Long distance running and intense gym sessions aren't the only ways to get moving. To the contrary, playing sports, such as basketball, is a great way to keep up with a healthy routine. Basketball is a great way to get in some extra cardio and social time, whether you're just shooting hoops with friends or joining a pickup game on the weekend.

You only need a good pair of shorts, a sweat-wicking top, a basketball, and (most importantly) a pair of basketball-specific shoes to get started with basketball as a worthwhile workout. There is a wide variety of silhouettes available for basketball shoes, but not all of them are ideal for actual play. Before we get into our top picks, let's go over what you should look for in a good pair of basketball shoes and how your preferred position can affect the shoes you need on the court.

Basketball Shoe Buying Guide

Convenience and Proper Fit

You're on your feet the whole time, pacing back and forth across the court, when you play basketball. You're also using a variety of basketball skills, such as cutting, posting up for screens, and bouncing vertically to block shots or get a jump shot off. Basketball players put their feet through a lot of motion, so it's important to find sneakers with a midsole that provides plenty of cushioning, flexibility, and energy return.

Consider the shoe's fit in relation to your foot. The ideal fit for basketball shoes is snug, but not so tight that they restrict toe wiggle room or ankle flexion. Conversely, having too much wiggle room in the footbed of your basketball shoes can make quick cuts like a crossover or stops like a post-up difficult to execute. A good rule of thumb is to allow for toe splaying during jumps by leaving about half an inch or less in the toe box while still maintaining that snug tightness across the midfoot.

Consistency and Backing

As you might guess, basketball is not a sequential contest. There is a lot of cutting in and out of one direction or another, putting stress on both the medial and lateral sides of your shoes. Look for shoes with sturdy profiles and plenty of support in these areas when shopping for basketball shoes.

Whether you opt for a high, medium, or low shoe, you can reap the benefits of a well-cushioned foot. More stability will be provided if the shoe sits higher on the ankle. However, heavier and bulkier high-tops are better suited for less nimble players (more on this later). However, there is no universal ban on high-tops or low-tops for athletes, so you'll want to think about how much protection you need at this critical juncture.

Stickiness and Purchase

If your feet are slipping and sliding across the hardwood, running up and down the court can be a challenge. Because of this, the outsole of your basketball shoe is yet another crucial element to consider when making your purchase. For optimal traction while playing, your sneaker should have minimal spaces between the treads. Multiple tread patterns, such as concentric-circle pivot points and hexagonal or herringbone patterns, are used on many basketball kicks to improve the player's ability to pivot, stop, and break away from the defense.

Keep your footing secure throughout your step or motion by selecting shoes with outsoles that extend the tread pattern into the shoe's medial and lateral sides.

Position-Specific Basketball Shoes

Many different basketball profiles are available, and this has led to some becoming better suited for specific positions than others. As with baseball, different positions call for different types of gloves, and the same is true of shoes: certain design elements and bonuses are more suited to the abilities of certain positions than others. Selecting the right shoe for your playing style can expedite your rise from the reserves to the starting lineup.


When a team has a guard as their primary ball handler, they can expect a lot of fast breaks and dribble penetration. As a result, guards typically choose low-top basketball shoes due to their lightweight construction and ability to facilitate quick cuts and cuts in direction. After all, you need unrestricted ankle movement if you plan on breaking anyone's ankles while advancing the ball up the court.

Concentric and Driving Forwards

Centers and power forwards typically prefer a high-top profile because of their proximity to the basket and increased ability to grab rebounds. In addition to providing extra support for their often larger frames, the extra ankle support can help prevent any rollovers or twists from the repeated vertical leaps. Also, the heavier load isn't usually a problem for these athletes, as their game isn't as dependent on quick reflexes and acceleration.

Multi-purpose athletes and small forwards

The key to success for these athletes is their ability to switch gears quickly. Players in this position must be able to quickly change directions on the court, dribble past defenders, and dunk when necessary. Because of the many demands placed on them, many small forwards and multi-position athletes favor lacing up mid-top basketball shoes. The elevated ankle support is a lightweight solution that can give you a little extra support without hindering your mobility or adding unnecessary bulk.

Test Procedures

collage of basketball shoes with a basketball

David Emminger

Although I rarely play basketball, I did participate in a few shoot-arounds and the occasional pickup game to get a feel for how various pairs of basketball shoes performed. I took note of the midsole cushioning and support, as well as the underfoot traction and grip, at varying intensities of play. I also looked at how the midsole felt during initial steps and jumps, since most of your weight is concentrated in the forefoot depending on the type of movement or stance you're in at any given time during a game. And naturally, I rewarded silhouettes that were as aesthetically pleasing as they were functional, because, after all, there's no better way to add some flair to your game than with a pair of sneakers that can do as well as they look.

Let's lace up the top-tier sneakers in the game and get ready for the opening tip.

Nike KD15

See no further if you are in search of a sneaker that strikes a fine balance between grippy traction, lightweight speed, and abundant energy return. I played a variety of positions in pickup games and found that these sneakers were very responsive due to the full-length Zoom Strobel unit. As a result, jumping for put-backs and rebounds became much less taxing on the body.

On both indoor and outdoor courts, I wore the KD15s with no traction issues. Nonetheless, I believe the tread pattern is better suited for indoor hardwood courts than either paved or synthetic outdoor courts.

Concept X from Athletic Propulsion Labs

Can you recall the classic cartoons where the protagonist would put annoying springs in their shoes so they could jump higher? That's roughly the tech at work in APL's Concept Xs. The 2010 NBA ban on the shoe led to its redesign, which now includes 10 coil springs and a full-length carbon plate. The Outcomes A lot of height, if you know how to jump properly.

This sturdy 17-ounce sneaker features a TechLoom bootie upper and APL Exolock overlays for superior support without the addition of unnecessary bulk. Discrete 28-ounce form Make sure you can wear these impressive kicks in your league before dropping $400 on them, though, as all that performance enhancement may be considered an unfair advantage in some leagues.

In the words of Li-Ning Wade 8082

Sure, you haven't heard of Li-Ning before, but these Wade 808 2s are definitely worth your time. The durable rubber and TPU outsole provides excellent traction on both indoor and outdoor courts, and the shoe's signature squeak can be heard whenever the wearer makes a sudden change in direction, be it during a post-up or a fast-break.

The Li-Ning Wade 808 2s also include drop-in midsoles, a feature that has been absent from basketball shoes for quite some time. In order to provide superior cushioning that can be felt, these drop-ins are made with Cloud Plus foam. Although the ride can be a bit clunky at times, especially when striking at your heel, they are still a great inexpensive option for your next pickup game. Pay close attention to the size chart, as Li-Ning suggests picking a size based on your foot's length rather than your usual shoe size.

The New Nike Air Zoom GT Cut 2

The new Nike GT Cut 2s are great for fast guards and athletes who put the "fast" in fast-break. Don't be fooled by its SUV-like exterior; this vehicle is just as quick as any sports car. In addition to a responsive and responsive feel on the court, I found that the shoes' removable React midsole and raised sidewalls helped me limit lateral movement when making quick cuts and jukes.

These shoes have excellent traction, especially in the forefoot where a hollow herringbone design is featured. However, this tread isn't consistently present across the outsole, which can be seen to cause some wear after only a few games on outdoor courts. However, if you want to crank up the pressure, these low-tops will help you hit the hardwood (or metal) like never before.

Dame 8 by Adidas.

It's high noon, and you know it.

These mid-top sneakers, the eighth design in Adidas' Damian Lillard series, look great and have earned a lot of respect. The Cloud White version I tried out was fantastic, but all of the other colors are equally as good. Also, I think the rubber outsole is plenty sturdy for park use, so I can't wait to break these out once the weather warms up and head to the playground. As long as the courts were clean, traction was also fine. The tread pattern gathered dust easily, and I frequently lost my footing while approaching stop signs and screens.

Soft cushioning of the Bounce Pro midsole compressed easily enough for smooth, fluid transitions up and down the court when I wasn't trying to keep my feet underneath my stance. I had no problems with sizing, but the toe box is larger than in most sneakers; this is because the air-mesh upper will stretch with wear. So, those with narrower feet may need to go down a size to get the desired, snug fit.

XXXVIIth Retro Release of the Air Jordan

Although Jordans are now more associated with streetwear and fashion, the company still produces a number of high-performance shoe models. The upper exoskeleton-like construction of leno-weave fabric and plastic ribbon on these Jordan XXXVIIs is reminiscent of the original Jordan 7s. This construction is adequate for casual use, but I feel like some aesthetic potential is being wasted when compared to other game-ready Jordans with more premium profiles.

Even with its relatively high heel, this sneaker surprised me with its quickness and responsiveness as I moved down the profile. The combination of the Zoom Strobel and Zoom Air unit provided great responsiveness in the forefoot, and the Formula 23 heel cushioning felt great under my feet. Although, if you wear them without socks, the rigid ankle support may become irritating.

Curry 10 Under Armour

The Curry 10s have the best traction of any kicks I've ever worn. Actually, there were times when I stumbled because my foot placement wasn't quite right (hey, I don't play very often). The UA FLOW outsole, which lacks the usual rubber composition in favor of a lighter weight, gave me confidence in every post-up and cut, regardless of the condition of the court.

The UA WARP upper impressed me because of its snug fit and crisp, taut weaves in strategic areas for reinforcement. When you add this innovation to the shoe's already impressive fit and stabilizing heel counters, you have a silhouette that is as comfortable and durable as ever. The sole of these game-ready sneakers, however, can quickly degrade from repeated use, even on indoor courts, due to the foam outsole. Jumpshooting athletes on an outdoor court will quickly wear these out, so I wouldn't recommend them.

Nitro Rise Puma

When you put on a pair of Puma Rise Nitros, the PWRTape construction across the upper provides an instant sense of safety and support. Having my feet not jiggle around inside my shoes made getting into screens and navigating the paint a lot easier. Despite the more constrictive fit, the Nitro Foam midsole still provides a responsive court feel and a responsive, comfortable feel with every plant, jump, and pivot.

The outsole has good traction but tends to collect dirt on grimier floors. Although a few quick wipes restored the tackiness, I still spent too much time worrying about whether or not my shoes would cause me to slide out of bounds rather than concentrating on the game. Is this collection missing any high-performance footwear? Yes Can I assure you that you won't locate a more accommodating fit anywhere else? No Overall, this profile is great for athletes who aren't overly concerned with their footwork but also don't require the frills of other, more expensive kicks; they are efficient, sturdy, and prepared to go from the box to the hardwood.

In other words, the Adidas Trae Young 2 0

Jumping for a tough rebound or potentially game-changing dunk You're going to need a soft surface to land on. Thankfully, the BOOST foam that has become so popular in the heels of Adidas shoes will cushion your steps when your game inevitably rebounds to Earth. Trae Young 2's forefoot flexibility was another plus for me. comfortable zeros for jogging up and down the court

However, due to the semi-laceless design, putting on these shoes is a workout in and of itself. The SCK360 knit upper, once inside, does provide that lockdown feel, though its less airy construction belies its name. These stylish options are the ideal safety net for players who want to bring a "no fear" mentality to the court.

LeBron XX Nike.

The LeBron XXs are as comfortable to run through an entire game in as some of the max-cushioned running shoes I typically train in thanks to their snug (but not restrictive) fit, Sphere liner collar that breaks in easily, and multiple Zoom Air units in the forefoot and heel. The multidirectional tread pattern helps ensure each step is secure with plenty of grip and tackiness, despite the fact that the plush upper may make you feel like you're pacing on clouds.

However, it's only natural that it can be challenging at times to achieve a desired court feel with all that coziness below. Those used to more minimally cushioned silhouettes may need a few practice shots to get used to the Zoom Air units they'll be fighting through to get to the hardwood. You can be sure that the shoe's price will reflect its royal namesake. With a price tag of $200, these sneakers are among the most expensive in the market.

Court of the Puma TRC Blaze

Don't waste your time and money on a profile that's all business if you're just getting into basketball as a fitness activity. For my initial forays back onto the court, I found the TRC Blaze Courts to be a great option; their Trinomic cushioning offered the ideal balance of responsiveness, durability, and comfort. And there was no need for any break-in time or discomfort as a beginner, because these were ready to go right out of the box.

Puma's multidirectional tread pattern, in my opinion, also contributes to this optimal grip, making them a great choice for beginners who are still learning the ropes. And what can you say about the cheery, colorful design that promises to put the fun back into your exercise routine? The thick foam in these shoes may not be ideal for those who prefer a more natural on-court experience, but if you're a beginner looking to up your game, I highly recommend them.

THREE WXY v3 by New Balance

New Balance has been relatively unnoticed for some time, but judging by the brand's recent streetwear releases, that's about to change. The same can be said for its basketball products, especially the TWO WXY v3s, which follow the same philosophy. I didn't think much of these shoes at first, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well they combined a lightweight build, cozy ABZORB cushioning, and stunning good looks. Although the FuelCell midsole is a bit rigid and may not be ideal for all athletes, it significantly increases the midsole's energy return.

In addition to their other great features, the TWO WXY v3s' traction is a major selling point. I was relieved to discover that the dust on my body could be easily wiped away before getting back into the action, and that stopping, pivoting, and pushing off defenders was a breeze. Be warned that there is a longer break-in period, but know that it's worth it to see what this forward-thinking company is doing to the world of basketball shoes.