pink sneakers

Tennis Shoes vs Sneakers: What’s in a Name?

The tennis shoes vs sneakers debate has been going on for years. “Sneakers” were popularized in the late 80s and early 90s as a staple of hip hop, while “tennis shoes” are a term that has been popularized among a much wider population.

Both terms are often considered to mean the same thing. Usually, people can use either term to describe a lace up casual wear or athletic shoe. Is this correct? In the following article, we will look at both terms and determine if they are one in the same or if there are real and discernable differences.

Is it Just a Matter of Dialect?

Surprisingly, the term “sneakers” does seem to be used in certain parts of the United States more often than others. The upper east coast and the very southernmost tip of Florida tend to use “sneakers” the most. In Chicago and Cincinnati, you’ll be more often to hear “gym shoes.” In the rest of the country, “tennis shoes” appears to be the most common term for this shoe style.


While it is obvious that most people prefer the term “tennis shoes,” they still might not be right. In certain situation, the majority doesn’t always rule. This instance just might be one of them.


Even if Not, Aren’t the Names Interchangeable?

The names are actually not as interchangeable as some of us have been led to believe for decades. In fact, the terms are very separate terms used for two different shoe types.


According to the shoe researchers at Difference Between, there are major differences between the two that extend far beyond just regional dialect. These differences range from the different places each type of shoe is worn, how they are manufactured, and even price and availability.


Below, we will discuss the differences that can help you decide if your own foot gear is a pair of sneakers vs. tennis shoes.


Differences Between Tennis Shoes and Sneakers

Whether you call them sneakers, tennis shoes, gym shoes, or whatever, you own a pair. It’s safe to assume that comfortable lace up shoes is a staple in every person’s wardrobe. The question at play is whether you are wearing sneakers or tennis shoes regularly.


While this is honestly a very mundane thing to be worried about, it’s always nice to know what you’ve got. Below, we will outline the various differences that help to determine if a pair of shoes is tennis shoes or sneakers. We will also discuss what each type of shoe is best suited for which might assist you in making the best choice on your next shoe purchase.


Tennis Shoes are Designed for Tennis

This is probably the most obvious of all answers. Tennis is a very fast-paced game that requires a lot of movement, including running and jumping. During a tennis match, a player is constantly changing their position. They need shoes that are easy on the joints, comfortable enough to move quick in, and safe on slick grass or other imperfect terrain.


You’ll often find that the sole of tennis shoes is a little rougher. This is because the soles are designed to hang on tight to rough ground and provide stability.


Sneakers are Casual Wear

We usually wear sneakers as an everyday footwear, rather than just during sporting competitions. Sneakers are what we might refer to as “street shoes” which are designed for comfort and style.


Sneakers are a great way to make a statement about your personal style and are the best way to complete an outfit or simply get ready to head out for a day on the town.


Tennis Shoe Soles Have Shock-Absorption.

Because tennis shoes are used in a much more high-impact setting than just strolling about town, they are equipped with soles that can absorb the shock of heavy use. Because there are swift movements and excessive joint movements involved in the game of tennis, a good shoe with shock-absorbent material can make all the difference in preserving the player’s orthopedic health.


These shoes can help minimize foot pain, joint pain, and other issues that might result from the strenuous game play involved in the sport.  Sneakers, on the other hand, are not built for this kind of high-impact use, so you’ll definitely feel the difference if you try to overuse them.


Sneakers Offer No Lateral Support.

Tennis shoes require lateral support to function correctly. The feet pivot in all directions while the players are trying to navigate the court, so their ankles need support to ensure they don’t twist or roll in on themselves.


Sneakers, on the other hand, typically offer no lateral support. Occasionally, you’ll find sneakers of the high-top variety that might offer some, but the majority of sneakers are low-top, meaning they cut off low on the ankle. In these cases, no support is provided.


Sneakers Scuff

We can all remember the gym class days where our coaches and P.E. teachers would become infuriated at the very sight of black scuffs on the newly buffed out gym floor. How many times did we receive memos from the school to make sure we had an extra pair of shoes designated solely for indoor P.E. classes?


Sneakers scuff. If your shoe soles are made of rubber that is soft enough to leave a mark on a gym floor, it’s not fit for sportswear.


On the other hand, tennis shoes are made with a stronger, more durable sole that never rubs off.


Tennis Shoes are Harder to Come By

Believe it or not, it can be hard to find a good pair of tennis shoes. Sneakers, being the more popular variety, tend to outweigh all competition when it comes to availability. This is no different in the sneakers vs. tennis shoes vein.


Tennis shoes are more often found at sporting goods stores and similarly specialized stores, where sneakers are widely available anywhere that shoes are sold.


In other words, if you’ve recently purchased a pair of shoes from the clearance rack at your local department store, they are more likely than not sneakers, rather than tennis shoes.


Tennis Shoes are Expensive vs. Sneakers, Which Cost Less

There are exceptions to this rule, which we will discuss a litter later in the article. However, for the most part, sneakers are more inexpensive than tennis shoes.


Because tennis shoes are specially designed for sports with extra support, shock absorption, and lateral supports, it stands to reason that they are going to be in the higher price bracket.


Sneakers can be built with certain supports, as well but, for the most part, sneakers are designed, simply, to look nice. This makes them slightly less expensive to manufacture and, in most cases, the price is reflective of that.


Tennis Shoes are Newer than Sneakers

You might be surprised to hear that tennis shoes are fairly new in the shoe world. Tennis gained popularity as a sport in the 60s and 70s. This is when specially-designed tennis shoes first came into play.


Sneakers, on the other hand, are timeless. Since shoes have been manufactured, there have been sneakers. Any soft canvas shoe with a soft sole is technically a sneaker, so they have been a popular choice among most for centuries and it doesn’t look like they’re wearing out of style any time soon.


Tennis Shoes are Usually White

Oddly enough, tennis shoes are almost always white in color. This is a traditional throwback to the tennis uniform, which has been made up of white shorts or skirt. Tennis has long been known as a “clean” sport, although it is probably one of the most impactful sports out there. Also, for some reason, white is a traditional color in uniform despite the frequency of grass and dirt stains that are acquired during play.


In any case, you will rarely find a pair of tennis shoes that is not pristine white, whereas sneakers come in a wide variety of color and patterns.  


Sneakers Lack Athletic Support, but Have More Bells and Whistles

You might also remember certain brands of popular shoes that feature wheels in the heels, speakers in the sidewalls, or even flashing lights. These are all sneaker features that simply don’t exist in the world of tennis shoes.


Tennis Shoes are Tie – or – Velcro - Only

The game of tennis has a number of regulations in place to help ensure the safety and effectiveness of its players. One of these rules is that tennis shoes can only be secured with laces or velcro.


Slip – on shoes, zipper, buttons, or other closures are not allowed.


With sneakers, you can expect any kind of closure, depending on style and design.


Tennis Shoes aren’t as “Cool”

Sneakers are seen as status symbols and fashion statements. Tennis shoes, on the other hand, are simply sports equipment.


Sneakers come in a variety of styles and brands. Some brands of sneakers can cost thousands of dollars, in fact, while others might be as inexpensive as $15-$20 a pair. Depending on the shoe type and style, the statement you make about yourself and the message you send to the world can change.


Tennis shoes pretty much always mean you like tennis.


Tennis Shoes vs. Sneakers – Which Do You Need?



If you are looking for a pair of shoes to wear while you play the game of tennis, the choice is rather obvious. If you’re looking for shoes that are all about style, though, you’ll want to look toward sneakers during your next footwear purchase.

If you are looking for a pair of shoes to wear during workouts, running, or walking, there are some sneaker varieties that are built to be wearable for these activities. However, it is worth mentioning that tennis shoes would also be a great choice for these activities.

In the end, it all comes down to the reason you need the shoes, your personal style, and your budget. A great pair of sneakers can be bought for as little as $20 in some department stores, however those sneakers will likely not be the best choice if you intend to use them for any kind of physical activity.

Be conscientious of your needs and try shoes on before making a final decision.

Hopefully, Things are Clearer Now, 
but it’s Okay if You Have Trouble Adjusting



We know that all of this can be pretty confusing. Don’t worry about acclimating immediately to the new lingo. It might take a while or you might find that it is simply unnecessary for your preference.

Either way, we won’t fault you. Call your shoes whatever you like to call them, but leave this article knowing a little more about selecting the very best pair for your needs.

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