has been a Dunlop International Advisory Board Member since 2010. Additionally, Brenton was the Head of Player development for World No 7 and two-time Grand Slam Champion Johan Kriek.