The short answer to this question is no, you do not need to have tennis shoes to play tennis and you can get by playing with regular runners.
However, it is recommended that you do use tennis shoes to play tennis as tennis can be hard on your feet and it is important that you have tennis shoes that provide you with good lateral support as in tennis you will be moving side to side a lot more than in other sports e.g. running.
Most runners are not designed for this kind of lateral movement so you will find that your lateral footwork will suffer.
This might not be much of an issue if you are a beginner but as you improve you will find that it becomes more and more of an issue for you.
Many tennis clubs also have a rule where members and non-members are required to wear appropriate footwear when playing on their courts.
This is especially true for all court surfaces as you will usually be denied entry if you are wearing ordinary runners.
Types of Tennis Shoes
The type of tennis shoe you use will depend on what court surface you will be playing on i.e. Grass, Hard Court, or Clay.
You also have the option of going for all court tennis shoes which are designed to suit all court surfaces.
Grass Court Tennis Shoes
Grass Court tennis shoes are designed for use on tennis courts that have natural or artificial grass surfaces.
Grass Court tennis shoes have pimples on the outsole which provides the player with extra grip so they are less likely to slip on natural or artificial grass surfaces.
As they are specifically designed for grass courts, they shouldn’t be used on regular hard courts or clay courts.
Hard Court Tennis Shoes
As a hard court can be more demanding in terms of wear and tear, you should look for hard court shoes that have a tough outsole.
It is also important that your hard court shoes are as comfortable as possible and provide you with adequate cushioning as hard courts can be rough on your leg joints.
Clay Court Tennis Shoes
When looking for clay court shoes, you should look for shoes that will give you good grip on the clay.
It is also important that the shoes have durable outsoles as you will be doing a lot more sliding on a clay court.
Clay Court Tennis Shoes are also usually ok to use on a hard court as they have many of the same characteristics as good hard court shoes.
All Court Tennis Shoes
As mentioned previously, All Court Tennis Shoes are designed to work on the three main surface types and are probably a good option if you are just starting playing tennis.
I use all court tennis shoes myself (Yonex Lumio) as I like the balance and the lateral support they give me.
Recommended Tennis Shoes
K-Swiss Defier (Our Recommended All Court Tennis Shoes)
The K-Swiss Defier is perfect if you are looking for comfortable all court tennis shoes with versions available for men and women.
Head Mens & Womens Sprint Pro 3.0 (Our Recommended Grass Court Tennis Shoes)
The Sprint Pro range of tennis shoes from Head is a good option if you are looking for a light weight and comfortable tennis shoes to use on a grass court.
ASICS Men’s Gel-Dedicate 7 Clay Tennis Shoes (Our Recommended Tennis Shoes for Clay Courts)
The ASICS Men’s Gel-Dedicate 7 Clay Tennis Shoes are a great option for clay courts as they give you great grip and have a durable clay court outsole.