Astounding shots. High-flying dunks. Impeccable passes and lightning-fast breakaways. There’s no denying that basketball is a fast-paced and energetic sport. Players need gear that can perform in this intensity, and their shoes are the perfect example of what it takes to keep up on the hardwood. Basketball shoes are designed with performance, comfort and fashion in mind, and knowing what features fit your game best can help take you from the bench to the paint in no time.
Before you make any decision on a shoe, however, it’s beneficial to better understand your playing style and capabilities. Do you shoot from long range or are you more comfortable in the key? Does your game showcase more agility and speed, or power and aggression? Are you going to be hard on the boards looking for every rebound, or are you going to hang back and focus on getting back in transition? Being over or underequipped in footwear is a problem that no athlete wants, so once you understand your playing prowess, you can then search for needed features more easily.
Your typical basketball shoes can be separated into three main sections: the upper, the midsole and the outsole. Each section of your shoe has qualities that will affect durability and performance, so identifying which features fit your needs and playing style is vital to filling your game bag with the right gear.
When discussing a basketball shoe’s upper, the first decision to make is which height you want to go with. Basketball shoes are available in high, mid or low heights, with each appealing to a different style of player.
With high-top basketball shoes, the upper wraps around your ankle to provide an extra layer of support and stability. With this extra coverage often comes extra weight, so high-top basketball shoes can be popular among larger, more aggressive players like centers and forwards who prefer the added support and coverage.
As the name suggests, mid-top basketball shoes provide a happy medium for players in terms of ankle support. The upper material sits right at the ankle to provide some coverage without an all-enclosing design. Mid-tops allow for increased flexibility and are great for all-around players or athletes who are unsure of their desired basketball position.
Built for speed and agility, low-top basketball shoes can be a great fit for guards looking to race up and down the court. However, they offer little ankle support due to their lower profile.
Once you’ve made your choice between high-, mid- and low-top, you can then decide on the type of material from which your upper will be made. Soft uppers are often woven materials that are very flexible and offer exceptional breathability, comfort, mobility and speed. They typically pair well with low-tops. Hard uppers, made from rubber or synthetic materials, are more supportive and durable, but may not offer as much mobility. These materials work best for aggressive power players. There is also a middle ground classification of materials that offer strong, balanced coverage. These materials are mostly synthetic in composition and best serve versatile players looking for all-around footwear.
Lastly, your uppers need to be secured by some mechanism if you want them to stay on your feet. There are a number of closure techniques available, but as is the case with most shoes, laces remain the most popular. They are light, simple and can really secure your footwear.
You might also find basketball shoes that offer zippers, straps and hook-and-loop closure materials for added support and protection. These pieces can add more support to your ankle, especially in high-top models, as well as add another layer of coverage over your standard laces. Added coverage means added weight, however, so just be aware of that.
A basketball shoe’s midsole is where the footwear’s cushioning will be found, which makes this section one of the most essential parts to a shoe’s performance. Most midsoles are comprised of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, compressed EVA foam, polyurethane or a combination of these materials. EVA foam and compressed EVA foam are light options, while polyurethane midsoles are dense and more durable. Proprietary cushioning technologies are also found in the midsole; namely in the heel and forefoot. This technology is added to give extra cushioning in pressure points that will see a lot of stress during the course of a basketball game.
Some basketball shoes feature stiffer materials on the medial portion of the foot for added stability to help increase protection against inward rolling (pronation). It is best to keep a moderate-to-thin layer of cushioning in the midsole to keep a solid base without sacrificing comfort.
The outsole of a basketball shoe is quite literally where the rubber meets the road (or court). A shoe’s outsole is made of a rubber or synthetic material and is the point of traction for your footwear. When deciding on basketball shoes, look for a relatively flat and wide outsole to provide you with maximum balance. For added grip, look for outsoles that feature a herringbone or hexagonal pattern, since these are designed to help secure your feet and prevent you from sliding up and down the court.
In regards to indoor versus outdoor basketball shoes, nearly all basketball shoes are designed with indoor play in mind, so this is a simple matter to consider. Outdoor courts are less forgiving than their indoor hardwood counterparts, so look for a thicker, more durable outsole if you know that you will be playing on outdoor surfaces exclusively. Asphalt eats tread.
Style comes into play as well. When choosing a new pair of basketball shoes, you not only should consider how they’re made, but also how they look. You’ll want shoes that not only function well but make a fashion statement, too.
Blend your personality into your gear by choosing color schemes and profiles that appeal to your tastes. Wearing colorful and appealing basketball shoes can help you stand out on the court and give you that boost in confidence needed to find success when driving to the basket. You can also show your admiration for your favorite pro players by gearing up with their signature models. Regardless of your choice, be sure that you enjoy wearing them. As the saying goes, “You look good, you feel good. You feel good, you play good.”
A proper basketball shoe is vital to your performance. Whether they’re boosting your gameplay, adding to your skill set or just enhancing your uniform’s flash, the right basketball shoes can up your hardwood persona. Now that you know what to look for, your basketball shoe buying experience can be a slam dunk.