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R&R Tennis Shoe Awards 2023

2023 has been another great year for tennis shoes — today, we're crowning the best of the best.
R&R Tennis Shoe Awards 2023 Featured Image

There have been plenty of fantastic releases spanning all the categories, and it's becoming more common for shoes to excel in most areas rather than go all in for one while sacrificing everything else. Still, tennis shoes are usually designed to target one of comfort, support or speed, so we'll be handing out an award for each category, and at the end, we'll crown our best overall shoe of the year.

To be eligible for a 2023 R&R Tennis Shoe award, the shoe must have come out in 2023, and of course, we must carry it at the store. Also, a shoe is only eligible for one award per year — that means that if it's the best lightweight/speed shoe of 2023, it can't also win the best shoe for support. 

Without further ado, let's start handing out some awards.

The Best Shoe for Support and Stability

At its core, a tennis shoe is meant to be supportive and stable before anything else because of the nature of lateral movement in the sport. Twenty years ago, to achieve adequate support, shoes were built like bricks. However with developments in technology, this category has evolved, and now the best support shoes can also be comfortable, sleek, and even, sometimes, lightweight.

Without a doubt, the best shoe for support in 2023 is the Asics Court FF 3.

 

 

When Novak Djokovic moved from Adidas to Asics, he helped develop the Court FF to suit his personal needs. We all know how Djokovic moves — he covers more ground than anyone in history — and his shoe needs to hold up under that stress. The Court FF 3 has rock-solid stability during lateral cuts. The heel cup is reinforced like few shoes we've ever tried, and the combination of a neoprene, one-piece tongue with a full rubber encasing makes for an upper with strictly zero rollover.

On top of that, technological developments within the outsole, like the Twisstruss plastic shank, provide astonishing energy return, which helps make lateral movement even more efficient. 

Asics is still a step ahead in terms of supportive, stability shoes; the Gel-Resolution 9 is the only shoe that can rival the Court FF 3 in this category, but still, Djokovic's signature model takes the Rundie home with relative ease.

 

The Best Shoes for Comfort

We don't like to generalize here but, in general, New Balance shoes are very comfortable. It was difficult to pick between the 996 and the CT-Rally in terms of which is better for comfort, but in the end, the CT-Rally edges it.

 

 

New Balance shoes are comfortable, first and foremost, because the brand puts a major emphasis on developing natural and flexible uppers.

The CT-Rally evolved from the LAV V2, and the biggest improvement came in the upper because, and that was important because it was not great on the LAV. The stiffness and awkwardness that players felt when flexing that shoe is gone on the Rally; instead, your foot lies in a mesh-woven cocoon that feels more like a comfortable moccasin than what you would expect from a shoe that is also this stable.

On top of that (technically "below that" because we're going to talk about the outsole), but the outsole is also comfortable, while still being reactive and sturdy enough for hard-court movement. It has quite a bit of give to it, which makes for a plush ride that adds to the overall comfort experience, and it's what pushes it above the 996 for us.

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The Best Lightweight Speed Shoe

Brands have been rapidly developing the lightweight,  speed category over the last several years, and with good reason. If a shoe is light, it helps give players a sensation of speed, which translates to more efficient movement on the court. Some people still associate these shoes with a lack of stability, structure, or durability, but that isn't the case nowadays. The Nike Vapor Pro 2 is one of the most well-rounded offerings while also being the best lightweight shoe of the year.

 

 

Interestingly enough, players were generally disappointed when the Vapor Pro 2 first came out. The original Vapor Pro was a favourite amongst amateurs and professional players, and the 2 was a significant step in a different direction. Nike kept the weight low but went for a much more natural-fitting upper, which made it significantly more comfortable and only took away a bit of its support.

Speed shoes aren't just about weight, though. The Vapor Pro 2 has a low stack height, providing a grounded feel, which adds to that ultra-responsive movement that you want from this style of shoe. Combining that softer upper and lower stack also makes for a natural flex, so you don't feel any part of the shoe fighting with your foot.

It's important to note that if you want to make a good lightweight, speed shoe in 2023, it must provide a good sliding experience, and the Vapor Pro 2 is one of the best for that. The outsole's rubber durometer is hard, so you can slide for a while, but initiating and exiting the slide is also very consistent, so it never feels like you're slipping.

Of course, these characteristics come at a slight durability cost, but it's not too big of an issue. Like I mentioned, this is a well-rounded shoe and while durability won't rival the likes of a Gel-Resolution or Court FF, it's certainly not a shoe you'll be toasting in three sessions.

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The Best Overall Shoe

There's this weird myth in the industry that the Gel-Resolution is Asics' all-out stability shoe and that the Court FF offers a better combination of stability and speed. In reality, it's the opposite — the Gel-Resolution is (and has been for a while now) the only tennis shoe that is truly elite in both these categories while also being comfortable and durable. It's, without a doubt, the best shoe of 2023.

 

 

The Resolution 9 represents years of development and refinement on a model that never ceases to amaze reviewers and shoe-fitters with its performance. The initial step-in comfort is some of the best on the market, so it's easy to slide on and appreciate right away, but it's when you take it to the court that you realize just how special it is. 

It shouldn't be possible for a tennis shoe to be so supportive and stable, provide such efficient energy return during lateral cuts, and yet flex so naturally to the point where you forget you're wearing a tennis shoe. 

This is what happens when, instead of completely overhauling your shoe from one model to the next, you make incremental changes geared towards specific playability improvements. On the 8, Asics introduced the Dynawall sidewall that added so much energy return on lateral cuts, and on the 9 they restructured the upper to make it more comfortable and flexible without sacrificing support. It terrifies me to think they'll somehow improve the Resolution again with the 10.

Before that, though, the 9 is about as perfect as they come, and the only reason you wouldn't want to get one is if it doesn't fit your foot, and admittedly, it does have a unique cut. It is a bit narrower in the forefoot, so for those of you with extremely wide feet, you may want to avoid the standard model, but the good news is, there's a wide (2E) version.

 

 

That concludes our Tennis Shoe Rundies for 2023. We're fortunate to play in a time where there is a tennis shoe for every type of player, and it's especially nice to see that, while it wasn't always the case, comfort and support can go hand in hand.

If need help picking out a pair of shoes, you can always visit our amazing shoe fitters in-store, or you can check them out online!

 

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