Basketball fans, players, enthusiasts, and the like are some of the most passionate in the world.

Their love for the game produces a multitude of products, but unlike football or baseball, shoes are the mainstay of the sport’s merchandise wing.

This makes total sense, as basketball players rely on their foot support more than  (just about) any other domestic sports performers (second only to soccer).

With the strong financial backing of corporate sponsors, it’s clear why shoes become the focal point for brands looking to piggy-back off the success of professional athletes. While this is great for those performers, if you’re in the market for a pair of basketball shoes, you want to make sure this deal benefits you too.

Best Basketball Shoes 2020

Brand Outsole Traction Cushion
Adidas D. Lillard 2.0 (Editor’s Choice) Continental Rubber Excellent Adidas’ Bounce Check Price
Nike KD 9 Pure Rubber Excellent Zoom Air Check Price
Nike Kobe 9, Low Strong TPU Great Nike Lunarlon Check Price
Nike Lebron 13 Elite Translucent Excellent Kurim Rubber Cage / Genuine Leather Check Price
Nike Air Max Audacity Solid Rubber Average Air Max Check Price
Nike Kyrie 2 (Editor’s Choice) Rubber Excellent Lightweight Phylon / Zoom Air Check Price
Under Armour Curry 2.5 Multi-Directional Herringbone Excellent UA Signature Charged Check Price
Jordan XX9, Low Translucent Average Lightweight Phylon / Zoom Air Check Price
Adidas D. Rose 773 III Strong Rubber OK adiPRENE+ Check Price
Nike Kobe 11, Low Translucent Excellent Nike Lunarlon Check Price

 

Adidas D. Lillard 2.0

The only thing cooler than the way the multi-directional outsole looks on these, is the actual price of the shoes. Coming in at only $105, anyone who knows basketball shoes knows that this is very much on the low side of the price spectrum.

While the shoe itself doesn’t come with any fancy bells and whistles, the internet is rife with reviewers and bloggers that say that the man, Damian Lillard, himself wanted it that way so as to keep the shoes more affordable for the average consumer.

Continental rubber (which is basically tire rubber) was used on the outsole. This is a feature of many Adidas offerings, and is used to help with traction on the court, because hey, who doesn’t want their shoes made out of the same rubber that comes standard on a Ferrari.

Overall traction was good for the Lillard 2.0 series, but one thing that stuck out for many reviewers thus far was the collection of dust due to the actual pattern of the rubber outsole.

Lines/indents were many, and were placed so close together that dust collected rather fast. This immediately takes away from any kind of traction unless you continue to wipe down the shoe to clean the dust off.

The D. Lillard 2s also come with Adidas’ Bounce cushion across the full length of the shoe. This makes them great for those who have a hard impact on the court when jumping or jogging. They’re also one of the only shoes who give cushion across the full length of the shoe in this price range.

Up top the shoe is held together by woven jacquard. Light and aesthetically pleasing, one well-known video reviewer on YouTube mentioned that this is the same material Nike and Jordan brands use on their shoes which retail for anywhere between $175-225.

One interesting thing to note as well is that the TPU heel and lacing system work in tandem to keep your foot locked in place without the feeling of restriction. You get the support from the heel and the laces up front keep a tight midfoot which further pulls your foot back into place.

Another note on fit: these run slightly longer and wide, and many people report that if you’re going to purchase, try out about half a size below your norm.

Overall these are a great shoe for the price, with the only major con being the dust factor due to the outsole pattern.

Nike KD 9

Nike’s KD 9 shoe comes with promises only a brand like Nike can stand behind with utmost confidence: extreme responsiveness, incredible fit, locked-down support, and more. They have their branding so tightly locked that, in seeing these value propositions, you wouldn’t even bat an eye and probably just cop the shoes without thought.

While we encourage you NOT to do that, if you were to blindly purchase these, it probably wouldn’t be a bad move.

Following the lead of the Lebron 10s and KD 6 Elites, the KD 9s feature full length cushion coming from the holy grail of cushion, Zoom Air. This cushion setup has been written about and fawned over to the sky and back so we won’t go into it in too much detail.

It’s a tight fit for a cushion, positioned very close to the ground to give you a better feel of the court. However it still feels like you’re playing on a cloud, and you don’t sacrifice any support. This particular Zoom Air design took three years to develop, as the designers looked to “increase the amount of Zoom and decrease the amount of foam”

The outsole is made of pure rubber, and features a honeycomb pattern, as well as a “flex groove” which is a diagonal cut across the upper part of the shoe. This insures that the traction of the shoe is in contact with the floor consistently, and allows you that extreme responsiveness that Nike originally promised.

The top-end (forefoot) of the shoe is made of flyknit, and with that comes all the things that usually come with flyknit. You get a great fit that hugs your feet as if the shoe’s life depended on it. However, durability is always an issue. One false move and you can catch these babies on a sharp edge and they’ll tear pretty easy.

What almost seems unnecessary are the laces that accentuate the knit. These are there to help pull your foot back and sit it into the heel (which is very thick and supportive) to help with containment and overall support. To add to this, the design of the base is that of your actual foot, also to help with containment.

All those great features also come at you with about a $30 reduction in price from their predecessors, coming in at around $150. Give these babies a try if you’re looking for a great lightweight, cushioned shoe that provides great responsiveness on the court.

Nike Kobe 9 Low

The Kobe 9 EMs, AKA Kobe 9 Lows, features the same traction as the Kobe 8 Elites—thermal pattern that outsoles which anatomically mimic Kobe’s actual foot. The soft rubber sole has been rated very highly, with a lot of reviewers and bloggers putting it in their number one spots, or at least their top three.

Couple this with Nike’s Lunarlon cushioning, and you’ve got great support coming from two sources of foam (one light and one firm) that perfectly punctuates the traction of the top rated outsole.

The engineered mesh (hence the “EM” in the title) takes these a step up from the Kobe 8s, but a step down from the 9 Elites. This is practical, thought not as visually pleasing. While you have more of a sock-ish, flyknit feel on the Elites, the 9 Lows are said to have a nicer tug when actually playing basketball.

They’re reinforced by a small amount of fuse at the toe and some nylon at the back, which makes for a structurally strong mesh. Rips happen at the seams and folds of the shoes, so reinforcing those weaker spots is key, especially for a shoe that costs as much as these do.

While the heel is NOT carbon fiber like the Elites, it does feature a solid TPU heel made out of a lightweight plastic. There are great things said about the support, with a few scattered reviews saying the midfoot is a little loose.

This is highly dependent on the size and shape of your foot, so if you’re looking to size these out for yourself, make sure to go to a store and try on a few different sizes close to your true fit.

Nike Lebron 13 Elite

At first glance the Lebron 13 Elites look similar to the lower-class 13s (sans “Elite label”). Though there are several major upgrades which we’ll get into, overall aesthetic remains the same, except for the removal of some of those awful looking padded triangular shapes.

In keeping with the overall feel and look of the original shoes, the outsole main attribute is  the pods that pop up in different sections all along the front-end of the shoe. The pods contain indents, that are shifted in different ways to give you more control in all directions.

The rubber of the outsole itself is translucent, and those pods that were mentioned are sockets buried within it that contain Nike’s Zoom Air cushioning.

The upper part of the shoe is comprised mostly of a thin Kurim rubber cage, and mesh. An upgrade from the regular 13s which are just your everyday generic mesh and nothing else.

The cage hugs your foot, to keep it contained during stressful pulls and pushes which can tear at less durable materials like flyknit. The toes are then capped off with… real leather? Yes sir, real leather is used to strengthen the most stressful spots that are prone to tears.

Another tremendous aspect of this shoe is the carbon fiber plate at the midfoot, which is unparalleled for a shoe in this range. This, again, adds extra support to those who put their shoes through a more rigorous routine.

One particular thing we noticed was that the lace support was only provided by flywire. For a shoe, that is undoubtedly built around durability and sturdiness, to put a flywire there seems antithetical to the overall design, as they’re known to erode easily.

Fit and support issues can arise for those with more slim feet, as these were built for LeBron, who must have wide feet, because these reflect that. This, plus the build and durability of the shoes make these real basketball shoes, for people who will actually be putting them to use on the court.

And at $180-200 we’d hope you get some use out of them.

Nike Air Max Audacity

For those looking to get in on the lower end of the pricing spectrum, Nike has released their second version of the Air Max Audacity.

This is absolutely a get-what-you-pay-for shoe, and while it’s not necessarily a bad shoe, any player that knows durable shoes that were meant to handle a court knows that these aren’t them.

With Air Max cushioning, you’re most likely cleared for any tiny amounts of impact, which make these a better fit for lighter players. Towards the front, the cushioning is quite soft, which allows for a harder heel.

The outsole is very thick, tough, and hard. The grooves that make up, what is an incomprehensible pattern, are thin and tugged tightly together. Unfortunately this doesn’t make for great traction. While there are reports that differ—with some saying it depends on the cleanliness of the court—on average, reviews on the traction have been quite negative.

A harder foam makes up a large portion of the backend of the shoe, making it a sturdy fit up against the back of your foot. While this is great, the TPU heel is not very high quality, and several reviewers have mentioned that it’s not as strong as most others on the market.

While the Audacitys are primarily made up of mesh, there is a lot of fuse in high-wear areas such as near the toes, and anywhere with seams in general. This is a big plus for these, as durability-wise these score high. They’re not flimsy, and don’t seem like they’ll tear easily.

Again, at the price you pay, these are not inherently bad shoes. While they don’t come with many of the features most others do, they’ll work for those on a budget.

Nike Kyrie 2

Another very affordable shoe made for balling is the Kyrie 2. While Nike’s marketing will have you believe that the shoe is the secret behind Kyrie Irving’s flashy cour moves (which they boast defy the laws of physics), we know that when a shoe comes in at this price, it may not live up to the promises made.

The second coming of Nike’s Kyrie offering have gotten superb ratings when it comes to traction, with even the most stringent reviewers giving the shoe a silent head-nod in the form of a blog post.

And since the traction scores higher than other shoes that cost more, it’s only fitting that Nike omit a very important feature. The cushioning in this model is sparse—but so was its predecessor—with the only padding coming from a Zoom pod in the heel.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, if you’re not a heavy footed player. However, people with weaker lower body structures definitely must opt for something with more cushion, lest they end up injuring themselves.

Upper is made of textile mesh, with fuse at the hot points. There is a large strap that goes around the shoe near the midfoot which helps lock it into place, though after you break the shoes in we hear it gets worn out easily.

TPU heel which wraps around the back of your foot creates great support. With additional help from the strap, and the rounded outsole, this shoe has got basics covered.

For the low price of $99 we’d say it’s worth it, but if you’ve got a wider foot make sure you head over to the store to try on a pair first.

Under Armour Curry 2.5

Don’t completely overlook Under Armour because of their lack of skin in the game when it comes to basketball shoes. They’re best known for their under garments, but they’ve come along way since selling breathable workout shirts.

Their Curry line of shoes is one of the most popular, and their take on the industry is an interesting one. Their commitment to durable, and breathable materials can very much be seen in this shoe, but all the same basic elements are there as well.

Multi-directional “Organic” (whatever that means in relation to shoes) Herringbone makes up the outsole. Traction gets great reviews, though playing outside and on dirtier courts make it hotbed for dust collection.

The interior collar is an amazing addition to the shoe, and one that all basketball shoe makers should take a look at. Its padding comes up nice and tight, almost like a glove, and wraps around your ankle, holding it in place firmly as if you’ve clinched the ankle yourself with your index finger and thumb.

Using UA’s signature Charged cushioning, they also propel you with a very pleasant midfoot TPU shank. Great for strikers who come down hard on their midfoot, but still need a bit of bounce.

A warning though: they are not the best when it comes to ventilation. The upper part of the shoe is made with mesh and polyurethane. While this dense material is great for locking your foot into place and keeping a hefty balance all around the shoe, it’s awful for ventilation.

There are spots and holes that are clearly there to help get some flow going, but it’s not a very breathable shoe. If you can sacrifice breathable for great fit, and overall protection though, these guys got you covered.

Jordan XX9 Low

If anyone ever says that translucent outsoles outperform solid ones, a hardcore shoe fiend might laugh in their faces. The thought is so unreal and unheard of that to say it means you’ve just made quite the bold claim.

But this is the statement made by several reviewers of the XX9s—that the translucent rubber on the outsoles of the preceding model have a greater impact of traction efficiency on the court. While no real reason is given—and it being translucent isn’t actually a great argument—the traction is receiving reviews closer to those lower-end shoes.

Nike took a three-pronged approach to their cushioning, with a Flight Plate, forefront Zoom unit, and a Flylon midsole. The Flight Plate and Zoom unit are marketed as the perfect team to give you more bounce for your buck. The main purpose of the flight is to “maximize responsiveness” by “compressing and deflecting” on the Zoom unit during play.

The performance woven upper is the same as the model before, and the heel is leather. So funny that when shoes use real leather in the build people talk about it, as if it’s some long lost, mystical wizard.

Other than that, nothing new to report in terms of materials.

In the area of fit, the XX9s work like a charm. They contain heel pillows in inner back end of the shoe, which wrap right around your heel. Tied together with lacing system, your foot is nestled firmly in place.

All of these features work together to give you some great support during play. We have heard from some sources that the break-in time for these is a bit longer than usual, but once you get ‘em down a bit, they’re a wonder to play in.

But you check them out for yourself and be the judge.

Adidas D Rose 773 III

With most basketball shoes, you see a race to the bottom of the “average” heap, or those that try to be the best on a professional court. Often overlooked are those that provide for underserved markets, like outdoor ballers.

Adidas is no stranger to criticism in the basketball shoe world. One in which Nike and its subsidiary Jordan brand rule with an iron fist, Adidas has always made a splash by doing things a bit different.

Just like the D. Lillard review from earlier in this article, which provides an excellent shoe at a nominal price with no bells, whistles, or fancy marketing, they interject themselves into the rat race by thinking outside of the box

And the 773 version IIIs are no different.

Coming in at around $110, these are on the low side of the price equation, but how do the stack up against the massive competition that’s already out there?

The tight traction pattern doesn’t get huge props from the indoor crowd. That is unless of course you’re playing on a professionally maintained court. Though the outsole is very thick, and that tight traction comes in very close to the shoe, with the indents not being that deep.

This makes it great for outdoor playing. In fact the more we dive into this shoe, the more we feel this is one made for outdoor players almost exclusively.

Adidas, like Nike, have their own copyrighted cushion types. The one featured in this model is their adiPRENE+. Now while these names are more marketing than anything else they each come with their own features and benefits.

Their adiPRENE plus is used in shoes to increase propulsion, or give you more of a bounce. This provides less shock absorption, but this is typical of a shoe built for guards who stay on their forefront, and gives you a low to the ground, responsive feel—aka court feel.

Synthetic leather makes up the greater portion of the shoe’s build. This stuff is stiff, and makes for a tight fit around your foot, but can be restrictive and even cause pain. That can be a downvote on these for some, but it makes it a durable outdoor shoe.

The mock-leather is tightly stitched at the points where tearing occurs most often, and stands the test of time according to some reviewers.

One of its more weaker points also, is the padding on the back of the ankle. When analyzing the support, this shoe is severely lacking in this department. While the upper material is strong and keeps your foot nice and tight, you’ll lose strength on the backend.

Perforations adorn the sides of the shoe, which go with the insanely breathable mesh tongue. These are both added for ventilation. If you’re using these for outdoor play (as you should be), the tight fit and thick materials will definitely have your feet emitting a ton of heat, so this is a nice touch.

Adidas does it again with a shoe that’s adapted for an often overlooked market, and they do it well. You’ll definitely have to break these in a bit, but after you do, they’ll last you for while.

Nike Kobe 11 Low

Another day, another Kobe model to review. These shoes always stay on the higher end of the price spectrum when it comes to price, and that should be no surprise. Kobe has built an incredible brand for himself, and the team over at Nike knows how to churn out amazing shoes that do him justice.

But for you, a high price should come with some serious value. If you’re looking for a shoe that looks amazing, then the Kobe 11s have you covered.

The translucent rubber on the elites gave credence to the fashion statement that Kobes really bring to light, but this version dropped that and now features a solid rubber—which some argue is more sturdy. Though this is viewed as an improvement, it’s not a fix-all.

There are still problems with traction when it comes to dust if you’re playing on a court that is not kept up. Wiping may be needed, and this brings up a question: with so many players/reviewers fawning over the Kobe 9s’ traction, why have they not improved upon and listened to the customers?

Cushioning is a drop-in sole that is made fully of Lunarlon technology. There are no flex screws, and similar to running shoes, the heel is set up for shock absorption, with the entire front consisting of a more bounce-y foam.

Mesh is used for the upper, which is where it takes a hit in quality, aesthetic, and price. The elites are beautiful and made of Flyknit. The mesh used will get the job done, but you’re looking at a more unsightly shoe. It’s hard to view them in comparison, because the elites are just so much more aesthetically pleasing.

The fit is tighter and more close in this version of the shoe, which leads to more support via lockdown. The materials may have been thicker in the elites, but the cheaper ones used here actually lock onto, and mold around, your feet.

Great lightweight shoes for those looking to get the same benefits of the elite shoes, without some of the added flair, which is unnecessary if you really think about it.

One thing to remember about basketball shoes, especially those that are modeled after famous players, is that you’re getting a shoe designed for someone else. LeBron’s shoes will be patched together around his needs, and you’ll be getting a copy of that.

If you’re looking for functionality, keep this point in mind. If you play like Kobe, then by all means splurge on the Kobes (you have plenty of options to choose from). But don’t drop a ton of cash on a shoe that’s got some good branding behind it, and then blame the shoe when you can’t play well in it, because in the end it was your poor choice that’s to be held accountable.

Buyer’s Guide

There are several things you might want to consider when shopping for basketball shoes. Depending on what you’re looking for, your decision will be determined by the different benefits provided by the many choices you have. For example, those looking to just purchase for the sense of fashion, who are not taking them out on the court, may only consider comfortability and style when shopping.

On the other side of this, those that are looking for a long-lasting basketball shoe that they’re hoping to use in amateur tournaments might consider the following:

Traction

Often the first thing that basketball shoe enthusiasts look for is the type of traction that’s featured on the shoe and how it performs. The traction of the shoe is dependent on several aspects of the outsole, such as the type of material used, and how the shape of that material is designed. Some shoes will use a solid, more thick rubber, and some will use a lighter, translucent rubber.

Different players have different needs, so the design of a shoe will be a reflection of the player designing it. In addition to the type of rubber used, the way it is molded and indented into outsole affects the traction as well. Some shoes have many thin slits into the rubber that are closer together which, if taken onto a dusty court, are known to collect dust.

On the other hand, shoes which feature patterns that are further apart aren’t always known to “grab” the ground as much.

You will need to find a healthy balance, but once you find a shoe you like that has great traction, make sure you take note of its characteristics.

Cushioning

The second most talked about aspect of a shoe’s build, is the type cushioning used. This can get really confusing, as all the major brands have copyrighted their own type of cushioning, such as Nike’s Zoom, Lunarlon, and Air cushioning, as well as Adidias’ Bounce, and adiPRENE cushioning.

They all have their benefits and downsides, but what does this mean for you?

You should choose a type of cushioning based on the type of build your foot is (wide, narrow, flat, etc.) and how you strike. For example, those that strike hard—meaning the amount of force that goes into your foot when you land on it—on their midfoot and heels will benefit from something like Nike’s Lunarlon, which has a harder foam throughout those areas, with a lighter material up front for more bounce.

There are those shoes, too,  that use only one type of cushioning across the full length of the shoe, which are meant for those that don’t stress a particular part of their feet.

Shape

How the shoe is built and shaped will greatly affect your performance on the court, but it’s also dependent on your own unique foot. When referring to the shape of a shoe, there are many different factors which come into play. Some shoes are built for a player that has a more narrow foot, so those with wider feet might need to go up a size or two to fit in with no problems.

Other shoes might feature a tighter build on the upper part of the shoe, constricting the top part of the foot. This is to help secure the foot and keep it from sliding around inside the shoe. These shoes are out there, but so are the more ventilated and wide options.

Loose might be a bad adjective to use to describe a basketball shoe, but some players prefer a more breathable offering, and that is most likely dependent on our next detail…

Material

The types of materials used in the construction of the shoe is very important to just about every aspect of it. Certain types of materials might work well for the everyday consumer, but for a pro out on the court, a bad material design can literally make or break a winning moment.

As stated above, some performers prefer a more ventilated option, but they don’t want to sacrifice a tight fit. This is where something like Nike’s flyknit comes in. It’s a light, strong, and generally pretty protective type of stitching that they’ve produced. It often comes in bright patterns, and is extremely breathable and versatile when it comes to foot types.

While flyknit is great, there are durability issues as it isn’t very strong against tearing. Those that are worried about ripping at the fibers tend to go for a more durable material such as mesh, hard rubber cages, leather, polyurethane, foam core, and the list goes on.

Harder materials are used at the heels and common points of striking such as the midfoot area. It’s not uncommon to see slabs of carbon fiber reinforcements to reinforce these sections of the shoe. Reinforcements are a great way to protect yourself from injury. Although, one thing about them is that they are generally seen on the higher-end shoes.

The outsole is also a hot topic when discussing your shoes. Though it’s often just pure rubber, some manufacturers like Adidas will partner with brands like Continental (the tire company) to try and convince you that theirs is better.

Companies can get really creative with their materials, and some of it can be used to generate marketing hype, so make sure to pay close attention to the types used in your next purchase. Keep in mind what your ultimate goal for a shoe is, and align your needs with the shoe comprised of the materials that will serve you best.

When purchasing expensive goods, you always want to make sure you do thorough research. There will always be debate about which shoe is better and why. Know that when the dust settles after the debate, just like a presidential candidate, you just want someone you can trust.

Trusting your shoes to handle situations that the game will throw at you is imperative in your quest for the best basketball shoe; it means you can take your mind off this one thing and focus more on winning the game and playing to the best of your abilities.

To make a more informed decision about which shoe you’re hoping to buy, not only is it necessary to understand what purpose you’re buying your shoe for, but also other things like your body size and type.

We’ve cross-referenced dozens of the most talked about basketball shoes out right now, and these are the 10 best to consider when making your next purchase.

When choosing a basketball shoe, it’s easy to be blindsided by brand reputation that is codependent on a popular sports player. That’s why we’re here to help you evaluate and make an educated decision on your basketball shoe.

All of the models mentioned are no doubt great in their own right, but some are better for heavier people who impact the floor more on landing, some are much better suited for use outdoors, and some are best for those who see a lot action on the court; slipping and sliding in a multitude of directions.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a shoe, so please, take the time to go over this list and do your research. After you do this, we’re confident you’ll make the right decision, and have an awesome stable of shoes to choose from for years to come.

Now get out there and play some ball!

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