Arguably the most significant adjustment needed in this situation is the transition on to a clay court from a faster surface such as grass or a quick hard court.
As far as equipment is concerned, playing with surface appropriate tennis shoes is certainly the biggest change to be made when playing on clay courts.
These shoes tend to be more stable and allow for controlled sliding, so you can move safely and efficiently.
You definitely don’t want to be using pimpled grass court shoes on clay as you will not only damage the shoes, but also cause you to stop in your tracks and could cause a twisted ankle!
So without further ado, let’s dive into the things you need to consider when picking the perfect clay court tennis shoe!
Things to Consider when Buying Clay Court Tennis Shoes
There are a few different things to consider when buying any shoe, let alone a shoe specifically designed to be used on a clay tennis court.
The consistent sliding, twisting, turning and adjustments in grip that these shoes need to make means the requirements of a good clay court shoe are quite specific.
Having a shoe that fits your foot like a glove is of course important if you want it to perform at its best.
The size, width, shape and materials used to make the shoe all play important roles in how comfortable the shoe will feel when you are running around the court.
It goes without saying that the best way to find out how well a shoe fits is to actually try it on in your local pro shop, however this is not always possible and some brands may fit your foot better than others.
Also, clay court tennis shoes are specifically designed to make sliding on the loose surface as easy as possible, so you can glide around the court just like Rafael Nadal.
Clay court tennis shoes tend to have what’s known as a full herringbone sole design.
This means the tread on the bottom of the shoes has a zig-zag pattern, allowing for more uniform sliding on the court.
This design also limits the amount of clay that will get stuck in the grooves, so you won’t be stuck in the clay!
This tread also tends to wrap slightly further around the outer edge of the shoe, so you still have traction when pushing off your foot when recovering from the corner of the court for example.
So, clay court shoes are very well suited to the surface.
Moreover, clay court shoes will often come with a tighter weave on the upper of the shoe.
This is effectively the top of the shoe that houses the tongue, where the laces are usually tied.
The benefit of this tighter, more densely knitted design is that it keeps the shoe more sturdy on your foot. It is less likely to move around and will hug your foot more securely.
This helps you stay on balance when sliding and quickly accelerating and decelerating on the court, whilst keeping excess clay out of the shoe at the same time.
Whilst this tighter design on the upper of the shoe has a range of benefits, it is worth trying your prospective clay court shoes out before you commit to them, since this design feature may feel excessively tight or restrictive if you are not used to this.
You may want to opt for an alternative brand, size or range of clay court shoe compared to your usual all court shoes to make the most out of the benefits.
Wearing a comfortable shoe is of course an incredibly important part of feeling confident on the tennis court.
However, simply buying the most spongy, soft shoe you can find is not necessarily the best approach for this.
You want a shoe that is well padded, supportive and that does not restrict your movement, whilst being secure and stable enough to withstand the stresses and strains of the modern game.
That being said, comfort relating to clay court tennis shoes is a bit more of a unique proposition than your standard all court shoe.
Because of how clay court shoes are designed, they may feel slightly more tight around the top of the shoe or even bulky due to the tread on the sole.
Therefore you need to consider exactly what comfort means for you when playing on clay.
Yes you want comfort and a plush feel, but feeling secure and planted when playing on a loose surface is also a major factor to consider.
In general terms, clay court shoes tend to be pretty durable as tennis shoes go.
This is because of their more substantial tread design and robust construction, as well as the fact they should only be used on clay courts.
Therefore, unless you are playing exclusively on clay all year round, you will likely not be wearing these shoes as much as your all court shoes.
This of course will reduce the overall wear on the shoe and have them last longer as a result.
As far as clay court shoes go, you will often sacrifice durability for lightness.
So, a lighter, more agile shoe that is made from lightweight materials will not usually last as long as a more substantial, bulky shoe that may be heavier by design.
Therefore you need to consider how light or heavy you prefer your shoes to be and how long you actually need them to last, which will depend on how often you play on clay courts in general.
Best Clay Court Tennis Shoes
So, which are the best clay court tennis shoes? The answer to this question will of course depend on the range of factors above.
What you really need to understand is which are the best clay court tennis shoes for you!
Now, your budget, playing frequency, playing style, foot arch and physical fitness level will all play into which shoes are the ideal match for you.
However, here are a few of the best options on the market to get you started on your search!
Nike Air Zoom Vapour X
These lightweight, comfortable clay court tennis shoes from the market leader Nike are a great starting point if you are looking to be agile on the dirt.
These feature Nike’s dynamic fit system that supports quick changes of direction and sharp movements whilst keeping your foot secure in the process.
The Air Zoom Vapour X also sports an extended sole, that adds extra support to the most worn places on the shoe, helping to extend durability.
Despite this, these are not the most durable shoes on the market as their lightweight construction would suggest.
However, these are an ideal match for a player looking to move quickly around the court who is not too concerned about wearing through their shoes in the process.
Yonex Sonicage 2
This breathable, lightweight shoe from Yonex comes off the back of the success of the original Sonicage line.
The Sonicage 2 offers superior cushioning and durability over its predecessor, whilst the graphite plate in the sole makes these some of the most supportive shoes on the market today!
This shoe is also ideal for a player with a low arch foot due to its unique design.
Asics Court FF
The shoe of choice for world number 1 Novak Djokovic, the Asics Court FF is a highly durable, comfortable and supportive clay court shoe that does not disappoint.
It is a redesigned model that allows you to control your slides more effectively, whilst remaining stable and lightweight enough to change direction in a flash.
These are a tiger fit than most shoes on the market, so be sure to try them before you buy. The Asics Court FF shoes are also ideally suited to those with a medium arch in their foot.
Adidas SoleCourt Boost
The comfortable, stable and durable Adidas SoleCourt Boosts are an ever popular choice for clay courters for good reason!
This shoe takes inspiration from the world famous barricade and it is clear to see how these perform to the highest levels.
One of the main benefits of this shoe is its unrivalled traction, so you won’t be left slipping on the clay!
The SoleCourt Boost is best suited to those with a higher arch in their foot and these are wider fitting shoes than the others listed.
Overall, the best clay court shoes come from the most tried and tested brands out there.
Whilst it is difficult to pin down one specific ‘best’ clay court shoe, there are a few common traits that all of the best performing options share.
These are superior comfort, stable and supportive structure and a lightweight, breathable design.
Added durability from extended tread also helps these shoes perform better for longer.
So, good luck with your search for the perfect clay court tennis shoes for you!