7 Best Cushioned Tennis Shoes in 2024

Brenton Barker
Brenton Barker on
7 Best Cushioned Tennis Shoes in 2024
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Regardless of the surface, you like to play on, we highly recommend investing in well-cushioned tennis shoes. They provide more bounce, comfort, and impact protection allowing you to perform more and endure longer matches on the court.

To help you save time, we’ve created a comprehensive list of cushioned tennis shoes across trusted brands in the industry such as New Balance, Nike, Adidas, and K-Swiss. These labels offer awesome variations of superbly designed kicks with reliable stability and cushioning system.

We’ve tested, profiled, and ranked all the best cushioned tennis shoes that we obtained and purchased. Whatever tennis court surfaces you prefer or the level of your experience as a player, we have a perfect pair for you on the list that will elevate your game to the next level.

How we test tennis shoes

For this guide, we thoroughly scrutinise all the footwear in the database. That means examining each pair inside our independent RunRepeat shoe testing lab. We weigh, measure, and classify the quality of materials used in the shoe. We then proceed to playtest the shoes on the tennis court. Here’s our approach:

  • We buy cushioned tennis kicks from different brands using our own funds. No review is published without actual tests on the tennis court playing actual matches.
  • We wear the shoes in real-life tennis matches to assess their out-of-the-box fit, comfort, and break-in period. We check the weight, ankle support, and outsole traction. We put the shoes under the real pressure of the sport to further check their performance and durability.
  • Each review is also enriched by the data we acquire in our lab by measuring the parameters of the shoes. We also run our saw through the shoes to bust them open and detect all their existing components.

Best cushioned tennis shoes overall

What makes it the best?

ASICS Court FF 3 is our top recommendation for superior cushioning because it fuses shock attenuation and steadfast foundation together. The best part? It doesn’t take away the fun of pushing forward and striking the ground – instead, it’s bouncy and efficient with every push-off.

Utilising our calliper, we obtained the stack height of Court FF 3: 32.2 mm in the heel and 21.8 in the forefoot. Although these sit around the averages (both less thick by approximately 6.3% than the averages), it didn’t feel like we were robbed of cushioning and impact protection. We just felt our take-offs to be more dynamic and the court felt to be more profound.

The firmness of the midsole is also noticeable from the get-go. This is validated by our durometer, which punched in an average hardness of 31.5 HA, securely propping up our feet. Slicing the shoe in half, we found that it boasts a 27 HA soft secondary foam that is responsible for our impact-absorbed landings.

The only downside is the hefty weight of the Court FF 3, which we recorded at 14.32 oz (406g), 10.9% more than the average. Unless you don’t mind the extra load, we suggest putting your money on other lighter options.

Pros

  • Top-notch abrasion resistance
  • Excellent impact protection in the heel
  • Responsive and propelling cushioning
  • Unmatched foot containment
  • Exceptionally stable platform
  • Fantastic grip and sliding
  • Very comfortable in-shoe feel

Cons

  • Lacks breathability
  • Not for wide feet
  • High price
Full review of ASICS Court FF 3

Cushioned tennis shoes with the best energy return

What makes it the best?

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 proves it’s a high-performer in the lab and on the court, gracing our matches with unmatched energy return among cushioned tennis shoes. It delivers impact protection and a level of control that allows us to move precisely and confidently. Its exceptional support made us enjoy our matches even more.

During testing, we experienced the platform's remarkable bounce and impact absorption. With two sizable Zoom Air units—one in the heel and another in the forefoot—the shoe effectively softened impacts and energised our toe-offs, enhancing our agility during hard dashes and split steps. Additionally, the wide and rigid shank boosted our speed with propulsive takeoffs. Our bend test confirms its exceptional resilience emerging 43.5% stiffer than average.

To avoid excessive and uncontrolled movements, Zoom GP Challenge 1 has reinforcing elements to guide our foot alignment—a wide platform, rigid shank, firm 30.2 HA midsole, and supportive overlays. Even as we moved from side to side aggressively, the overall stability system supported us effortlessly. Even underfoot, the grippy herringbone pattern of the outsole gives us control over small adjustments in our footwork.

However, the upper isn’t as supportive for heavy toe drags and constant scraping, as it scored a below-average 3/5 in our toebox durability test. Those who are prone to damaging shoe uppers prematurely should search for more reinforced options.

Pros

  • Excellent lateral support and stability
  • Highly responsive and bouncy cushioning
  • Great impact protection
  • Stiff shank adds lots of propulsiveness
  • Rockered heel makes heel-to-toes smoother
  • Very durable and thick outsole
  • Cosy step-in feel

Cons

  • Heavier than average
  • Not enough protection for toe drags
  • A bit fiddly tongue
Full review of Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1

Cushioned tennis shoes with the best impact protection

What makes it the best?

Several cushioned tennis shoes were put to the test, but it was the Mizuno Wave Enforce Tour that emerged as the most effective among them all in terms of impact protection. This tennis shoe had a relatively high heel stack, giving it more room for compressions. Besides an effective cushioning mechanism, this Mizuno tennis kick also offered a lot of space that not only enhanced stability but also allowed it to accommodate wide feet.

The heel stack of the Wave Enforce Tour was 33.0 mm high. The average was only 29.3 mm. The extra thickness was enough to significantly improve the level of compression and impact protection that the shoe was able to deliver.

We also loved how the platform was wide enough to contain our feet at all times during our matches on the hard court. While the forefoot was only of average width, the heel added a lot of millimetres. Based on our calliper readings, the heel area opened to as much as 99.7 mm, effectively dwarfing the 89.7 mm average.

The toebox area of the footbed also enjoyed a boost in surface area. It measured 104.0 mm at the widest part, making it more spacious than the average tennis shoe that only had a width of 101.2 mm. The additional space allowed the shoe to accommodate wide-footers, much to their enjoyment.

How we wished the toebox were a bit more durable. We subjected it to twelve seconds of Dremel drilling, and it left considerable damage. The Mizuno Wave Enforce Tour only got a 3 out of 5 (ave 4.1 out of 5) for toebox durability.

Pros

  • Fantastic impact protection
  • Responsive cushioning
  • Doesn't drag the foot
  • Comfortable even after long sessions
  • Great stability
  • Super grippy
  • Amazing lockdown

Cons

  • Not for narrow feet
  • Upper lacks durability
Full review of Mizuno Wave Enforce Tour

Cushioned tennis shoes with the best durability

What makes it the best?

Upon testing tennis shoes, the pair that left us completely blown away in terms of cushioning and quality is the ASICS Gel Resolution 9. Even devoid of a shank, this shoe’s cushioning still performed better than we have imagined and ever experienced. Also, given the things we have put this pair through and its pristine state afterward, we are in disbelief.

More than the oasis our feet found inside the Gel Resolution 9, what we really appreciated was the impact-mitigating midsole that kept us safeguarded from pain. The insole alone is 5.3 mm and 8.2% thicker than most tennis shoes. Additionally, we also felt dynamic on the court as the cushioning provided us with a bouncy rebound in our movements. This is credited to the medium-density midsole that recorded 30.3 HA on our durometer, which is 5.3% softer than average.

The amazing thing is even if we didn’t go easy on the shoes, they remained in excellent shape. It proved resilient during our Dremel test, deserving a 5/5 score in toebox durability. On the flip side, we discovered that Gel Resolution 9 is slightly heavy at 13.86 oz (393g). If this shoe being 5.6% heavier than average concerns you, we advise searching for lighter alternatives.

Pros

  • Immensely stable and supportive
  • Highly secure foothold
  • Unbeatable durability
  • Amazing impact protection and responsiveness
  • Incredible in-shoe comfort
  • Provides arch support
  • Excellent grip but can slide as well

Cons

  • Slightly heavy
  • A little break-in needed
Full review of ASICS Gel Resolution 9

Best cushioned tennis shoes for beginners

What makes it the best?

ASICS Gel Challenger 14 is our unequivocal cushioned tennis shoe recommendation for novices in the sport. We discovered that the newbies would be well-catered in this pair as it not only addresses the needs of the beginners but also advances their performance. 

We discovered that the average cushioning softness of the Gel Challenger 14 is ideal for beginners. Our durometer revealed that it’s 31.3 HA, which is a little over most tennis shoe midsoles by only 4%. This firmness granted support while the Gel unit under the heel balances it out with bounciness. Mastering new movements and gameplays would also feel effortless as we found that the Gel Challenger 14 grips so hard on the court. With an outsole hardness of 86.5 HC that sits around the average, the shoe achieved incredible outsole durability and traction, perfect for beginners’ footwork polishing. 

We also appreciated that the shoe granted stability for our agile plays on the court. We conducted a manual assessment of Gel Challenger 14’s rigidity and it got a 5/5 rating, translating to reinforced feet and ankles.

We want to give a heads-up to beginners that this is not the most breathable out there. In fact, when we discharged smoke inside the shoe, it didn’t let out much, getting a 3/5 breathability score. If you desire excellent airflow, you better explore other options.

Pros

  • Excellent stability and arch support
  • Super hard-wearing outsole
  • Grip of a top-tier tennis shoe
  • Light for a stability-oriented shoe
  • Lots of impact protection
  • Plush and cushy in-shoe feel
  • More flexible than average

Cons

  • Lacks breathability
  • Upper is not so abrasion-resistant
Full review of Asics Gel Challenger 14

Cushioned tennis shoes with the best stability

What makes it the best?

We could say that comfort was definitely in the Adidas Barricade 13’s DNA because its midsole delivered considerable plushness. But what impressed us was the stability afforded by the wide and twist-resistant platform. This Adidas tennis shoe easily became the best cushioned tennis shoe for stability in our list. 

According to our HA durometer, the midsole of the Adidas Barricade 13 had a softness rating of 26.1. This number was a lot lower than the average, which reached 29.2. The soft cushion helped protect us from pain, especially when rallies became more intense as the matches were prolonged.

We used a digital calliper to get the measurements of this shoe’s platform. According to the device, the forefoot was 115.4 mm wide (ave 111.7 mm) while the heel was 95.3 (ave 89.7 mm). Not only were our feet properly contained, they also had enough space for splays and much-needed wiggles.

Besides being spaces, the base of the shoe was also resistant to twists. We gave the Adidas Barricade 13 a 4 out of 5 after it resisted our torsional manoeuvres in the lab. The stiff base allowed us to move with much more confidence in the court.

If there was one thing that we would want to see improved, it would be the breathability of the upper. The Barricade 13 was a toasty one that got only a 2 out of 5 for breathability after our assessments.

Pros

  • Exceptional stability and arch support
  • Wide and steady platform
  • Hard-wearing outsole with a 6-moth guarantee
  • Sufficient impact protection
  • Great court feel
  • Highly secure foothold and lockdown
  • Good level of flexibility
  • Outsole grips and slides well

Cons

  • Upper is not the most durable
  • Cushioning lacks bounce and responsiveness
Full review of Adidas Barricade 13

Best budget cushioned tennis shoes

What makes it the best?

K-Swiss Hypercourt Express 2 provided us with an unparalleled underfoot experience without breaking the bank, which is why nothing can top it as our best budget cushioned tennis shoe. This shoe costs £120, which is 13.1% more affordable than the average price of tennis shoes.

We adored the plush cushioning that the Hypercourt Express 2 offers because it effectively defended our feet and joints from strain during intense games. Despite its delightfully soft foam, we found that our feet never sunk into squishiness because the shoe features a support chassis that prevented our feet from rolling and collapsing. 

Also, it grants a more solid springiness compared to most tennis shoes we have tried. 

However, we realised that the fit sucks for slender feet as this shoe is spacious. If you think the Hypercourt Express 2 would be too loose for you, we suggest picking below your normal size. We also suggest trying on the shoe first before buying to be absolutely sure.

Pros

  • Light and nimble on the feet
  • Mind-blowing durability for the price
  • Well-balanced soft cushioning
  • Wide and stable platform for a speed shoe
  • Excellent grip and give
  • Amazing in-shoe comfort
  • Ideal for wide feet

Cons

  • Lacks breathability
  • Not for narrow feet
Full review of K-Swiss Hypercourt Express 2

In the world of tennis, where fast movements and agility are par for the course, the importance of well-cushioned and comfortable tennis shoes becomes very obvious, very quickly.

Acting as the unsung heroes of your playing gear, they silently absorb the relentless impact that would otherwise jar the feet with every step allowing you to enjoy your game rather than dread the discomfort it causes.

From sudden stops to powerful shots, in this guide we look at what makes the best cushioned tennis shoes stand out, and most importantly - why.

Say hello to comfort

Let’s start by making this important note from the get-go: comfortable tennis shoes are a winner, and cushioned shoes go hand in hand with comfort. Maybe that sounds too obvious, but too many tennis players make the mistake of emotionally choosing a pair of shoes that look great, instead of choosing what’s right for them.

So, put your head before your heart on this one, and believe me when I tell you that a comfortable pair of cushioned tennis shoes should be your number one priority. At the end of this guide if you’re still not sure, choose what’s comfortable for you.

5 reasons why you need cushioned tennis shoes

We know tennis shoes with cushioning are comfortable because the cushioning helps dissipate the force generated during movements like sprinting, jumping, lunging, and abrupt stops. But how exactly does that happen?

  1. Shock absorption: The repetitive and high-impact nature of tennis demands shoes with a high level of shock absorption. This allows the player to concentrate on their game, rather than on the jarring effect the game is having on their body.
  2. Comfort and performance: We’ve already said it but we’ll say it again - comfort is paramount. Well-cushioned shoes provide a supportive feel underfoot, and it is this plush feeling that makes cushioning such a key element to a pair of tennis shoes.
  3. Injury prevention: With its fast lateral movements tennis is known to put the body under stress - particularly around the joints and muscles - which can sometimes lead to injury. To help combat this footwear manufacturers have deliberately increased cushioning in their shoes and players have benefited as they seek to reduce their incidence of sprains, fractures, and tendonitis.
  4. Energy conservation: When the body doesn’t have to constantly battle against the jarring effects of hard court surfaces, it can save energy which can in turn be put to better use - powerful shots down the line for example. An easy competitive advantage if ever there was one!
  5. Enhanced endurance: What happens when you add up the previous four elements? The body can realign its efforts towards better and longer gameplay, allowing you to focus on your tennis rather than how sore you are. Who wouldn’t want that?

Addressing plantar fasciitis

A lot of tennis players suffer from an injury known as plantar fasciitis, and you may well be researching cushioned tennis shoes for this very reason. This painful injury is felt in the heel and occurs with overtraining and long hours of play.

Aside from incorporating stretching exercises, applying ice, and using anti-inflammatories, selecting the right footwear is essential for alleviating pain and managing discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis.

Those familiar with this condition understand that it results from inflammation of the plantar fascia, a connective ligament that supports the arch of the foot. This inflammation can lead to pain during all sorts of activities especially tennis, and individuals with high arches or flat feet are particularly susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis.

To effectively address plantar fasciitis, the ideal footwear prioritises comfort and the reduction of pressure on the heels. It's crucial to opt for shoes featuring thick, cushioned soles that absorb impact and provide ample arch support. This choice in footwear can play a pivotal role in preventing inflammation and heel pain, allowing individuals to find relief and maintain their daily activities comfortably.

Where the cushioning is found

Cushioning in tennis shoes is primarily found in the midsole of the shoe. The midsole is a layer of material, often foam, that connects the outsole (the part of the shoe that connects to the ground) and the upper (the part of the shoe that covers the foot).

But for some models, the description of the midsole is too vague, as it implies that there is just one area where cushioning plays a part. Higher-tech models may also integrate cushioning systems within the following concentrated areas:

  • In the forefoot: Some models of tennis shoes may also have additional cushioning at the forefoot area in the midsole. This is important for providing comfort and support during tennis movements that involve pushing off with the front part of the foot, for example, serving, or sprinting to the net.
  • At the heel: Many tennis shoes have extra cushioning in the heel area of the midsole. This is because the heel experiences a significant amount of impact during movements such as running and fast stops, so extra cushioning here helps to absorb that shock.
  • Full length: Some tennis shoes feature full-length cushioning throughout the entire midsole. This provides a feeling of consistency as the support goes from toe to heel, allowing the player to confidently move in any direction at any time.

ASICS Court FF 2 Drop

Big brand cushioning tech

When it comes to cushioned tennis shoes several major brands stand out for their offerings. Using innovative technologies and market leading intellectual property, these brands know how to attract tennis players of all abilities and for good reason - what they do, they do well. Here’s a small taste of the brands that will serve you well on the tennis court.:

Nike

Nike utilises various cushioning technologies such as Nike Air, Nike React, and Zoom Air. These technologies offer a combination of comfort, responsiveness, and impact absorption in their tennis shoes. Over the years Nike has been the preferred brand of tennis legends such as Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer and Pete Sampras.

Adidas

Adidas features technologies like Boost and Bounce in their footwear. Boost, in particular, is known for its excellent energy return and cushioning properties. Adidas has been the preferred brand of tennis players such as Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Asics

Asics uses Gel cushioning technology in many of their athletic shoes. This gel-based cushioning system provides excellent shock absorption and comfort for prolonged play. Asics is the preferred brand of tennis players such as Novak Djokovic and Jennifer Brady.

New Balance

New Balance incorporates Fresh Foam technology in their shoes, which offers a balance of cushioning and support for different sports, including tennis. Despite having an ‘no-endorsement’ policy until recently, New Balance is the sponsor of young American stars Coco Gauff and Tommy Paul.

Hard court problems mean soft shoe solutions

Cushioned tennis shoes are particularly important when playing on hard courts due to the unforgiving nature of these surfaces, which are typically made of concrete or asphalt covered with an acrylic layer that gives them that sharp colour and texture. 

There are several reasons why cushioned tennis shoes excel on hard courts, including impact absorption, increased comfort, energy conservation, injury prevention, and enhanced durability. On the contrary clay courts are, by their nature, softer on the player’s feet therefore the requirement for cushioning is lessened.

Baseline resilience

All seasoned tennis players will tell you that durability in a pair of tennis shoes is a key factor that cannot be overlooked. No player wants their shoes to be brilliantly cushioned for a brief period of time only to end up in a landfill shortly after, we all want them to be our tennis partners for as long as possible.

Over time, the materials used for the cushioning can compress, thus losing their effectiveness. Good manufacturers know how to engineer their products to ensure this doesn't happen too quickly, ensuring that players can maximise their wear.

Be rally-ready with abrasion resistance

The abrasive nature of tennis courts can take a toll on the outsoles and the uppers of tennis shoes. Tennis shoes with cushioning and other materials designed to better withstand wear are a great asset as the shoes can maintain their structural integrity through countless rallies and matches.

Sew crucial: The importance of stitching

Most modern-day tennis shoes use reinforced stitching for durability and support. When it comes to well-cushioned versions, there is often additional stitching in the midsole area. This stitching helps secure the cushing materials and technology in place, preventing any unwanted movement during play.

How cushioning affects traction

The level of cushioning in tennis shoes can influence how comfortable they feel when playing, and it is this feeling that tennis players rely upon the most on the court. As it absorbs impact and softens the landing, cushioning allows the player to feel comfortable on their feet enabling them to glide more freely across the court. Harsher, less cushioned shoes, might mean the surface traction is high but the jarring effect is high too. It’s a bit of give and take.

A tennis player’s balancing act

Proper cushioning distributes the player’s weight as their feet impact the ground. This weight distribution helps improve comfort levels and the sensation of being able to play longer, however, be cautious, because it is possible to have too much cushioning which can have a negative impact on your court time.

Too much of a good thing

Excessive cushioning can have its drawbacks, each of which needs to be considered when weighing up the pros and cons of your next pair of tennis shoes. These considerations include:

  • Reduced responsiveness: Too much cushioning can make the shoes feel overly soft, reducing a player’s agility and responsiveness which may hinder their game.
  • Loss of ground feel: A lot of tennis players appreciate the feeling of ‘being at one with the court’ and excessive cushioning in their shoes can take that feeling away from them.
  • Reduced stability: Some shoes that are well cushioned may be a compromise to their stability, which is crucial to support the lateral movements of a tennis player.
  • Extra weight: Increasing the weight of your tennis shoe is not ideal. Look for shoes that remain lightweight despite their idyllic cushioning.

Not worth the extra weight

Speaking of weight, traditionally when manufacturers have aimed for extra cushioning in their new models they have done so at the expense of the weight of the shoes. That is to say, extra cushioning has meant heavier shoes. However fortunately that is not necessarily the case these days as new cushioning technologies have become incredibly lightweight, bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘like running on clouds’.

This lightweightedness is excellent news for tennis players as lightweight shoes can improve your performance - it’s that bit faster to change direction, acceleration is just that bit quicker, time on the court feels that bit easier, and so on.

The future of cushioning in tennis shoes

Wondered where the world of cushioning will go in the future, and especially how it might relate to tennis? Let’s take a glimpse into the crystal ball: 

  • Smart cushioning: Imagine tennis shoes that adapt to your playing style and the court conditions in real-time. This vision is not far from becoming a reality. Future tennis shoes are set to incorporate smart cushioning systems equipped with sensors that monitor your movements, gait, and even the hardness of the court surface. Using this data, the shoes will automatically adjust the level of cushioning to optimise comfort and performance. Say goodbye to one-size-fits-all cushioning; the future is all about personalization.
  • Sustainable materials: As environmental concerns continue to shape the sports industry, tennis shoe manufacturers are looking to sustainable materials for cushioning. Future tennis shoes may feature cushioning made from recycled or bio-based materials, reducing their carbon footprint. Expect to see innovations in cushioning that balance eco-friendliness with the high-performance standards demanded by tennis players.
  • 3D-printed custom cushioning: Customization is a key trend in the future of tennis shoe cushioning. 3D printing technology is poised to revolutionise the way cushioning is designed and manufactured. Players will be able to choose cushioning profiles tailored to their specific needs, resulting in a truly bespoke fit and feel. This level of personalization promises enhanced comfort and injury prevention.

Advantage: You!

So there you have it, tennis shoes with ample cushioning can really enhance your time on the court. Remember to choose comfort before everything else, and go out there and smash your competition. Or just have fun playing hit to hit… We’ll let you de-deuce that.

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.