Is there really a market for foot shaped, minimalist tennis shoes?

Tennismom0803

New User
I, like many others, am frustrated with what is available in terms of footwear for tennis. As a family, we seek zero rise shoes with foot shaped toe boxes. We love our altras, but they just don’t cut it for tennis. My son puts in a lot of hours on the court and I can already see how his adidas shoes are pushing his big toe in!

That being said, do you think there really is a market for foot shaped, minimalist tennis shoes? I feel like I see people people asking for them, but when it comes time to buy shoes would they actually buy them?

Maybe that is why they don’t exist? Someone must have done the market research.
 
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Slicehand

Guest
No, closest thing is xero 360, a court shoe made by xero shoes, ok for light rallying, impossible to play decent level matches in them, besides that, only regular tennis shoes with extra wide fit, but not flexible or with 0 drop, ive done this research as well for some time as i only use barefoot shoes for everything else, but the best thing i found is wilson rush pro ace, not very durable but very wide by default, and cheaper than the k swiss hypercourt
 

kvan

Semi-Pro
A few months back I played a couple of friendly doubles sets against a 4.5-5.0 player who I had no idea played with xero shoes until we finished playing. It was doubles, of course, so lateral movement was limited compared to singles play, but he moved great serving and volleying. He was in his ~50s and had transitioned to using zero drop minimalist shoes for all his needs after struggling with a ton of leg/foot issues.

He mentioned his tennis shoes were his last set of shoes to transition, but he did it and had no qualms. Played great.

Overall, I’d say it’s doable but requires dedication to wear similar shoes outside of tennis too. Playing dubs also helps.
 
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Slicehand

Guest
A few months back I played a couple of friendly doubles sets against a 4.5-5.0 player who I had no idea played with xero shoes until we finished playing. It was doubles, of course, so lateral movement was limited compared to singles play, but he moved great serving and volleying. He was in his ~50s and had transitioned to using zero drop minimalist shoes for all his needs after struggling with a ton of leg/foot issues.

He mentioned his tennis shoes were his last set of shoes to transition, but he did it and had no qualms. Played great.

Overall, I’d say it’s doable but requires dedication to wear similar shoes outside of tennis too. Playing dubs also helps.
I tried it, i dont see posible to play at my level with those shoes, i use barefoot shoes for everything, running, hiking, casual... but when playing singles you have to do a lot of run and stop, the stopping part is the problem, believe me, i tried, theres a reason you wont see any decent level tennis match with barefoot shoes
 

Tennismom0803

New User
I tried it, i dont see posible to play at my level with those shoes, i use barefoot shoes for everything, running, hiking, casual... but when playing singles you have to do a lot of run and stop, the stopping part is the problem, believe me, i tried, theres a reason you wont see any decent level tennis match with barefoot shoes
Why can’t you stop? I just bought my son a pair of 360s. Told him not to play tennis in them, but to start using them for footwork drills, etc.
 
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Slicehand

Guest
Why can’t you stop? I just bought my son a pair of 360s. Told him not to play tennis in them, but to start using them for footwork drills, etc.
english is not my first language but i will try to explain it, its simple, in tennis you do a lot of sprints, either foward or sideways, but you have to stop in a very short space, a flexible shoes like the 360 just cant sustain that power without deforming itself, i ended up with almost all the upper under my foot, its too flexible and lightweigt, and im only 70 kg, but i play with a lot of intensity on the court, i love barefoot shoes, they are great for things that are natural for the body, like running, unfortunatly, tennis is not so natural and i believe you do need a tennis especific shoe, they could make a barefoot tennis shoe in the future, but the 360 is not enough, i use it for light rallying with my wife, but for match play or tournaments, i just lose so much performance, imagine trying to stop from a full sprint while barefoot on a tennis court, thats basically the feeling with those shoes, or worse, imagine sliding on a hardcourt while barefoot, just not posible, also forget about clay, just not enough grip whatsoever
 

WildVolley

Legend
Foot shaped shoes don't have to be minimalist shoes. Altra, for example, is moving primarily to highly cushioned shoes (and unfortunately offering fewer wide toe box models).

There would definitely be a market for foot shaped shoes, but it wouldn't be large. Most people, even on this board, are more concerned with aesthetics than performance. A foot shaped shoe won't look as good and therefore some people who might benefit by wearing one will still reject them.
 
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Slicehand

Guest
Foot shaped shoes don't have to be minimalist shoes. Altra, for example, is moving primarily to highly cushioned shoes (and unfortunately offering fewer wide toe box models).

There would definitely be a market for foot shaped shoes, but it wouldn't be large. Most people, even on this board, are more concerned with aesthetics than performance. A foot shaped shoe won't look as good and therefore some people who might benefit by wearing one will still reject them.
altra are not barefoot shoes, i have a pair of altra escalante and they have nothing to do with real barefoot shoes, they are not flexible nor have low stack height, they are just 0 drop and have wide toebox, but they cant be considered barefoot shoes
 

ls206

Hall of Fame
In my opinion, there's not a market for a minimalist tennis shoe. Most of the movement is lateral in some form or another, with a big emphasis on keep a wide base. This makes it near impossible to avoid heel striking. Even Federer who looks like he floats is having to heel strike:

But.. I think there would be a market for a more foot shaped shoe that doesn't cramp the toes. Even the "wide" shoes today still have fairly pointed toes.
 

WildVolley

Legend
altra are not barefoot shoes, i have a pair of altra escalante and they have nothing to do with real barefoot shoes, they are not flexible nor have low stack height, they are just 0 drop and have wide toebox, but they cant be considered barefoot shoes

Altra did offer at least one "barefoot" shoe early in their history: The Samson. It didn't sell well because it had horrible traction and breathability. I bought a used pair at a large discount, but still was a waste of money.
 

WildVolley

Legend
In my opinion, there's not a market for a minimalist tennis shoe. Most of the movement is lateral in some form or another, with a big emphasis on keep a wide base. This makes it near impossible to avoid heel striking. Even Federer who looks like he floats is having to heel strike:

But.. I think there would be a market for a more foot shaped shoe that doesn't cramp the toes. Even the "wide" shoes today still have fairly pointed toes.

NB offered a "minimalist" tennis shoe a while back. The model 60 was a fairly low stack height, very low drop, light-weight clay court shoe. I have a pair that I still keep for clay court play. It wouldn't be considered "barefoot" because it still has midsole cushioning, but less than most tennis shoes. That's the only tennis shoe I know of previously made by a big tennis shoe company that had almost a zero drop.
 
Some of you are confusing minimalist shoes with foot shaped shoes. Minimalist shoes for tennis I think is a bad idea, but if a company like Altra would make a tennis/basketball shoe with good lateral support I would 100% buy it. Zero drop, foot shaped, cussioned and good lateral support.

Oh and yeah most minimalist shoes are ugly as hell. Altra’s offerings are decent aesthetically.
 

WildVolley

Legend
Some of you are confusing minimalist shoes with foot shaped shoes. Minimalist shoes for tennis I think is a bad idea, but if a company like Altra would make a tennis/basketball shoe with good lateral support I would 100% buy it. Zero drop, foot shaped, cussioned and good lateral support.

Oh and yeah most minimalist shoes are ugly as hell. Altra’s offerings are decent aesthetically.

Prince used to offer a version of the foot-shaped tennis shoe with their NFS (Natural foot shape) lasted shoes. NFS-lasted shoes had more big toe length and room and were less pointed than most Prince shoes. They weren't as wide in the toe box as Altra, but basically expressed a similar design concept.

Unfortunately, they only offered them in very heavy stability shoes that were primarily being purchased by older players. I asked a representative here if they'd consider using the last on a lighter match model and they said definitely not.
 

Tennismom0803

New User
Have you considered the shoes by Merrell? Obviously not tennis specific.
There is that one Merrill I took a look at. I’ve avoided them a little because my past experience is that their shoes are SO HEAVY. I hated them when I used them for hiking. But that was a long time ago. Maybe they are better now?
 

tennis3

Hall of Fame
I, like many others, am frustrated with what is available in terms of footwear for tennis. As a family, we seek zero rise shoes with foot shaped toe boxes. We love our altras, but they just don’t cut it for tennis. My son puts in a lot of hours on the court and I can already see how his adidas shoes are pushing his big toe in!

That being said, do you think there really is a market for foot shaped, minimalist tennis shoes? I feel like I see people people asking for them, but when it comes time to buy shoes would they actually buy them?

Maybe that is why they don’t exist? Someone must have done the market research.
"Zero Drop" and "Minimalist" are different concepts.

  • Zero drop shoes are those with no difference between the height of the heel and the height of the forefoot. In other words, your entire foot is parallel to the ground.
  • Minimalist refers to a shoe with little or no cushioning under your foot

What exactly are you looking for? Or more to the point, why are you looking for Zero Drop or Minimalist shoes? What is the problem with "traditional" shoes that these shoes are solving for you?
 

Tennismom0803

New User
"Zero Drop" and "Minimalist" are different concepts.

  • Zero drop shoes are those with no difference between the height of the heel and the height of the forefoot. In other words, your entire foot is parallel to the ground.
  • Minimalist refers to a shoe with little or no cushioning under your foot

What exactly are you looking for? Or more to the point, why are you looking for Zero Drop or Minimalist shoes? What is the problem with "traditional" shoes that these shoes are solving for you?
I’m already seeing problems in my sons feet (middle school aged, top 200 player, very athletic) that I think relate to how his tennis shoes are shaped. First is the toe box… his big toe is no longer splaying out as it should. Also I feel like he is having some weakness on the outside of his foot that could be related to the excess stability and rise in the shoe. He doesn’t walk on his toes well. So I’m looking for something that will encourage more natural strength for proper growth and development. He also slides a lot and we are noticing him rolling his ankles. He never seems to be hurt - so maybe they are just really flexible… but I wish he could be in something lower to the ground for prevention.

The only shoes he wears are adidas ubersonics. Hard or clay depending on surface. Otherwise he is barefoot at home. He wears altras when we hike. He wears is tennis shoes ALOT though because he plays a lot. He goes through a pair of shoes every three weeks.

I just worry!
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
I, like many others, am frustrated with what is available in terms of footwear for tennis. As a family, we seek zero rise shoes with foot shaped toe boxes. We love our altras, but they just don’t cut it for tennis. My son puts in a lot of hours on the court and I can already see how his adidas shoes are pushing his big toe in!

That being said, do you think there really is a market for foot shaped, minimalist tennis shoes? I feel like I see people people asking for them, but when it comes time to buy shoes would they actually buy them?

Maybe that is why they don’t exist? Someone must have done the market research.
Top players are on their toes most of the time. Will that work with this footwear?
 
Prince used to offer a version of the foot-shaped tennis shoe with their NFS (Natural foot shape) lasted shoes. NFS-lasted shoes had more big toe length and room and were less pointed than most Prince shoes. They weren't as wide in the toe box as Altra, but basically expressed a similar design concept.

Unfortunately, they only offered them in very heavy stability shoes that were primarily being purchased by older players. I asked a representative here if they'd consider using the last on a lighter match model and they said definitely not.
Lol yeah. You can still buy them. https://bellracquetsports.com/prince-nfs-indoor-ii-men-black-white/
 

Bambooman

Hall of Fame
I’m already seeing problems in my sons feet (middle school aged, top 200 player, very athletic) that I think relate to how his tennis shoes are shaped. First is the toe box… his big toe is no longer splaying out as it should. Also I feel like he is having some weakness on the outside of his foot that could be related to the excess stability and rise in the shoe. He doesn’t walk on his toes well. So I’m looking for something that will encourage more natural strength for proper growth and development. He also slides a lot and we are noticing him rolling his ankles. He never seems to be hurt - so maybe they are just really flexible… but I wish he could be in something lower to the ground for prevention.

The only shoes he wears are adidas ubersonics. Hard or clay depending on surface. Otherwise he is barefoot at home. He wears altras when we hike. He wears is tennis shoes ALOT though because he plays a lot. He goes through a pair of shoes every three weeks.

I just worry!
I think your enthusiasm for the barefoot trend might have you seeing problems that aren't really there.
 

colan5934

Professional
I’m already seeing problems in my sons feet (middle school aged, top 200 player, very athletic) that I think relate to how his tennis shoes are shaped. First is the toe box… his big toe is no longer splaying out as it should. Also I feel like he is having some weakness on the outside of his foot that could be related to the excess stability and rise in the shoe. He doesn’t walk on his toes well. So I’m looking for something that will encourage more natural strength for proper growth and development. He also slides a lot and we are noticing him rolling his ankles. He never seems to be hurt - so maybe they are just really flexible… but I wish he could be in something lower to the ground for prevention.

The only shoes he wears are adidas ubersonics. Hard or clay depending on surface. Otherwise he is barefoot at home. He wears altras when we hike. He wears is tennis shoes ALOT though because he plays a lot. He goes through a pair of shoes every three weeks.

I just worry!
Keep his ankles strong and mobile, and he’ll be fine assuming no freak accidents. PM me if you’d like some resources
 

yossarian

Professional
There is that one Merrill I took a look at. I’ve avoided them a little because my past experience is that their shoes are SO HEAVY. I hated them when I used them for hiking. But that was a long time ago. Maybe they are better now?
Merrill make very light minimalist shoes. I have vapor gloves and they are feather light. However, they have absolutely no support and I’d never play tennis in them

If you’re concerned about foot and ankle weakness then have him do foot and ankle exercises
 

Sardines

Hall of Fame
The biggest problem with minimalist footwear and tennis footwork is the propensity to heel strike when stopping and turning for optimal footwork. It's just a bad idea. I run road/trails, bike, hike and even go out with "barefoot" soles. Even with badly cushioned shoes like the 796v3 or Ubersonic 4 (Lightstrike) after a few weeks, already can cause leg problems if used too long. So I would not suggest it.
 

CVT

Rookie
I have played tennis with barefoot shoes (vivobarefoot), but not on purpose. Overall, I don't recommend it. The negative is that Tennis is just a high foot impact sport - the split step is almost by definition a movement where you jam your foot into the ground with a twisting motion. Most barefoot shoes do not provide much lateral support, although I suppose such a shoe could be designed. I found it really easy to cause my foot a bit of pain as I played. The positive part about it was that I started to slightly tiptoe my way through points to lessen the foot strike. This had the benefit of overall improve my footwork. It didn't make me faster, but it made me much more conscious of where I was going to plant my feet. I had to be very careful not to slide past the ball and to make sure I kept balance - otherwise the shoes wouldn't help me stop. It made me take steps with much more balance. Even though I won't plan to use barefoot shoes when playing, there is something to learning the feel of more precise footwork from barefoot shoes. You could probably do the same thing barefoot or with flip flops. :)
 

CVT

Rookie
BTW, the reason I played with barefoot shoes is that I forgot to pack my tennis shoes in my bag. The shoes had a very flimsy sole (intentionally).
 
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