Finding the basketball shoe with the best traction is not an easy task. There are so many different models to pick from and shoes often perform differently depending on the quality of the court, your playing style and even the rubber compound used on a specific colorway.
Fortunately, the web is full of shoe reviewers that can provide you with different opinions and give you a good overall idea of the performance of a basketball sneaker. To save you the time reading and watching all of these reviews I am continuously checking out all significant shoe releases and read or watch all shoe reviews I can find.
So far I have collected ratings of 69 different basketball shoes and consumed exactly 408 reviews in doing so! New reviews are added all the time to create a basketball shoe database that is complete and always up to date.
The following overview shows the ten basketball shoes with the best traction ranked by the average grade they received for it. Scroll down further to read a more detailed summary of each shoe.
Aggressive herringbone pattern works on every surface
Will work best for wide-footers
Affordable low-top with excellent traction, great support, and solid cushioning.
Works best for quick guards in need of excellent traction
Traction works great outdoors or on dusty courts
Top performer that works best for quick guards
The herringbone traction grips on all courts - even outdoors
Great all-around performer at a very fair price!
Comfortable Flyknit material and incredible traction
Perfect shoe for guards who value court feel
Amazing traction for a very fair price
Good choice for light and quick guards who value court feel over impact protection
A very responsive shoe with minimal lag when changing directions
Built for quickness and court feel
Provides balanced cushioning, traction that works on all surfaces, and premium BattleKnit upper
Especially recommended for explosive and powerful wing players.
Great traction that performs everywhere - even outdoors
An affordable performer that will work for almost all players
Amazing performer with outstanding cushioning and top-notch traction
Perfect for players of all positions who value court feel and freedom of movement
Best Traction Basketball Shoes:
The Top 10
The strongest point of the Under Armour Drive 4 is clearly its traction. The thick and aggressive herringbone pattern works on every surface - even outdoors. The Micro-G cushioning in the heel is nice, but the forefoot feels pretty much dead. The materials are very low-key and some reviewers mentioned a slightly painful break-in period. Overall, this is a solid shoe that outperforms its budget pricing and will work for every style of player - especially if you have wide feet!
Best Deals for the Under Armour Drive 4:
The HOVR Havoc Low is the first basketball shoe that comes with Under Armour's new HOVR cushioning technology. The HOVR foam in the outsole is heavily caged and starts off very firm but gets more comfortable after the (considerable) break-in time. The outsole is made from a hard and durable rubber and sports a traditional herringbone traction pattern that impresses on all surfaces. Materials are standard Mesh and synthetics that provide a ton of support and lockdown.
Overall, the Under Armour HOVR Havoc Low is a great performer for quick guards looking for an affordable low-top with excellent traction, great support, and solid cushioning.
Best Deals for the Under Armour HOVR Havoc Low:
The Adidas Crazylight Boost 2018 has amazing traction that works well on all surfaces - even on dusty courts or outdoors. The Boost cushioning is firmer and more responsive but less comfortable compared to the Adidas Crazy Explosive which works well for quick guards. A lot of reviewers complained about issues with the fit in the form of dead space in the toe box and problems with heel slippage - make sure to go down half a size to limit these issues.
Overall, the Crazylight Boost is an underestimated performance basketball shoe that offers great bang for the buck!
Best Deals for the Adidas Crazylight Boost 2018:
The most outstanding feature of the Jordan Jumpman Hustle is the thick and hard herringbone traction pattern that provides grip on all courts - even outdoors. The forefoot Zoom Air Unit feels bouncy and the Phylon midsole is soft and comfortable. The shroud on top of the lacing system gives the shoe a unique look but also feels very comfortable while staying low-to-the-ground. The only downside of the Jumpman Hustle is the slightly stretchy upper and narrow base that doesn't give as much lateral support as some players might need.
Overall, this is a great all-around performer at a very fair price!
Best Deals for the Jordan Jumpman Hustle:
Reviewers really like the comfortable Flyknit material and the incredible (and very squeaky) traction. The only downside of the shoe is the completely new React cushioning which is not able to convince the critics. Many find it to be dead or lifeless and would prefer a traditional Nike Zoom cushioning. Outside of that, the shoe gets very good grades for its overall performance.
Best Deals for the Nike Hyperdunk Flyknit 2017:
Kyrie Irving's third signature sneaker is praised by reviewers for its fair price, good looks, and great traction. The biggest flaw of this shoe is the missing cushion. Good choice for light and quick guards who value court feel over impact protection. The upper and outsole are made of very durable materials, so this shoe will also hold up pretty well outdoors.
Best Deals for the Nike Kyrie 3:
After the disappointing last model, Under Armour is back with a winner. The Curry 4 was built to fit exactly what Steph Curry is looking for in basketball shoes: quickness and court feel. So, if you are a quick guard and you are looking for a shoe that is very responsive and allows you to change directions with zero lag, then the Curry 4 is the perfect shoe for you! However, if you are a big guy and you need a decent amount of impact protection, then the firm cushioning will likely be a deal breaker.
Best Deals for the Under Armour Curry 4:
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.
Best Deals for the Nike Lebron 16:
The Lebron Soldier 12 is a great performance sneaker! Compared to the Lebron 15 it's a little lighter and comes with a more responsive cushioning which makes it a better fit for guards and lighter players in general. The traction is absolutely amazing and works well even on dusty courts. Materials are very comfortable and getting into this shoe is a breeze. The only downside are the annoying straps that come undone easily - you will have to restrap a lot!
Overall, the Lebron Soldier 12 is a great all-around performer at an affordable price that will work for a lot of players.
Best Deals for the Nike Lebron Soldier 12:
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!
Best Deals for the Adidas Harden Vol. 3:
Frequently asked questions about traction:
How can I improve the traction of my basketball shoes?
There is no magic formula that makes old basketball shoes stick to the floor like glue, but there are a few things you can do to improve traction:
Wipe – a lot!
This one is self-explanatory. The grooves of the traction pattern become more and more shallow with time, which means you will need to wipe a lot more to get the dust off the surface of the rubber.
Get a courtside traction mat
If you don’t want to get your hands dusty and dirty from all the wiping then this is a great alternative.
A courtside traction mat
is usually placed close to the bench and you just step on it when you get subbed in or if you want to refresh your grip during timeouts.
A lot of basketball teams use these traction mats to get an advantage over their opponents, especially on dusty and slippery courts.
Get a pair of “Court Grabbers”
The Court Grabbers
work similarly to a traction mat but instead of placing a mat on the side of the court you attach a pair of traction pads to the laces of your shoes. Before the game you apply a small amount of traction gel
to these pads.
Now, if you want to improve the grip of your shoes, you just slide the bottom of your shoes across the pad to restore the traction. If your traction is really bad and you need to wipe after every other possession then the Court Grabbers are much more practical because you don’t need a break in play.
Which basketball shoes perform best on dusty courts?
If you are not a professional basketball player who gets to play on pristine, freshly waxed hardowood courts all the time your are probably familiar with basketball courts that could easily be used as skating rinks. No sneaker will grip the floor well if your court is covered with a thick layer of dust. But some sneakers work better than others:
Get solid rubber colorways
While it is not true for every shoe and every brand, in general, translucent colorways seem to attract a lot more dust than solid ones.
Look for a traction pattern with deep and wide grooves
If the grooves of the traction pattern are too narrow and shallow they will be clogged with dust quickly. As soon as this happens you will be sliding like crazy because the rubber of your shoe is no longer able to make contact with the floor.
Another problem of narrow grooves: Wiping dust becomes so much harder!
What’s the best traction pattern for basketball shoes?
There are so many different traction patterns – it’s impossible to keep track. But there are a few things you can look out for:
The pattern should be multidirectional
A multidirectional pattern has grooves in every direction which allows for grip not only when you accelerate straight ahead, but also when you do lateral moves like crossovers or defensive slides.
A very popular example of a multidirectional pattern is the herringbone traction:
On the other hand, the Lebron 15 is an example of a shoe that doesn’t provide you with a lot of lateral traction because of the way the traction pattern is set up:
Don’t fall for crazy storytelling
Sometimes signature sneakers go crazy with elaborate little details and storytelling that look nice but actually hurt the performance. Don’t fall for flashy design if you want a basketball sneaker that performs well on the court – functionality should always come first!