The Top 10 Basketball Shoes with the Best Cushion

The cushioning setup of basketball sneakers can differ wildly. There are shoes like the Kyrie 3 that make you feel like walking on a slab of concrete while others (Lebron 18) provide cushion that feels like a soft pillow.

Not everybody needs soft and comfortably-cushioned basketball shoes, but there are a lot of reasons why basketball shoes with a lot of impact protection might make sense for you:

  • You are a big and heavy guy
    Large players put a lot more stress on their joints and profit the most from well-cushioned shoes
  • You experience a lot of knee pain
    If your knees are hurting after every game you should look for more impact protection!
  • You play a lot
    If you are absolutely crazy about basketball and play hours every day it might make sense to get a second pair that provides additional cushioning to relieve the stress on your joints

To help you find the best cushioned basketball sneaker I am constantly checking out the latest shoe releases and record the ratings of every honest and qualified performance review I can find. So far I have summed up the findings of 1081 reviews of 229 different performance basketball shoes.

The following overview shows the top ten sneakers, ranked by the average score they received for their cushioning. This list was last updated on Oct 04, 2022. Scroll down further to see a more detailed summary of each shoe, or click on the links to see quotes and ratings from every review I gathered for each shoe.

  • 10.0 cushion rating based on 8 expert reviews
  • The tech-loaded Nike GT Jump's performance is outstanding.
  • Best for players with an explosive play style looking for good cushioning.
  • 10.0 cushion rating based on 2 expert reviews
  • The Under Armour Anatomix Spawn 3 is one of the best budget shoes you can buy.
  • Great for any position or player who wants a balanced cushion setup.
  • 9.6 cushion rating based on 4 expert reviews
  • The Jordan 36 Low performs almost identically to the Jordan 36.
  • Awesome shoe for players with explosive play styles looking for the extra lift when jumping.
  • 9.6 cushion rating based on 8 expert reviews
  • The Nike KD 15 is a shoe that has something for every type of player.
  • Best for players looking for a shoe that covers all the bases.
  • 9.6 cushion rating based on 8 expert reviews
  • The Nike Air Zoom G.T Cut is a great low-profile shoe packed with Nike's latest tech.
  • Players that like a fast and responsive shoe.
  • 9.5 cushion rating based on 4 expert reviews
  • The Li-Ning Way of Wade 10 features an outstanding cushioning setup alongside its grippy traction.
  • This shoe is an excellent pick for quick, explosive players who enjoy a bouncy feeling in their shoes.
  • 9.5 cushion rating based on 6 expert reviews
  • LeBron's 18th signature shoe has one of the best cushion setups available.
  • Great for big guys who like soft and comfortable cushioning.
  • 9.4 cushion rating based on 5 expert reviews
  • The Nike Cosmic Unity 2s materials make the shoe an improvement from last year's model, but only slightly.
  • Players that want cushioning but also want to feel low to the ground
  • 9.4 cushion rating based on 8 expert reviews
  • The latest Air Jordan mainline signature model is, once again, a top-performing shoe.
  • Great for players that are looking for a top-tier performance basketball shoe.
  • 9.3 cushion rating based on 7 expert reviews
  • The Nike Air Zoom G.T. Cut 2 continues to offer plenty of cushioning and solid overall performance.
  • Shifty players who enjoy lots of cushioning

 

It's Quiz Time!
Answer 6 easy questions and find
your perfect basketball shoes!
Let's Get Started!

Top 10 Best Cushion Basketball Shoes

1. Nike Air Zoom GT Jump

Performance Rating:
10.0
The tech-loaded Nike GT Jump's performance is outstanding.
cushion rating based on 8 reviews
Pros:
The tech works well together for performance
Jump frame is as good as advertised
Cons:
A bit on the heavier side
What do the experts think?
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.

2. Under Armour Anatomix Spawn 3

Performance Rating:
10.0
The Under Armour Anatomix Spawn 3 is one of the best budget shoes you can buy.
cushion rating based on 2 reviews
Pros:
Awesome traction
Great cushion setup
Cons:
Heel curve causes some instability
What do the experts think?
The traction of the UA Anatomix Spawn 3 is great on clean and dusty courts and the outsole is durable enough for occasional outdoor use. The cushion setup is one of the highlights of the shoe and features full-length Micro-G with a great mix of court feel, bounce, and impact protection. Considering the budget price, the materials are pretty good and get the job done just fine performance-wise. These fit true to size and provide a slightly loose fit. The materials stretch out a little over time. The support is solid and has you covered with good lateral containment. Lateral stability is good overall but the heel curvature causes a little instability. Overall the UA Anatomix Spawn 3 is an outstanding performer for the price.

3. Air Jordan 36 Low

Performance Rating:
9.6
The Jordan 36 Low performs almost identically to the Jordan 36.
cushion rating based on 4 reviews
Pros:
More comfortable fit than the regular 36
Amazing traction
Cons:
Does not contain as well as the regular 36
Slight heel slippage
What do the experts think?
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.

4. Nike KD 15

Performance Rating:
9.6
The Nike KD 15 is a shoe that has something for every type of player.
cushion rating based on 8 reviews
Pros:
Amazing traction
Bouncy cushion
Cons:
Some heel slippage
What do the experts think?
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.

5. Nike Air Zoom G.T. Cut

Performance Rating:
9.6
The Nike Air Zoom G.T Cut is a great low-profile shoe packed with Nike's latest tech.
cushion rating based on 8 reviews
Pros:
Cushion is responsive yet bouncy
Plays very fast
Cons:
Heavier than expected
Unnecessary material around the heel area
What do the experts think?
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.

6. Li-Ning Way of Wade 10

Performance Rating:
9.5
The Li-Ning Way of Wade 10 features an outstanding cushioning setup alongside its grippy traction.
cushion rating based on 4 reviews
Pros:
Incredibly bouncy cushioning
Amazing traction
Cons:
High price tag
Soft rubber isn't suitable for outdoors
What do the experts think?
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.

7. Nike Lebron 18

Performance Rating:
9.5
LeBron's 18th signature shoe has one of the best cushion setups available.
cushion rating based on 6 reviews
Pros:
Outstanding cushion
Premium materials
Cons:
Poor lateral stability and containment
Uncomfortable tongue
What do the experts think?
The traction of the Lebron 18 is good on clean courts, but inconsistent on dusty courts. The rubber of the outsole is durable enough for outdoor use. The cushion is one of the best setups you can buy today! The combination of full-length Zoom Air, Cushlon, and Max Air offers top of the line comfort with solid responsiveness. The $200 retail price is justified by materials that feel premium and durable, but some reviewers had issues with the tongue rubbing at the top of the foot. The Lebron 18 fits true to size, but the Batleknit materials take a little to break-in. The support is the low point of the shoe as reviewers had issues with lateral stability and containment due to the soft and high-off-the ground outsole. Overall the LeBron 18 is a comfortable shoe that is more suitable for big guys who can take advantage of the cushioning and don't make a lot of hard cuts.

8. Nike Cosmic Unity 2

Performance Rating:
9.4
The Nike Cosmic Unity 2s materials make the shoe an improvement from last year's model, but only slightly.
cushion rating based on 5 reviews
Pros:
Zoom Strobel cushioning
Lighter than last year
Cons:
Fit can be tricky
What do the experts think?
Like many other Nike shoes, the Cosmic Unity 2 uses a full-length Zoom Strobel. It performs terrifically, blending cushioning and responsiveness well. The traction performed well for most reviewers, and there were no complaints. The materials saw the biggest improvement as the shoe is lighter this year without sacrificing performance. There we no reported issues with support and lockdown. The shoe has all the features needed to keep you contained. Some reviewers reported that the shoe fits long and others reported that it fits narrow. Overall, the Nike Cosmic Unity 2 is a steady and balanced performer across the board and excels in cushioning.

9. Air Jordan 36

Performance Rating:
9.4
The latest Air Jordan mainline signature model is, once again, a top-performing shoe.
cushion rating based on 8 reviews
Pros:
Absolutely no issues at all with the traction
Cushion feels amazing
Cons:
The outsole can be a tiny bit unsteady
They fit narrow and snug
What do the experts think?
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.

10. Nike Air Zoom G.T. Cut 2

Performance Rating:
9.3
The Nike Air Zoom G.T. Cut 2 continues to offer plenty of cushioning and solid overall performance.
cushion rating based on 7 reviews
Pros:
Plush and bouncy cushioning
Drop-in midsole offers a lot of support
Cons:
Not the most durable materials
What do the experts think?
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.

Frequently asked questions about cushion in basketball shoes

What types of cushioning are there? And which cushion is the best?

It is impossible to say which type of cushioning setup is the best because they each cater to different needs and styles of play.

There are firm cushions like pure Phylon that provide great court feel and responsiveness which are perfect for light and quick guards. Other types of cushion like Nike Zoom Air provide a lot more impact protection and are better suited for heavy players or older athletes that want to go easy on their joints.

These are some of the most popular cushioning systems often used in basketball sneakers:

Nike Zoom Air

Zoom Air was first released in 1995 and is one of the oldest and most popular cushioning systems. It is made of tightly stretched tensile fibers in a pressurized “Air” unit. It is most often used in high-end basketball shoes and expensive signature lines like the Lebron or KD shoes.

Nike Zoom Air is a very bouncy cushioning that provides great energy returns through the way the fibers expand back to their initial state after every impact. It is also very versatile and can be used in different ways: from small Air units like in the heel of the Kyrie 4 to one huge full-length Zoom unit like in the Jordan Why Not Zero.1

Adidas Boost

Adidas Boost is still relatively new and was first used in basketball shoes for the Adidas Crazylight Boost in 2014. Since then it has taken the sneaker world by storm because of the incredible comfort it provides and is used in popular lifestyle models like the NMD or the Yeezy Boost

Boost outsoles are made of hundreds of tiny thermoplastic urethane pellets that are fused together using hot steam. What makes these pellets unique is that they are incredibly soft while still remaining springy enough to provide great energy return. This allows Adidas to make shoes that are insanely comfortable but still provide enough responsiveness to be used in quick sports like basketball.

Boost is used in most of Adidas’ high end basketball sneakers like the Crazy Explosive, D Rose 8 or the Harden Vol. 2. Check out this video to learn more about the Boost technology:

WHAT IS ADIDAS BOOST...

Other foam-based cushioning

Every shoe brand has multiple versions of foam cushionings usually made of EVA which is a mixture of two plastics (Ethylene and Vinyl Acetate). EVA is a foam that includes a lot of tiny air bubbles which provide the intended bounciness and comfort.

A well-know example of a simple EVA cushioning is Phylon which is used in a lot of Nike sneakers. Other more advanced forms of cushioning like Nike Lunarlon, Adidas Bounce or Under Armour Micro G use a mix of EVA and other rubbers to create lighter and more comfortable foam.

While the characteristics of foam cushioning can vary wildly, they are usually very responsive and provide great court feel but lack elite impact protection.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.