7 Best Basketball Shoes in 2024
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.
We have reviewed over 100 basketball shoes from 10+ different brands to single out the best options to date.
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
Basketball shoes with the best traction
Basketball shoes with the best cushioning
Basketball shoes with the best support
Best lightweight basketball shoes
Best basetball shoes for outdoor courts
Best budget basketball shoes
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
26.2 HA (10% firmer than running shoes)
*based on the HA durometer measurement where the smaller number means softer.
Basketball shoe midsole
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.
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.
Small Forwards require versatility to contribute both offensively and defensively. Their playing style requires more generous cushioning and stronger ankle support.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Even within the same brand, different basketball shoe models can have a different amount of toebox space.
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.
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:
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
- wear resistance of the rubber
- thickness of the outsole
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.
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.