7 Best Basketball Shoes in 2024

Dimitrije Curcic
Dimitrije Curcic on
7 Best Basketball Shoes in 2024
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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-rounders, while others excel in a specific characteristic like grip or cushioning. Don't be overwhelmed, though, as we are here to guide you through your choice. After thoroughly testing basketball shoes in our lab and on the court, we highlighted here the best pics across different categories. 

How we test basketball shoes

To come up with our list of the best basketball shoes:

  • We purchase the shoes with our own funds so that we can proceed to review the shoes with total fairness.
  • We play and hoop in these shoes on both indoor and outdoor courts, so we will have a diversified feel of them.
  • Last but not least, we put these pairs through over 30 tests and measurements in the lab, where we dissect and scrutinise them more profoundly. 

To elaborate more on the tests we perform in the lab, we judge what factors affect the shoe's performance during our play and wear tests.

Best basketball shoes overall

Nike LeBron 21
85
Good!

What makes it the best?

Following the results of our games and lab tests, we found the LeBron 21 is a top performer. It features incredible cushioning technologies, high-quality materials, a supportive design, and a wonderful mix of bounce and shock absorption. That’s why it can stand proud as our #1 overall among the hoopers we’ve reviewed so far.

At 26.6/22.4 mm, our calliper indicates its stack height is closer to the ground than average. But its Zoom Turbo and Zoom Air technologies in the midsole create bouncy toe-offs and cushioned landings. We could feel this during our playtests, as it translated into better move control (when we performed complicated dribbles) and a more aggressive playstyle (more daring jumps and layups).

This was possible thanks to the stable nature of the LeBron 21. At 120.5 mm, our calliper told us what our feet already knew: there’s a lot of space to land comfortably. But these Nikes added yet another ingredient to their “Best overall” recipe: high-quality materials. This improved the containment and lockdown feel, as well as the shoe’s overall durability. Our Dremel could barely scratch this model’s toebox, which got a 5/5 in our durability test.

While the LeBron 21 is a beast on the court, it didn't only bite the surface but also our feet. This pair’s break-in period is rough and long. If you don’t feel like dealing with blisters, it might be better for you to explore more out-of-the-box comfortable options.

Pros

  • Wonderful performance overall
  • Amazing cushioning technologies
  • Nice bounce and shock absorption
  • High-quality materials
  • Great stability and supportive design
  • Good twist resistance
  • Effective grip
  • Eye-catching style

Cons

  • Not breathable
  • Rough and long break-in period
  • Pricey
Full review of Nike LeBron 21

Basketball shoes with the best traction

What makes it the best?

When it comes to having an amazing bite on the court, nothing comes close to the Under Armour Curry 10. Aside from great traction, we also appreciated this shoe for its outstanding breathability and lightweight structure.

During our playtests, stopping on a sixpence was never a problem. Even if this shoe doesn’t really have a real outsole, it is still able to provide multidirectional coverage, and boy was the bite strong and dependable!

Comfort was not put at the backseat, either, because this shoe just had the perfect breathability. We did our usual breathability tests in the lab, and we’ve seen that both smoke and light didn’t have issues going through the upper material. Getting a perfect 5 from us has never been that easy.

Compared to the 14.22 oz or 403g average, this shoe comes in really light at 12.63 oz or 538g. We were able to run faster and jump higher because of this lightness.

It’s just too regretful that this shoe isn’t really for those with wide feet. At its widest, the our calliper showed that the toebox is only 97.5 mm wide. The average goes as high as 101.0 mm.

Pros

  • Fantastic traction on indoor courts
  • Pronounced court feel
  • A lot of spring back
  • Flawless heel-to-toe transition
  • Highly breathable upper
  • Very supportive and stable
  • Pretty lightweight
  • Stylish design

Cons

  • Not suitable for outdoor use
  • So-so impact protection
Full review of Under Armour Curry Flow 10

Basketball shoes with the best cushioning

Nike G.T. Jump 2
87
Great!

What makes it the best?

Backed up by our basketball games and lab results, the G.T. Jump 2 offers some of the best impact protection we’ve ever tried. This Nike cushioning monster made every landing cloud-like, and we could happily forget about any obstacles that tried to mess with our jumps - that’s why it’s our best cushioned hooper!

To know more about its wonderful cushioning, we grabbed our calliper and measured its stack height at 35.6/29.2 mm. It’s one of the tallest hoopers we’ve ever tried! When we cut it in half, we discovered it’s got Nike React foam at the rearfoot, which made sure our feet had happy landings every single time. It also comes with a full-length Zoom Air strobel under the insole, so apart from being comfortable it’s also responsive.

Our durometer confirmed what we felt on the court: the midsole is 60% plusher than average at 16.0 HA. Also, the brand added a second foam so our feet wouldn’t sink into infinity. This EVA is 130% firmer than the React foam. We gave this Nike a 5/5 in our torsional rigidity test too, which goes in line with the safe and stable feeling our ankles enjoyed during our games.

Nevertheless, at 15.59 oz (442g), this shoe is substantially heavier than average. It might suit centres and bigger players that need some extra cushioning underfoot. But we felt its weight during our games, so if you’re a guard looking for a nimble pal, this isn’t it.

Pros

  • Extra powerful energy return
  • Outstanding impact protection
  • Dependable grip on clean courts
  • Solid support and stability
  • Very secure foothold
  • Highly breathable upper
  • Fits to a T

Cons

  • Zero court feel
  • Not for outdoor courts
  • Heavier than average
Full review of Nike G.T. Jump 2

Basketball shoes with the best stability

Jordan Luka 2
88
Great!

What makes it the best?

After many hours in the lab and playing on the courts, we discovered the Jordan Luka 2 wouldn’t let our feet leave their rightful place. Offering superb foot containment and an incredibly stable and supportive structure, this model has taken the throne as our number one basketball shoe with the best stability.

Our wear tests confirmed the structure of this shoe keeps our feet where they’re supposed to be. We didn’t feel any wobbliness or instability even after landing from a tough rebound or when we went for a backdoor cut. Its medial sidewall and TPU panel made sure our arches and feet were safe and stable. And its leather upper and strong lacing system were the cherry on top for this armour of a shoe.

In our lab, Jordan Luka 2 scored a 5/5 on our rigidity test, which means your ankles are way less prone to injury. The heel counter got the same score in stiffness, which we felt when it tightly embraced our ankles regardless of how aggressive or explosive our moves on the court were.

We were disappointed but not surprised when our feet wouldn’t stop sweating after playing for some time. This shoe’s tough materials prioritise stability, giving up breathability in exchange. We do not recommend wearing it in the summer or on hot indoor courts.

Pros

  • Insanely stable and supportive
  • Unmatched foot containment
  • Balance of court feel and impact protection
  • Good durability for indoor courts
  • Grips well on clean courts
  • Generously padded interiors
  • Spacious toebox

Cons

  • Not for outdoor courts
  • Outsole picks up dust quickly
  • Not breathable
Full review of Jordan Luka 2

Best lightweight basketball shoes

What makes it the best?

The Nike Zoom Freak 4’s weight (12.3 oz or 348g) is below the average (13.7 oz or 387g), so it helped us be more agile and to persist longer during our games. Its outsole is actually harder than average, making it more resistant to abrasion. The above-average hardness even makes it a worthy outdoor shoe. This shoe is also a beast when it comes to heel support because of its stiff counter. Given all these benefits, we hail the Zoom Freak 4 as the best lightweight shoe in our inventory.

We learned in the lab that while the outsole is not any thicker than average (4.0 mm vs 3.9 mm average), the rubber compound is actually harder. Our HC durometer pegged the Freak 4’s sole hardness at 84.5 when the average is 80.3.

The heel counter got a score of 4 out of 5 for firmness. We gave this rating after it showed considerable resistance when we squeezed and twisted it manually in the lab. Our feet loved this heel support!

Our digital force gauge showed that the Zoom Freak 4 needed 54.0N to bend at 90 degrees, this makes it more resistant than the typical shoe which would need only 41.9N. Players who need shoes that do so well with natural foot flexions might not be too happy with this pick.

Pros

  • Noticeable upgrades
  • Amazing grip on indoor courts
  • Dust-resistant outsole
  • Smooth steps
  • Pretty good court feel
  • Dependable impact protection
  • Jump-improving bounce
  • Reliably supportive structure
  • True-to-size fit

Cons

  • Not ideal for outdoors (but OK)
  • Not for bigger players and wide footers
  • Cheap-feeling materials
Full review of Nike Zoom Freak 4

Best basetball shoes for outdoor courts

What makes it the best?

Our experience and lab assessments tell us that the Cosmic Unity 3 from Nike is above all other basketball shoes in outdoor playability. We found that this shoe is above average when it comes to its outsole hardness, making it perfectly suitable for outdoor usage. Besides outdoor-worthiness, this Nike shoe was also a bomb because of its amazingly consistent bite and impressively durable upper.

We confidently used this shoe outdoors because we felt the unrelenting firmness of its rubber sole. Our findings on the HC durometer showed that the rubber material possessed a higher level of hardness (86.5) in contrast to the typical number (81.5). The harder the rubber, the longer it lasts in our experience.

When it comes to traction, the Nike Cosmic Unity 3 is an awe-inspiring beast. Aside from being consistent on both indoor and outdoor courts, we were amazed by how resistant it was to dust. The sole gripped the floors so well, even if we did not wipe it much.

The third thing that gives the Cosmic Unity 3 the edge over other shoes was the amazing durability of its toebox. In the lab, we performed the standard Dremel test. We saw that 12 seconds of high-pressure drilling barely left a mark on the material, pushing us to give it a perfect 5 for durability.

One thing that made us a bit concerned was its weight. It is indeed heavier than average (14.22 oz or 403g) at 15.66 oz or 444g.

Pros

  • Perfect for outdoor courts
  • Outstandingly durable
  • One of the most stable shoes
  • Wide platform
  • Very secure lockdown
  • Reliable traction on all courts
  • Breathable enough
  • Sustainable materials

Cons

  • Firm sole with poor impact protection
  • Heavier than average
  • Break-in needed
Full review of Nike Cosmic Unity 3

Best budget basketball shoes

What makes it the best?

We got the Air Max Impact 4 for £90 (the average price for Nike shoes is £140), and it surely delivered a lot more than we paid for and offered the best value for money among all basketball shoes. The most notable for us was the durability of its outsole, which made this shoe very effective for outdoor use. We also appreciated how bouncy the cushioning system was without ever sacrificing impact protection.

We measured the hardness of the outsole using an HC durometer, and we learned that the outsole of the Air Max Impact 4 is considerably harder than the average, 87.5 vs. 80.3. This explained why the shoe works wonders outdoors.

The midsole was subjected to calliper assessments in the lab. We found that the cushion right under the heel is quite thick (33.3 mm vs 29.0 mm average). We also loved that it compressed quite well whenever needed, effectively keeping our feet free from pain. When measured using an HA durometer, the midsole foam is also softer (25.5) than average (27.9). 

Aside from pampering our feet with its comfortable softness, it also gave us a lot of energy return. As a result, we were quite explosive as we ran past our opponents, and our jumps during rebounds and dunks were aptly energised as well.

It’s just too sad that this shoe is not really the most accommodating of wide-footers. Its actual width of 101.1 mm isn’t really more spacious than the 99.9 mm average.

Pros

  • Traction is consistently good
  • Responsive cushioning
  • Decent impact protection
  • Comfortable and well-ventilated upper
  • Dependable foot containment
  • Great for outdoor use
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Needs to be broken in
  • Not for wide-footers
Full review of Nike Air Max Impact 4

Why get basketball shoes?

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

As opposed to running shoes, good basketball shoes provide the following:

  • great multi-directional traction
  • more lateral and ankle support
  • more stable and grounded cushioning 

Great multi-directional 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.

More lateral and ankle support

A good basketball shoe withstands immense pressure from aggressive movements. The extra torsional stiffness and higher, more padded collar make this possible.

More stable and grounded cushioning

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. That's why basketball shoes on average have thinner and firmer midsoles compared to running shoes.

  Average heel stack Average forefoot stack Average softness*
Basketball shoes 30 mm 21.5 mm

26.2 HA (10% firmer than running shoes)

Running shoes 33.5 mm 24.5 mm 23.6 HA

*based on the HA durometer measurement where the smaller number means softer.

Nike Lebron NXXT GEN Drop
Basketball shoe midsole
Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 drop
Running shoe midsole

Choosing basketball shoes based on playing position

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.

Point/Shooting Guards

Guards are more agile and aggressive on the court. Their sudden direction changes, cuts, and crossovers call for excellent traction and ground feel in their footwear. Not-too-stiff low-top and mid-top collars are the best as they allow for ankle mobility during quick movements.

Point/Shooting Guards:  Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Donovan Mitchell, Luka Doncic, LaMelo Ball, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, Ja Morant.

Small Forwards

Small Forwards require versatility to contribute both offensively and defensively. Their playing style requires more generous cushioning and stronger ankle support.

Small Forwards: Kevin Durant, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum.

Power Forwards/Centres

Power Forwards need all the stability and impact protection that can get from a basketball shoe for the rigours of post-play. They require shoes with sturdy construction, substantial cushioning, and very strong ankle support.

Power Forwards/Centres: LeBron James, Zion Williamson, Shaquille O’Neal.

Court feel vs. impact protection

It is a rule of thumb that agile guards need a more intimate foot connection with the court while powerful forwards and centres need tonnes of cushioning. But there is also a lot of grey area in between.

Adidas D.O.N. Issue #4 outsole

To help you figure out how each basketball shoe feels underfoot, we cut each one in half in our lab to measure its heel and forefoot stack heights (a.k.a. cushioning thickness).

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Heel stack

Based on the data from dozens of dissected midsoles, we found that you can expect a better court feel from shoes with the following characteristics:

  • heel stack lower than 28 mm
  • forefoot stack lower than 24 mm

The opposite can be applied to shoes that provide more generous cushioning and impact absorption.

Finding the best fit in basketball shoes

Of course, getting the right basketball shoe size is essential to maximising your performance. But what’s not so obvious are the factors that affect your size-related decisions.

Nike Lebron NXXT GEN fit

Even within the same brand, different basketball shoe models can have a different amount of toebox space.

Nike Lebron NXXT GEN Toebox width at the widest part

In our lab, we measure both the widest part of each shoe's forefoot and the narrower part near the big toe. This gives us a better idea of the given shoe's toebox shape. That way, you can adjust by ordering half-size bigger or smaller.

Nike Lebron NXXT GEN Toebox width at the big toe

For all the big guys out there, here is our list of the roomiest basketball shoes.

Indoor or outdoor: get the right hoop shoe

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

But if you often play outdoors, here are a few characteristics of an outdoor-ready shoe:

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

We keep a category of hoop shoes that are suitable for outdoor courts in a separate category for your convenience. Before approving a shoe for outdoor use, we perform a series of tests on its outsole:

  • hardness of the rubber

New Balance TWO WXY V4 Outsole hardness

  • wear resistance of the rubber

  • thickness of the outsole

New Balance TWO WXY V4 Outsole thickness

Low-top or mid-top collar?

Up until 2008, basketball shoes have been synonymous with high collars. But it all started to change with the introduction of Kobe Bryant's first low-top signature shoe.

Low-tops quickly gained popularity among agile players whose playing style revolved around quick direction changes. This is all thanks to the greater freedom of ankle movement.

But the trend went even further, as the legendary power forward LeBron James himself introduced the low-top LeBron 20 in 2022.

nike-lebron-20-review.JPG

In our extensive research of over 30 studies on the topic, we found NO scientific evidence proving that the height of a basketball shoe collar affects athletic performance or the change of ankle/foot injury.

Thus, it all comes down to personal preference. And these days, there is a sea of options for both low-top and mid-top hoop shoes.

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.