Basketball Shoes Best Cushion

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 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.

Cushion Rating 9.8 (10 reviews)
  • 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.
Cushion Rating 9.7 (6 reviews)
  • Very supportive high top with amazing traction and support
  • Perfect if you are looking for traditional high-top basketball shoes
Cushion Rating 9.6 (8 reviews)
  • Good traction and insanely comfortable cushioning
  • Perfect for players who need maximum impact protection and cushioning
Cushion Rating 9.4 (7 reviews)
  • Amazing performer with outstanding cushioning and top-notch traction
  • Perfect for players of all positions who value court feel and freedom of movement
Cushion Rating 9.4 (8 reviews)
  • Thick Boost cushioning provides a ton of impact protection
  • Works especially well for bigger guards and heavier players
Cushion Rating 9.3 (9 reviews)
  • Comfortable full-length Zoom Air cushioning
  • Best for explosive and powerful players
Cushion Rating 9.3 (8 reviews)
  • Comfortable Boost cushioning, premium materials and great traction
  • Works for players of all positions
Cushion Rating 9.3 (4 reviews)
  • Improved lacing system compared to the original KD9
  • Works best for players with narrow feet looking for soft cushioning
Cushion Rating 9.2 (5 reviews)
  • Very supportive leather upper, great traction, and responsive Zoom Air cushioning.
  • Perfect if you like old-school basketball sneakers
Cushion Rating 9.2 (11 reviews)
  • 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

1. Nike Lebron 15

Average Expert Rating: 8.8 (see all 10 reviews)
Shoe reviewers almost unanimously call the Lebron 15 the best Lebron signature shoe yet. The combination of Air Max and Zoom provides an insanely comfortable cushioning that works extremely well for big guys that need a lot of impact protection. The new premium Battleknit upper is very comfortable and provides excellent fit and containment. The only slight downside is the traction which needs a while to break in and has slight problems with lateral cuts. Overall, this is the perfect shoe for heavy and powerful guys looking for maximum cushioning and comfort.
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2. Adidas D Rose 8

Average Expert Rating: 8.9 (see all 6 reviews)
The D Rose 8 is an amazing overall performer. It absolutely nails the two most important features of any basketball shoe: traction and support. The new "zipper" traction pattern provides beastly traction, even on dusty courts. Full-length Boost cushioning is perfectly balanced and provides a lot of impact protection while still being very responsive. The materials are rather basic and may look a little cheap, but they absolutely get the job done. If you are looking for a supportive high top with amazing traction and support then this is the shoe for you.
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3. Nike Zoom KD 9

Average Expert Rating: 8.6 (see all 8 reviews)
The KD9 is a clear step forward for the KD line. All reviewers highlight the good traction and the insanely comfortable cushioning. Some critics even feel that the cushioning is a little too much for a performance basketball sneaker. The one-piece bootie design is a pain to get into and the support features are minimal. Overall a very good performance sneaker that works for all types of basketball players.
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4. Adidas Harden Vol. 3

Average Expert Rating: 9.1 (see all 7 reviews)
The Harden Vol.3 is by far James Harden's best signature sneaker. The traditional herringbone traction pattern performs extremely well - even on dusty courts. The Boost cushioning is low-to-the-ground, comfortable, responsive, and definitely the best implementation of Boost in a basketball shoe. Materials feel premium and comfortable and support is much improved compared to previous Harden models. All sneaker reviewers agree: the Harden 3 is a huge improvement in all areas and one of the best basketball shoes of 2018 in general!
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5. Adidas Harden Vol. 2

Average Expert Rating: 8.6 (see all 8 reviews)
The Harden Vol. 2 is a nice improvement over James Harden' first signature sneaker. The thicker Boost cushioning provides a ton of impact protection while remaining responsive enough for guards. The traction is great on clean courts but requires you to wipe a lot on dusty courts. Materials are not premium but perform very well and give you all the support you need. Overall, this is a shoe that works especially well for bigger guards and heavier players who look for a lot of cushioning and support.
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6. Jordan Why Not Zero.1

Average Expert Rating: 8.7 (see all 9 reviews)
Russel Westbrook's first signature sneaker is a hit with shoe reviewers. The full-length Zoom cushioning, usually reserved for much more expensive shoes, is responsive, comfortable and offers great impact protection for explosive players. The fit and support work very well and give you the stability needed for quick moves. Traction is great on clean courts but you will need to wipe a lot on dustier courts. At only $125, this is a great first release for Russel Westbrooks signature line and offers amazing bang for the buck.
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7. Adidas Crazy Explosive PrimeKnit 2017

Average Expert Rating: 9.0 (see all 8 reviews)
Succeeding the very successful and much beloved 2016 model is a difficult task, but the Crazy Explosive 2017 pulls it off! Reviewers love everything from the excellent (but slightly firmer) cushioning, to the premium materials, great fit and excellent support. The only slight negative is the stiffer upper that takes a while to break in but then becomes really comfortable. One of the best-reviewed shoes in 2017 so far!
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8. Nike KD 9 Elite

Average Expert Rating: 8.5 (see all 4 reviews)
The KD9 Elite is very similar to the original KD9. The only difference is the new upper material and lacing setup. Opinions on these changes vary: Some feel like the new lacing system is an improvement that provides better fit and more lockdown. Others feel like it makes the shoe even narrower and almost impossible to wear for wide-footers.
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9. Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro

Average Expert Rating: 8.9 (see all 5 reviews)
The performance retro of the original Kobe 1 Protro turns out to be very divisive. Some reviewers love the retro materials and sturdy feel of an old-school basketball sneaker, while others complain that these are too heavy and bulky compared to current performance sneakers.
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.
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10. Adidas Dame 4

Average Expert Rating: 8.8 (see all 11 reviews)
The Adidas Dame 4, Damian Lillard's latest signature sneaker, gets a lot of love from shoe critics. The cushioning is optimized for lighter guards and provides great court feel while still offering a decent amount of impact protection. The traction takes a little while to break in, but then it works really well - especially on clean courts. The fit of the Dame 4 is very snug and provides great lockdown and support, especially considering the extremely low silhouette of the shoe. If you are a quick guard and you are looking for a low-to-the-ground, responsive and light basketball shoe at an affordable price, then the Adidas Dame 4 is the perfect shoe for you!
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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:

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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