What Are the Best Nike Basketball Shoes?
Find a shoe to match your game, no matter if you're playing in a local rec league or the NBA Finals.
Basketball is a game of continual action and reaction. At any given moment, you’ll need to make an explosive move to get through a crack in the defense or jump into a passing lane to make a crucial stop. Your perfect basketball shoe needs the right mix of support, comfort, cushion, and traction.
From defensive specialists to floor generals, we have a shoe to help you get the most out of your game, whether you’re playing in a local rec league or the NBA Finals.
BEST BASKETBALL SHOES BY POSITION
Forwards and Centers
Ankle support and stability are important for front-court players—you need a stable base when fighting to grab a rebound or exploding to the rim for a putback. Proper support keeps your feet and ankles secure and locked in so you can make quick, lateral movements and constant vertical jumps.
- Nike's Air Zoom technology provides explosive performance and comfort that lasts the whole game. The Nike Zion kicks off Zion Williamson's line with an understated design that channels his athleticism and power.
- Nike Max Air helps keeps your legs fresh late into the fourth quarter for better individual performances and team wins. Sneakers such as the Nike Air Zoom G.T. Run stacks a React footbed on top of a React midsole and Zoom Air in the forefoot to provide shock absorption and a responsive ride.
- The Jordan' Why Not?' line proves that speed is the most important factor on the court. With two stacked Zoom Air units in the forefoot for responsive cushioning, they help you harness more of your own speed to change the game.
When you're pulling up for a jumper or driving to the basket off a pick and roll, a high level of grip and traction for those sudden, sharp cuts is essential. These shoes benefit from a variety of traction patterns to help keep you from slipping on the court.
- The Nike Cosmic line makes garbage on the court a good thing. Its Air Zoom Strobel unit, partially composed of recycled materials, provides efficient acceleration off the dribble. Be kind to the planet, not the opposing team.
- The Nike Air Zoom low-top basketball shoes are made for the players who use their skills to create and close space on the court. The lightweight shoe minimizes ground contact for stability and control.
- The Nike Kyrie outsole uses the latest technology for 360-degree traction and a rounded Nike Zoom Air unit to promote a responsive first step.
All Around Players
In today's game, the distinction between guards and forwards is disappearing. From LeBron James orchestrating an offense to Giannis Antetokounmpo leading a fast break, the next generation of players needs shoes that have a little bit of everything: balanced support, traction in any direction, and energy return without unnecessary weight.
- Nike LeBron shoes are all about speed and power. They have a full-length Zoom Air unit and Max Air in the heel to absorb impact and return energy. And the KnitPosite 2.0 upper provides a secure fit to help you move with confidence.
- The Zoom Freak line is made because there's more than one way to get to the basket. That's why this pair's outside midsole sports a TPU plate for greater lateral mobility and control. And when you get to the hoop, the Zoom Air units in the forefoot provide plenty of energy return for explosive moves.
- Many of the Nike KD basketball shoes have a durable upper that uses minimal material for a broken-in feel. Full-length Zoom Air cushioning provides the energy return for explosive movement without adding weight.
- Nike PG low-top shoes supply support and agility on the court with its interlocking, comfy upper. The full-length Air Zoom unit is attached to the upper to keep your legs fresher longer.
BEST SHOES ACCORDING TO PLAYER
All of Nike's basketball shoes are designed to help you play your best game, but if you want a shoe designed for your specific game or position, you might want to follow in the footsteps of a signature athlete you admire. Each athlete's shoe is designed and engineered to complement their specific style of play and position.
Lebron James, Forward
LeBron's shoes are all about power and speed with plenty of Nike Air cushioning. LeBron himself said it best, "I love Air."
Kevin Durant, Forward
Kevin's game requires lightweight, versatile, and responsive shoes for fast action. And just as KD prefers, they have a broken-in, comfortable feel.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Forward
Giannis's shoes feature extra-responsive cushioning and forefoot lockdown designed for power, speed and freakish footwork.
Kyrie Irving, Guard
Kyrie's shoes are designed for his unpredictable game, from fast cuts to stopping on a dime.
Paul George, Forward
Paul prefers lightweight, soft and springy shoes — ideal for versatile, two-way players that go hard on every play.
BASKETBALL SHOE STRUCTURE
Before you choose a shoe, you should familiarize yourself with the key components of a basketball shoe. There are three main parts of a basketball sneaker to pay close attention to, keeping in mind your body, position, and playing style.
The upper part of the basketball shoe can help provide ankle support, especially during multidirectional moves and quick cuts. It can also provide impact protection. The upper comes in three levels: high-top, low-top, and mid-top (or mid-cut).
- High-tops provide maximum ankle support and stability, but they are also the heaviest of the three upper styles. Players who are prone to ankle injuries will appreciate their high-cut collar and padding. Larger and more aggressive players such as centers and power forwards might choose a high-top for maximum comfort. Those who enjoy heritage b-ball style might gravitate to classic high-top sneakers like the Nike Air Force or Converse Chuck Taylors.
- Low-tops provide the least ankle support but allow you to generate maximum agility and speed. Low-tops are lightweight and flexible, perfect for guards and small forwards. Choose from a wide range of Air Jordans if you’re looking for a shoe to help you take flight.
- Mid-cuts or mid-tops are great for all-around players because they offer a happy medium between the high-top and the low-top. Mid-tops are more flexible than a high-top because the upper sits right at the base of the ankle allowing for greater joint mobility so you can stay agile but locked in. They are also lighter in weight than a high-top but still slightly heavier than a low-top.
According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM), 68 percent of NBA players wear a high-top shoe, 15 percent a mid-top shoe, and 10 percent a low-top basketball shoe for regular play. The AAPSM recommends that a player's choice depend on what fits properly.
The closure system is another important feature of the upper. While laces are most common, you might find combination systems to provide more security. For instance, some Nike Zoom Freak models have a molded hook-and-loop strap that wraps over the lower laces to help reduce internal foot movement.
Found in the middle of the shoe, a basketball shoe's midsole provides cushioning and comfort to help reduce fatigue and body stress. You'll want the midsole to be flexible but sturdy enough to absorb impact to the foot during gameplay. You might look for cutouts in the foam to help reduce weight and provide optimal responsiveness. Features on the outside of the shoe can come in handy, like an external piece of lightweight durable TPU on the outer-side midsole of the Nike Zoom Freak. It helps keep your foot stable over the footbed when making quick side-to-side directional changes.
The outsole (on the outermost underside of the shoe) helps to provide maximum multidirectional traction, grip and balance. Avoid slipping when you change directions, pivot or jump by finding flat and wide outsoles with groves and ridges in the design. You'll also find outsole features on shoes like some of the Nike Kyrie sneakers that have rubber that wraps up along the inner foot to give you traction when pushing off your edges.
BASKETBALL SHOE FIT AND DURABILITY
Basketball shoes don't last forever. You'll need to replace them on the regular. The AAPSM advises replacing your shoes monthly if you play regularly during a basketball season to decrease the rate of injury.
Most basketball shoe outsoles are built for indoor court use. What about the best basketball shoes for outdoor courts? Most shoes are versatile enough to be put to the test outside, but outdoor courts cause increased wear and tear on the outsole rubber, so you'll want a durable shoe with heavy traction. And shoes used outdoors may need to be replaced more frequently.
Lastly, when searching for your ideal shoes, be sure to take the time to get your foot measured for a proper fit. Shoes that are too big allow the foot to slide, which decreases stability and speed. Shoes that are too small might lead to blisters, callouses and decreased comfort. The only way to know if your shoes fit properly and work for your game is to test them.
Nike gives you 60 days to try them out. So take your shots, and if you love them, keep them. If they're not right for any reason, simply return them within the 60-days window, no matter how many trips up the court you've made while wearing them. And remember, shipping is free for Nike Members.