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 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 877 reviews of 196 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 Jan 19, 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 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.

  • 9.8 cushion rating based on 5 expert reviews
  • An update to the Jordan 34 that performs just as well if not better.
  • The perfect shoe for players of every position who want a premium experience.

  • 9.8 cushion rating based on 6 expert reviews
  • The KD 13 is a great all-around performer with one of the best cushioning setups available.
  • A great pick if you are looking for a comfortable shoe that will also work outdoors.

  • 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 LeBron 19 is better in almost every way compared to last year's model.
  • Perfect if you enjoy extra cushion and impact protection.

  • 9.4 cushion rating based on 6 expert reviews
  • Paul George's 4th signature sneaker is one of the most affordable signature sneakers
  • Super comfortable and well-cushioned basketball shoes

  • 9.3 cushion rating based on 5 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.

  • 9.3 cushion rating based on 5 expert reviews
  • The KD14 is a great overall performer with no obvious weaknesses.
  • A versatile shoe that works for all type of players.

  • 9.3 cushion rating based on 4 expert reviews
  • The Nike Cosmic Unity is made from 25% recycled trash but doesn't perform like trash at all.
  • Best for players who need a good mix of impact protection and court feel.

  • 9.2 cushion rating based on 5 expert reviews
  • Super comfortable shoe with soft React cushioning and great traction
  • Works best for big guys looking for a lot of impact protection

 

Top 10 Best Cushion Basketball Shoes

1. 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.

2. Air Jordan 35

Performance Rating:
9.8
An update to the Jordan 34 that performs just as well if not better.
cushion rating based on 5 reviews
Pros:
Awesome cushion setup
Very supportive
Cons:
Rubbing around heel/arch
What do the experts think?
The traction on the Jordan 35 is similar to the 34 and performs just as well. You will get consistently great grip and stopping power - just don't ruin them playing outdoors. The addition of a large volume Zoom Air unit in the heel makes the cushion of this shoe even more comfortable and responsive. The materials are premium and have a good mix of old school and new textile materials. They are breathable and don't need breaking in. The support is even better than the 34 and has nice lateral containment, stability, and ankle support. Overall the Jordan 35 is an awesome performer that lives up to the hype and the expensive retail price!

3. Nike KD 13

Performance Rating:
9.8
The KD 13 is a great all-around performer with one of the best cushioning setups available.
cushion rating based on 6 reviews
Pros:
Comfortable full-length cushioning
Great traction indoors and outdoors
Cons:
Materials could be more premium
What do the experts think?
The nicest part of the KD 13 is the full-length Zoom Strobel which provides one of the best cushioning setups in basketball. The traction pattern does a good job in all directions and is tough and thick enough to last outdoors. The materials are thin, lightweight, and perform well but the quality doesn't feel premium in-hand. Support comes from the wide base and good fit however the minimal upper doesn't provide as much lockdown as previous KD models. As for most KD models, the fit of the KD13 is very comfortable if you have regular or narrow feet, wide-footers should go up half a size or look elsewhere. Overall, the KD 13 is a great basketball shoe with outstanding cushioning.

4. 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.

5. Nike Lebron 19

Performance Rating:
9.4
The Nike LeBron 19 is better in almost every way compared to last year's model.
cushion rating based on 5 reviews
Pros:
They provide good support and stability
The cushion feels incredible
Cons:
Traction can be inconsistent at times
They fit a bit snug
What do the experts think?
The latest entry in LeBron's signature shoe line gets off to a shaky start with reviewers mentioning that the traction performs inconsistently. As always with the LeBron line, the cushioning is the standout performance aspect. The shoe has ample impact protection while still finding a way to feel bouncy due to the forefoot Zoom Air. The fit can be snug. However, the materials do loosen up once broken in. Speaking of materials, they are much improved this year. The upper feels light and is comfortable straight out of the box. There are no issues with support and lockdown. In fact, the lateral containment is even a highlight for the LeBron 19. Overall, the Nike LeBron 19 is a fun shoe to play in with its crazy cushion setup, improved materials, and solid support. The only downside is the traction.

6. Nike PG 4

Performance Rating:
9.4
Paul George's 4th signature sneaker is one of the most affordable signature sneakers
cushion rating based on 6 reviews
Pros:
Super comfortable cushioning
Affordable signature sneaker
Cons:
Lateral support could be better
Sizing is tricky
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.

7. Nike Air Zoom G.T. Cut

Performance Rating:
9.3
The Nike Air Zoom G.T Cut is a great low-profile shoe packed with Nike's latest tech.
cushion rating based on 5 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.

8. Nike KD 14

Performance Rating:
9.3
The KD14 is a great overall performer with no obvious weaknesses.
cushion rating based on 5 reviews
Pros:
Soft & comfortable cushioning
Doesn't have any weaknesses
Cons:
A little bulky
What do the experts think?
For some reviewers, the traction of the KD14 took a little to break-in, but they all agreed that it provides a ton of grip on clean courts and doesn't have much trouble with dusty courts either. The Zoom Strobel and Cushlon midsole provide a perfect mix of comfort, impact protection, and responsiveness. One reviewer coined it the softest KD to date. Materials are a little cheap to the touch but they are comfortable on foot and combined with the wide base and plastic enforcement on the sides provide a lot of lockdown and support. The fit is less narrow than previous KD's and should work for most players unless you have super wide feet. Overall, reviewers agree that the KD14 is a slight improvement over the KD13 and a great overall performer that is absolutely worth the $150 price tag.

9. Nike Cosmic Unity

Performance Rating:
9.3
The Nike Cosmic Unity is made from 25% recycled trash but doesn't perform like trash at all.
cushion rating based on 4 reviews
Pros:
Balanced cushion
Great support
Cons:
Inconsistent traction on dust
What do the experts think?
The Nike Cosmic Unity is part of Nike's sustainability push and made from at least 25% trash. Is the performance on the court trash as well? The traction features a traditional herringbone pattern that performs well on clean courts but struggles a little on dusty surfaces. The cushion setup uses the same Zoom Air Strobel as the KD 12 and 13 and provides nice impact protection and responsiveness. The midsole is very low to the ground and gives your great court feel. The knit materials are nice to the touch and very durable. Performance-wise you'll have no issues! The support provides everything you've come to expect from performance basketball shoes with solid lateral stability and containment. Overall the Nike Cosmic Unity is a solid performer in every category. Just watch out if you play on dusty courts often.

10. Nike Air Zoom BB NXT

Performance Rating:
9.2
Super comfortable shoe with soft React cushioning and great traction
cushion rating based on 5 reviews
Pros:
Great traction even on dusty courts
Crazy-comfortable cushioning
Cons:
Lacks stability on lateral cuts
Expensive retail price
What do the experts think?
With the Air Zoom BB NXT, Nike included a lot of new technology focused on providing the most responsive basketball shoe ever. The traction is insane and the multi-directional pattern works well on clean and dusty courts. The cushioning setup is the highlight of the shoe with full-length double-stacked React and Zoom Air in the forefoot creating a super comfortable ride. The materials give good support and breathability but could be a little more premium considering the price point. The lockdown is nice, but the support suffers at times because of the high ride and plush cushioning setup. Overall, the Nike Air Zoom BB NXT provides great cushioning and traction with next-gen technology.

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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