Have you ever slipped on a slick basketball court or faltered because of worn-down shoes at a critical moment in a game? Maybe you have even been injured because of a low level of traction. Finding the most effective basketball shoes can greatly increase your traction while playing and help you avoid those disappointing and sometimes painful slips.
The basketball shoes with best grip have a multidirectional tread pattern with wide and deep treads and a soft rubber outsole for indoor courts. High-top style basketball shoes also provide more traction than low-top shoes. Additionally, it is crucial to avoid a parallel tread pattern, as that will decrease traction.
To learn more about the factors that contribute to traction, the effect of tread patterns, tips for increasing the traction of your shoes and 10 recommendations for basketball shoes with the most traction, keep reading.
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How Is Traction Helpful in Basketball
A good amount of traction helps basketball players to jump, pivot, cut and sprint on the court. If there is too little traction, players have to compensate and risk being less effective. If they predict that they will have low traction, they have to make smaller movements that slow them down and make them less aggressive, causing poor defense as well as offense.
Low traction also can cause injuries, fouls, turnovers and defensive breaches—potentially leading to game losses.
Define Good Traction in Basketball Shoes
There are several factors that affect the level of traction. The first is the type of court. Indoor courts require shoes with a deeper tread pattern to reduce the amount of dust and maximize traction on smooth surfaces. Outdoor courts require a shallower tread pattern to help a player succeed on rough surfaces.
The second factor is the frequency of cleaning in regard to the court. Courts should be cleaned after every game, but if they are cleaned less often, they will provide less traction.
The third factor is the level of sweat and dirt introduced into the game from the shoes of other players, as this causes a lower level of traction on the court.
Having shoes that fit closely enough to your foot also contributes to having an appropriate amount of traction, as shoes that are too loose will be cumbersome and cause your foot to slip inside.
The style of your basketball shoes also has an effect on traction. High-top basketball shoes provide a greater amount of traction than a low-top style of shoes because of the increased support that they offer.
The Effects of Shoe Patterns on Traction
Shoe traction is measured by a scale termed the coefficient of friction. A minimum coefficient of .6–.8 provides a good basis for avoiding slips.
Friction is categorized into two main types: translational and rotational. Translational friction demonstrates how much horizontal force is required to make a shoe slide across a surface. Rotational friction shows how much force is required in a moment to make a shoe pivot.
For a good amount of translational friction, a study by the International Society of Biomechanics in Sports concluded that basketball shoes should have a minimum coefficient of friction of .8. Rotational friction is not measured by a coefficient of friction, but there should be a balanced amount in an effective basketball shoe—too much and a player’s muscles and joints could be strained (especially their knees), and too little could inhibit a player’s performance.
Essentially, the rotational friction should be as low as it can be without causing excessive twisting.
The material of the outsole is also important. A thick, soft rubber has the most stopping power and the highest coefficient of friction; however, this material is not as effective outdoors, as it may reduce speed by providing a bit too much grip and it will wear down more quickly. A firmer rubber is better for outdoor use.
When they encounter sweat on the court, enclosed tread patterns cause an effect similar to the hydroplaning of a car because they trap water with no release. Shoes with high traction will have an interlocked tread pattern that redirects the sweat and other liquid on the court away from your feet.
A basketball shoe’s groove orientation is also crucial to consider. Grooves that are parallel to walking direction are less effective, and grooves that are perpendicular to or at an oblique angle help more with traction. In one study, a parallel groove orientation contributed to a much higher number of slips than a perpendicular groove orientation.
Two other factors are tread width and tread depth. Tread width is the most significant when looking at the relationship of a shoe with traction. Wider grooves have a higher coefficient of friction, partly because the higher width of the grooves is able to disperse liquid more effectively.
A width of nine millimeters typically performs well, although this depends on its combination with depth and orientation. One study done by Mark Blanchette, the Doctor of Philosophy at USC, found that one of the best combinations in a tread pattern is three millimeters wide and two millimeters deep with an oblique orientation.
As far as the design of treads are concerned, a herringbone pattern is extremely common, but not necessarily the most effective, as it is often accompanied by a lack of treads on the arch and center of the heel, concentric circles on the ball of the foot and break lines on the front of the outsole. One example of this is the 2015 Nike Hyperdunk shoes. One study found that unique tread patterns cause fewer slips, especially fewer drastic slips, in side-to-side movements.
Multidirectional tread patterns provide the most traction, which is why the herringbone tread pattern is commonly accepted, as it features zig zags to give players traction from many different angles. The more contact a tread pattern has with the floor, the better.
However, the aforementioned study found that an hourglass tread pattern performed better when the level of traction was tested on a smooth surface. An example of this tread pattern can be found on the Under Armour Lockdown shoes.
Below are two tables that showcase the test results of Nike vs Under Armour done by Iowa State University, on slipping while players transitioned from one movement to another.
Comparison of shoes across all transitions
|Under Armour Lockdown||Nike Hyperdunk|
|Transitions with slipping||25||36|
|Percentage of transitions with slipping||34%||49%|
Comparison of shoes across all transitions: larger slips
|Under Armour Lockdown||Nike Hyperdunk|
|Transitions with severe slips||2||6|
|% of transitions with severe slips||3%||8%|
The amount of slip also depended on the movement athletes were completing. For the most part, Under Armour Lockdown shoes performed with fewer slips in the study, but on a full-court sprint, they tied with the Nike Hyperdunks, and the Under Armour shoes actually had quite a bit more slips than the Nike shoes on a sprint to back pedal movement.
Shoe Comparisons by Transition Type (% of Transitions with Slips)
|Sprint to Sprint- Free Throw Length||50%||70%|
|Sprint to Sprint- Half Court Length||60%||100%|
|Sprint to Sprint- Full Court Length||40%||40%|
|Shuffle to Shuffle- Across the Lane||52%||84%|
|Sprint to Back Pedal||20%||0%|
|Back Pedal to Shuffle||0%||0%|
|Shuffle to Sprint||0%||0%|
|Sprint to Sprint- Around a Cone||0%||20%|
How to Increase Traction
You can use a traction board or a damp cloth to remove oil and dirt from your shoes. Add more gripping power to your shoe by putting traction fluid on the soles before the game and during breaks—many people also recommend using hairspray; however, this actually makes them more prone to attracting dirt and can even damage certain kinds of shoes.
Saliva is a useful tool to implement in the midst of the game by wetting your hand and then applying it to the bottoms of your shoes, although it might garner some looks from people around you.
Wash your shoes after each game, and if you have indoor basketball shoes, do not wear them outside. Make sure to replace your shoes if the soles begin to wear out over time.
10 High-Traction Basketball Shoes
Under Armour Lockdown 4
Adidas Crazylight Boost
Nike Lebron 16
Under Armour ClutchFit Drive II
Nike Kyrie Flytrap II
Under Armour Team Drive 4
Nike Lebron Witness IV
Adidas Dame 5
Nike Lebron Soldier IX
Nike Zoom KD 12
Related: Top 25 Best Basketball Shoes
A Word from Love at First Fit
While the aspects of traction may seem quite technical and possibly even confusing, the most important points to remember are that high-top shoes that fit well and do not have parallel grooves will be the most likely to perform well. A soft rubber outsole is best for indoor courts, and it is essential to pick a shoe with wide and deep treads in a multidirectional pattern. Clad with the information in this article and our recommendations for the shoes with the best traction, you will be ready to speed across the court and pivot with ease.