Do Kids Need Basketball Shoes? Helpful Guide for Parents

When your child shares their aspirations of becoming a professional basketball player, they will ask to join a team and for a new pair of basketball shoes. You may be thinking to yourself, “Sure thing, that’s great! But what’s wrong with the tennis shoes I bought you last month?” This would be the time for parents to wonder if they should spend money to buy a pair of basketball shoes for their kids and how much they would cost.

The most recent data estimates the average cost of raising a child born in 2020 from birth to eighteen years of age is $284,570, according to the Department of Agriculture. A child’s health and happiness are priceless, no doubt, but it’s hard not to run a quick cost-benefit analysis at every purchase that doesn’t seem critical to life or death.

According to the world’s biggest online retailer, the average cost of kids’ basketball shoes ranges from $20 to $70. If you invest around $40 or more, you can expect a decent pair of basketball shoes for your kids.

A solid, reliable pair of basketball shoes is an absolute necessity for your child’s success and safety. For every sport, alas, there is a shoe – and for a good reason. Every sport tasks the body differently, and each sports’ respective shoe is designed for optimal support and performance for their respective sport.

This article is a complete parent’s guide to evaluating which basketball shoe is right for your child. In it, we’ll cover:

  • Why basketball shoes are a must for the sport
  • The Three basic heights of basketball shoe
  • Key qualities and features of shoe design
  • Setting a budget, and
  • Three websites to get you started.

With a better understanding of the basketball shoe marketplace, you’ll be able to find a shoe that both you and your budding superstar or sneakerhead love.

What do Basketball Shoes Offer that a Sneaker Doesn’t?

The short answer is yes. As we alluded to earlier, each sport – baseball, football, soccer, tennis, track, wrestling, lacrosse – all of them have their own specific shoe designed to meet the specific challenges of their respective sports. Basketball is no different.

If your child is shooting around on the hoop in your driveway and only walking after their makes and misses, or only going to play once at a friend’s house, or doesn’t really seem all that interested in the sport, it’s easy to rationalize them just putting on any old shoe. But, if they intend to play in games, whether pick-up at the park or in organized leagues, forgoing purchasing them the proper footwear can be a dangerous decision.

Prolonged play in improper footwear can increase the possibility of injury by putting your child’s ankles and knees in jeopardy with improper support – an idea we’ll be repeating a lot in the article to drive the point home. Sneakers are often designed for leisure activity or for purposes of style, and while they may feel comfy and supportive, they often cannot withstand the wear tear of athletic activity.

Basketball shoes are designed primarily to support the ankle and provide adequate cushioning to accommodate the quick-cutting and high-flying nature of the sport. While many other shoes claim to address some potential vulnerabilities, basketball shoes make these areas of concern their top priority.

No shoe can prevent injury, and many injuries are freak accidents decided by chance – but in a high quality basketball shoe, your child can play at 110% with as much confidence in their safety as you could possibly have.

When looking through shoes and reading the short-hand descriptions of each shoes’ respective qualities, there are no definitions provided to aid understanding. Getting to know the terminology is key to knowing what each shoe has to offer.

Picking the Right Height for Kids Basketball Shoes

While different basketball shoes boast different materials, specialties and advantages, they generally come in three distinct heights – each of which offering something a bit different. Shoe height is defined by the type of ‘top’ the shoe is said to have – either low, mid, or high.

  • Low-Top – The top of these shoes sits below the ankle, much like a traditional sneaker would. These shoes are built for speed and agility and often are made with lightweight materials.
  • High-Top – The top of these shoes varies, but always comes above the ankle, providing the most support possible. These shoes often are designed with additional padding and more traction as well.
  • Mid-Top – The top of these shoes usually sits around the ankle, with some differences in how the top is cut. Think of mid-tops as offering the best of both worlds, featuring more ankle support than a low-top and more lightweight than a high-top.

Qualities and features to keep in mind

In addition to different heights, basketball shoes also are designed with a variety of specs that each add something to the overall quality. Shoe quality can be determined by a variety of factors, but much can be defined by a few key characteristics and features.


The easiest path to injury is wearing a shoe that doesn’t fit right. Your foot shouldn’t feel locked into the shoe tightly, but shouldn’t be slipping around loosely, either. Look for a shoe that leaves a little room at the front of the big toe (no-more than half an inch) and holds the rest of the foot snugly.


The cushioning of the shoe has more to do with durability than comfort, but the two are inseparable. Adequate cushioning is key to shoes that last long and ensure as much safety as possible. Most shoes have either air or foam cushioning, and while both have their own advantages, the responsiveness of the cushioning – as in when the shoe is pressed into the ground is the only key difference; most believe air cushioning is more responsive.


Will your child be playing outdoors or indoors, on pavement or hardwood floors? The outsole of the shoe is what comes into contact with the ground, and is usually made of synthetic material or rubber. A good Outsole largely determines the traction of the shoe, and many different patterns are out there. It’s important to look through reviews for reasons we’ll get into, but reviews are a great place to learn how good the traction (and durability generally) actually is in practice.


Once entirely made of leather, basketball shoe material composition has changed dramatically. Many players now favor a new-age synthetic shoe design, claiming they are more breathable and durable at more affordable prices. However, it’s common that shoes have mixed materials in their design – with leather incorporated with synthetic materials, rubber, mesh, and canvas.

How much do Kids Basketball Shoes Cost?

The price of basketball shoes ranges wildly, and some of the shoes that are marketed as being the leading shoes in the game might be making your stomach drop, like the popular trend Nike Kyrie 5 Spongebob Basketball Shoes. Aiming for a good support shoes that prevent injury is more recommended than brand. Like you would with any other purchase, it’s important to keep in mind what you’re buying the shoes for, and who they are for.

You know your child and your unique situation better than anyone. The shoe you’re in the market for depends critically on your unique situation. Here are some additional things to keep in mind when it comes to pricing:

Where your child is at in their commitment to the sport should be the biggest consideration in which shoe you buy. If your child is a beginner at the sport, maybe aim for a lower-cost quality shoe with good reviews. If they’ve been playing for a while or are likely to stick with it, don’t be afraid to spend more for higher quality.

Many of the costlier sticker prices are for basketball shoes that are worn primarily for purposes of style. If your child is an aspiring sneakerhead – a lover of and collector of shoes for the culture – they may be suggesting shoes that cost significantly more than you think is reasonable. This could make for a good Christmas present – but aren’t the best investment if they’ll be played in and worn down constantly.

Shoe reviews are super helpful. Many times, they’re left by people who have worn the shoe personally and can provide insight into their experience and level of satisfaction. For kids’ shoes, these reviews can be doubly helpful – they’re often left by parents, just like you!

Three Stores to Begin Your Search

With everything you need to know about what makes a great basketball shoe, you’re ready to begin your search! Rather than going to the website of whatever shoe brand comes to mind first, check out these three websites, where you can explore a variety of brands at a range of prices.

  • Foot Locker – Hundreds of the most in demand basketball shoes can be found here, with a revolving inventory of fresh finds.
  • Eastbay – Similar to Foot Locker, but more diverse in its offerings, with rarer shoes in addition to more affordable models.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods – Boasting a best price guarantee, Dick’s is a low-cost leader that’s a great place to find inexpensive options that look great.