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 635 reviews of 123 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 Mar 10, 2020. 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.


1. Nike KD 12

  • 9.9 cushion rating based on 7 expert reviews
  • Great overall-performer with awesome full-length Zoom cushioning
  • A well-balanced shoe that works for a wide array of basketball players

2. Nike PG 4

  • 9.6 cushion rating based on 4 expert reviews
  • Paul George's 4th signature sneaker is one of the most affordable signature sneakers
  • Super comfortable and well-cushioned basketball shoes

3. Adidas Marquee Boost

  • 9.6 cushion rating based on 6 expert reviews
  • Retro look with very comfortable, modern Boost cushioning
  • Works for a wide array of basketball players

4. Air Jordan 34

  • 9.6 cushion rating based on 8 expert reviews
  • The lightest Air Jordan ever is a great all-around performance basketball shoe
  • A great option if you are looking for a light & stylish shoe with no real weaknesses

5. Nike Lebron 17

  • 9.5 cushion rating based on 4 expert reviews
  • The huge Max Air unit in the heel and 2 Zoom Air units in the forefoot provide crazy cushioning
  • Top choice if you are looking for a comfortable, supportive shoe with a ton of impact protection

6. Adidas Harden Vol. 3

  • 9.5 cushion rating based on 8 expert reviews
  • Amazing performer with outstanding cushioning and top-notch traction
  • Perfect for players of all positions who value court feel and freedom of movement

7. Adidas Dame 6

  • 9.1 cushion rating based on 7 expert reviews
  • The Dame 6 is an affordable signature sneaker with comfortable full-length Lightstrike cushioning
  • Works best for guards who play on clean courts most of the time

8. Adidas N3XT L3V3L

  • 9.1 cushion rating based on 5 expert reviews
  • No lacing system - no problem. Adidas' most futuristic basketball shoe so far
  • Works well for explosive players looking for a light shoe with a well-balanced, responsive cushioning setup

9. Nike Lebron 16

  • 9.0 cushion rating based on 8 expert reviews
  • Provides balanced cushioning, traction that works on all surfaces, and premium BattleKnit upper
  • Especially recommended for explosive and powerful wing players.

10. New Balance OMN1S

  • 9.0 cushion rating based on 4 expert reviews
  • New Balance's first basketball sneaker in a long time really knocked it out of the park
  • A durable performer with comfortable cushioning, good materials, and great traction on clean courts
 

Top 10 Best Cushion Basketball Shoes

1. Nike KD 12

8.8 Overall rating based on 7 expert reviews
Pros:
Full-length Zoom cushioning
Much more stable than previous KD models
Cons:
Materials could feel more premium
Traction
9.0
Cushion
9.9
Materials
8.1
Support
8.4
Fit
8.4
Outdoor
20%
What do the experts think?
The KD12 is a huge step up from the disappointing predecessors. The full-length Zoom sits directly beneath the feet and provides a ton of response and bounce. The cushioning is a bit divisive, some reviewers are raving about it, others found it to be a bit too inconsistent on dusty courts. The look and feel of the materials aren't very premium, but the performance of the flywire upper is top-notch. The fit should work for most basketball players as it isn't as long and narrow as we are used too from the KD line. Overall, the KD12 is a great performer with outstanding cushioning and no real weaknesses!
Available at 5 shops:
Colorways of the Nike KD 12:

2. Nike PG 4

8.3 Overall rating based on 4 expert reviews
Pros:
Super comfortable cushioning
Affordable signature sneaker
Cons:
Lateral support could be better
Sizing is tricky
Traction
8.3
Cushion
9.6
Materials
8.3
Support
7.0
Fit
7.7
Outdoor
25%
What do the experts think?
The 4th edition of Paul George's signature sneaker changes things up a little. A Nike Air strobel board that sits directly under your feet replaces the Nike Zoom Air cushioning. This setup gives you a softer and super comfortable, cloud-like feeling. The circular traction pattern works well in all directions and keeps performing solidly even on dusty courts. The biggest weaknesses of the PG4 are the support and lockdown: most critics reported sliding out off the footbed on sharp lateral cuts and some experienced mild heel slippage. Overall, the PG4 is a solid performer that works best for lighter players who don't rely on explosive lateral cuts.
Available at 5 shops:
Colorways of the Nike PG 4:

3. Adidas Marquee Boost

8.7 Overall rating based on 6 expert reviews
Pros:
Well-balanced Boost cushioning
Very supportive
Cons:
Traction on dusty courts is problematic
Traction
8.2
Cushion
9.6
Materials
8.5
Support
8.8
Fit
8.4
Outdoor
63%
What do the experts think?
The Adidas Marquee Boost is a modern performance basketball shoe with a bit of retro flair. The traction sticks like glue on clean courts but can be problematic on dusty courts, especially in the beginning. The Boost cushioning provides a lot of impact protection in the heel and responsiveness in the forefoot. If you are looking for a shoe with a lot of ankle support then the high version has you covered with a firm and supportive ankle collar. The materials are rather basic but they look and feel nice and get the job done. Overall, the Marquee Boost is a very good all-around performer that should work for basketball players of all positions.
Available at 4 shops:
Colorways of the Adidas Marquee Boost:

4. Air Jordan 34

9.0 Overall rating based on 8 expert reviews
Pros:
Super bouncy cushioning
Herringbone traction stops on a dime
Cons:
Expensive retail price
Traction
9.3
Cushion
9.6
Materials
8.3
Support
8.8
Fit
9.0
Outdoor
25%
What do the experts think?
With the XXXIV, Jordan Brand decided to take less inspiration from their retros and instead focus on providing a lightweight, top-notch performer. Did they succeed? The traction of the AJ34 features a herringbone traction pattern that works well in all conditions. The cushioning isn't as plush as in previous models, but it's also much less clunky and provides a fun, well-balanced ride. The materials aren't super-premium, but they are flexible, lightweight and breathable. Even though the AJ34 is much lighter than other Air Jordans, support and stability don't suffer because of the wide and stable base and the Eclipse plate in the midfoot. Overall, the Air Jordan 34 is a great performer and by far the best Air Jordan since the AJ29!
Available at 6 shops:
Colorways of the Air Jordan 34:

5. Nike Lebron 17

8.9 Overall rating based on 4 expert reviews
Pros:
Insanely comfortable cushioning
Premium upper materials
Cons:
Steep $200 retail price
Heavy
Traction
8.3
Cushion
9.5
Materials
9.4
Support
8.8
Fit
8.6
Outdoor
25%
What do the experts think?
The Lebron 17 is one of the most expensive basketball shoes on the market, does it justify it's $200 retail price? Reviewers' opinions on the traction were split: the Solebrother called it "god-levels" especially on a translucent rubber pair while Nightwing2303 didn't like the white solid rubber, even on clean courts. The cushioning, however, was loved by everyone. A huge Max Air unit in the heel is combined with Zoom in the forefoot and they provide a ton of impact protection and bounce. The new Knitposite upper material is thick, soft and comfortable - but it gets pretty hot after a while. Overall, the Lebron 17 is a great performer, especially you are a heavier player looking for a comfortable and supportive shoe.
Available at 5 shops:
Colorways of the Nike Lebron 17:

6. Adidas Harden Vol. 3

9.0 Overall rating based on 8 expert reviews
Pros:
Amazing traction
Well-balanced Boost cushioning
Cons:
Break-in required to get rid of heel slip
Traction
8.8
Cushion
9.5
Materials
8.9
Support
8.8
Fit
9.1
Outdoor
0%
What do the experts think?
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!
Available at 2 shops:
Colorways of the Adidas Harden Vol. 3:

7. Adidas Dame 6

7.7 Overall rating based on 7 expert reviews
Pros:
Lightstrike cushioning is super comfortable
Affordable signature sneaker
Cons:
The outsole attracts a lot of dust
Materials are not very durable
Traction
7.0
Cushion
9.1
Materials
7.1
Support
7.2
Fit
7.8
Outdoor
0%
What do the experts think?
After his epic performance in the 2019 NBA playoffs, there is a lot of anticipation for Dame's latest signature sneaker - but does it fulfill expectations? The Lightstrike cushioning is the clear highlight of this sneaker. Experts praise the great balance of impact protection in the heel and responsiveness and court feel in the forefoot. Unfortunately, the translucent rubber of the outsole picks up a lot of dust on dirty courts - be prepared to wipe a lot! The materials feel a little cheap and not super durable, but they get the job done on foot. Support features are standard but one reviewer complained about the narrow, rounded and therefore unstable outsole. Overall, the Dame 6 is a good performer with flaws (traction, durability) that might be dealbreakers for some players.
Available at 4 shops:
Colorways of the Adidas Dame 6:

8. Adidas N3XT L3V3L

8.5 Overall rating based on 5 expert reviews
Pros:
Very comfortable Primeknit upper
Well-balanced Lightstrike cushioning
Cons:
Traction is problematic on dusty courts
Traction
8.4
Cushion
9.1
Materials
8.9
Support
8.0
Fit
8.3
Outdoor
0%
What do the experts think?
The Adidas Next Level is probably the most futuristic performance basketball shoe currently on the market. Even though it comes without any lacing system, the support works surprisingly well. Reviewers experienced absolutely no heel slippage, side-to-side movement or other support issues. The traction works well on clean courts, but the rubber compound has problems on dusty courts - be prepared to wipe a lot! The new Lightstrike cushioning offers a lot of court feel and responsiveness without ever compromising impact protection. Overall, the Adidas N3XT L3V3l is a great performer that will make you stand out on the basketball court.
Available at 1 shop:
Colorways of the Adidas N3XT L3V3L:

9. Nike Lebron 16

8.9 Overall rating based on 8 expert reviews
Pros:
Premium materials
Traction works well even on dusty courts
Cons:
Expensive retail price
Traction
9.1
Cushion
9.0
Materials
9.0
Support
8.7
Fit
8.4
Outdoor
83%
What do the experts think?
All sneaker critics agree: The Lebron 16 is a huge improvement over the XV and one of the best shoes of Lebron's signature line in a long time. The traction works on all surfaces, the cushioning is a little more versatile but still very comfortable, and stability is much-improved thanks to the use of tiny lateral outriggers on the outsole. The Battleknit 2.0 looks and feels very premium and provides great lockdown and containment. Overall, the Lebron 16 is an outstanding performance hoops shoe that is especially recommended for explosive and powerful wing players.
Available at 2 shops:
Colorways of the Nike Lebron 16:

10. New Balance OMN1S

8.7 Overall rating based on 4 expert reviews
Pros:
Comfortable Fuel Cell cushioning
High-quality and durable materials
Cons:
Rubber picks up dust quickly
Traction
9.0
Cushion
9.0
Materials
9.0
Support
7.8
Fit
8.5
Outdoor
100%
What do the experts think?
The first New Balance basketball sneaker in a long time gets a lot of love from sneaker critics: The herringbone traction pattern has you stopping on a dime on clean courts, but the translucent rubber picks up a lot of dust if you play on dirty courts. The Fuel-Cell foam cushioning is the highlight of the shoe and provides you a very well-balanced and comfortable ride. The upper materials are of high quality and should last for a long time, even if you play outdoors. Overall, the New Balance OMN1S comes highly recommended for players of all positions that look for a well-balanced performer.
Available at 4 shops:
Colorways of the New Balance OMN1S:

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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