While putting in work at the gym and on the court is crucial to any basketball player’s prep, having the proper footwear is also a must. There are so many brands and styles of basketball shoes out there that it can be difficult to determine the pair that’s right for you.
Here, we help you narrow your search and simplify the process of finding a basketball sneaker that’ll truly elevate your game. The main question we considered is one that has always been important when it comes to selecting basketball sneakers: Should you go low-top or mid-top?
“I think its players-specific,” says David Pasternak, the buyer of men’s basketball sneakers at DICK’S Sporting Goods. “It’s how the person plays the game and generates the issues. It’s the end user. It’s the way they play. It’s the genetics of the person—their size, their stature, their position.”
Since that’s the case, knowing the pros and cons of low-top and mid-top basketball shoes is important. Here’s a breakdown.
The Lowdown on Low-Tops
“A guy that’s wearing a low is wearing it for the fact that it’s lightweight,” Pasternak says. Because they don’t pull your feet down as much as the mid-tops, low-tops maximize quickness, mobility, and jumping ability.
“It’s those perimeter players and the speed guys that should consider wearing the lows,” Pasternak says. Guards and smaller players are constantly sprinting up and down the court, slashing to the basket, changing directions, and finishing at the rim, which is why low-tops are a good option for them.
But it’s not necessarily just the smaller, faster players who can benefit from low-tops. Jump shooters and three-point specialists rely on getting optimal lift on all their shots. A heavy sneaker may disrupt shooting mechanics, which is a shooter’s worst nightmare. The airiness of low-tops can actually aid shooters in maintaining the surgeon-level of precision that goes into what they do best.
While low-top sneakers can help satisfy that need for speed and lift, Pasternak cautions that they offer less stability than mid-tops. Lows allow the foot to move in ways that mids don’t, leaving the ankle vulnerable to rolling and twisting. Not to mention, lows typically provide less cushioning than mids.
The Real Deal on Mid-Tops
“If you’re going to wear a mid, it’s truly driven on the fact that you do still want that extra ankle support,” Pasternak says. “A lot of them have more cushioning and stability. I think you take all that out when you go with the low.”
Mid-tops certainly don’t guarantee the prevention of ankle sprains, but their additional support can make a difference. In fact, Pasternak suggests that players who have a history of foot or ankle injuries should wear mids since they offer more stability and support. Mids often also feature strap or lock-down systems, which help prevent the foot from rolling.
For players who make a living near the hoop, mids seem to be the better choice. Think about how important footwork is down low. Having to constantly establish position (while either posting up or boxing out) provides ample opportunities for ankles to twist and turn. On top of that, the bigs who bang in the post typically weigh more than perimeter players, so they need additional support for their larger frames. Mid-tops are much more likely to provide that support than low-tops.
Guards would also be wise to choose mid-tops. Sure, flexibility and quickness may be slightly compromised, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Support is crucial for players who make sharp cuts and drive through traffic. And it’s typically the penetrators that find themselves landing awkwardly on other players’ feet when attacking the basket. Mids are great for smaller and bigger players alike.
Are low-tops or mid-tops better? How low should you really go? The answer is: It depends.
If you’re a slasher or perimeter player that relies on speed and is willing to sacrifice stability for extra quickness, then lows are the way to go. But if you’re a banger down low who’s concerned with footwork and providing the proper support for your “big-man” frame, then highs are your best bet.
Of course, there’s wiggle room. Highs may actually make more sense for smaller, speedier guards if they have a history of ankle sprains.
That being said, a lightweight mid-top basketball sneaker has the most to offer for the widest range of players. Stability, support, quickness, and leaping ability are all but guaranteed with an airy mid.
One thing is for sure: A person’s style of play should have a significant role in determining the kind of sneaker he or she chooses to purchase. In other words, the player needs to fit the shoe just as much as the shoe needs to fit the player.
Try These on for Size:
It features Under Armour’s patented SpeedForm and Charged Cushioning technologies, which provide incredible feedback. That means you’ll maintain quickness and explosiveness even in a highly supportive mid-top sneaker.
Mid/High-Top Hybrid: Nike Zoom HyperRev
If you’ve experienced foot or ankle issues in the past, the HyperRev is the sneaker for you. The tall, narrow collar essentially makes the Zoom a mid/high-top hybrid, and the velcro closure across the midsole provides an incredibly secure lock-down feel. Stability is what you’ll find in this shoe.
Low Top: Nike Kobe XI
For those looking for a sneaker that doesn’t sacrifice range of motion, check out the Kobe XI. It’s a lightweight low-top containing Nike’s patented technology. Notably, its new FlyKnit construction, sewn with durable TPU yarn, keeps feet secure. Lightweight stability is what you’ll get with the Nike Kobe XI.