Avid players know that a good pair of tennis shoes are as essential for a good game as any other piece of sporting equipment. The right shoes:
- Provide support and stability, focusing your body’s power outward into your shots
- Prevent strains and injury, keeping you in the game longer
- Boost reaction times and add bounce, enhancing your speed and agility
For people who take their tennis game seriously, finding the shoes that work best for their feet, their style of play, and their court, can be a long process of trial and error. If you’ve found the brand, style, and size that are best for your game, it’s a good idea to stick with that brand.
However, don’t let brand loyalty keep you from trying new pairs. Shoe design and technology advances rapidly, and there may be new features you’re missing out on. Furthermore, your gameplay evolves over time, and your body changes with age. Make an effort to try a new model every couple of years to see if there is a better fit for your current needs.
How to Maintain Your Tennis Shoes
The best maintenance plan for your tennis shoes depends on how frequently and how hard you play, but remember that moisture not only contributes to odor, it is also harmful to the life of your shoes. And keep in mind that odor is also a sign of the presence of bacteria, which may be associated with other harmful conditions for your feet.
To keep your shoes in peak condition:
- Tennis shoes should dry out thoroughly between games. If you play more than 2-3 times a week, get a second pair of shoes and alternate, to give each pair time to dry between wearing
- Never store your shoes in a damp environment, as this may contribute to the presence of mildew inside the shoe, but also don’t store them in direct sunlight, as UV rays can damage the materials
- Never wear tennis shoes without clean, dry socks. If you have unusually sweaty feet, consider changing your damp socks for a fresh pair after a couple hours of play
- If odor is a problem, or you live in a humid environment and want to dry the inside of your shoes thoroughly, take a clean pair of socks and fill them with kitty litter (ideally the kind with baking soda added). Put the kitty-litter-filled socks inside your shoes, where they will absorb odors and moisture
Preventing moisture and odor extends the wearable life of your shoe and is also healthier for your feet, and can help prevent athlete’s foot and other skin problems.
How to Clean Your Tennis Shoes
While many canvas shoes are safe for machine washing, and many people advise cleaning shoes that way (or in a dishwasher!), machine washing is not recommended for high-performance athletic shoes. Firstly, if the shoes have leather or faux leather, too much water can damage the uppers and shorten the life of the shoes. Secondly, excessive heat can cause tennis shoes to lose their shape and bounce. For tennis shoes in particular, with specially engineered lateral support systems, machine washing is not recommended.
Here is the best way to clean your shoes in order to preserve their attractiveness and functionality for as long as possible:
- Remove the laces. These can be machine washed in a mesh laundry bag on the gentle cycle
- Remove the insoles
- Use a dry, soft brush or a dry, clean cloth to gently remove surface dirt and debris
- Mix a small amount of warm water with a small amount of mild laundry detergent to make a slightly soapy mixture
- Dip a sponge or soft cloth into the soapy water, squeezing out the excess until it is damp, and use it to wipe the shoe clean
- Using the damp soapy sponge or cloth, gently scrub at dirtier areas of the shoe
- To remove scuff marks or more stubborn dirt, use a Magic Eraser or a small amount of toothpaste on a soft brush to gently scrub the affected area clean
- Once the shoe is clean, use a clean damp cloth or sponge to wipe away any soap or cleaning residue
- Stuff the shoes with newspaper to absorb moisture and preserve the shape, and let them dry completely before wearing.
Insoles can be cleaned using the same method of soft cloth and mild detergent with warm water. If persistent odor is a problem with the insoles, they should be replaced.
How to Store Your Tennis Shoes
Maybe you found a great price on your favorite pair of shoes. Maybe you’ve just decided to stock up on your standby, in case the manufacturer discontinues or changes the tennis shoes you’ve come to rely on. Or maybe you live in a harsher climate, and only play tennis in milder months. Whatever the case, you may find yourself wanting to store your tennis shoes for extended periods of time.
Storing shoes can be problematic, because if they are too dry, the rubber, plastics, or adhesives may become brittle and fragile, damaging even an un-worn shoe. On the other hand, moisture can introduce mildew and compromise the integrity of fabric shoe components over time.
The best way to store tennis shoes and still have them perform well later is to use a plastic vacuum bag that allows you to suck out all the air. Store the shoes in the sealed bag, protected from air, sunlight, temperature extremes, and moisture.
If you don’t have a vacuum bag, stuff the shoes with silica packets and wrap them in acid-free tissue paper. Put them in a zip-closure plastic bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. Store them in the plastic bag, protected from air, sunlight, temperature extremes, and moisture.
Following these tips will allow you to store your tennis shoes and preserve their performance for months or even years later.
Following these steps will keep your tennis shoes looking sharp, smelling good, and supporting your game for years to come. Treat your shoes with the respect they deserve and maintain them like the rest of your sporting equipment. Your feet will thank you.