Top 25 Best Basketball Shoes for Guards | Forwards | Centers

For anyone serious about basketball, a pair of high quality and right basketball shoes is the best investment you can make in your game. Some people like to say that shoes do not matter, it is all about your skills. But anyone who has ever spent any significant amount of time playing basketball can tell you that is not true. Your basketball shoes matter to your game.

Let’s say you’re a guard and have excellent ball handling skills, but you feel that you’re’re not quick enough. Maybe it’s not because you’re not fast enough, it may be that your current shoes are holding you back. There are basketball shoes that’s designed for quick guards that need traction for explosive forward & lateral movement, and there are ones that’s made for big men with better support, so you don’t get hurt coming down from grabbing the offensive boards.

Best Basketball Shoes for Guards

Model
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
adidas Men's Crazy X 4 Basketball Shoe, Core Black/Silver...
Nike Men's Kyrie 6 Basketball Shoes (10, Black/White)
adidas Dame 6 Shoe - Unisex Basketball Core Black/White
adidas Unisex Harden Stepback Indoor Court Shoe, Core...
Preview
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
adidas Men's Crazy X 4 Basketball Shoe, Core Black/Silver...
Nike Men's Kyrie 6 Basketball Shoes (10, Black/White)
adidas Dame 6 Shoe - Unisex Basketball Core Black/White
adidas Unisex Harden Stepback Indoor Court Shoe, Core...
Traction
9.9
9.8
9.5
9.2
8.4
Cushion
9.4
8.5
8.9
8.6
8.3
Support
9.0
9.0
8.4
8.0
9.0
Outdoor
9.2
8.8
8.2
8.4
8.0
Score
37.5
36.1
35.0
34.2
32.7
Prime
-
-
-
Model
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Preview
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Traction
9.9
Cushion
9.4
Support
9.0
Outdoor
9.2
Score
37.5
Prime
-
Price
Model
adidas Men's Crazy X 4 Basketball Shoe, Core Black/Silver...
Preview
adidas Men's Crazy X 4 Basketball Shoe, Core Black/Silver...
Traction
9.8
Cushion
8.5
Support
9.0
Outdoor
8.8
Score
36.1
Prime
-
Price
Model
Nike Men's Kyrie 6 Basketball Shoes (10, Black/White)
Preview
Nike Men's Kyrie 6 Basketball Shoes (10, Black/White)
Traction
9.5
Cushion
8.9
Support
8.4
Outdoor
8.2
Score
35.0
Prime
Price
Model
adidas Dame 6 Shoe - Unisex Basketball Core Black/White
Preview
adidas Dame 6 Shoe - Unisex Basketball Core Black/White
Traction
9.2
Cushion
8.6
Support
8.0
Outdoor
8.4
Score
34.2
Prime
-
Price
Model
adidas Unisex Harden Stepback Indoor Court Shoe, Core...
Preview
adidas Unisex Harden Stepback Indoor Court Shoe, Core...
Traction
8.4
Cushion
8.3
Support
9.0
Outdoor
8.0
Score
32.7
Prime
Price

Best Basketball Shoes for Forwards

Model
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Nike Men's Lebron 17 Basketball Shoes (10.5,...
Nike Mens KD 13 Bred Basketball Shoes CI9948-002...
Nike PG 4
Nike Zoom KD 12 Basketball Shoes (11.5, Black/Pure...
Preview
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Nike Men's Lebron 17 Basketball Shoes (10.5,...
Nike Mens KD 13 Bred Basketball Shoes CI9948-002...
Nike PG 4
Nike Zoom KD 12 Basketball Shoes (11.5, Black/Pure...
Traction
9.9
9.2
8.8
9.4
9.0
Cushion
9.4
9.9
9.2
8.8
8.6
Support
9.0
9.0
8.8
8.2
8.5
Outdoor
9.2
8.8
8.3
8.0
7.8
Score
37.5
36.9
35.7
34.4
33.9
Prime
-
-
Model
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Preview
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Traction
9.9
Cushion
9.4
Support
9.0
Outdoor
9.2
Score
37.5
Prime
-
Price
Model
Nike Men's Lebron 17 Basketball Shoes (10.5,...
Preview
Nike Men's Lebron 17 Basketball Shoes (10.5,...
Traction
9.2
Cushion
9.9
Support
9.0
Outdoor
8.8
Score
36.9
Prime
Price
Model
Nike Mens KD 13 Bred Basketball Shoes CI9948-002...
Preview
Nike Mens KD 13 Bred Basketball Shoes CI9948-002...
Traction
8.8
Cushion
9.2
Support
8.8
Outdoor
8.3
Score
35.7
Prime
Price
Model
Nike PG 4
Preview
Nike PG 4
Traction
9.4
Cushion
8.8
Support
8.2
Outdoor
8.0
Score
34.4
Prime
Price
Model
Nike Zoom KD 12 Basketball Shoes (11.5, Black/Pure...
Preview
Nike Zoom KD 12 Basketball Shoes (11.5, Black/Pure...
Traction
9.0
Cushion
8.6
Support
8.5
Outdoor
7.8
Score
33.9
Prime
-
Price

Best Basketball Shoes for Centers

Model
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Nike Men's Lebron 17 Basketball Shoes (10.5,...
Nike Lebron Soldier XIII SFG TB Basketball Shoes, CN9809-002...
Nike Mens KD 13 Bred Basketball Shoes CI9948-002...
Nike Zoom Freak 1 Mens Basketball Trainers Bq5422 Sneakers...
Preview
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Nike Men's Lebron 17 Basketball Shoes (10.5,...
Nike Lebron Soldier XIII SFG TB Basketball Shoes, CN9809-002...
Nike Mens KD 13 Bred Basketball Shoes CI9948-002...
Nike Zoom Freak 1 Mens Basketball Trainers Bq5422 Sneakers...
Traction
9.9
9.2
9.2
8.8
8.2
Cushion
9.4
9.9
9.0
9.2
8.4
Support
9.0
9.0
9.2
8.8
9.3
Outdoor
9.2
8.8
9.1
8.3
8.0
Score
37.5
36.9
36.5
35.7
33.9
Prime
-
-
Model
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Preview
Jordan Air Jordan XXXIV Basketball Shoes
Traction
9.9
Cushion
9.4
Support
9.0
Outdoor
9.2
Score
37.5
Prime
-
Price
Model
Nike Men's Lebron 17 Basketball Shoes (10.5,...
Preview
Nike Men's Lebron 17 Basketball Shoes (10.5,...
Traction
9.2
Cushion
9.9
Support
9.0
Outdoor
8.8
Score
36.9
Prime
Price
Model
Nike Lebron Soldier XIII SFG TB Basketball Shoes, CN9809-002...
Preview
Nike Lebron Soldier XIII SFG TB Basketball Shoes, CN9809-002...
Traction
9.2
Cushion
9.0
Support
9.2
Outdoor
9.1
Score
36.5
Prime
-
Price
Model
Nike Mens KD 13 Bred Basketball Shoes CI9948-002...
Preview
Nike Mens KD 13 Bred Basketball Shoes CI9948-002...
Traction
8.8
Cushion
9.2
Support
8.8
Outdoor
8.3
Score
35.7
Prime
Price
Model
Nike Zoom Freak 1 Mens Basketball Trainers Bq5422 Sneakers...
Preview
Nike Zoom Freak 1 Mens Basketball Trainers Bq5422 Sneakers...
Traction
8.2
Cushion
8.4
Support
9.3
Outdoor
8.0
Score
33.9
Prime
Price

Air Jordan XXXIV

Air Jordan XXXIV was debuted in September 2019, almost 35 years after the original Air Jordan I was introduced in 1984. As Air Jordan launched its 34th generation, the long-lived shoe line has shown no sign of slowing down. Quite the contrary, it is speeding up.

Air Jordan XXXIV is one of the most forward-looking Air Jordans in recent years. Instead of playing up the model’s heritage and nostalgia, it is setting its sights squarely on the future. It is the lightest Air Jordan in history, weighing in at an impressive 13.1 oz for a men’s size 9.

There is less cushioning in the XXXIV when compared to earlier generations of Air Jordan. That is the price you pay for having such a lightweight. That trade-off is well worth it in my opinion. Less cushioning also brings out a better court feel. Happily enough, the shoe’s support and stability do not suffer as a result of its low weight.

With this shoe, Jordan Brand has managed to strike an excellent balance between low weight, cushioning, court feel, and support.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Great court feel
  • Good stability and support
  • Herringbone traction pattern works really well
Cons
  • Some might prefer the heavier cushioning of earlier Air Jordans
  • Expensive: $180

Great For:

  • Guards and wing players who attack the basket through explosiveness
  • Power players who want good ankle support but still want a good court feel

adidas Harden Vol. 4

Unlike earlier generations of adidas Hardens, Harden Vol. 4 is equipped with Lightstrike instead of Boost cushioning. The resulting padding feels a little bit less plush than before. But you get a much lighter shoe in return.

Support is good for a low top, just like the previous generations of Harden. Stability is great. Traction is one of the best you can find on the market.

One thing to be careful about: different colorways of Harden Vol. 4 come with different upper materials. So pay attention before you hit that “Buy” button.

Overall, Harden Vol. 4 is the best Harden released by adidas so far.

Pros
  • Very lightweight
  • Great court feel
  • Good traction
  • Good list price: $130
Cons
  • Inconsistent upper materials: some colorways come with Primeknit uppers, others come with mesh
  • Lightstrike cushioning a tiny bit less plush than the usual Boost cushioning

Great For:

  • Guards who break down defense with agility
  • Wing players who run constantly

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who hang down low

Nike Kyrie 6

Kyrie Irving is commonly believed to have the greatest handle of all time. His handle and drives are mesmerizing. The explosion, the sudden change of direction, the stopping on a dime – they are all so fluid yet abrupt. Without a doubt, Irving has one of the most aesthetically pleasing games in the history of the NBA.

Irving’s latest signature shoe from Nike, Kyrie 6, is built for his game. Traction is exceptional, all the better to support the wearer to break down the defense by starting and stopping and cutting and changing direction. It is very lightweight, just what you would expect from a shoe designed for a point guard. Court feel is excellent. Cushioning is actually better than previous models in this series: the Zoom Turbo in the forefoot is very bouncy

Pros
  • Exceptional traction – one of the best out there
  • Very lightweight
  • Great court feel
  • Zoom Turbo cushioning is very bouncy
  • Good list price: $130
Cons
  • Sizing is off: runs small
  • Upper material feels non-premium

Great For:

  • Agile guards who start and stop and change direction constantly
  • High-flying wing players

Not So Great For:

  • Low post players who need to fight for position constantly

adidas Dame 6

Like Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard is a superstar point guard who makes a living out of leaving his defenders in the dust. His weapon is his explosiveness and agility. Dame 6 fits well with his arsenal.

Dame 6 is custom made for perimeter players. Traction is the number one priority. And it shows. Dame 6’s traction is not quite as good as that of Kyrie 6’s. But it is close. On the other hand, Dame 6’s cushioning is a bit better – its Lightstrike cushioning is very comfortable yet very light.

The design of Dame 6 is beautiful – one of the most eye-catching basketball shoes you will find anywhere.

Pros
  • Great traction
  • Very lightweight
  • Good court feel
  • Lightstrike cushioning is comfy
  • Very stylish
  • Great list price: $110
Cons
  • Upper material feels a bit cheap

Great For:

  • Agile guards who start and stop and change direction constantly
  • High-flying wing players

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need good ankle support

Nike Lebron 17

As Lebron James ages, his game evolves accordingly to adapt to his declining athleticism. The last several years have witnessed James’ transformation from a high-flying slasher into a power player. Nike Lebron 17, the latest in the Lebron series, complements this new playing style of Lebron perfectly.

Cushioning and protection is the top priority of Lebron 17. It comes equipped with a massive Max Air unit in the heel plus 2 15mm maximum volume Zoom Air units in the front plus a very soft Phylon foam midsole. The result is a level of cushioning and comfort you will not find in any other basketball shoes. Walking in a pair of Lebron 17 feels like walking on clouds.

The trade-off you make for all that heavy duty cushioning is a loss of court feel. Some might not like that. Stability is great. Support is excellent – the shoe really locks in around your foot and ankle. Traction is very good.

Pros
  • Best cushioning to be found anywhere
  • Good traction
  • Great stability and support
Cons
  • Minimal court feel
  • On the heavy side
  • Expensive: $200

Great For:

  • Power players who need good ankle support and best in class impact protection
  • Post players who want great traction to support complex footwork

Not So Great For:

  • Agile guards and wing players who value court feel
  • Players who move constantly who want a lightweight shoe

adidas Harden Stepback

Harden’s offensive game is lethal. Of all the moves in Harden’s arsenal, none is as deadly as his step-back threes. It is one of the most efficient scoring moves the game of basketball has ever seen. Can Harden Stepback live up to the rarefied standard set by Harden’s step-back?

First thing first, Harden Stepback is a budget basketball shoe listed for $80. Think of it as the cheaper version of Harden’s flagship signature shoe Harden Vol. 4. At $80, Harden Stepback gives you great value for your money.

Traction is good but not exceptional. There are slips here and there occasionally.

Cushioning in Harden Stepback is… weird. The shoe comes with adidas’ proprietary Bounce cushioning. Normally, you would expect a very soft and plush cushioning with Bounce. But the padding in Harden Stepback feels thinner and firmer. That’s a trade-off made by the designers of this shoe. In return, you get a much more responsive court feel. Perfect for an agile perimeter player.

Overall, Harden Stepback is a great shoe when taken into account its low price. Is it as good as flagship shoes that cost twice as much? No. Is it one of the best shoes you can get for $80? Absolutely.

Pros
  • Great value at only $80
  • Excellent court feel
  • Good traction
  • Good stability & support
Cons
  • Some might find the cushioning too firm and too thin
  • Upper material feels cheap

Great For:

  • Agile guards and wing players who value court feel
  • People who do not want to spend too much

Not So Great For:

  • Power players with a physical style of play

Nike Zoom KD 13

Kevin Durant is one of the most versatile offensive players in the history of the NBA. Three pointer, mid range, free throw, drive and finish in traffic, score in the post – he can score from anywhere on the court in any way imaginable. His signature shoe KD 13 is equally multifaceted.

The full-length Zoom Air is very comfy yet responsive. There is a second Zoom Air unit stacked in the forefoot underneath the full-length Zoom Air. Overall, cushioning in KD 13 manages to strike the right balance between impact absorption and court feel.

Traction and support are both very good, just what you would expect from a flagship signature shoe. In a departure from KD 12, KD 13 has the 4-way Flywire cable removed. Fortunately, stability does not suffer as a result.

On the other hand, the materials do not feel very premium, at least not as premium as its $150 list price would suggest.

Pros
  • Great court feel
  • Good cushioning with a great bounce
  • Good traction
  • Excellent stability & support
Cons
  • Material feels non-premium
  • Some might find cushioning too firm

Great For:

  • Guards and wing players who need to stop on a dime for a pull-up jumper
  • Slashers who need to take an explosive first step to drive to the hoop
  • Post players who want traction and court feel to support their footwork

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need heavy cushioning for foot protection

Under Armour Curry 6

Curry is the greatest shooter in the NBA. Of all time. His three point shooting is absolutely out of this world. To get open enough to take a three point shot, Curry is always in motion. He runs under, over, around, and through screens nonstop to get separation from his defenders. And then he stops on a dime for a deadly pull up jumper.

That style of play puts tremendous demand on the traction and stability of his shoes. Happily, Curry 6 rises to the challenge and delivers on both ends in spades. The circular tread pattern on the sole provides excellent grip in all directions. The outsole does have a tendency to gather dust, so you would need to wipe it down regularly when playing on dusty courts. Stability is just as good due to the wide base of the shoe.

The outsole is on the soft side. So it will not last long if you wear it for outdoor basketball.

The shoe comes with a full-length HOVR cushioning. It strikes a good balance between being soft and being bouncy. And best of all, it still manages to give its wearer a good deal of court feel.

If I have to name one shortcoming, it is that the upper materials do not feel very premium.

Pros
  • Great court feel
  • Excellent traction
  • Great cushioning – best in the Curry series so far
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Outsole is a bit soft – not very durable and not for outdoor use
  • Upper materials could be nicer

Great For:

  • Guards and wing players who need to stop on a dime for a pull-up jumper
  • Perimeter players who run nonstop over/under screens to get separation

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need heavy duty ankle support
  • Outdoor players

Nike PG 4

Paul George is one of the best two way players in the NBA. He can lock down his man one on one. He plays exceptional help defense. And he also has a potent offensive game. In short, he can do it all.

PG 4 mirrors Paul George’s versatility. Its circular tread pattern provides best in class traction in all directions. Whether you are moving laterally while defending your man or changing direction abruptly while slashing to the hoop, PG 4 will give you the grip you need.

The full length Nike Air footbed offers a cloud-like cushioning that is very comfy yet responsive. This shoe is soft enough to feel like a pillow.

Fit is somewhat tricky. The shoe runs a bit short so you probably need to go up ½ size. But then the shoe may be a bit too wide.

Support is a bit lacking – some users are reporting that their feet have a tendency to slide around in the shoes.

Pros
  • One of the best traction you will find anywhere
  • Very comfy cushioning
  • A great value at a list price of $110
Cons
  • Run short – may need to go up ½ size, which then may make the shoe too wide
  • Support is a bit lacking – foot may slide around in the shoe

Great For:

  • Guards and wing players who need to stop on a dime for a pull-up jumper
  • Defensive stoppers who need to move precisely in all directions

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need heavy duty ankle support
  • People with narrow feet – shoes may feel too wide for you

Nike Zoom KD 12

Just like Zoom KD 13 which is higher up on this list, KD 12 is equipped with a full-length Zoom Air unit. Unlike KD 13 which has a second Zoom Air unit stacked in the forefoot, KD 12’s second Zoom Air is stacked in the heel. I personally prefer KD 13’s arrangement but the cushioning in KD 12 is still very good – comfy and bouncy.

Traction is great and consistent. If the court is too dusty you might need to give the outsole a quick wipe. After that, it is good to go.

Outsole shows some wear and tear after just a week of wear indoor. It’s not going to last long outdoor.

Support is great. The 4-way Flywire cable just locks your foot down. No slippage at all.

And like KD 13, materials are a weak spot. They just do not feel premium given KD 12’s $150 price tag.

Pros
  • Good cushioning with a great bounce
  • Good traction
  • Excellent stability & support
Cons
  • Material feels non-premium
  • Outsole not durable – not for outdoor use

Great For:

  • Guards and wing players who need to stop on a dime for a pull-up jumper
  • Slashers who need to take an explosive first step to drive to the hoop

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need heavy cushioning for foot protection
  • Outdoor use

Under Armour HOVR Havoc 2

Traction is good. It gives a good grip on both linear and lateral movements. Initially, there was a certain amount of slipping. But that went away after a break-in period of a week or so.

Another good thing about the outsole is that it is very hard and sturdy. It will last a long time and this shoe is perfect for outdoor use.

The HOVR foam cushioning is a bit on the light side. For those who need a lot of protection, this is probably not the shoe for you. On the other hand, energy return is good and the foam feels bouncy enough. Court feel is decent – not the best, but you can still feel the ground under your feet.

The molded textile upper is comfy with good breathability.

A midfoot TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) shank, an outrigger, and a heel counter all work together to provide great support and stability.

Pros
  • Great support and stability.
  • HOVR midsole provides good energy return
  • Hard and sturdy outsole – great for outdoor use
  • Good traction after a break in period
Cons
  • Cushioning feels a bit thin

Great For:

  • Guards and wing players who need to stop on a dime for a pull-up jumper
  • Slashers or defensive stoppers who need to move precisely in all directions

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need heavy duty cushioning

Nike Zoom Freak 1

The world has never seen a player quite like Giannis Antetokounmpo: 7 feet tall but moves like a guard. His hands are absurdly gigantic, enabling him to palm a basketball with one hand off the dribble. Very strong but also very quick. Explosive. Can jump out of the gym. Can take over a game both offensively and defensively. He can do it all. Well, all except shooting from outside.

No wonder at the ripe old age of just 24 he was already the MVP of the NBA. In the best sense of the word, Antetokounmpo is truly a freak. Freakishly athletic, freakishly strong, and has freakishly large hands.

Zoom Freak 1 is built for Antetokounmpo’s unique game. This shoe’s court feel is exceptional. Court feel is important for a player like Antetokounmpo who relies on his explosiveness and footwork to get to the hoop.

Cushioning is unusual. There is no cushion in the forefoot. But there are 2 double-stacked Zoom Air units under the heel. This arrangement preserves court feel while gives maximum impact protection for high-fliers landing on the floor. Once again, custom made for Antetokounmpo’s game. But for those who look for heavyweight full-length cushioning, this is not the shoe for you.

Support is good despite not having a shank plate. There are internal bands over the forefoot to securely lock your foot in place.

Traction is good, but somewhat inconsistent. If you play on a dusty court, you might need to wipe the outsoles regularly.

Upper materials could be more premium, given this is a premium priced signature shoe.

Pros
  • Great support and stability.
  • Exceptional court feel
  • Exceptional cushioning at the heel
Cons
  • Cushioning lacking at the forefoot
  • Traction inconsistent
  • Upper materials do not feel premium

Great For:

  • Slashers or post players who value court feel over all else
  • Power players who need great support and stability

Not So Great For:

  • Players who want full-length cushioning
  • Guards who need excellent traction for constant cutting and changing direction

Nike KD Trey 5 VII

KD Trey 5 VII is the budget model from Kevin Durant. Listing for $90, it is quite a bit cheaper than Durant’s $150 flagship shoe KD 13. How much performance are you giving up by opting for the cheaper model? Let’s find out.

Like most other Kevin Durant shoes, traction is great – as good as that of some flagship signature shoes that cost significantly more.

Cushioning is comfy but lack the bounce of KD 13’s cushioning. If you want a shoe with plush cushioning, you will love this shoe. If you are looking for something responsive and bouncy, keep looking.

Support and stability are OK but not great.

Upper materials feels cheap. That is not a surprise as this is a budget model.

Pros
  • Great traction
  • Comfy cushioning
Cons
  • Cushioning lacks bounce
  • Upper materials feel cheap

Great For:

  • Shooters who run and change direction constantly to get open
  • Post players who need great multi-directional traction to support their footwork

Not So Great For:

  • High-fliers who want a bouncier cushioning

Nike Lebron Soldier XIII SFG

Lebron Soldier XIII SFG is Lebron James’ budget model. At $140, it is as expensive as the flagship signature shoes from most other NBA players. But it is still quite a bit cheaper than Lebron’s $200 flagship, Lebron 17.

The deep herringbone tread pattern offers great traction in all conditions. The rubber outsole is sturdy enough to last a long time for outdoor play.

This shoe comes with a full-length Phylon foam and 2 Zoom Air units – 1 in the forefoot and 1 in the heel. Cushioning is very soft but lacks bounce. For $10 more, Zoom KD 13 offers a better bounce with a full-length Zoom Air plus another Zoom Air double-stacked in the forefoot.

Support and stability are great, with the laceless closure offering a lot of lockdown.

Pros
  • Great traction
  • Excellent support and stability
  • Cushioning is very soft
Cons
  • Cushioning lacks bounce
  • Materials do not feel premium

Great For:

  • Slashers who rely on their explosiveness to get to the hoop
  • Post players who need support and impact protection

Not So Great For:

  • High-fliers who want a bouncier cushioning

adidas Marquee BOOST

This shoe has a full-length BOOST foam for cushioning. Impact protection is great. It feels very soft. Normally, BOOST foam also gives a nice bounce – that bounce is missing here.

The herringbone tread pattern is a bit shallow. It provides good traction, as long as the court is clean. When there is dust, the traction suffers. You would need to wipe down the outsole regularly in that case.

Support and stability are great: the wide base, the outrigger, and the heel counter all work well together.

Pros
  • Great support and stability
  • Cushioning is very soft
  • The high version offers great ankle support
Cons
  • Cushioning lacks bounce
  • Traction is inconsistent: works on clean courts but not on dusty floors

Great For:

  • Post players who need ankle support and impact protection

Not So Great For:

  • High-fliers who want a bouncier cushioning

Under Armour Anatomix Spawn 2

With a $100 list price, Anatomix Spawn 2 is more of a budget shoe than a premium shoe.

For a budget shoe, the cushioning of Anatomix Spawn 2 is very good. The Micro G foam found in this model is comfortable yet responsive. It also provides excellent court feel. However, some might find the foam a bit too firm.

Traction is great. The herringbone pattern offers a good grip in all directions. Also, there is no need to break in the shoe.

There is a TPU cage along the midsole that offers good support and stability.

Pros
  • Good support and stability
  • Cushioning is comfy yet responsive
  • Traction is great
Cons
  • Cushioning is a bit firm
  • Materials feel a bit cheap

Great For:

  • Slashers who beat their defenders with explosiveness

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who want soft cushioning for protection

adidas N3XT L3V3L

N3XT L3V3L is adidas’ most expensive basketball shoe. At $180, it is more expensive than any NBA player signature shoes in adidas’ lineup – including Dame and Harden. Is it worth its high price?

The first thing you will notice about N3XT L3V3L is its design. It has a very unique and futuristic look. Some people love it, some hate it. I love it.

Traction is very good on clean courts. On dusty floors though, traction suffers a bit unless you wipe the outsole regularly. The rubber outsole is on the soft side, so do not expect it to last long for outdoor use.

Cushioning is great. Instead of the usual Boost, it uses the new Lightstrike foam which is very lightweight and comfortable.

The entire upper is knitted using adidas’ Primeknit tech. It looks and feels very nice, living up to the shoe’s $180 price tag.

Support is great. Even though it is laceless, it still manages to lock your foot down. A TPU midfoot shank adds to its stability.

Pros
  • Great support
  • Very lightweight
  • Cushioning is comfy
  • Primeknit upper feels nice and premium
Cons
  • Traction is inconsistent – does not work very well on dusty courts
  • Soft outsole – not for outdoor use

Great For:

  • Perimeter players who run and cut constantly
  • Indoor usage on clean courts

Not So Great For:

  • Outdoor use
  • Playing on dusty courts

Nike PG 3

Cushioning feels a bit too firm at first. But after a few days of wear, the softness comes out. The Zoom Air unit in the forefoot give it an extra bounce.

Traction is where PG 3 truly shines. The outsole is covered in tiny rubber cups inspired by moon craters. They grip onto the floor firmly without interfering with your movements.

Support and stability are good. The internal heel counter, the lacing system, and the outrigger all do their jobs well.

Materials feel cheap. Look is also underwhelming.

Pros
  • Exceptional traction
  • Good support
  • Cushioning strikes a good balance between being soft and bouncy
Cons
  • Materials feel cheap

Great For:

  • Perimeter players who run and cut constantly
  • Defensive stoppers who need to move laterally

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need heavy duty cushioning

Under Armour Lockdown 4

Lockdown 4 is a budget model from Under Armour. With a retail price of $65, it is the cheapest shoe on this list.

Lockdown 4 uses the basic EVA foam for cushioning. While it is not one of those fancy proprietary technologies, it gets the job done. It is comfortable and lightweight.

Traction is good but not outstanding. The sole gives a good grip on all directions.

Synthetic leather upper feels cheap. Not a surprise given the cheap price.

Overall, Lockdown 4 is a competent basketball shoe that offers a great value given its low price.

Pros
  • Very good value
  • Good traction
  • Cushioning is comfy
Cons
  • Synthetic leather upper feels cheap

Great For:

  • Perimeter players who run and cut constantly

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need heavy duty cushioning

Under Armour Jet

Like Lockdown 4, Jet is a budget model from Under Armour. Jet is slightly more expensive than Lockdown 4, with a list price of $75 to Lockdown 4’s $65.

Similar to Lockdown 4, Jet uses the basic EVA foam for cushioning. The midsole feels soft and responsive enough.

Traction is also similar to that of Lockdown 4’s: good but not outstanding.

There is an internal midfoot shank that provides support.

The leather and textile upper feels slightly nicer than that of Lockdown 4’s.

Overall, Jet is very similar to Lockdown 4. It is marginally nicer. But that in my mind does not justify its $10 premium over Lockdown 4.

Pros
  • Good value
  • Good traction
  • Cushioning is comfy
Cons
  • Materials do not feel premium

Great For:

  • Perimeter players who run and cut constantly

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need heavy duty cushioning

adidas Pro Next 2019

Pro Next 2019 is a budget model from adidas. List price is $80.

Unlike some other budget shoes, Pro Next 2019 does not use the generic EVA foam for cushioning. Instead, it uses adidas’ proprietary Cloudfoam, which is a bit softer and more comfortable than EVA foam.

Herringbone tread pattern on the rubber outsole provides good multi-dimensional traction

The leather and mesh upper feels somewhat cheap. Some users also complain that the upper hurts their feet during the break-in period.

Pros
  • Good value
  • Good traction
  • Cushioning is nice
Cons
  • Materials don’t feel premium
  • Upper hurts feet during break-in period

Great For:

  • Perimeter players who run and cut constantly

Not So Great For:

  • Post players who need heavy duty impact protection

Under Armour Curry 3Zero 3

Curry 3Zero 3 is a budget model from Steph Curry selling for a list price of $90. That is significantly cheaper than Curry’s flagship signature shoe Curry 6, which carries a list price of $130.

Despite its low price, the traction on Curry 3Zero 3 is surprisingly good, almost as good as the Curry flagship shoe Curry 6.

The Micro G cushioning is adequate. It does not give you the full scale shock absorption you can find in, say, a Lebron 17. It is also not on the same level as Curry 6. On the other hand, the thin layer of midsole foam means you get excellent court feel.

The materials feel somewhat cheap. But for a shoe that sells for $90, it is understandable.

Pros
  • Very reasonable price: $90
  • Great court feel
  • Excellent traction
Cons
  • Shock absorption leaves something to be desired
  • Material feels a bit cheap

Great For:

  • Guards and wing players who need to stop on a dime for a pull-up jumper
  • Slashers who need to take an explosive first step to drive to the hoop

Not So Great For:

  • Power players who need heavy cushioning for foot protection

Nike Kyrie Flytrap II

Kyrie Flytrap II is Kyrie Irving’s budget model. It retails for $80, much cheaper than Irving’s flagship model Kyrie 6 which retails for $130.

Traction is very good, but not quite as good as that of Kyrie 6. It works in all directions. Even better, the outsole is sturdy enough for outdoor play.

Both court feel and support are good.

Cushioning is its biggest weakness. It is too firm. There is a Zoom Air unit in the forefoot but it is too small to make a difference.

Pros
  • Very good traction
  • Sturdy outsole – good for outdoor use
  • Good price: $80
Cons
  • Cushioning too firm

Great For:

  • Agile guards who start and stop and change direction constantly

Not So Great For:

  • Low post players who need to fight for position constantly
  • High-fliers who need impact protection

Nike Zoom Rize

Zoom Rize retails for $140 – more expensive than some flagship signature models such as Kyrie 6. But it is a lot cheaper than Lebron 17.

Cushioning is good. Zoom Rize lacks a full-length Zoom Air unit, but there is a huge 10mm Zoom Air in the forefoot. This, together with a midsole foam, give good cushioning. However, court feel does suffer as a result.

Traction works well on clean courts but dusty courts require regular wiping of the outsoles.

Support is generally good. But occasionally, the wearer’s foot ends up sliding slightly on the footbed when making hard lateral cuts.

Pros
  • Good traction
  • Bouncy cushioning
Cons
  • Lacks court feel
  • Inadequate support for hard lateral cuts

Great For:

  • High-fliers who want bouncy cushioning and impact protection

Not So Great For:

  • Perimeter players who need to constantly make hard lateral cuts

adidas D.O.N. Issue #1

This is Donovan Mitchell’s first signature shoe. It retails for $100.

It comes with adidas’ Bounce cushioning. It is bouncy and provides good court feel. Impact protection could be better though.

The materials actually feel very nice and more premium than the shoe’s $100 price tag would suggest.

Traction is where it disappoints. The tread pattern is too shallow to really give a good grip, especially when the court is dusty.

Pros
  • Good court feel
  • Bouncy cushioning
  • Materials feel premium – especially given its relatively low price
Cons
  • Poor traction
  • Impact protection could be better

Great For:

  • Spot up shooters who value good court feel

Not So Great For:

  • Perimeter players who move around and change directions constantly
  • Power players who need impact protection

How to Define a Good Basketball Shoes

It used to be the case that if you wanted a new pair of basketball shoes, your choices were Nike, Jordan Brand, and maybe adidas. But things have changed. In the last few years, many more brands are paying more attention to the performance basketball shoe market. You have Under Armour, Puma, Fila, New Balance, Converse, and more all vying for your business these days. How are you going to find the best basketball shoe?

The best basketball shoe is the one that best suits your position and personal playing style. Through features such as cushioning, traction, and support, it can both elevate your game and help prevent injuries. Other considerations such as fit, durability, material, construction, and design are also important.

A good basketball shoe can elevate your game onto the next level. Shoes that are lightweight can improve your speed and endurance. Shoes with good energy return can help your explosiveness and jumping. Shoes with good traction help your agility by making it easier for you to sprint, stop, and cut. Shoes with good cushioning and support help your post game by protecting your feet and ankles and making it easier to grind it out down low.

A good shoe can also save you from developing chronic pain and debilitating injuries. The game of basketball can be harsh on your body – the constant motion of sprinting, jumping, changing direction, taking explosive first steps, and stopping on a dime can take a heavy toll on your bones and ligaments. Basketball shoes with good cushioning, support, stability, and traction can help you avoid many types of injuries such as ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, knee ligament sprains, and ACL tears.

For the rest of this article, we will first go over a list of the top 25 basketball shoes that are on the market today. Then we will discuss how frequently you should replace your basketball shoes. Finally, we will offer a guide on how to choose your next basketball shoes. Things to consider include how your position and play style affect your shoe choice, how to evaluate features such as cushioning and support, and how the different types of basketball shoes (high top vs. mid top vs. low top) compare.

When To Replace Basketball Shoes

So there you go, our top 25 basketball shoes. No matter how picky you are, you will likely find a shoe that suits you on that list.

Next, I want to talk about how often you should replace your basketball shoes. Turns out many people do not replace theirs often enough.

Playing basketball is not just harsh on your feet, it is also harsh on your shoes. The constant sprinting, cutting, jumping, and stopping will rapidly break down the structure of your shoes and compromise their stability.

According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, common basketball shoe materials such as EVA or polyurethane midsole “all have a fatigue factor that greatly influences function of foot and stress delivered to bone and soft tissue structures.”

Once a shoe component is past its fatigue threshold, it will not be able to do its job of protecting your feet. Your bones and ligaments will be exposed to undue stress, which will increase your risks of injuries in your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back.

This is why replacing your basketball shoes frequently is so important.

It is not enough to just replace your shoes when they look worn out. By the time there is significant wear and tear on your shoes, it is already too late – the shoes’ support and cushioning have already been compromised.

According to Michael Lowe, DPM, and team podiatrist of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, professional basketball players often replace shoes every 2 to 3 days or games. And that policy has been found to greatly decrease the rate of injury to these players.

What about non-professional players?  Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen of Podiatry Associates suggests that high school and college players should replace their basketball shoes every 2 months.

For casual basketball players, Dr. Kathleen Weber of Midwest Orthopaedics suggests replacing your shoes after 75 to 100 hours of use, or when you experience a noticeable increase in aches and pains.

How to Choose Basketball Shoes

In this buyer’s guide, we will go over the factors you need to consider when picking your new pair of basketball shoes.

Player Positions/Styles vs. Shoe Types

Your basketball position/style plays a big role in determining what types of shoes are best for you. So before you choose a basketball shoe, you should first understand your own game. Let’s go through the main player positions and styles:

Ball Handlers

Ball handlers have the ball in their hands most of the time. They control the tempo of the game and run the offense. They break down the defense through their explosive first steps or unpredictable dribbling and movements.

Most ball handlers are point guards, but there are also shooting guard and small forward ball handlers. Examples of ball handlers include Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul.

Above all else, ball handlers need shoes that provide great traction, which helps them to take explosive first steps, change dribbling directions, or stop on a dime. Support and stability is also very important – you don’t want your feet to slide around in your shoes when you accelerate or stop or change direction suddenly. Some ball handlers also prefer shoes that give them a good court feel. Low-weight is another important factor.

Slashers

Slashers attack the basket. They drive through traffic, twisting and turning to get to the hoop. They are high-fliers. They take flight and dunk.

Most slashers are wing players including shooting guards and small forwards. Examples of slashers include Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Slashers need shoes with traction so that they do not slip when they drive to the basket. As they twist and turn their ways to the hoop, they also need shoes with good support and stability. Court feel is also important for their drives. For taking off from the floor, they need shoes with bouncy cushion. When they land on the floor again, they need shoes with good impact protection. To help with jumping and slashing, low-weight is also important.

Cutters

Cutters constantly run around the court, going over and under screens to get open for a jump shot.

Cutters are mostly perimeter players such as point guards or shooting guards. Examples include Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Ray Allen.

To assist their constant movement of changing speed and direction, cutters need shoes with great tractionSupport and stability are also critical in making sure they don’t sprain their ankles.

Spot-up Shooters

Spot-up shooters run to open spots on the floor and wait. When they catch a pass, they spot up and shoot quickly.

Spot-up shooters can either be guards or forwards. Examples include Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick.

Spot-up shooters need well balanced all around shoes with good court feel.

Defensive Stoppers

Defensive stoppers stay in front of their man, hounding and defending one on one.

They can either be guards or forwards. Examples include Draymond Green and Gary Payton.

When defending, defensive stoppers need to make rapid and precise lateral movements constantly. As such, they need shoes with exceptional traction, support, and stability.

Power Players

Power players overpower their defenders. They attack the basket in a straight line and muscle through the defense.

Power players tend to be forwards. They are thick and fast. Examples include Lebron James and Blake Griffin.

Power players are heavy and they sustain a lot of physical contacts. They need shoes with great soft cushioning to absorb shocks and protect their feet. Support and stability are also critical in preventing injuries during their power moves.

Post Players

Post players play inside or near the paint. They play with their backs to the basket. They have intricate footwork and moves and countermoves to get off their shots. They can also turnaround and fade away to shoot over their defenders.

Most post players are power forwards or centers. Examples include Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal. But guards can also be great post players – Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are 2 of the most prominent examples.

Post players bang around down low constantly. Their style of play is very physical. Most of them are also big and heavy. They need great soft cushioning to protect their feet and knees. Support and stability is also very important in preventing injuries. Moreover, they need good traction to make sure their footwork will not get hindered.

Basketball Shoes Cushioning

Cushioning is important not just for comfort, it is also critical in reducing your risk of injuries.

According to a study, when landing from a height of 45 cm, basketball shoes with the best level of cushioning reduce shock to the wearer’s shinbone by more than 15 percent compared to basketball shoes with just a regular level of cushioning.

Basketball Shoes Cushioning vs. Shinbone Shock

Landing HeightBest-cushioned ShoesBetter-cushioned ShoesRegular-cushioned Shoes
Shinbone45 cm27.3229.3732.34
Shock(g)61 cm40.9343.3446.17
Chart by www.loveatfirstfit.com

As can be seen from the chart above, the best-cushioned basketball shoes are better at reducing shock to your shinbone than the better-cushioned shoes, which are in turn better than the regular-cushioned shoes.

On the other hand, it is not simply the case that more cushioning is always better. Like everything else, cushioning involves trade-offs:

  • For shock absorption and impact protection, you want cushioning that is soft.
  • But soft cushion impedes responsiveness and bounce. For accelerating, hard cutting, and jumping, you want cushioning that is bouncy and responsive.
  • For both impact protection and bounce, a thicker cushion is better. On the other hand, a thick cushion is going to reduce your court feel.

So whenever you evaluate a basketball shoe for its cushioning, you have to deal with this Protection – Bounce – Court Feel 3-way trade-off.

How do you navigate this trade-off depends on your personal preference. But it also depends on your playing style and/or position:

  • Slashers: these types of players take explosive first steps or taking off for dunks. They need cushioning that is bouncy and responsive.
  • Ball Handlers: these players need good court feel to help them navigate the floor through traffic
  • Power Players or Post Players: these players tend to be heaviest. Their play is the most physical. They need soft cushioning to protect their feet and knees from shock and impact.

In general, there are 3 types of cushioning techs: airbag, foam, gel. Different shoe brands have their own proprietary techs for cushioning. Some shoe models even combine multiple techs to provide the optimal cushioning. For example, Lebron 17 combines a Max Air unit and 2 Zoom Air units on top of a Phylon foam midsole. No wonder it is widely praised as having one of the best cushioning you can find in a basketball shoe.

 AirbagFoamGel
NikeMax Air Zoom Air Zoom Turbo Nike AirPhylon Lunarlon React 
adidas Boost Bounce Lightstrike Cloudfoam 
Under Armour HOVR Micro G Charged Cushioning EVA 
ASICS FlyteFoamASICS GEL

All these different cushioning techs from different shoe brands have their own pros and cons. Which one, or which combo, best suits you is a matter of your personal preference and playing style.

Basketball Shoes Support and Stability

When people refer to support and stability in basketball shoes, they are generally referring to 2 separate but related functions:

Ankle Support

To support the ankle and prevent it from rolling. Ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries caused by playing basketball. So ankle support is one of the most important features to look for in a basketball shoe.

Motion Stability

To make sure when you move around – make hard cuts, leap in the air, and land on the floor – your shoes will not wobble and your feet will not slip and slide inside your shoes. This is related to ankle support because if your shoes wobble or your feet slide, your ankles are much more likely to get rolled and sprained.

To get good support and stability, look for these features when you buy your next shoes:

Wide Base

A wide base will prevent a shoe from wobbling or rolling when you make a hard cut or land on the floor.

Outrigger

Outrigger is the part of the outsole that protrudes outward from the lateral side of the forefoot. It serves to widen the base of the shoe and prevent it from wobbling or rolling.

Shank Plate

A shank is a plate between the insole and outsole. It gives structure and shape to the shoe. It also reduces the load on the wearer’s foot. Shanks are typically made from molded TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) or graphite. The more expensive basketball shoes can have shanks made from titanium or carbon fiber.

A shank plate is expensive to make and tends to make up a significant portion of the cost of a basketball shoe. But it is well worth it, as none other than Michael Jordan himself has said that the addition of shank plates to his shoes extended his playing career.

Heel Counter

The heel counter is a small insert in the back of the shoe to reinforce the heel cup and increase support. Just like a shank, a heel counter provides structure and support to the shoe.

Knitted or Molded Upper

Knitted or molded upper offers a seamless shell that tightly encases the wearer’s feet. This helps to lock down the foot and prevent heel slippage or sliding, thus improving stability.

Different shoe brands have their own proprietary techs for knitted or molded uppers:

  • Nike: Battleknit, Knitposite, Flyknit
  • adidas: Primeknit
  • Other Stability and Containment Techs

These techs lock down and contain your feet to prevent heel slippage and foot slide:

  • Nike Flywire found in KD 12
  • Internal bands in the forefoot found in Nike Zoom Freak 1

Basketball Shoes High Top vs Mid Top vs Low Top

According to conventional wisdom, high top shoes are better than low tops in providing support and stability, and in preventing ankle sprains and injuries. But more recent research has painted a more nuanced picture.

A 2014 study has found that wearing high top shoes can actually “have a detrimental effect on establishing and maintaining functional ankle joint stability.

On the other hand, many people, including professional players, still maintain that high top shoes help them avoid ankle injuries. A 2012 study of 165 basketball players has concluded that power forwards and centers should opt for mid top or high top shoes for their ankle stability function.

So high top or low top? So far the jury is still out. It is really down to personal preference at this point.

Basketball Shoes Traction

Good traction is a must for basketball shoes. Shoes with good traction will help your game by supporting your explosiveness and agility. They will also stop you from slipping when you make a hard cut or a hard stop.

Related: What Are the Best Basketball Shoes for Traction?

When it comes to traction, there are a few things you need to pay attention to:

Outsole Material

Rubber is the best material for outsole as far as traction is concerned.

For indoor courts with smooth surfaces, your best option is soft rubber because it offers the best grip on smooth floors.

For outdoor play, soft rubber tends to wear down too quickly, so go with hard rubber in this case.

Tread Patterns

Look for multidirectional tread patterns as they offer the best traction. At the same time, avoid parallel patterns – they have been proven to cause the most slippage.

A common multidirectional pattern is the herringbone pattern found on many basketball shoes, including Air Jordan XXXIV and Lebron Soldier XIII SFG.

Other examples include the “moon crater” pattern found on PG 3 and the circular pattern found on PG 4. Both offer exceptional traction.

For indoor courts with smooth surfaces, you want wide and deep treads for maximum traction.

For outdoor courts with rough surfaces, a shallower tread pattern works better.

Support and Stability

Shoes with good support and stability will securely lock your feet down inside the shoes, and stop heel slippage and foot slide. This will further improve traction.

Shoe Style

High top shoes provide more traction than low tops because of the increased support they offer.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Basketball shoes

Indoor and outdoor basketball shoes need to face very different environments. Indoor courts are better maintained. They have a smoother surface with no debris. Outdoor courts typically come with a rougher concrete or asphalt surface that is covered with rocks or potholes. As such, your selection criteria for indoor and outdoor shoes will be very different:

Cushioning

For outdoor basketball, your feet need more protection as the floor is harder and you may step on rocks and debris. So look for softer and thicker cushioning. Or even multiple layers of cushioning such as an airbag on top of a foam midsole.

For indoor basketball, feel free to opt for thinner and firmer cushioning if that is what you prefer.

Outsole

For outdoor basketball, courts are rough and you want something that can withstand that. Go with thicker outsoles made from hard rubber for maximum durability.

For indoor basketball, courts are nicer so you do not have to worry as much about your shoes’ toughness. Go with soft rubber outsoles as they provide better traction. You might also want to opt for a thinner outsole as that will give you a better court feel.

Tread Pattern

For outdoor basketball, look for a shallower tread pattern.

For indoor basketball, go with a deeper and wider tread pattern

Ventilation

There is no air conditioning in outdoor basketball. You are playing directly under the sun and things can get very hot and very sweaty. That is why you want shoes with ventilation holes or air vents on their uppers. Mesh uppers are even better. They let your foot sweat evaporates and keep your feet cool and dry.

Materials

For upper materials, we have already talked about the knitted and molded materials that improve a shoe’s support and stability.

Besides support and stability, another function you would want in materials is breathability. For breathability, look for mesh uppers that are great for helping your feet breathe and keeping them dry.

Related: What is the Best Basketball Shoes for Outdoors

Key Takeaway

While all this information about basketball shoes might seem overwhelming at first, I would just like to reiterate a few key points:

  • Good basketball shoes can elevate your game and protect you from injuries.
  • Wearing compromised basketball shoes can increase your risk of injuries. Do not wait till your shoes look worn out before replacing them. Instead, replace them every 75 to 100 hours of use. Or if you experience a noticeable increase in aches.
  • Different playing positions and styles require different types of basketball shoes.
  • When choosing a basketball shoe, pay attention to its cushioning, traction, support, stability, and upper materials.
  • Indoor and outdoor basketball have different requirements and call for different types of shoes.

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Last update on 2020-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API