10 Best Basketball Shoes in 2021

Dimitrije Curcic
Dimitrije Curcic on
10 Best Basketball Shoes in 2021

Basketball is a combination of running, jumping, quick stops, and abrupt direction changes. Regular trainers can support some of these movements, but only the right basketball shoes support them all.

Some shoes make for perfect all-arounders while others excel in a specific characteristic like grip or cushioning.

We have reviewed over 100 basketball shoes from 10+ different brands to single out the best options to date.

How we come up with the top 10 basketball shoes

To come up with our list of the top basketball shoes, we spent hours scouring the web for reviews left by players, expert reviewers, and even ordinary users who also wear their Adidas or Nike basketball shoes casually. 

Their scores are then weighted and averaged to come up with a corescore for each product.

Best overall

This is THE shoe!

If you are looking for a solid all-arounder that has it all - grip, cushion, support, comfort - the KD 14 is a phenomenal shoe!

Having tested over 100 basketball shoes, we find it the most versatile option that caters to a variety of playing styles.

You get a ton of grip, even on some dusty courts. There was no breaking in, the outsole had a fantastic bite from the start and we never had to stop and wipe it.

It’s got some of the softest cushioning units! The foam feels like a marshmallow and yet bounces back to help you sprint and jump. We were also astonished by the balance of impact protection and the court feel that it offers. Whether you are a heavier player or a nimble guard, you are going to feel at home in the KD 14.

There is an excellent lockdown courtesy of the wide, firm strap. Once all laced up and strapped, we completely forgot about having to tighten, loosen, or adjust the fit.

Overall, for $150, we cannot recommend any other shoe more than the KD 14! This is the best value-for-money option on the market right now!

See our full review and facts

$40 cheaper than our top pick, the Adidas Dame 7 is a more budget-friendly jack-of-all-trades.

There are very few shoes that we can wholeheartedly recommend for playing outdoors. And the Dame is our absolute favorite in this regard! With an exceptionally durable outsole rubber, we were able to play multiple games with barely any wear!

And it bites! While you may have to stop for occasional wiping on the really dusty floors, we felt no need for that on the average court.

While this is not the most well-cushioned option, it’s got some serious protection in the heel.

We find it to be a better option for lighter players and guards who value court feel over cushioning. The shoe is less padded under the forefoot, making it more sensitive to the court for some active footwork.

The lateral stability in the Dame is remarkable! The outriggers on the sides widen the base, which made us very surefooted on some fast-paced cuts.

Having laced up the shoe before the wear test, we never felt the need to adjust the fit. The shoe did an excellent job supporting our feet and ankles all throughout the game!

Overall, if you are a beginner or don’t want to splurge on the premium options, the Adidas Dame 7 is a 100% winner! And it is so ready to rock those blacktops!

See our full review and facts

Best grip

How did they do that?!

Just how could UA make such an insanely grippy shoe with zero rubber?! We can’t think of any other shoe that could compete with the Curry 8 in the grip department. If you want a basketball shoe that will help you feel surefooted when stepping on a banana peel, this is it!

And this model doesn’t fall short in the other departments either.

It’s got a wonderfully responsive cushioning that reminded us of Nike React and Adidas Boost. It is indeed so smooth that we felt like wearing a running shoe.

And, boy, that knit upper! Wrapping around the foot it feels so soft, so flexible. It’s almost like wearing a pair of socks.

And it almost weighs like a sock (well, a cushioned sock). At 12.1 oz, it is about 1.5 oz lighter than basketball shoes on average!

On top of it all, it is a very supportive shoe. There was zero foot movement or ankle rolling even when we tried our most aggressive side-to-side movements.

Catching our attention with its phenomenal grip, the UA Curry 8 was able to excel in the other departments as well. The shoe receives all praies from us!

See our full review and facts

This is a true beast from Puma and it BITES!

With its sensational grip even on dusty floors, the Clyde All-Pro helped us stop on a dime with zero slipping issues! There’s got to be something special about these all-foam soles used on this model and the Curry 8.

But our amusement with the shoe didn’t stop there.

The cushioning on this Puma shoe is excellent! It’s gotta be the best setup from Puma and feels a lot like the premium foams used on Nike models. We thoroughly enjoyed the bounce it gives without losing the court feel too much.

And it’s featherweight! Measuring at the impressive 11.9 oz, it’s almost 2 oz lighter than the average.

We just fell in love with its minimal, simple, and light upper. It accommodates the foot so well and looks so kick-ass, we just ended up wearing it casually after the wear test. You don’t want to take this beauty off!

The fans of low-top basketball shoes will rejoice with this Puma shoe. It allows for great ankle mobility and yet we never experienced any issues with support, lockdown, or heel slipping. This should be the role model for all low tops put there!

And even though grip is where this shoe shines the most, it could easily make it to our ‘Best overall’ too! Being such a well-rounded shoe at a reasonable price, it went beyond our initial expectations.

See our full review and facts

Best cushioning

So plush! So bouncy!

This is a truly well-cushioned shoe from Nike. We were awestruck by the perfect blend of responsiveness, impact protection, and court feel underfoot. This is one of the best setups that keeps you low to the ground and, at the same time, delivers a nice rebound.

But “plush” doesn’t end with the midsole.

Once you step into the Cosmic Unity, you experience a real unity with its form-fitting and soft knit upper. There is zero break-in time and the shoe just feels right straight from the box. We had no heel slippage or side-to-side instability in its supportive hug.

And what earned this shoe a big bonus from us is its sustainable approach. 25% of the materials are made of trash! It is incredible that recycled materials nowadays can score as high as the premium ones. Go Nike!

All throughout our wear-test game, the shoe felt solid and heavy-duty. As long as you limit its use to indoor courts, the shoe is going to last.

It’s got good traction too but only on clean courts. If you mostly play on dusty ones, we recommend having a look at our Best grip options.

All in all, if you’re after a high-class cushioning experience in a shoe that cares about the planet, the Nike Cosmic Unity is going to wow you!

See our full review and facts

If you are a big guy or love yourself some extra impact protection in the heel, your feet and knees will LOVE the Jordan 35!

It is a big boy asking for a steep price. And our wear-tests show that it lives up to the $180 price tag.

Everything about the shoe screams premium.

You’ve got Nike’s top-tier materials along with the futuristic design (see that eclipse plate in the middle?). Once you step into the shoe, your feet are immersed into all that luxurious comfort.

The cushioning was clearly the highlight for us. With an extra Zoom Ait unit in the heel, we felt supported all throughout the game. And even if you are a heavier player, your feet will stay fresh no matter how intense the game gets.

Ths Jordan XXXV is beastly solid! We were supported 360 degrees, experiencing no containment issues or rollover on lateral movements.

It’s got some really nice grip, especially on clean courts, but is not afraid of dusty floors. A quick wipedown solves all traction issues.

Overall, this is a shoe for serious players. It is an expensive model and performs like one. If you value excellent cushioning and reliable support, we highly recommend this version of the Jordans!

See our full review and facts

Best support

The Kyrie 7 has got some of the most secure lockdowns among basketball shoes!

Once you lace it up, the foothold is remarkable. We tried our heaviest jump stops in this shoe only to make sure that it can handle them all! The containment remains solid all throughout the game. We can highly recommend it for the nimble players who perform plenty of side-to-side movements and appreciate that extra ankle support.

It is also one of the lightest options, about 1.6 oz lighter than average. We were astonished by how much support and cushioning it packs for its 12 oz !

There is nothing about the shoe that could weigh you down. The upper materials also feel light and airy.

The cushion did not disappoint either. We were actually impressed by the highly responsive and bouncy ride. And yet it doesn’t kill the ground feel and we were able to maneuver quite surefootedly during the wear-test.

Traction-wise we would recommend staying away from the overly dusty courts but the outsole responds well once wiped.

So, if you can’t imagine a game without some solid ankle support or if you are a shifty guard who wants to maximize side-to-side movements, the Kyre 7 from Nike is the shoe to choose!

See our full review and facts

Another shoe that’s going to keep you steady and surefooted, the Jordan Why Not Zer0.4 really surprised us with its all-around support.

There is ZERO heel slippage, in-shoe foot movement, or wobbling. AT the same time, we experiences no hots spots, rubbing, or any other unpleasant sensations once tightening up the shoe. We also found the plastic heel shank at the back super helpful in stabilizing the rearfoot.

Another aspect of this Jordan shoe that we adored was the cushioning. If you were missing some extra bounce in the foreffot, there is now a double-stacked Zoom Air unit that is going to set you flying! Just be prepared that there is not much court feel with this trampoline.

The materials used on this Why Not version also contribute to the overall support and comfort. They may appear flimsy from the outside, but once you get the shoe going they do a fantastic job locking down your foot.

It’s not the grippiest shoe, but it’s strongest point definitely lies in the ankle support and stability departments.

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

Pssst. Want a premium basketball shoe for only $100?

That’s the Spawn 3!

Honestly, this shoe would easily make it to our Best overall, Best grip, and Best cushioning if its primary superpower wasn’t the price! It is a real steal!

You get INSANE grip even on dusty courts that lets you stop on a dime and change directions faster than you know it.

The cushioning on this Under Armour shoe can compete with some of the best setups from Nike (including the React foam). Amazingly bouncy, protective, and yet sensitive to the court, we are confident that this option will suit a variety of playing positions and styles.

The fit of the Spawn 3 just clicks. We didn’t expect much, judging from the shoe’s simple (if not cheap-looking) materials. But once the pair was on our feet, it couldn’t get any nicer and snugger.

And its 18%(!) lighter than the average basketball shoe!

Heck, you can even it don it for some outdoor games. The shoe’s outsole is even more durable than that of the $30+ pairs.

We can just keep listing all the benefits of this phenomenal shoe but you might as well see it for yourself.

The Under Armour did something exceptionally right with the Spawn 3.

See our full review and facts

Looking for the most simple, incredibly lightweight, and cheap basketball shoe?

For the ridiculous price of $70, Nike offers its best-selling Precision 5. And if that’s your budget limit for a pair of basketball shoes, there is no better option than that!

Nearly 4 oz lighter than the average, the Precision 5 is one of the lightest basketball shoes you can find on the market. It still comes as a surprise to us how the brand managed to pack a host of great features into 9.9 oz!

We were shocked at how consistent its grip is even on dusty courts! Sure, an occasional wiping is necessary and it’s not comparable to the Spawn 3 or Curry 8. But for $70, it was able to outperform some of the more expensive options!

Although the cushioning is very basic and rides on the firm side, we still received a very ample amount of protection. In return, you get a more grounded profile for quick movements.

We also loved the minimal, clean aesthetic of the shoe’s upper. No non-sense, no-frills, it simply works and is pleasant to the touch. Much better than some of the crazy designs made up of six different fabrics.

All in all, if you are new to basketball and just want the most basic yet functioning pair for occasional games, we highly recommend the Nike Precision 5. 

See our full review and facts

Why basketball shoes?

Logic says that because basketball involves a lot of running, it’s OK to play in your reliable Asics or Brooks runners. They’ve got traction. They’ve got a cushion. They even promise durability. But are these in the right amounts?

Why basketball shoes_(hi).png

Compared to running shoes, good basketball shoes need the following:

Great traction. Basketball needs good traction because of the complex footwork that it requires. There are quick stops, jumping, and a lot of lateral actions. These are high-intensity movements that a shoe designed for running is not prepared for. 

Slightly less cushion. Because of the complexity of their footwork, basketball players need to feel the court. Too much cushion can lead to dangerous movement miscalculations, slips, and falls. 

More support. A good basketball shoe withstands immense pressure from aggressive movements. The extra stiffness and weight that it has make this possible.

Choosing one basketball shoe among many seemingly great options is already a daunting task. You can make your search easier by following the 3 quick steps below.

Basketball shoes and playing styles

Basketball positions allow us to predict what movements a player most likely does during the game. Basketball shoes should correspond to the needs of the wearer’s playing position.

Basketball shoes and playing position (hi).png

Centers and power forwards are quite similar. Big and strong, they usually position near the basket to do rebounds or blocks. Reebok’s Shaquille O’neal and Nike’s LeBron James are among the most celebrated big men in the NBA. 

Small forwards, point guards, and shooting guards are more aggressive with their movements. Smaller and more agile, they are pretty mobile and more physically engaged with their opponents. Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry are great examples. 

Generally, basketball shoes must provide a secure lockdown regardless of what role the wearer plays on the court. To ensure this, the best shoes are often equipped with laces, which you can tie in different ways depending on the size and shape of your foot. View quick lacing demonstrations here.

Finding the best fit in basketball shoes

It’s obvious that you should get the right size to maximize a shoe’s potential. What’s not so obvious are the factors that affect your size-related decisions. 

Brands fit differently.  RunRepeat is equipped with a tool that helps you find the right size given the brand. This tool can also use your actual size, brand preference, and inputs from other users to come up with sizing recommendations.

Consider the thickness of your braces. Ankle braces provide additional support to your foot. Braces basketball players use are thicker than normal. If you plan to wear braces, get shoes that are at least half a size larger than your usual shoe size.

Don’t forget the aesthetics

Low or high, know what you want. Low-tops are not really better performers than high tops, and vice versa. It’s just a matter of preference. 

Know your color. Basketball shoes are available in thousands of colorways. Some of these colors allude to NBA teams, NBA events, popular holidays (e.g. Easter and Christmas), and even political advocacies (e.g. Black History Month).

Indoor or outdoor: The sturdiness test

The basketball shoe industry is largely driven by the NBA. As such, brands rarely release shoes that are deliberately for outdoor hooping. 

If you often play outdoors, you need to know how to assess a shoe’s outdoor playability. Here’s our suggestion:

how to assess a shoe’s outdoor (hi).png

The best basketball shoes for wide feet

We have to be blunt, top basketball shoe creators like Jordan and Adidas rarely release products that are really for those with wide feet. Buyers will really have to rely on reviews of fellow wide-foot players before they make purchase decisions. 

In the first half of 2020, LeBron James’s LeBron 17 and Paul George’s PG3 from Nike and Chris Paul’s CP3 12 from Jordan are among the basketball shoes voted to be the best for wide-foot players. 

A lacing technique can also help in making regular shoes fit wide feet better. You can watch a quick demonstration here.

How do I break in my basketball shoes?

There are shoes that need break-in time so that they can be worn more comfortably. There are many ways to break in basketball shoes. The following are some.

  • Hold the shoe by the heel and then twist the toe area left and right using the other hand. Do this as many times as needed to soften the upper. Softening helps the material conform to the foot better. 
  • Wear the shoes daily with a thick pair of socks for at least ten minutes.  After a week, try a different pair of socks while doing household chores. You may look funny wearing high-end kicks in your home, but doing this makes the shoe court-ready quickly.
  • Use the shoes outdoors during your light indoor gym workouts such as in treadmill running. Don’t lift heavy weights while in basketball shoes as this might put too much pressure on the footwear.
  • Practice playing basketball in your basketball shoes. Basketball practices introduce the shoe to your unique movement patterns. After a few weeks, the basketball shoes should be ready to hit the court for some real action.
Author
Dimitrije Curcic
Dimitrije Curcic

Dimitrije Curcic has been playing basketball for over 22 years. Like Manu Ginobili, he’s a left-hander whose moves led him to a better career-shooting percentage than the Argentine himself. After playing professionally for 10 years, Dimitrije moved to coaching for two seasons before he became a basketball statistician for StatScore, and FanSided contributor for the San Antonio Spurs. Dimitrije loves to tell hoop stories through numbers and graphics and has been featured on Fansided, FiveThirtyEight, Eurohoops, and TalkBasket among the others.