Jordan Brand's low-top version of its mainline shoe has an identical traction pattern but uses a solid rubber compound. It performs pretty much the same, which is to say it's great.
The cushion also remains the same. It's bouncy and is potentially the best setup on the market.
Some reviewers feel that the Low fits slightly better than the regular 36 because of the materials.
The support is solid and hard to beat for a low-top, but some reviewers mentioned experiencing heel slippage.
Overall, the Jordan 36 Low is just as good a choice for a performance basketball shoe as the mid-top version.
The Air Jordan 36 continues the recent trend from Jordan brand and picks up right where the last two models left off. The traction is phenomenal. It performs well on both clean and dusty courts.
All reviewers agree that the cushioning used in the 36 performs amazingly, but they also agree that the Air unit protruding from the outsole is unnecessary.
The fit is snug and narrow, so if that's not your cup of tea, consider sizing up.
Materials are slimmed way down this year. They make the shoe lightweight without sacrificing much in terms of comfort and durability.
The surprisingly strong upper and the outsole materials wrapping upward towards the midsole make the support in this shoe solid.
Being the latest signature shoe in the lineup, the Air Jordan 36 delivers and is yet another high-quality performance basketball shoe.
The traction is a standout feature on the Nike KD 15. It bites to every type of court, performing amazingly.
Reviewers agreed that the cushioning offers a unique combination of court feel, responsiveness, bounciness, and impact protection.
The materials conform to your feet nicely and are comfortable to play in.
The shoe also fits better than previous KD models and is more accommodating to different foot shapes.
If there is any downside, some reviewers experienced a bit of heel slippage. Others didn't feel completely secure around the heel.
The Nike KD 15 could be one of the best performance shoes available.
As we've come to expect, the Flow traction is fantastic. It's some of the best traction available.
The cushioning is responsive and low to the ground. The shank also offers some additional bounce.
The materials feel similar to the Curry 9 from last year. It does feel a tad bit more comfortable, though.
Support and lockdown are better than last year because of a better heel counter and more supportive construction.
Overall, the Curry 10 improves on last year's model and remains a top performer because of the outstanding traction.
Not much changed between the original Puma MB.01 and the low-top version. The traction is still reliable on all surfaces.
Puma's Nitro foam is a balanced cushioning setup offering both impact protection and responsiveness.
The fit can be narrow, but the materials are comfortable and get the job done performance-wise.
The shoe also has solid support features to keep your foot secure and contained.
Overall, the Puma MB.01 Low continues the trend of Puma releasing quality performance basketball shoes.
The Curry Flow 9 continues to build on the performance that the 8 provided last year.
The traction pattern and material are identical, but that's not a bad thing. Reviewers agree that the performance is phenomenal in this regard.
For cushioning, the responsive and court feel are fantastic. The only thing the cushion lacks is impact protection which is just adequate.
The materials are much improved from last year and feel premium for performance. It's lightweight, thin, and comfortable.
The fit starts out snug and narrow, but the materials conform to your foot over time.
Support and lockdown continue to be fantastic just like the rest of the Curry line.
Reviewers agree that the Curry Flow 9 is one of the best shoes available on the market right now, and the shoe is a pleasure to play in.
For some reviewers, the traction of the KD14 took a little to break-in, but they all agreed that it provides a ton of grip on clean courts and doesn't have much trouble with dusty courts either.
The Zoom Strobel and Cushlon midsole provide a perfect mix of comfort, impact protection, and responsiveness. One reviewer coined it the softest KD to date.
Materials are a little cheap to the touch but they are comfortable on foot and combined with the wide base and plastic enforcement on the sides provide a lot of lockdown and support.
The fit is less narrow than previous KD's and should work for most players unless you have super wide feet.
Overall, reviewers agree that the KD14 is a slight improvement over the KD13 and a great overall performer that is absolutely worth the $150 price tag.
The traction of the Wade 808 2 is grippy and reminiscent of the Kobe 9 traction. The rubber is also hard enough to take outdoors.
Li-Ning's drop-in midsole is comfortable, and it feels bouncy. The only downside is the impact protection on hard landings.
Reviewers describe the materials on the shoe as minimal and breathable.
Despite not having an outrigger, the shoe has plenty of lateral containment and stability.
Overall, the Li-Ning Wade 808 2 is a versatile shoe with enough traction and cushioning for most players.
Reviewers describe the cushioning on the Way of Wade 10 as incredibly bouncy. It's easily the most raved-about feature of the shoe.
Its outsole traction is soft and grippy, perfect for indoor play.
The materials are lightweight and perform well, but reviewers mention they could be more premium based on the shoe's price.
Support and lockdown aren't an issue. There were no reported problems from any reviewers.
Li-Ning and Dwyane Wade's latest signature model, the Way of Wade 10, is an excellent basketball shoe that can contend for performance shoe of the year.
The final release in Nike's GT series, the GT Jump, manages to find a way to make all of the tech Nike threw in it work well together.
The traction gripped all the different surfaces that reviewers tested it on while still keeping up with the cushioning.
When it comes to cushioning, if you're a fan of Nike Zoom, you're going to love these. It's bouncy, provides ample impact protection, and is very fast to play in.
Nike uses Jumpwire combined with synthetics and meshes to keep the shoe breathable without compromising performance.
Most reviewers also agree that the Jumpframe is a standout aspect of the shoe. It helps secure the foot so that the player doesn't feel unstable on top of the cushioning.
Although the wait was long, the Nike Air Zoom GT Jump delivers, and it's one of the best shoes to come out this year.
A majority of reviewers agree that the traction for the Air Zoom G.T Cut performed very well on clean courts and only needs occasional wiping on dusty courts.
The combination of the drop-in React midsole and the Zoom Air Strobel underfoot helps to create a very responsive ride that still manages to be bouncy. However, one reviewer did note that their React midsole felt a little bit firm.
Materials on the shoe are breathable and feel comfortable on foot.
The fit is snug and slightly narrow in the forefoot area. One reviewer recommended sizing up half a size if you have wide feet.
Most reviewers agree that the Nike Air Zoom G.T. Cut is an excellent performer loaded with tech that justifies the price tag.
The Nike Cosmic Unity is part of Nike's sustainability push and made from at least 25% trash. Is the performance on the court trash as well?
The traction features a traditional herringbone pattern that performs well on clean courts but struggles a little on dusty surfaces.
The cushion setup uses the same Zoom Air Strobel as the KD 12 and 13 and provides nice impact protection and responsiveness. The midsole is very low to the ground and gives your great court feel.
The knit materials are nice to the touch and very durable. Performance-wise you'll have no issues!
The support provides everything you've come to expect from performance basketball shoes with solid lateral stability and containment.
Overall the Nike Cosmic Unity is a solid performer in every category. Just watch out if you play on dusty courts often.
The traction pattern of the PG 5 is very similar to the Kobe 9 pattern and provides top-tier traction indoors. Unfortunately, the outsole isn't durable enough for outdoor use.
The cushion tech is similar to last year but feels pretty different. The PG 5 isn't as plush but provides a better court feel and more responsiveness.
The materials are what you've come to expect from the PG line: They feel pretty cheap but they perform well and are comfortable on foot.
The PG 5 fits like most PG models slightly narrow and snug. True to size works well.
The support and lockdown are very good thanks to a wide base and large outrigger - reviewers had no issues here.
Overall the PG 5 is a great all-around performer and a real bargain at a list price of only $110.
The traction on the LeBron 20 is tacky, and it grips most court surfaces. The occasional wipe is needed, but it doesn't hinder performance.
Nike toned the cushioning down from previous models, but it's still insanely bouncy.
The materials are comfortable, thin, and breathable on foot. It also helps to keep you contained during play.
On fit, some reviewers praised the LeBron 20 for its snug, 1-to-1 fit. Other reviewers had split opinions on how the shoe accommodates wide footers.
The lacing and materials work together to keep your foot contained on the footbed. Reviewers didn't have any complaints when it came to the support of the shoe.
Overall, the Nike LeBron 20 is an impressive all-around performer. The traction, cushioning, and support are versatile enough to offer something to most players.
Like all shoes using a Flow midsole, the traction on the Curry 4 FloTro bites hard. It feels tackier than the Curry 9.
The cushioning is responsive and smooth. The shoe feels low to the ground but doesn't have the best impact protection.
The materials might be synthetic, but they feel premium.
The shoe's construction makes it fit well for many different foot shapes. It accommodates wide footers well.
The reviewer's only concern with the shoe is the slight sliding on the footbed caused by heavy cutting.
Overall, the Curry 4 FloTro is a fantastic performer. The shoe offers some of the best traction on the market and plays well for footwork-reliant play styles.
The traction of the V2 performs well indoors, but reviewers mention dust can be a factor. It's also hard enough to take outdoors.
The cushioning is one of the best available, especially for the price. It's bouncy, responsive, and comfortable.
Li-Ning changed the materials on the forefoot of the shoe. The newer materials are thin but durable.
Support and stability are some of the better features of the shoe. The strap, materials, outrigger, and heel counter keep you contained.
Li-Ning knocked it out of the park with the All City 10 V2. It offers a lot of features for a reasonable price.
The second installment in the G.T. Cut lineup features solid traction, but a break-in time is needed. It also isn't as good as the original.
Cushioning for the shoe continues to offer some of the best bounce and impact protection. The drop-in midsole also features an improved liner for extra grip.
The material used on the shoe makes it feel lighter, but some reviewers mentioned missing the plastic side wall previously on the lateral side.
Players that enjoy a snug fit will enjoy the fit on the G.T. Cut 2.
There's a lack of torsional stability, but the rest of the support and lockdown features perform well.
The Nike Air Zoom G.T. Cut 2 is a solid performer with fantastic cushioning.
Luka Doncic's first signature shoe with Jordan Brand delivers an outstanding traction experience. It feels tacky and bites hard in all directions.
The use of Jordan Brand's new Formula 23 foam feels like an upgrade from React. Reviewers mention that the cushioning feels low-to-the-ground and responsive.
For support, the side pods and the unique shank plate implemented in the shoe keep you contained while also offering some bounce back.
Most reviewers agreed that the materials perform well and feel comfortable on your feet.
Overall, the Jordan Luka 1 is an admirable first entry into the signature shoe landscape for Luka Doncic.
Reviewers agree that traction is the best feature of the shoe. It bites hard on just about every surface.
The cushioning is low to the ground and offers a good amount of court feel. The impact protection in the heel is adequate but could be better in the forefoot.
No issues were reported support-wise. It gets the job done.
The FitWeave Lite that New Balance uses for the upper is comfortable and conforms nicely to your feet during play.
With its hard-biting traction and no glaring weaknesses, the New Balance TWO WXY V2 might be New Balance's best basketball shoe.
As controversial as Kyrie Irving is, his signature basketball shoe continues to be a quality performer.
The traction is what you come to expect from the Kyrie lineup. It performs well, similarly to the previous models.
For the Kyrie 8, Nike implemented a forefoot Zoom Strobel that adds a new dimension of bounce while still remaining low to the ground.
The materials used feel comfortable while providing quality performance. They're also thin and breathable.
The lacing system helps to provide a fit that won't cause issues for most people.
Reviewers also agree that the lateral containment and lockdown provided are excellent.
When it comes down to it, the Nike Kyrie 8 is an excellent shoe that caters to many different playstyles.
Picking your next pair of basketball shoes can be difficult. Finding out about the latest releases, reading reviews, checking prices, and getting the right size – it often takes me days or even weeks to settle on a new pair.
Now, maybe I am just really picky when it comes to basketball sneakers, but there is a reason why!
Good basketball shoes are important because:
They grip the floor and allow quick cuts and crossovers
They provide impact protection and reduce the stress on your knees and feet
They fit comfortably and lock down your feet tightly
They provide support and protect your ankles from rolling
In short: Good basketball shoes will help you to get the most out of your game!
How to find basketball shoes that fit your playing style
The list above is a great way to find basketball shoes that perform well overall, but not every basketball shoe will work the same for different types of players. Quick guards will need different shoes than big and heavy centers.
But how do you know what kind of shoe you need? In the following paragraphs, I want to go into more detail and tell you what to look for to find your perfect fit!
Let’s talk about the most important characteristics of basketball kicks and what you want to look for when you are in the market for a new pair:
Style of the silhouette
There are three different styles of basketball shoes out there: Low tops, mid tops, and high tops. Traditionally, basketball players used to play in high tops that completely covered the ankle of players, but nowadays, more and more players are wearing low-tops that look more like regular training shoes. Let’s take a closer look at each style and their pros and cons:
Low-cut shoes provide maximum flexibility and are often very lightweight. They are perfect for guards who want to feel light and quick on their feet and don’t want to add unnecessary bulk. Bigger and slower guys don’t profit as much from low tops and might look for the protection of higher cut shoes. Low-cuts were made most popular by the Kobe signature line:
Mid Tops are a hybrid between low- and high tops and provide a little bit of both worlds: Good flexibility and mobility, but also a decent amount of ankle protection and more stability. Perfect for forwards or wings who don’t need all the flexibility of a low top, but also don’t like the bulkiness of true high tops. An example of a mid top basketball shoes is the Kyrie 3:
This is the way basketball shoes used to look like for decades. High Tops provide a lot of ankle protection, support and are often nicely cushioned. Perfect for big guys who are looking for maximum protection when they are fighting below the rim and don’t mind losing a little bit of flexibility in exchange for more safety. A popular example is the Lebron signature line:
If you plan to do explosive crossovers and quick cuts you need a shoe that provides excellent traction. Nothing is more annoying than slipping every time you try to change directions.
The amount of traction provided by a shoe relies on two factors: the traction pattern and the rubber compound used for the outsole.
A very popular traction pattern that is often used in basketball shoes is the “herringbone” pattern. Zig-zag lines of rubber provide grip in every direction and the empty space in between the rubber makes sure that dust doesn’t stick to the surface of the sole.
Herringbone traction almost always works; unfortunately, other traction patterns are often hit or miss. Sometimes designers try to get too innovative or focus on storytelling, and you end up with a shoe that needs endless wiping or feels like playing on skates.
Herringbone Traction Pattern
The quality of the rubber compound is much harder to judge than the traction pattern. Softer rubber will often work better indoors but attract a lot of dust, hard rubber is a lot more durable but doesn’t provide the same grip on pristine hardwood courts. As a rule of thumb, if you have the option between colorways with translucent and solid outer soles, always go with the solid option. A solid rubber outer sole might not look as nice, but it often performs much better especially on dusty courts.
The cushioning of a basketball shoe becomes more important the heavier you are. If you are a 5’6″ guard who weighs 140 lbs, you won’t need a lot of cushioning, and you will probably prefer the responsiveness and court feel of a firmer setup. But bigger and heavier guys put a lot of pressure on their joints and profit immensely from a softer and more forgiving cushioning.
There are countless cushioning technologies on the market, and every company has different styles for different use cases or budgets. The most popular tech is probably Nike Zoom Air cushioning which is made of tightly stretched tensile fibers in a pressurized “Air” unit embedded in the midsole. Other cushioning setups like Adidas Bounce, Nike Lunarlon, or UnderArmour MicroG are foam-based and provide impact protection by distributing impact forces more evenly.
Nike Zoom Air
Other than traction, cushioning really comes down to personal preference. If you are a quick and light guard, you want to look for a firm cushioning setup like Nike Lunarlon or Adidas Bounce. Cushioning that is too soft will only make you lose court feel and responsiveness.
However, if you are a bigger player or you have a history of knee problems, you will fare much better with a more comfortable cushioning like full-length Zoom Air or Adidas Boost.
If you think of supportive basketball shoes, you probably imagine a bulky high top with a lot of straps and laces. Fortunately, modern basketball shoes have found other ways to provides athletes with the necessary safety and stability. Just look at the shoes which are worn in the NBA today – a lot of players wear low tops that were unimaginable only 20 years ago.
A common support feature used in almost every modern basketball shoe is the outrigger. Usually placed on the lateral side of the shoe, this extension of the outer sole makes the base of the shoe wider and provides a stable platform that protects your feet from rolling.
Other often-used support features are midfoot shanks that provide torsional support and heel counters that lock you into the shoe. But one of the most significant support factors is the fit and lockdown of a shoe. All the support features in the world will not help you if you are sliding side-to-side on every cut because your sneakers are just too wide.
If you are recovering from an ankle injury and need even more support around the ankle, you should look into getting an additional ankle brace.
The fit is one of the most important things to consider when buying new shoes. You want to be firmly locked in and not sliding left-to-right or front-to-back at all. If you can, it’s always a good idea to try on shoes in a store. If that’s not an option, I like to get shoes in two different sizes, keep the better fitting pair and use the return policy for the other one.
If shoes are a little tight in the beginning that’s okay, they usually widen and become more comfortable as you break them in. If you are unsure which size to get, or you have unusually wide or narrow feet and you are looking for a particular fit, then check out this list of shoes. You can filter shoes to only include narrow-, or wide-fitting shoes, and find out which model runs large or small by reading the more detailed review.
There is a wide variety of upper materials used in basketball shoes these days ranging from traditional nubuck leather to synthetic mesh or high-tech textile materials like Adidas PrimeKnit or Nike Flyknit.
Cheaper materials like Mesh or other synthetic uppers often start out rather stiff and need a little time to break-in. High-tech materials are often reserved for more expensive signature lines like Air Jordan’s or Kobes and are really soft and comfortable from the beginning.
Aside from aesthetics and comfort, modern materials used in basketball shoes all do a very nice job and don’t differ too much when it comes to performance. Just pick whatever material you personally prefer and can afford.
Take a quiz to find your perfect pair of basketball shoes
If you are a little overwhelmed by all the things you need to consider, then you might be interested in a simple quiz I developed. You answer a set of simple questions about which type of player you are, whether you plan to play outdoors etc. and the quiz will automatically recommend the best-rated shoe that fits all your criteria. This way you can find a good basketball shoe within minutes instead of browsing the web for hours!