Looking to buy basketball shoes but don’t know where to start?
The first thing is understanding if you want to collect them, play in them, or wear them for fun. This will make a difference when it comes to requirements like durability. You also have to determine if style or performance is more important to you.
Overall you should look at design, performance, feel, comfort, quality, and budget. Don’t go for a shoe only because it’s expensive or advertised as the best.
Want to know how to find the best basketball shoes for your needs? Here’s a quick guide on what to look for when buying new basketball shoes. Read on to find out more!
Identify Your Priorities
This is the very first thing you need to do when looking at buying basketball shoes. Depending on what you use your shoes for, it’s going to have a significant impact on the rest of your criteria.
If you’re buying them to be sports shoes, that’s one thing. You plan to play in them and wear them down, so performance will always be a factor.
If you play floor basketball at the gym once a week, that’s not the same as hitting a street court every day. Even if it’s beer league level, playing league basketball will need to meet specific requirements. Playing small court pickup games on hard asphalt isn’t even comparable.
Playing, Collecting, or Casual Wear
Think about what you want for a second. If you plan to play tons of street ball, expect and accept your shoes will get beat up. If your shoes are for the gym, you’ll have more leeway, but you still need to consider comfort and longevity.
Some people don’t buy basketball shoes to use on a court. You may have met collectors who only wish to display their new kicks. Many sneakerheads would kill to have some rare Air Jordans or Kobe’s basketball shoes in their collection.
If you’re one of these, then performance, comfort, and longevity won’t matter. You have the freedom to choose the look, design, history, and rarity.
Of course, in the middle, you’ll find your more typical or casual basketball shoe fan. These are the people who buy them because they like wearing them. They don’t have to play basketball or even care about branding.
They only like the look and general style. The casual fan is also more likely to opt for comfort and personal taste over branding or rarity. Once you’ve decided what you want from your shoes, you can consider what makes a good pair for you.
Height Makes a Difference
It shouldn’t surprise you that not all basketball shoes are the same. In terms of height, they come in three main categories. Low-rise, high-rise, and middle of the road. The first two are also known as the more common high-top vs. low-top.
Low-Top vs. High-Top
We’ve all seen high-top basketball shoes. Way back in the day, Converse’s famous Chuck Taylors started the trend and have been the norm ever since. Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Puma, and Under Armour all jumped on the train to cement the dominance of the high-top.
The thing is, that’s no longer the case. People used to think that high-tops offered better protection against ankle sprains. While players might feel like high-tops give more support, the science doesn’t back the claim for fewer injuries.
On the other hand, low-top shoes have exploded onto the scene in recent years. Almost half of all current NBA players use low-tops. They’re lighter and more agile and flexible.
Many skilled players claim low-tops make the difference in explosive bursts of speed. You can pivot and change directions easier, and you feel freer. Some older school and defensive-minded players still stick to the high-tops though.
Mid-rise basketball shoes aren’t an exact category but a compromise of the two. If you want a little more freedom but can’t go all the way to the ankle, there’s a middle option. Examples of famous low-tops are Kobe’s zoom line of basketball shoes.
When it comes to high-tops, the Air Jordans reign supreme. Most brands make a mid-cut version, including Air Jordan, so if that’s your fancy, look into it. Be aware that your need for stability versus agility will determine which is better for you.
The Design Choice
The design choice is one of those things that can make or break a shoe for many people. Performance is one thing, but no one likes wearing an ugly shoe. If you’re looking for casual footwear that speaks to your style, then the design is important.
Color scheme, as well as cut, will be factors. Some people don’t like ostentatious branding or flashy colors. They might prefer nice solid tones, or they might like gradients.
Stripes, patterns, color combos, and artwork are all valid criteria to judge on. Something to consider is that classic off-whites always tend to kill it style-wise. As far as versatility goes, solid one or two-tone color schemes are also easy to pair with any outfit.
How It Feels
When buying sneakers with the intention of wearing them, you have to know how they actually feel. Comfort should be a huge priority unless you only bought them to admire them. There’s nothing wrong with collecting shoes, but if you plan to use them, make sure you like having them on your feet.
Comfort Is Key
Many modern basketball shoes have some form of cushion. Sometimes this is in the midsole to provide a layer of padding. Other times it’s in the heel or back sole.
We’ve all seen those gel shock absorbers on the back heel. Not all basketball shoes opt for this, and there’s a reason.
There are tons of people who need or prefer more stability as opposed to support. These people opt for flatter or less cushioned shoes. They often forgo the extra gel cushioning entirely.
It turns out that super-cushioned shoes can hurt your feet in the long run. They can affect your sense of balance and natural arch support. There’s a reason many competitive weight lifters still use Chuck Taylors – the same shoes from basketball’s early days.
Basketball shoes have come a long way since the Converse days, but the same principle remains. Don’t get sucked into the marketing and hype. Some innovations and comfort and performance are legit, but others will be a waste of time.
If at all possible, find a way to try on the shoes yourself first. Take a little walk around the store and then buy them online if you like them. Don’t buy a shoe because it’s advertised as comfy, buy it because you know it will be.
The Quality of Materials
New sneakers always come with that new shoe smell. You have to be careful that the materials are of high enough quality, though. All shoes will scuff, stain, and peel eventually, but you don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.
There’s a good test for figuring out if the overall materials and quality of construction are good. Take the shoe and flex the arch. Pay attention to how it resets.
If you notice cracks or serious wrinkles already forming once it’s returned to normal, put it down. It’s not going to last as long as higher-quality options. This is a test that works best for leather and rubber shoes and won’t tell you much for canvas.
Another thing you should do is look at the seams of the shoe. If they look uneven or too exposed, it can be an issue. A poorly stitched or glued heel can start peeling off after some hard playing.
Don’t Settle for Low Quality
We’re used to getting new shoes on a regular basis, but good basketball shoes should last you at least a year. The mileage will vary if you play a lot, but don’t settle for poor quality. Unless you rip your shoes on purpose, you should never have holes or parts coming undone after only five months of use.
Beyond construction, there’s also material type. Leather is a standard for longevity but not always for performance on the court. Composite mesh materials are huge right now because they’re light and breathable.
If extra performance is important to you, it’s something to look for. Be careful that the shoe’s construction is tight and its materials feel quality. Shiny plastic and rubber do not always translate into performance.
This consideration is exclusively for those planning to wear their shoes a ton. The number one factor for determining durability beyond the stitching is the sole. A thin sole will wear out super fast, but so will a low-quality one.
There are plenty of shoes with a thick spongy sole that won’t last eight months. It will get ground down into nothing from walking and playing hard on a street court. When looking at the sole of a basketball shoe, consider the following.
You want the sole to be hard and durable. That doesn’t mean zero flexibility, but it does mean strength. If you could gouge a hole in the sole with a light push of your car keys, it’s not durable enough.
Consider getting a hard rubber sole instead of gel.
Don’t Forget the Grip
Another thing to look for is the pattern on the sole itself. You want something with a grip that won’t disappear.
Too many shoes have a flat grip design. Simple accordion ridges are one of the worst. If the soles are too soft, they’ll get filed flat.
There’s a reason to go for a basketball shoe with traction even if you don’t play. Having a slippery shoe, in general, is dangerous. You could injure yourself while running or going about your day.
Find a grip pattern that gives you traction on a variety of surfaces if you don’t plan to make them gym-only shoes. Make sure it feels like it’s going to last even after intense play on asphalt. No shoe is immortal, but there are good options out there that resist a lot of wear and tear.
The final thing to consider when you buy basketball shoes is your budget. If you’re a savvy collector, you already know how crazy prices get. It’s not unusual to drop over $500 on a single pair, and some go past $1,000.
That said, most performance shoes, the kind you’ll see in the NBA or NCAA, come in around the $120-$200 range. If you’re super persistent, there are bargain performers for $80-$100. It will depend on what you want and are willing to spend.
Personal style and taste are subjective. No guide can tell you how to justify your own financial budget. If a shoe ticks all the boxes for you and you have the money to spend, then go for it.
It’s worth pointing out that top lines like Air Jordans will give you a run for your money. They can surpass $300 easy and even go over $1,000 for rare editions. The reason why this guide ends with the budget is also simple.
When it comes to shoes, budget is important, but so is knowing how to evaluate. Before you can determine what you’re willing to spend, you have to know what you are looking for. Shoes aren’t things you should cheap out on if you plan to wear them.
Saving $20 won’t mean much if your feet are killing you the whole time or if you hate looking at the shoes. Once you’ve figured out your criteria, you can better determine what kind of sacrifice is worth it.
What to Consider When You Buy Basketball Shoes
There’s a lot to consider when you buy basketball shoes. The price often pops up first, but there’s a lot more. You need to know what you want out of your shoes and what you care about. If you plan to play in them, collect them, or wear them day-to-day, you’ll have a unique perspective.
Design, quality, durability, and comfort are all important to consider. For more articles like this, take a look through our other blog posts. We have plenty more to offer you.