The Best Basketball Socks – A Definitive Guide

I used to spend days or weeks trying to find out which new basketball shoes have the best traction and would fit my narrow feet the best. Then, when I finally settled on a new pair, I would go on and rock these new shoes 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 want to tell 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:

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.

Material

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!

Thickness

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 Cotton Cushion.

Length

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 These socks are completely out of fashion now and have been replaced by compression pants.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 of the Nike Hyper Elite 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:

Socks
Features
Performance
Performance:
star star_halfstar_border
  • tight fit and comfortable material
  • affordable 3-pack of athletic socks
  • Price: $9.99
    Buy on Amazon
    Performance:
    star star_halfstar_border
  • look good with low-top shoes and lifestyle sneakers
  • Improved fit due to left/right specific design
  • Price: from $13.85
    Buy on Amazon
    Under Armour HeatGear
    Price: from $18.99
    Performance:
    star starstar_border
  • tight fit provides arch support and compression
  • HeatGear is designed to keep your feet cool
  • Price: from $18.99
    Buy on Amazon
    Performance:
    star star star_half
  • very good cushioning
  • synthetic material doesn’t smell
  • Price: from $20.00
    Buy on Amazon
    Performance:
    star star star
  • very popular basketball socks
  • huge variety of colorways
  • Price: from $5.50
    Buy on Amazon
    Performance:
    star star star
  • three different lengths: low, mid and crew
  • most comfortable basketball socks
  • Price: $18.95
    Buy on Amazon

    Nike Cotton Cushion Crew

    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.

    The Nike Cotton Cushion socks are made of a mix of cotton, nylon, and elastane, which gives them a nice plush feel. I love wearing these socks at home!

    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.


    Jordan Jumpman Quarter Socks

    If you are looking for clean socks to go along with your Jordans, these socks have you covered. They are low quarter cut socks, which means they are lower than regular athletic crew cut socks and end just above the ankles.

    These Jordan socks borrow a lot of features from more expensive performance socks:

    • They are left/right foot specific
    • Compression bands supports the arch of your feet
    • Thicker material adds cushion

    Overall, the Jordan Jumpman socks are very comfortable, affordable and also go well with lifestyle sneakers.

    Save 31% Nike Jordan Nike Jordan Jumpman Dri-Fit Quarter Socks Multi 3 Pair SX5544-011
    from $13.85 $20.00
    Buy on Amazon

    Under Armour Men's Heat Gear

    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.

    Under Armour Men's UA HeatGear Crew (Big Kid), White, Youth Large
    Price: from $18.99
    Buy on Amazon

    Nike Elite Basketball Socks

    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.​ Aditional 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.

    Save 83% Nike Hyper Elite Crew Basketball Socks Black/White Size Small
    from $5.50 $32.99
    Buy on Amazon

    Nike Hyper Elite

    Released as a follow-up to the original Elite socks, the Hyper Elites came out in 2014. You can recognize them by the slightly altered logo, but you will probably see them a lot less on the playgrounds as they never caught on as much as the originals.

    Compared to the Elites, these socks have a more synthetic feel to them. This makes them basically indestructible, but they also feel a little less comfortable on your skin. Cushioning of your feet and arch support stayed mostly the same, but the Hyper Elites added external cushioning around the ankles. This will be helpful if your shoes are uncomfortable around the lacing, but it didn’t add any benefits for me personally.

    Overall, the Hyper Elites are great basketball socks, but I don’t think they justify the extra three to five dollars when compared to the original Elites.

    Save 43% Nike Lebron Men's Hyper Elite Cushioned Crew Socks Large (shoe size 8-12) (Black)
    from $20.00 $34.99
    Buy on Amazon

    Nike Elite Versatility

    As the latest addition to the Nike Elite series, the Versatility line was released in 2016. And, they are more versatile, indeed.

    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.

    Nike Elite Versatility Crew Adult Basketball Athletic Training Socks (M 6-8, 657 University Red/Gym Red)
    Price: $18.95
    Buy on Amazon

    Final thoughts

    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. They are the most popular basketball socks for a reason!

    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.

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