Want to be like Mike, Kobe, LeBron, KD, or Steph? You know what you need: the best basketball shoes your budget will allow.
Best Basketball Shoes Comparison Table
Perhaps we're overstating things a little.
No pair of sneakers can turn you into a superstar on the court, much less one of the game's iconic figures.
But the best basketball shoes play a crucial role in the enjoyment of the game. The right shoes will help you perform better and keep you healthy. Keep in mind that basketball puts enormous stress on your feet, ankles, and legs.
You’ll be asked to produce bursts of straight-ahead speed with sudden stops. You’ll need to marshal smooth lateral movement and learn to jump quickly and effectively.
Basketball shoes take a beating on the basketball court from all of this. They need to be stable, yet flexible. They need to be firm, yet cushioned. And they need to do this for all kinds of body types.
The best basketball shoes have come a long way over the years in their engineering, design, and style.
They’ve also become a competitive multi-billion dollar business. Let’s see if we can find the best basketball shoes for you.
The Air Jordan Legend
Before we go there, it’s worth stopping for a second to consider how we got here. What forces turned basketball shoes into must-have items -- possessions that suggest your place in society?
One force, actually. Air Jordan.
Soon after leaving college for the NBA, Nike signed basketball great Michael Jordan to an endorsement deal that led to legendary Air Jordan shoe brand.
The first Air Jordans were released in 1985 and sold for $65, according to Foot Locker. Once Jordan won the rookie of the year that season, the rest was history.
Air Jordans became part of the cultural climate, coupled with legendary moments in marketing. Nike went on a roll with TV ads starring actor Spike Lee as Jordan’s sidekick, Mars Blackmon. “It’s gotta be the shoes!” Mars insisted.
(No, Mars. It wasn’t the shoes.)
Air Jordans are still in the Nike line -- at last count, we’re up to version 32. They’re a bit more expensive than their 1985 brethren, though.
Choosing the Best Basketball Shoes
While you can’t go wrong with Air Jordans, what should you look for in choosing the best basketball shoes?
First, you need to recognize how you play the game. Are you a three-point shooter, spending your time spotting up? A prototypical big man who hovers around the hoop and the lane? A speedster who runs the point and plays from baseline to baseline?
How you play will determine the type of stress you put on your foot and the type of shoe you need. From there, examine the parts of the shoe, which are the same as any other. Look at the mid-sole, outsole, and upper.
We’ll start with the upper. Decide what type of cut you prefer. Basketball shoes typically come as high-tops, providing more significant ankle support. However, you can go for a low or medium cut as well.
The midsole may make the biggest difference in terms of comfort. That’s where the cushioning resides, which will help you absorb the stops and starts and ups and downs of basketball.
The outsole is synonymous with grip. Look for shoes with flat bottoms. According to Dunham's Sports, a sporting goods retailer, shoes with a herringbone pattern on the sole provide the most significant traction.
With the analysis done, you’re ready to make your choice from the best basketball shoes.
How We Picked the Best Basketball Shoes
You can find plenty of opinions about which shoes are the best. For this piece, we focused on basketball and shoe fanatics.
We consulted sites such as The Hoops Geek and Wear Testers. To cross-check, we also looked at reviews from more general media sources -- for instance, Men’s Health and Bleacher Report.
Wondering how much the best basketball shoes will set you back? That is another critical variable in figuring out how to treat your feet.
As with any list, keep in mind that what matters most is your style of play. Find what works for you.
The debate over who is the greatest of all time, between Michael Jordan and LeBron James, may go on forever. To stay close to current trends, though, we start our list with shoes endorsed by the still-active James.
The Nike Men’s LeBron 16 shoes get positive reviews from writers and customers alike. Notable in this version is a lower cut. The LeBron 16s include the rubber herringbone outsole for excellent traction and offer extra support for your Achilles.
Nike built a special version of its Flyknit outsole specifically for this shoe. The company boasts that it is “lightweight, ultra-strong and supportive exactly where you need it.”
Positive reviews cite the shoe’s appearance and fit, while one purchaser advises people to choose a half-size larger than they usually would.
- Lightweight for optimum speed & agility
- Full knit construction & lockdown lacing for a precise, 36° fit & feel
- Built with Anafoam containment zones in the forefoot lateral wall & around the heel to lock in the foot
LeBron may be the G.O.A.T., but Stephen Curry is doing a lot of winning -- including with his Under Armour Curry 5 shoes.
The UnderArmor Curry 5s are low-tops designed to help players get from one end of the court to the other quickly. (If you’ve ever watched Curry and his Golden State Warriors play, you know why this is important.) They’re lightweight with a rubber sole for quick stops and sudden acceleration.
The best review of all comes from little 9-year-old Riley Morrison, who struck up a pen pal friendship with Steph:
James Harden made his name in basketball with his controversial step-back move. We can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to perfect the Harden step-back with his shoes, but the Adidas Harden 3 shoes deserve a look as one of the best basketball shoes.
The Harden 3s may be among the most stylish of basketball shoes, even with their low-cut. We liked the purple-and-black color for the shoe. (For a little extra, you can get a special version Harden 3 in honor of the Iron Man comic and movie.) The shoes have the basic herringbone design on the sole and a leather upper for quick starts and stops.
- Visible Air-Sole heel unit provides lightweight impact cushioning
- Fly wire cables provide stability and lockdown
- Premium textile material provides incredibly soft comfort around the heel
You don't need a favorite player to get your feet into a great basketball shoe. Because of that truth, Nike offers high-ranking shoes that do not carry an endorsement. One of those is the Nike Men’s Air Versatile ii basketball shoe.
These sneakers are one of the highest ranking men's basketball shoes on Amazon. Introduced in 2017, the shoes are billed as excellent for the all-around player.
The Versatile ii provides a specially designed lux heel using soft foam materials to keep your foot locked down. The shoes are available online at a bit more of an affordable price.
- Synthetic textile upper for breathability & support
- Enhanced cushioning around ankle collar for superior comfort
- Ventilated mesh midfoot panel
Under Armour also offers endorsement-free shoes. Our choice is the Men's Jet Mid Basketball Shoe. This shoe provides a synthetic upper along with extra cushioning around the ankle.
We found the Jet Mid Basketball shoe available on Amazon in close to 20 different colors, depending on your particular size. Unlike other shoes, this model comes with a full sock liner.
- The sneaker gets outfitted with a sort of roll-cage on its upper for just a bit more support
- High top shoes style, attached ankle closely, and improve shoes wrapping performance
- CLassic color matching designed,Black&Red&White,Full of youth and passion
We wanted to include at least one lesser-known brand on our list of best basketball shoes. It wasn’t easy to do, because Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas dominate.
But the Joomra Men’s Stylish Sneakers may deserve a look, especially if you’re trying to keep costs down. These high-top shoes offer the rubber sole with herringbone pattern. In case you’re looking for more ankle support, one nice feature of the Joomra shoe is a reinforced roll cage on the upper.
You may be able to find them for less on eBay.
The greatest (shoe) of all time
You probably thought this was where we wax poetic about Air Jordans. Don’t get us wrong: We love that shoe. But we felt duty bound to pay homage to the OG of basketball shoes: the Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars.
Chucks, as they are known, are considered the first purpose-built basketball shoe. They first went on the market -- get this -- in the midst of World War I.
The shoes are named after (and were created by) Chuck Taylor, a part-time salesman who also played and coached a Converse club basketball team.
They got their biggest break in 1936 when the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team wore them in the Olympics. The shoes remained central to basketball until the mid-1980s when Converse ran into competitive headwinds.
Now owned by Nike, Chuck Taylors are mostly worn to make a fashion statement or for skateboarding. Still, with the Converse patch on the ankle, the high-tops offer the same patented rubber sole for traction.
Take heed, though: If buying on the secondary market, do your homework. Some reviewers on Amazon warn that Chuck Taylors are susceptible to fakes. Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable seller.
Nike. Adidas. Under Armour. Converse. Which are the best basketball shoes for comfort and style? If you’re going for style points alone, the answer is quite easy. It’s the Chuck Taylor All-Stars, hands down.
The question of comfort is harder to resolve. The game of basketball requires many different body types, so you're going to want to zero in on your personality on the court.
Above all, remember that these companies all make good shoes. If we had to pick one, for its all-around versatility, we would lean towards the LeBron 16s. You can’t go wrong with a shoe worn by the G.O.A.T. (or at least one of them).
Which shoe will you wear on the court? Let us know in the comments!