I used to spend days or weeks trying to find basketball shoes with great traction that would also fit my narrow feet. Then, when I finally settled on a new pair, I would go on and rock them in thin and cheap suit socks – what a mistake!
It truly was a revelation when I got my first pair of performance basketball socks. They really make a difference!
In this article, I will try to inform you about the best basketball socks on the market and why they are a must-have for every ambitious basketball player. Read on – you don’t want to make the same mistake I did!
List of the best basketball socks:
- Nike Cotton Cushion Crew
- Under Armour Men’s Heat Gear
- Nike Elite Basketball Socks
- Nike Elite Versatility
- Stance NBA Socks
- NikeGrip Quick / Power
There are a lot of things to consider when looking for the perfect basketball socks. In the following paragraphs, I want to sum up the most important ones.
Performance socks are usually made of varying mixes of cotton, polyester, nylon, and elastane (spandex). Pure cotton is rarely seen in performance socks because cotton quickly absorbs sweat and doesn’t dry very fast.
Synthetic materials like nylon and polyester wick away moisture quickly and retain their shape much longer. Elastane usually makes up a very small percentage of the material (around 2-6%), but its incredible flexibility adds stretch and makes socks a lot more comfortable!
This comes down to personal preference, but I like my basketball socks to be a little thicker than my usual everyday socks. I have rather narrow feet, so socks made from thicker material help me improve the fit of my shoes. This way, my feet slide much less inside the shoes, which not only helps to avoid blisters but also makes quick basketball moves much more comfortable.
Of course, if you have very wide feet and you already have a hard time getting into your shoes you might want to look towards thinner socks like the Nike Grip Quick Crew.
There was a time when basketball players wore long tube socks that went all the way up to the knees. These socks are completely out of fashion now and have been replaced by compression pants.
These days you have the choice between thee different styles:
- Crew cut socks that go up to the middle of the shins
- Mid cut socks that end just above the ankle
- Low cut socks (also called “no-show” socks) which are almost invisible when you are wearing shoes
The picture below illustrates the different styles with three versions of the Nike Elite Versatility:
Which kind of socks to pick is mostly a fashion decision, but some athletes like the added compression of crew cut socks. Another reason to choose crew cut socks is if you wear ankle braces and want to avoid unnecessary friction.
Cushioning and Arch Support
More expensive performance socks like the Nike Elites bring you additional cushioning in the forefoot and around the heel. This makes them extremely comfortable and helps you to avoid blisters. I personally love the additional cushioning because it really helps to lock down my narrow feet inside the shoes.
Some performance socks come with compression bands in the midfoot area that provide additional arch support. This can be helpful if you suffer from arch pain or plantar fasciitis.
This picture shows the compression bands and the cushioning on the inside of modern performance basketball socks:
Alright, let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular basketball socks:
I like the clean style of these all-black (or all-white) socks with the iconic Nike Swoosh. Basketball sneakers get more colorful every year and these simple socks provide a nice contrast.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like their performance during actual games as much. A couple of times, I hit my toes on the front of my shoes during quick stops because my feet slipped inside the shoes. Tying my shoes extra tight compensated for the slippery material, but other performance basketball socks provided more grip and didn’t have this problem.
Theses Nike socks are also thinner than other options – problematic for my narrow feet – but a great choice if you have wide feet and your shoes are already very tight.
The Under Armour Heatgear socks are made out of a mix of cotton and synthetics. This mix of materials makes them very flexible and durable; they also dry very fast. HeatGear technology was designed to keep your feet cool, so if you have problems with hot and sweaty feet, then these socks are a great choice for you!
I really enjoyed the thick cushioning near the heels and toes which worked great for my narrow feet and improved lockdown immensely.
These socks also feature a compression band around the midfoot that supports your arch and helps you avoid foot fatigue. As I don’t suffer from foot problems like that I can’t tell you how well this actually works.
What I can tell you though, is that the compression material around the ankles and calves fits very tightly and pulling the socks up all the way can be a bit uncomfortable at first.
However, I did get used to it after a while and can absolutely recommend these socks if you are looking for additional compression around your calves.
Nike introduced the Elite socks in 2008 and they were an instant hit. They were so popular and rare, people were buying them in their local stores and reselling them on eBay for $40 or more. Since then, the socks with the iconic Nike Elite logo have become the most popular basketball socks on the market and some rare models are still collector’s items!
There is a reason behind this madness. The Nike Elite socks really are in a different league compared to your average 6-pack of white sports socks.
The first thing you notice when you put on a pair of Elites is that they are specifically tailored to fit your left or right foot. This really improves the fit and avoids unnecessary bunching around the toes. Additional cushioning to specific high-impact zones of the foot as well as arch support make these socks insanely comfortable during play. The material is very durable and lasts for years of high-intensity basketball.
The Nike Elites are not cheap, but once you’ve worn a pair, you really won’t want to go back to your average sports socks. They were the first high-performance basketball socks on the market and I believe they are still one of the best basketball socks available today.
Compared to previous editions, the Nike Elite Versatility comes in three different lengths: low, mid and crew. This gives players the option to choose the style they prefer. That’s great because I like my socks a little lower than the regular high crew cut. You can also go for an almost sockless look if you choose the lowest cut.
With these socks, Nike went back to a plush, cottony feel that is much nicer on the skin. They also added a ventilation zone on the top of the socks, which makes you feel as if you are playing with air conditioning. Cushioning, arch support and fit are all top-notch – exactly what we expect from Nike.
The Nike Versatility is a worthy addition to the Nike elite series, especially if you want to go for a lower look without sacrificing performance.
Stance was founded in 2009 in California with the goal to make socks the world’s most exciting accessories. And they did so very successfully!
Nowadays, Stance sells more than 15 million pairs of socks each year and is still growing at a fast pace.
If you are used to Nike Elite socks, you will be surprised by how flexible and easy Stance socks are to take-off and on. They are also very comfortable on-foot and I really dig their style! (Stance was the first NBA sock provider that was allowed to place their logo on the socks)
I would recommend Stance socks especially if you are not a big fan of thicker performance socks like the Nike Elites (or you need to fit a very narrow pair of shoes).
The socks of the “Quick” line feel similar to the previous Stance NBA socks, they are very flexible and stretchy and much easier to get on than the original Nike Elite socks.
The “Power” line is thicker and more-cushioned but still super stretchy. Some players even complain that it’s too stretchy, causing lateral slippage inside the socks on hard cuts.
If you want to try out the new Nike NBA socks, I would recommend going with the Quick Crew socks as they are super comfortable and hold up well even after a lot of washings. If you have a pair of shoes that feels a little bit too wide, trying out the Power Crew could be interesting, as it adds almost a half size to your feet!
The official retail price of $30 is crazy expensive, but most of the time, you can get them a lot cheaper on Eastbay.com.
If you are playing basketball for hours every day, high-performance basketball socks can really make a difference! They protect your feet from fatigue, help you avoid blisters and make playing basketball much more fun. I would recommend buying the original Nike Elite socks.
If you are not a fan of the regular crew cut, then check out the Elite Versatility line that works just as well on the court, but also comes in low-cut and mid-cut versions.