When you’re balling, what’s on your feet matters.
To ensure you get the best kicks, you’ll want to know how to choose and buy basketball shoes.
In this post I’ll you show everything you need to know so you get the right product and one you love. I’m sure you’ll be ready to make a purchase by the time you’re done reading.
You can read about my top picks for basketball shoes here.
Ankle Protection Is Key *Most Important*
I’ve been playing basketball for over 20 years and I can confidently say ankle protection is the single most important aspect of a basketball shoe.
I learned this lesson the hard way.
When I was younger, I think I was 13 or 14, I got a really expensive and sick looking pair of Jordan’s. They cost around $150 and they were by far the highest costing shoes I ever bought.
I was so excited to step on to the court with them. When the day came I laced them up, hopped into the lay up line and started to warm up.
Something weird happened on the first lay up, though. I went up and when I landed my ankle rolled and I fell to the ground. I was stunned. It kept happening too.
Every single time I went up for a lay up my ankle kept rolling. It happened practice after practice after practice. I couldn’t do anything without hurting my ankle.
Eventually I turned it so bad I walked with a limp for a week. I couldn’t keep putting myself through this and I ended up tossing them in the garbage – $150 down the drain!
From that moment on I did my research when buying basketball shoes and ensured they had good ankle protection before I spent any money.
Ankle protection comes from every part of the sneaker – materials used, traction, lacing system, upper, etc.
Before you purchase a shoe you need to read the reviews of other customers. If you see that someone has a problem with ankle protection look for another product. You’ll thank me when you’re not in crutches.
Know Your Position And Playing Style
After you have ankle protection all figured out, you’ll need to pick a shoe that is skill and play style appropriate. There’s five position on the court but there’s only really four groups of players – finesse (point or shooting guard), slasher (shooting guards and strong forwards), power (strong forward and power forward) and post (power forward and center). Obviously there’s people that fall into more than one category. I’d consider someone like Dwayne Wade a power and slasher; same with Russell Westbrook.
Here’s what each type of player needs:
- Finesse: Finesse players have the ball in their hands a lot and tend to bring the ball up court. They might drive the ball but most of the time they’re on the perimeter to hit a jumper or to hit the open man. Players that fall into this category include Steph Curry, Lonzo Ball, Damian Lillard and Steve Nash. This type of player will want a comfortable shoe with high quality cushioning since you’ll be running the floor and a tight secure fit; you’ll be making cuts constantly and don’t want to roll your ankle. You’ll want high quality traction as well to ensures you come to a stop quickly.
- Slasher: Slashers are usually the best athletes on the floor and are the guys throwing their body around on every shot. Some of the most famous slashers include Derrick Rose, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant. These guys can get to the rim and usually leaves your jaw on the floor with their ability. Because of this you’ll need a shoe that does everything well. You need top of the line ankle protection, traction that allows you to explode and lateral support – slashers move in all directions.
- Power: Power players are the guys you hate stepping in front of to take a charge. These guy are thick and pretty fast. Popular power players include Lebron James, Blake Griffin and Draymon Green. This type of player tends to go to the basket in a straight line and has the strength to muscle through guys. This is another group of ballers that need a proper ankle protection and support. Lebron weighs more than 250 pounds and needs a shoes that can handle that. Because of this cushioning and traction is key too.
- Post: Post players rarely leave leave the paint and when they do they’re not a huge threat to shoot it. They tend to be the tallest person on the court and rack up rebounds, blocks and dunks. Popular post players include Tim Duncan, Shaq, Dwight Howard and other centers and strong forwards. If you’re a post player you’re going to be banging around a ton and you’ll need the most support possible. Because post players tend to carry around a lot of weight you’ll want a product with top of the line protection too.
Not too bad, right? Something that can be helpful is looking up what different NBA players wear. If you play like Russell Westbrook, wear the shoes he wears. Play like Steph Curry? Get his shoes.
Getting The Right Size
This may seem like a no brainer but a lot of people actually get this wrong. Some people go too small and end up with a product that’s constricting and uncomfortable while other people go too big and this can lead to a rolled ankle and other injuries.
Some basketball shoes run small or large. So a 12 in one shoe might be an 11.5 in another. This is another time you’ll want to read customer reviews on a basketball shoe. People tend to leave comments saying a shoe runs small or large. If it runs large you’ll want to go a half size smaller and if it runs small you’ll want to go a half size larger.
You’ll always want a little space in your shoe too (about a thumb width’s from your largest toe).
If you’re ordering a shoe online it’s a pretty simple process sizing your foot. Here’s a video that explains the process with running shoes (it’s the same with basketball shoes):
As you can see all you have to do is measure your foot on a piece of paper in either centimeters or inches. After you have it measured out you’ll want to add either 1 centimeter to the total or between 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch.
Here’s a conversion chart to get the right size:
If you follow the advice in this section you’re guaranteed to get the perfect fit!
Traction And Sole
Another key aspect of your shoe is the traction and sole. If you’ve ever had a sneaker with low quality traction, you know how important this.
I once owned a pair of basketball shoes that had good traction in the beginning but lost its grip quickly. A few months afters buying them I was slipping all over the place – I would literally come to a sliding stop. This is not something you want when you’re on the court and doesn’t make running suicides easy either.
Here’s a video that helps a lot in this department:
As you can see there’s plenty of different traction patterns and shoes that’ll work for you. This is another time for you to check online and see what others are saying about a shoe’s traction. If you see a bunch of people complaining about the grip wearing off you’ll know it’s an issue to consider.
There’s a few things you can do to extend the life of the traction too. Here’s a few tips to help here;
- Have more than one pair of shoes: You can have one shoe that you practice with and another you wear during games. Or you can just alternate games and practices between a couple of sneakers. If you play outside on cement you’ll want a separate pair than the ones you use indoors in practice or in a game.
- Purchase a stick pad or sprays: There’s stick maps that come in handy for maintaining grip. They clean the dust from the bottom of the soles and leave behind some grip residue – there’s sprays and foams that do the same thing.
- Clean your shoes: Every time you step onto the court your soles are collecting dust and this takes away from traction. To fight this have a damp cloth on the sidelines and during breaks just clean the bottom of your shoes. You don’t want a soaking wet cloth, however, because you’ll just end up slipping all over the place.
- Sandpaper the bottom of your shoe: If your traction is getting low you can take a piece of sandpaper (40 to 60 grit) and swipe the bottom of your sneakers a few times. This will wear down the parts of your sole that have lost grip. Don’t go too crazy, though, or you’ll wear down the sole too much. 3 or 4 swipes will work here.
Get the right shoes and follow these tips and you’ll have a shoe with excellent traction.
Comfort and Cushioning
Alright. So far you have a shoe that protects your ankle, has excellent traction and you know what size to get. What’s next? Comfort.
Have you ever tired on a basketball shoe that was too stiff or used low quality materials. It’s so uncomfortable.
The last thing you want is a sneaker that digs into your heel or causes any pains. If you do get a shoe like this your attention won’t be where it needs to be and you might miss a pass or cut.
You’ll want a product that’s known for its comfort and has a high quality cushioning system. Popular cushioning includes EVA midsoles, compressed EVA midsoles, polyurethane or a combination of all three.
The first two options are lighter and the latter option is more durable. A high quality pair of basketball shoes will excel in this category.
High, Mid Or Low?
Next, you need to decide whether you want high tops, mids, or low tops.
Each gives you pros and cons and here’s a description for all three:
- High tops: You’ve seen high tops before and they’re the shoes that go a little extra high. This extra height provides an extra layer of support for your ankle and prevents injuries. This will, however, add a little weight to the product. Because of this you really won’t see these types of products on a player that relies heavily on speed. They’re much more common on big men that rely on strength.
- Mids: These are my favorite because they give you a decent amount of ankle support without adding too much weight. If you’re a player that’s versatile (you like to drive, shoot, you have speed, some strength) this is the shoe for you. You’ll get exactly what you need with this type of product.
- Low tops: Low tops are primarily for guards and people that rely on athleticism and speed – they’re pretty common among point guards because they’re so lightweight. You’re not going to get much ankle support here, though. If you have a history of ankle injuries, you’ll want to avoid low tops.
Make sure your needs match the upper you decide on.
Budget And Brand
Although budget and brand is last, it’s still really important. I personally think basketball shoes are pretty important to your overall game.
If you go low quality you put yourself at risk of slipping because of poor traction, having them rip because of poor craftsmanship or even more seriously, injuring you ankle.
You should never go over your budget but I would say you’ll want to spend at least $75. If you spend $75 you’ll get a pretty decent shoe.
If money isn’t an option I would recommend spending more in the $120 range. At this price you’re pretty much guaranteed a high performing shoe.
I would go name brand too – Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Air Jordan, Reebok and even And 1. If you stray from these five groups you may not get the type of shoe you want.
If you want to be really safe I would stay in the top 4 which includes Nike, Adidas, Air Jordan and Under Armour. These are the brands NBA players wear and they make the best of the best.
Don’t Ball With Low Quality Shoes
Some people say what’s on your feet doesn’t effect your play. I laugh at these people.
Your shoes matter and anyone that’s played more than a day of basketball will agree with this. Having quality kicks isn’t just about confidence either. Your shoes effect your play.
A good pair protects your ankles, helps you stop no a dime, is supportive and comfortable. A bad pair is just the opposite.
If you play basketball a lot do yourself a favor and treat yourself with one of the best basketball shoes. Your game will thank you later.
If you have any questions leave a comment below and I’ll make sure to respond as quickly as possible. You can search around the basketball section up top for more tips and gear reviews too.
You can read about my favorite basketball shoes by clicking below:
Are you excited to ball with your new shoes?