The Definitive Guide to Basketball Shoes 

 July 19, 2020

By  King

Basketball is one of the most loved sports in the world and there are millions of us who not only enjoy watching the game but playing it as well. If you’re a fan of basketball you’ll know that the most important piece of gear for playing the game is the shoes, and there’s a whole lot more to these sports accessory than people realize.

Basketball shoes are a special type of footwear designed for specifically this sport, and if you’ve ever played before you’ll know exactly why they matter so much. Without a good pair of basketball shoes on your feet, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice so it’s important to know what you need for the game and what special technologies or materials might help you improve.

The game of basketball requires many special movements, whether you’re jumping and shooting, changing directions, stopping and starting, breakaways, guarding, or running up and down the court, your shoe is going to be your closest ally. That’s why it’s not enough to wear any old sports shoe and hope for the best because the basketball shoe is made for these exact conditions.

If you’ve ever shopped for a new pair of shoes before you’ll know there’s a whole lot more to them than meets the eye. This guide will answer all of the common questions about basketball shoes, highlight the benefits, and show you why they’re so important in this game, not only for your performance but also your wellbeing.

The History of Basketball Shoes

The game of basketball was first introduced to the public in 1891 and for many years, players wore whatever felt comfortable when they were on the court. In 1917, Converse was the first brand to tackle this market and release their Non-Skid shoe made of canvas which would be just one of many that they would release over the years.

The Converse All-Star was the next to follow in the 1920s after the famous baller Chuck Taylor joined their team, and from there, it seemed that basketball shoes were a huge hit. Not just for the athletes and casual players who wore them on the court or during training, but for the stylish people who saw the appeal in these unique shoes and decided they would use them for everyday wear as well.

Today, basketball shoes are a multibillion-dollar industry and some of the biggest names in sports apparel like Nike, Converse, and Adidas all take part. Many more collaborations now occur with famous basketball players and the advancement in technologies for material and design means the basketball shoe has progressed from more than just footwear into a total game changer.

Basketball shoes have helped to shape the sport and anyone who plays will have at least one pair in their collection. Some go as far as to collect the shoes as a hobby, and others enjoy just wearing them for the style factor. Whatever the reason, it’s obvious that basketball shoes have become more than just a sports accessory and are undoubtedly the most important piece of gear you can have for the game.

Why Are Basketball Shoes Necessary?

Many sports come with their own specific equipment and footwear is often an important part of this gear that we need to take seriously. Just as there are shoes made for running, cycling, golf, and tennis, basketball shoes also have their own specific shoe style that makes it easier to play the game and ensures your best performance.

The design of a basketball shoe was made to suit the movements of the game. Known as being a fast-paced game where quick thinking is important, a good basketball shoe has to provide traction on the court, enough flexibility for movement, support and cushioning from jumping and running, and enough comfort to keep you feeling relaxed even in high-pressure situations.

While a basketball shoe can’t turn you into a better player magically just by slipping it onto your foot, it can make it easier for you to move as needed. A good shoe should let you build on your skill set, prevent injuries, and also look the part for the game, all of which come together to mold you into a better player.

When compared to a standard sneaker or workout shoe, the style of a basketball shoe is usually higher up to protect the ankle. They might be heavier which helps to keep you planted on the ground but should be made for jumping and running, so getting the perfect blend of all of these things can only be achieved by a specialized basketball shoe.

 Within the realm of basketball shoes, there are also different types, and these are made for specific types of players or positions that one might have on the court. Therefore, relying on a standard tennis shoe or running sneaker just won’t give you the freedom of movement or support that you need, so investing in a pair of quality and well-fitting basketball shoes is your only option.

Benefits of a Good Basketball Shoe

Basketball shoes go far beyond being just a stylish footwear option these days, and the benefits that they offer both the player and the game are worth mentioning. Provided you have chosen a quality shoe that’s well fitting for your foot and physical requirements, you’ll be able to get all of these benefits and more.

  • Prevents injury: Playing any type of sport without the recommended shoes usually leads to more injuries, and basketball is no different. Having the right pair of shoes for the court will keep you steady and reduce the damage done to your body while jumping so you can’t be without them.
  • Improves footwork: Footwork and movement is a huge part of the game and with the right pair of shoes, this will improve out of sight. Being able to move with agility and speed will make you a better player and allow you to build on your existing skill set thanks to your fast footwork.
  • Breathability: Playing basketball can work up a sweat and our feet are known to trap a lot of heat during physical exercise. A good basketball shoe will be breathable thanks to materials like mesh, so the air will get out and you’ll feel refreshed even in those longer games or training sessions.
  • Improves dribbling: Dribbling the ball is an important part of the game of the basketball and having good traction that comes with these shoes is how you get better at it. A nonskid shoe that keeps you firmly in place when you need it will make dribbling and sudden directional changes a lot easier.
  • Comfort and support: Being comfortable while you take part in any physical activity is essential, and in a game as active as basketball, especially so. A good basketball shoe will have custom cushioning to protect your feet and give you a supportive base to play with whether you’re running, jumping, or standing still.
  • Absorbs shock: The midsole of a basketball shoe has been specifically designed to act as a shock absorber. When playing basketball there are a lot of high jumps and movements that can be damaging to the body so having this layer of cushioning is imperative to your wellbeing and to prevent long term injuries.
  • Confidence: Although you might argue that having confidence does nothing for your game, you’ll notice an obvious boost when you put on a pair of good basketball shoes and feel confident while wearing them. Sometimes a little bit of style and knowing you have the support of a well-made shoe can make a huge difference in your performance and mood.

The Anatomy of a Basketball Shoe

Basketball shoes are more than just fashionable footwear, with every single part designed and altered to suit the needs of the game. Understanding a little more about the different parts of a basketball shoe and what their purpose is will make it easier to choose a pair that’s going to match your requirements.

  • UpperThis is the upper part of the shoe usually made of leather, canvas, or synthetic materials. The upper is where most of the shoe’s design can be seen and this could be soft or hard depending on materials.
  • Toe: The area where your toe rests inside of the shoe. Most basketball shoes have extra protection in the form of a toe guard to prevent injury.
  • LacingCould be a traditional tie-up lace or different closure systems like Velcro, straps, zippers, and other hook and loop designs. A tight fit is important so the lacing and closures should be adequate to keep you firmly in place.
  • VampThis covers your midfoot and forefoot and it needs to be flexible to give you the right range of movement for the game.
  • InsoleThis is the part that your feet will lay on and it needs to be comfortable and cushioned to provide the right support for their shape. Some shoes come with the option of changeable or removable insoles so people can get a better custom fit.
  • Midsole: Located in between the insole and outsole, this features dense materials that help reduce shock and make it easier to jump and move.
  • OutsoleThe outsole is the outer part of the shoe that comes into contact with the ground. Basketball shoes have a special pattern on them to help gain traction on the court.
  • Heel CushioningAdditional cushioning located at the heel to assist with further shock absorption.

Choosing the Right Size of Shoe

A good basketball shoe needs to have all of the right features, but if it’s not a perfect fit for your foot then they’ll be wasted. Because many of the movements are fast and there’s a lot of change in direction, your footwear should be firmly in place at all times. Therefore, the science behind choosing the right size of basketball shoe is something that’s often discussed and needs to be taken into consideration to get the very best solution.

Start by knowing your exact foot measurements which can easily be done at home. As every shoe manufacturer differs slightly in their shoe sizing, it’s best to know the length and width of your foot is so you can compare it to their specific size chart. Some shoes come in narrow or wide fit as well as regular, and getting this right is just as important as the length.

When you put the shoe on, you should be able to press your thumb between your big toe and the end of the shoe with a small amount of space in between, around an inch. The width shouldn’t be as tight but it should be snug so wide basketball shoes won’t be right for everyone. Practice running backward and forwards in the shoe for the best indication of how it’ll perform on the court.

It’s normal for some shoes to require breaking in and you can even expect blisters the first time you wear them. By choosing a thicker sock this can prevent some of the irritation, and help you break them in faster. Once your shoes start to wear it’s important to replace them, because damaged shoes usually result in injury, and they won’t be able to offer the support they once did.

Your Playing Style and the Perfect Shoe

Once you become more established and skilled in the game of basketball, it’s likely that you’ll start to favor one position or want to build on a specific type of movement. Everyone has their own playing style and this can be made better with the right shoe, so determining which one sounds more like you will point you in the right direction.

A low top basketball shoe looks most like a standard sneaker and their main point of difference is that they end just underneath the ankle. Because there’s no restriction on the ankle, you can move freely and fast, so they’re perfect for anyone who does a lot of running on the court or needs to make quick movements.

Mid top shoes are for players who jump a bit more but still need their ankles free to make high speed turns or run the court. They offer some protection for the ankles so they’re great for people who jump a moderate amount and need extra support.

High top basketball shoes are usually reserved for players who need extreme ankle protection, and those who will be making lots of jumps throughout the game. They’re heavier than most to keep you weighted down and have shock absorption and cushioning features. Running in these is a little harder because of the ankle restrictions, so they’re best for serious jumpers.

What Makes a Quality Basketball Shoe?

When you’re shopping for basketball shoes it can be hard to know what’s really a good pair and which ones just appear that way because of clever branding. Because there’s no one size fits all approach to this type of footwear, there are a few things you should consider to choose a quality basketball shoe that’ll be just right for you.

  • Style: Men’s basketball shoes, women’s basketball shoes, and kid’s basketball shoes are all designed slightly different. Therefore, you need to choose the style and size that corresponds with your feet to get the best results.
  • Upper: The upper will be either low, mid, or high top depending on your position and playing style. You’ll also need to consider materials and what they offer in breathability and flexibility. A hard upper is usually more durable but not as flexible, whereas soft uppers are breathability but don’t have as much protection.
  • Midsole: The midsole is the most important part when it comes to determining performance. This is where the key cushioning is found which can help with energy transfer, range of movement, and comfort, so it’s crucial to get right. EVA is a popular material found in most basketball shoes and it can either be light or durable, depending on preference.
  • Outsole: This should be selected depending on where you play, either indoor or outdoor. The outsole is usually made for either setting but there are some multifunctional indoor and outdoor basketball shoes. You want a wider outsole with a flat surface but once that’s going to provide enough grip and traction for stability.
  • Midsole: Located in between the insole and outsole, this features dense materials that help reduce shock and make it easier to jump and move.
  • OutsoleThe outsole is the outer part of the shoe that comes into contact with the ground. Basketball shoes have a special pattern on them to help gain traction on the court.
  • Aesthetics: Looking good is important to play well in basketball and there’s a good reason why so many people wear these shoes off the court as well. Choose a style that suits your personal taste but don’t get too carried away with the most expensive ones just because you like the way they look.

Tips for Cleaning and Caring For Your Basketball Shoes

Basketball shoes are usually an expensive purchase and they’re an investment that we hope will last as long as possible. Although it’s inevitable that they’ll wear down eventually and need replacing, there are some ways you can ensure you get the most life out of your shoes so they serve you well for many games to come.

  • Never scrub your shoes too hard or place them in the washing machine. You should only ever use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean them and take extra care to get into the small cracks and crevices.
  • A simple mixture of laundry detergent and warm water will be sufficient for cleaning shoes. If they have a leather upper, a specialized leather cleaner is better suited for this part.
  • Don’t leave your shoes in your gym bag after a game as the lack of air and built up moisture can do them damage. Take your shoes out, put them in a well-ventilated area out of the elements, and once they’re completely dry, place them back into their original box to keep them safe.
  • Avoid the urge to wear your basketball shoes outside of the court. If you want a pair for style purposes then keep these separate. The less time you wear your basketball shoes the longer they’re going to last on the court.
  • If you can afford it, have two pairs of basketball shoes that can be rotated between each game. This will give each pair a chance to deodorize, relax, and last a lot longer without frequent use.

The Most Important Accessory for Basketball

Basketball shoes have come a long way from the very first Converse that were worn in the early 1920s and they’re constantly changing as we learn new things about the game. Today, shoe manufacturers are relying on many exciting developments in technologies, materials, and design features to ensure the highest performance, and most regular basketball shoes are made worthy of professional athlete’s feet as well as our own.

Many sports have their own requirements for footwear and basketball is no different. A quality basketball shoe should provide you with traction, freedom of movement, and comfort so that you can perform your best and build on your skill set on the court. Your shoe will protect you from injury and improve your abilities, provided you know what you’re looking for.

With a good pair of basketball shoes, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in your comfort and get an instant boost of confidence on the court. Whether you prefer to play indoors or outdoors, are an absolute beginner or an expert, or even if you’ve never owned a pair of basketball shoes before, you can benefit a whole lot from choosing a well-fittingshoe that suits your specific needs.


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