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How To Buy Basketball Shoes

To handle the rigors of the game, basketball shoes must offer durability, support, stability, flexibility and shock absorption. The constant starting, abrupt stopping, high jumps and quick side-to-side movements involved with basketball make these features absolutely essential when choosing your playing shoes. It's also important to factor in your personal playing style, which can make a difference in the type of shoe you'll need.

What Kind of Player Are You?

Power player

  • Power players will want shoes with maximum cushioning and stability. You may have to play in a heavier shoe to get those benefits.

All-around player

  • Look for shoes with moderate ankle support and cushioning
  • There are many shoes to choose from. Almost all types are fairly lightweight.

Fast player

  • Choose a lightweight shoe that offers moderate support, cushioning and flexibility
  • Shoes with a lower-cut are often good choices

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Shoe Construction

Understanding the construction of basketball shoes and determining which features are most important to you will help you select the right shoe.

Upper

The upper is the soft top of the shoe. Its job is to keep the foot snug and securely in place during play.

  • Shoe cut
    • Determining if you're most comfortable in high-, mid- or low-tops is the first step in finding the right shoe for you
      • High-tops
        • Keep in mind that the vast majority of players, around 70% choose high-tops for their ability to provide maximum ankle support
        • Power players and all-around players usually prefer the stability of this style
      • Mid-tops
        • For players who feel restricted in high-tops, and who use speed as their greatest asset, mid-tops, which come to right at the ankle level, may be the answer
      • Low-tops
        • Only about 10% of players wear low-tops for regular play
        • These are lighter, but don't offer the built-in ankle support that high-tops do
  • Materials
    • The days of the all leather upper are gone
    • Replacing them are lightweight combination uppers, which mix the stability and durability of leather with the breathability and flexibility of synthetic mesh
    • High-tech, all-synthetic uppers, which are often more durable than leather, are gaining popularity for their ability to offer stability in a super-lightweight material
  • Closure systems
    • A good closure system will keep the foot snug and secure in the shoe during sudden stops and starts, frequent side-to-side motions, and quick turns
      • Laces
        • Laces are an acceptable choice for keeping the foot stable in the shoe
        • Several manufacturers are offering new lacing systems designed to offer greater stability
        • Good lacing systems should lock the laces in place, making them less apt to loosen or untie, increasing your stability during play
      • Straps
        • Some shoes feature a strap that wraps around the upper arch of the shoe to add more stability and protection against ankle rollover
      • Zippers
        • Zippers are a fairly new choice for securing the foot in a basketball shoe. These are usually covered by some sort of protective material.
      • Velcro®
        • Good for younger children who can't tie their shoes yet
        • Not real reliable in terms of staying closed, and doesn't offer good support

Midsole

This is the layer of soft, shock-absorbing material between the outsole and the upper. It is often considered the most important part of a basketball shoe, because the construction and materials used will impact the levels of cushioning and shock absorption and can affect a player's ability to explode off the floor.

  • Cushioning materials
    • The midsole is usually made of EVA, compressed EVA, polyurethane or a combination of these materials. Proprietary cushioning technologies are also found in many brands of basketball shoes.
      • EVA/Compressed EVA offers lightweight cushioning, but not as much stability and durability. EVA can be compressed to make it somewhat more durable.
      • Polyurethane (PU) is a more dense and durable cushioning material. It can add stability to the shoe, but also adds weight.
      • Proprietary Cushioning Technologies are usually found in the heel and forefoot of the shoe and add an extra degree of cushioning without much extra weight
    • Motion Control/Stability
      • Stiff materials are used in some basketball shoes on the medial or inner side of the shoe to reduce inward rolling of the foot
      • Heavier densities of cushioning materials may also be used in the medial area to increase a shoe's stability. The midsole can negatively affect stability if the cushioning materials are too thick.
      • Look for relatively thin layer of cushioning to keep your base of support low and stable

Outsole

This is the rubber bottom of the shoe.

  • Stability
    • The outsole of a good basketball shoe should be flat and moderately wide to create a stable base and help prevent ankle rollover
    • The herringbone pattern is most common and provides enough traction to keep you steady during quick stops and starts
    • Most shoes are designed for indoor play. If you play most often on outdoor courts, look for a shoe with a more durable outsole.
    • Some basketball shoes are designed specifically for outdoor play and feature heavier rubber outsoles

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Men's vs. Women's Basketball Shoes

  • Most women should not buy men's basketball shoes
  • Men's shoes are built on a wider last or "frame" than women's shoes
  • Men's basketball shoes are generally too wide for a woman's foot, and do not offer an appropriate degree of stability

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Determine Your Shoe Size

  • Determining your proper shoe size is essential to a comfortable fit
  • Don't assume your shoe size is the same as it always has been. The shape of your feet changes over time.
  • For the perfect fitting shoe, see Determine Your Shoe Size before making your purchase decisions

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Fit Tip

Toe AreaWidth AreaHeel Area
Allow (thumbnail's length) of space between top of longest toe on largest foot and the end of the shoeFoot should fit comfortably without stretching the upper over the midsole of the shoeHeel can move but is not supposed to slip

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