Basketball is an extremely popular sport, with approximately 400 million players worldwide. In fact, experts predict that it will soon surpass the popularity of American football.. In addition to determination and dedication, a basketball player’s performance rely on several skills: agility, speed, resilience, balance, and coordination. All of these can be improved with the right footwear. Good basketball shoes have several key qualities: good fit, comfort, traction, durability, support, and breathability.
Fit and Comfort
Basketball is a fast-paced sport involving physical ability, teamwork, and coordination. The last thing a player wants to deal with while racing across the court is foot pain or shoe-related problems. Fit and comfort, thus, are tremendously important for a player to perform well. Many experienced athletes stress the importance of having your feet professionally measured to ensure that your basketball shoes will fit well. This measurement should be done at the end of the day. As feet naturally swell during physical activity or at the end of the day, doing so will ensure you get the most accurate measurement of your foot.
You should also make sure that your basketball shoes are not too narrow as this can force your foot to contort into an unnatural shape, potentially causing damage to your foot and ankle over time. The toe box, or the area at the front of your shoe, should be wide enough for your toes to move comfortably. At the same time, it should not be so wide that your toes slide when you run, rubbing against the shoe. Excessive contact between the shoe and the foot during movement will cause blisters and pain. This is also a sign that the shoe does not have the right fit, possibly leading to more negative effects and loss of stability over time.
Your shoes should also have adequate front-to-toe space. In other words, there should be approximately � inch (???), or the length of a thumbnail from your longest toe to the front of the shoe. This will ensure that the footwear is big enough for your toes and long enough for your feet.
If you have wide feet, shoe experts advise you not go up half a size to accommodate the width when looking for basketball footwear. Shoes that are too wide will decrease your efficiency and stability while running or when quickly changing directions on the court. Instead, select a shoe that is your size, opt for a wider version if available, and consider purchasing a basketball shoe constructed with raw materials like leather or suede. These materials stretch over time to achieve the ideal fit without causing the shoe wearer to experience break-in pain for weeks.
The outsoles, or the outer bottom of the shoes, is one of the most important features to look at when purchasing basketball footwear. The outsoles of basketball shoes should be moderately flat and made of rubber. This will provide some shock absorption to protect your feet, ankles, and knees while running, changing directions, and jumping. In fact, basketball shoes are often the most shock absorbing of all athletic footwear because of the force applied to the feet during the game.
The soles on the bottom of basketball shoes are usually wide with patterns. The pattern of basketball outsoles functions to maximize traction for rapid movement and shifts in direction. Basketball shoes should also have moderately sticky soles to prevent you from falling on the court.
Durability is an important, yet often overlooked, factor in making footwear decisions. Often, durable basketball shoes may cost slightly more than other sneakers, but they last longer and provide more support and protection. Durable basketball shoes will retain the traction and integrity of the outsole longer, maintain an adequate level of support, and will prevent pain or injury over time.
Closely linked to comfort, the support a basketball shoe offers can improve your physical performance exponentially. Wearing basketball shoes without adequate arch and ankle support can lead to long-term pain and damage. In fact, players with flat feet or high arches may be more prone to accidents and injuries while playing than other players. This is because arch support is essential for safe and efficient skeletal alignment, natural gait, and responsive movement.
Often it is better to select a shoe with less support built-in and replace the factory insole with a custom orthotic or over-the-counter support insole. This allows you to customize your level and shape of support as needed. It also increases the longevity of the shoe because, when the insole is worn out, you can throw it out and buy a replacement. It should be noted, however, that if you are not in need of additional support, adding insoles may force your foot and arch to conform to unnatural shapes and angles. In addition, adding insoles or custom orthotics are likely to make the shoe heavier, which can add to the pressure on the joints in your legs, ankles, and feet. This added shoe weight may also slow you down on the court and make your movements less seamless and fluid. The trade-off is difficult, but if additional support is needed, your health and safety may be at risk if you don’t provide that. When in doubt, consult a footwear specialist or medical professional.
Many players prefer high-top basketball shoes for the additional ankle support and protection the cuff provides. You can also decrease the likelihood ankle injuries or pain by ensuring that the shoe provides adequate foot and arch support to facilitate proper skeletal alignment of the foot, ankle, and knee.
Breathable shoes are not just more comfortable, but they also prevent the development of athlete’s foot, fungus, odor, blisters, and infection, all of which can cause pain or long-term foot health issues. It is crucial that you not let your foot sit in sweat throughout a practice or game! Having excess sweat on your feet while playing increases the likelihood your foot will slide around in your shoe, which makes you less stable and less agile on the court. The decrease in balance and coordination can then lead to injury and poorer player performance.
Selecting shoes constructed with breathable materials is a good way to prevent excessive foot sweating. Basketball shoes constructed with some mesh, nylon, or other breathable materials keep your feet cool and allow for the evaporation of sweat as it forms. This will not only help your performance, but will also increase your comfort while wearing your shoes.
Many sporting good retail stores offer customers the option of moisture-wicking basketball socks. These are made of lightweight fabric that allows for the flow of air. Some of these socks also provide additional foot padding or arch support for those players in need.
Your playing style can be the deciding factor!
Your playing style or position can also help to determine which basketball shoes are ideal for you.
Facilitators or distributing / passing players spend a majority of their time running. Fit, comfort, and traction thus are features they should look for when buying shoes. High-fliers and scorers will need to focus primarily on comfort and traction. These players will benefit from selecting a shoe that allows them to quickly reach top speed, suddenly stop, and fluidly change direction without slipping on the court. They will likely need to find a lightweight shoe that won’t hold them back on the court. For players that weave through the members of the other team quickly, having good arch support and ideal fit will be crucial. This is because the shoe will need to remain stable during the frequent movement changes.
All-around players or combo players need a shoe that can keep up with them. Essentially, they will need an all-around great shoe that combines all of the important aspects previously mentioned! These players are going to perform every kind of movement on the court, so their shoes will need to provide traction, support, and stability while absorbing as much shock and providing as much comfort as needed. Their shoes will also need to be flexible and offer protection.
Because post-players live in a confined space on the court, their shoes will need to achieve as ideal a fit as possible. There won’t be room for the foot to slide in the shoe, as this will come at the expense of agility and stability. Lateral, heel, and arch support will be needed to provide protection. Arch support will be especially important to avoid over-extension or over-exertion of the arch.
Do I need different basketball shoes for different environments?
While you can technically wear the same shoes for both indoor and outdoor basketball, many players recommend that you have a pair to match each environment. This is because the materials and the construction of indoor versus outdoor basketball shoes differ.
The soles of indoor basketball shoes are often constructed with lighter rubber to increase speed and agility. The soles of outdoor basketball shoes, however, are usually made with thicker rubber to improve durability.
Steven Tsakanikas, CEO of Skyscraper Sports, explains that soles constructed of soft, thin rubber with treads that easily bend are going to be better indoor shoes. This is because they aren’t durable in outdoor elements or concrete. Once the soles have been worn down, or if the soles are too soft, traction and grip will be reduced if the shoes are worn outdoors.
Tsakanikas also recommends that players wear more breathable shoes outside because temperatures are not controlled. Shoes worn on indoor courts don’t need to be quite as breathable because the court will likely be air-conditioned or protected from the heat or cold.
Many players suggest owning shoes that provide additional shock absorption or cushion while playing basketball outside because outdoor courts are not always constructed with materials that protect the skeletal alignment of players' feet and ankles. In addition, outdoor shoes should have wider tread patterns to accommodate rocks or debris that may accumulate on courts without losing traction to the ground surface.
High-top versus Low-Top
Basketball shoes are constructed with high-tops or low-tops, while mid-top basketball shoes fall somewhere between the other two. High-top basketball shoes lace at or above the ankle, which provides support and protection. These shoes are very popular and can decrease the player’s risk of rolling or spraining an ankle on the court. Additionally, many experts believe that the extra space in high-tops located around the ankle and top of the foot provide more room for cushion and support. This could potentially prevent stress fractures and other injuries. They are also said to provide more traction and shock absorption. However, they are considerably heavier and often more expensive than low-top shoes.
Low-top basketball shoes, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly popular among professional basketball players. Low-top advocates stress how these kind of shoes accomodate both speed and maneuverability. As low-tops are lighter than high-top shoes, they allow players to move faster and for greater foot and ankle mobility. This aids in direction changes and jumps. Finally, they're also attractive to some because they cost less money than high-tops.
Mid-top basketball shoes provide some ankle support at the cost of maneuverability. These shoes are less popular with players because, although they offer a compromise between protection and agility, they provide less of both overall. This often makes them unappealing to some.
Your playing style and position clearly influences what kind of shoe you need. If you play a position that would benefit from increased maneuverability, low-tops may be worth it. On the other hand, if you have a larger frame that requires more support, play a position that lends itself to jumps or lay-ups, or have suffered ankle injuries in the past, high-tops may be the way to go. Experts consistently recommend low-tops for basketball guards and high-tops for other players, though there is universal acknowledgement that decisions should be made on an individual basis by the player.
Some players also insist that low-tops are better for performance and that the loss of high-top shoe support can be compensated for by dorsi-flexion and ankle strengthening. Dorsi-flexion refers to the range of motion in the ankle that allows for upward movement. This, combined w with ankle strengthening, may prevent injuries in all players regardless of shoes. Other advocates of low-top shoes argue that when injuries occur while wearing high-top shoes, they are more severe because the ankle is fundamentally weaker. In addition, they say the injury occurs because the shoe prevents the body from accommodating the dangerous movement as it happens.
Not all coaches, players, or experts believe that the decision between high-tops or low-tops is as simple as shoe construction or ankle strength. In fact, many believe that the type of shoe the player wears should be based on player comfort and confidence. If a player feels best and safest while playing in low-tops for maneuverability, that is just as valid as the player that worries about injuries if not wearing high-tops. Players should be aware of their preference and should act on that to promote the best mental state for their game. When in doubt about which shoe construction is the best for them, it may be wise to seek the counsel of a trusted coach, experienced sporting good representative, or a medical professional to determine and balance player needs with player preferences.
Remember, it’s more about you than the shoe.
Experienced players and coaches alike explain that one of the most important things to remember while buying the perfect basketball shoe is that sneakers aren't magic. Sneakers are merely pieces of the puzzle that includes your training, your focus, and your determination. Proper footwear can serve as the foundation of your game, boost your confidence, keep you as stable and comfortable as possible all while making a statement. However, the shoes are still just another piece of your uniform. Working to improve technique and focusing on being the best player and teammate you can be are ultimately key to playing basketball well.