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 1551 reviews of 305 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 May 15, 2024. 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.

  • 9.7 cushion rating based on 7 expert reviews
  • Nike's G.T. Jump 2 has one of the best cushioning setups.
  • Any players who thrive with maximalist cushioning will love the Nike G.T. Jump 2.
  • 9.6 cushion rating based on 7 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
  • The Air Jordan 38 Low provides all the performance of the 38 with a lower cut.
  • All players can take advantage of the comfortable cushioning and reliable traction.
  • 9.4 cushion rating based on 8 expert reviews
  • The Li-Ning Way of Wade All City 12 is a fantastic shoe with close-to-top-tier traction and cushioning.
  • The Way of Wade All City 12 is best for guards or players who play fast and rely on court feel and responsiveness.
  • 9.4 cushion rating based on 11 expert reviews
  • The Nike LeBron 21 maintains its high level of performance while improving its support and stability.
  • The Nike LeBron 21 is fit for all play styles because of the mix of traction, cushioning and support.
  • 9.3 cushion rating based on 7 expert reviews
  • The Air Jordan 38 takes a step forward with improved support. The traction and cushioning are also solid.
  • This is a perfect shoe for players looking for maximalist containment.
  • 9.3 cushion rating based on 10 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
  • 9.2 cushion rating based on 10 expert reviews
  • The Adidas Harden Volume 8 is a fantastic performer with excellent traction on clean courts and comfortable cushioning.
  • The Harden Vol 8 is best for players who use powerful footwork to create space.
  • 9.1 cushion rating based on 9 expert reviews
  • The Harden Vol 7 feels quick because of the traction and cushioning setup.
  • The perfect shoe for those with versatile playstyles.
  • 9.0 cushion rating based on 5 expert reviews
  • The New Balance Fresh Foam BB V2 delivers comfortable cushioning with ample impact protection.
  • Explosive players who emphasize a vertical play style will appreciate the New Balance Fresh Foam BB V2.

 

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Top 10 Best Cushion Basketball Shoes

1. Nike G.T. Jump 2

Performance Rating:
9.7
Nike's G.T. Jump 2 has one of the best cushioning setups.
cushion rating based on 7 reviews
Pros:
Top-tier cushioning setup
Improved mobility from the Jump Frame
Cons:
Materials quality could be better
What do the experts think?
The latest in the Nike Zoom G.T. Jump series is an impressive upgrade. The traction is reliable, and it performs well on all court types. Dust doesn't affect performance much, but make sure to wipe. Nike improved the cushioning setup too. The React is soft and comfortable, while the Jump Frame and Zoom Air provide outstanding bounceback. The material quality isn't the best, but they feel comfortable. Lateral stability isn't as secure because of the reduced Jump Frame, but the support is still fantastic and uncompromised. The shoe allows for more movement. Overall, the Nike G.T. Jump 2 is a maximalist shoe done right.

2. Li-Ning Way of Wade 10

Performance Rating:
9.6
The Li-Ning Way of Wade 10 features an outstanding cushioning setup alongside its grippy traction.
cushion rating based on 7 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.

3. Air Jordan 38 Low

Performance Rating:
9.5
The Air Jordan 38 Low provides all the performance of the 38 with a lower cut.
cushion rating based on 6 reviews
Pros:
Improved containment and stability
Traction and cushioning remain unchanged
Cons:
Dust pickup
What do the experts think?
Jordan Brand did a solid job on their latest release, the Air Jordan 38 Low. The traction performance remains the same on the Low. It performs exceptionally well as long as players wipe the dust. The full-length Zoom Strobel remains a favourite amongst reviewers. This shoe has one of the best cushioning setups on the market. Reviewers also enjoyed the containment and stability of the 38 Low, especially around the heel area. There are no complaints about the material usage. Reviewers say the shoe feels comfortable on foot. The Air Jordan 38 Low delivers impressive performance in a low-cut form factor. The traction and cushioning combo remains elite.

4. Li-Ning Way of Wade All City 12

Performance Rating:
9.4
The Li-Ning Way of Wade All City 12 is a fantastic shoe with close-to-top-tier traction and cushioning.
cushion rating based on 8 reviews
Pros:
Comfortable and responsive Boom foam
Grippy traction on all surfaces
Cons:
Shoe retains a lot of heat
What do the experts think?
Li-Ning continues to put out top-quality performance shoes with this year's All City 12. The traction performs consistently well on all surfaces, and the rubber holds up outdoors. Li-Ning's Boom foam cushioning is a favourite among reviewers. It feels responsive and offers plenty of court feel. Reviewers had no complaints about any of the support and lockdown features. The materials feel sturdier than last year's model without sacrificing comfort. The Li-Ning Way of Wade All City 12 is a top-notch performer. It has no noticeable weaknesses, and the traction and cushioning excel.

5. Nike Lebron 21

Performance Rating:
9.4
The Nike LeBron 21 maintains its high level of performance while improving its support and stability.
cushion rating based on 11 reviews
Pros:
Bouncy cushioning
Upgraded support and materials
Cons:
Slightly narrow fit
What do the experts think?
Nike and LeBron hookup for the 21st entry in his signature shoe line. This time, with improved materials and stability. Most reviewers agree the traction performance is solid, especially on clean courts. Make sure that you wipe on dusty courts. The cushioning feels springy and bouncy. The Cushlon foam and Zoom units provide a balanced feel. The upper materials are where the shoe sees the most change. The leather feels more supportive, and the tongue is breathable, too. With the revamped upper, the support and lockdown are better. Lateral containment is incredible and secure. Nike continues in the right direction with the LeBron signature line. The Nike LeBron 21 makes slight tweaks to improve the materials and support.

6. Air Jordan 38

Performance Rating:
9.3
The Air Jordan 38 takes a step forward with improved support. The traction and cushioning are also solid.
cushion rating based on 7 reviews
Pros:
Improved containment and stability
Comfortable full-length Zoom Strobel
Cons:
Price is expensive
Outsole durability
What do the experts think?
The latest entry in Jordan Brand's signature lineup improves on the previous Air Jordan 37. The traction grip is elite, but the rubber wears away quickly. It's not suited for outdoor use. Jordan Brand uses a full-length Zoom Strobel combined with Cushlon 3.0. It provides a comfortable and bouncy cushioning setup. Support is much improved this year. The lockdown and containment keep you stable and secure. The materials are comfortable and breathable. The upper feels more traditional in terms of materials. Jordan Brand paid attention to the details with the Air Jordan 38. The shoe is more reliable and secure this year.

7. 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 10 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.

8. Adidas Harden Volume 8

Performance Rating:
9.2
The Adidas Harden Volume 8 is a fantastic performer with excellent traction on clean courts and comfortable cushioning.
cushion rating based on 10 reviews
Pros:
The Jetboost cushioning feels plush
Traction is tacky
Cons:
Heavy shoe for modern performance standards
Picks up dust quickly
What do the experts think?
James Harden's signature shoe continues to be one of the best on the market with the release of the Adidas Harden Volume 8. All reviewers agree the traction performance is excellent on clean courts, but the outsole picks up dust quickly. After the rubber warms up, the performance on dust improves. The full-length Jetboost cushioning setup provides comfort and responsiveness. The materials are interesting, especially the EVA sidewall. The shoe is comfortable, but it retains heat longer than other shoes. The weight is also on the heavier side. Support and lockdown are not an issue. The shoe's construction keeps you stable and secure through lateral movements. Overall, the Adidas Harden Volume 8 is another impressive performer because of the tacky traction and comfortable cushioning.

9. Adidas Harden Volume 7

Performance Rating:
9.1
The Harden Vol 7 feels quick because of the traction and cushioning setup.
cushion rating based on 9 reviews
Pros:
Traction is phenomenal most of the time
Impressive balance in cushioning
Cons:
The shoe is not breathable
Materials are not high-quality
What do the experts think?
The latest entry in Harden's signature shoe line features elite traction as long as you wipe on dusty courts. Adidas' use of Boost in the heel and Lightstrike in the forefoot provide a firm but bouncy and cushioned ride. The materials are comfortable but not high-quality or breathable. Support comes from the form-fitting materials and solid base of the shoe. Reviewers did not have any issues. The Adidas Harden Vol 7 is a versatile performer suited for most players.

10. New Balance Fresh Foam BB V2

Performance Rating:
9.0
The New Balance Fresh Foam BB V2 delivers comfortable cushioning with ample impact protection.
cushion rating based on 5 reviews
Pros:
Soft, comfortable cushioning
Stable fit and support
Cons:
The shoe retains some moisture
Lacks some responsiveness
What do the experts think?
New Balance delivers a comfortable shoe with impressive performance features in the New Balance Fresh Foam BB V2. The traction is grippy and substantial, especially on clean courts. Reviewers experienced some sliding on dusty courts. New Balance's Fresh Foam X provides a soft, comfortable ride. The foam provides excellent impact protection. All reviewers enjoyed the quality of the materials. The support and lockdown comes from the stable and secure fit. The shoe is forgiving and well-contained. The New Balance Fresh Foam BB V2 improves on many of the previous model's shortcomings. The cushioning is a standout feature.

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.

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