Your Most Important Tennis Gear (It's Not Your Racket)

Tennis isn't the most complicated of sports to start. There's a lot to learn, but as for getting on the court, you don't need all that much gear. Unfortunately, when people start shopping, they frequently have the wrong focus.

"The biggest mistake people make in tennis is they get concerned about the racket: They spend a lot of money on the racket, and they don't pay attention to shoes, and it should be the other way around," says Steven Nolen, president of the Dallas Professional Tennis Association, who has been coaching tennis for nearly two decades. "The running shoes are a major no-no."

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Nolen explains that while you can start with a less expensive racket, then upgrade as you stick with the sport, tennis shoes aren't something to skimp on for even your first few times on the court.

"They naturally want to stick with their running shoes, but when you start cutting and playing in competition, you don't have that support," he says. "And it's just an accident waiting to happen."

And he's seen accidents from this, including torn ACLs and torn calf muscles.

Tennis shoes aren't the same as running shoes. The shoes you're logging miles with are designed to go in one direction.

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You might consider taking your running shoes to the court because they're comfortable—but what makes them feel that way is more stability on the bottom. Support in the tennis shoe is lateral, providing protection as you make side-to-side cuts.

"Running shoes are meant to go one way, and in tennis, there's a lot of stopping and starting, and there's a lot of cutting: A good tennis shoe is made for that," Nolen says. "Your risk of spraining your ankle, or [doing] worse, lessens with the right shoe."

So, if this has convinced you to consider buying a separate pair of kicks for tennis (crossing fingers it has) let's get on to buying tennis shoes.

More: How to Reduce the Stress of Competition

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