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 15) 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 408 reviews of 69 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 Dec 04, 2018. 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.
- The combination of Air Max and Zoom provides an insanely comfortable cushioning
- Works extremely well for big guys that need a lot of impact protection.
- Very supportive high top with amazing traction and support
- Perfect if you are looking for traditional high-top basketball shoes
- Good traction and insanely comfortable cushioning
- Perfect for players who need maximum impact protection and cushioning
- Amazing performer with outstanding cushioning and top-notch traction
- Perfect for players of all positions who value court feel and freedom of movement
- Thick Boost cushioning provides a ton of impact protection
- Works especially well for bigger guards and heavier players
- Comfortable full-length Zoom Air cushioning
- Best for explosive and powerful players
- Comfortable Boost cushioning, premium materials and great traction
- Works for players of all positions
- Improved lacing system compared to the original KD9
- Works best for players with narrow feet looking for soft cushioning
- Very supportive leather upper, great traction, and responsive Zoom Air cushioning.
- Perfect if you like old-school basketball sneakers
- Provides responsive cushioning, good traction and great lockdown.
- Works best for quick guards looking for a low-to-the-ground, responsive and light basketball shoe.
Top 10 Best Cushion Basketball Shoes
Traction and cushioning perform very well and the support is absolutely amazing because of the solid materials used. The fit is more problematic as the leather doesn't conform to your feet as well as modern textile materials do.
If you like old-school basketball sneakers then you will love the Kobe 1 Protro, but if you are looking for a minimal and fast shoe then this isn't for you.
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 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.
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.