How to Buy Good Basketball Shoes
My favorite, and predictably most expensive, basketball sneakers ever were a pair of Allen Iverson’s The Answer III. The reason why I loved it so much was the cushioning. It felt like I was running on pillows. I felt like I ran faster, jumped higher, and became tougher. I threw my body into traffic, driving into the lane to get layups. When I put those shoes on, I felt like I was Iverson.
I bring this up because about a week ago, my current basketball shoes started to give me blisters. The cushion had come off where the arch of my foot met the shoe. Because my feet are obnoxiously flat, my insanehoops foot was basically rubbing against rubber. This caused blisters too painful to run with. Trying to play though the pain, I started to overcompensate my step by landing exclusively on the blade of my foot. This started to hurt my ankles and shins. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t jump, and I couldn’t keep up on defense. After failed experiments with bandages, I decided to buy new basketball sneakers.
This obviously isn’t the first pair of basketball sneakers but since I want to maximize my limited basketball skills, I figured I would do my research first. So how do I buy good basketball sneakers?
When you walk into the store, the first thing you notice is how the shoes look. I don’t need to tell you that you should buy shoes that you think look good.
The next thing you’ll probably look at is the price. This is probably the most important factor you consider when deciding whether to buy the shoes or not. You don’t want to overpay for shoe, but at the same time, you want the best shoes you can afford. While the obvious tips of sales and coupons apply, remember athletic stores aren’t your only option. Department stores, discount stores, and other clothing stores have athletic shoes in stock. I ended up buying LeBron’s Soldier II at Rack for 50% off retail.
Finally, you take a shoe off the rack, request the shoes from a sales guy, and try them one. There are a couple of different aspects of the shoe to consider. If you want to a more in depth look at the different aspects read on but in short: make sure there is enough cushioning on the bottom and sides and make sure your foot doesn’t slide around inside the shoe when you lace them up. That’s really all you need from your sneakers.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
The first thing to do is to think about what kind of player you are. Most of us aren’t good enough to notice the subtle differences between a shoe designed for a power player and a shoe designed for a fast player but, it’s still good have an understanding of you should be looking for in a shoe.
For power players (forwards and centers), it’s important for the shoe to be well cushioned and for the shoe to lock the foot into the shoe – stabilizing the foot so it doesn’t slide around inside the shoe. These features add weight and bulk to the shoe – which is why they’re more suitable for larger, slower players
Fast players (guards) will want lighter shoes that are more flexible. The downside to flexibility is that you’ll give up cushioning. Giving up a little support makes the shoe lighter and more flexible – allowing faster, sharper cuts.
As an example, weigh in at an incredibly light 16.6 ounces while LeBron’s Soldier II weighs in at a heavy 21.6 ounces. Whether you’re a slashing player or a low post player, keep the weight and bulk of the shoes in mind as they can indicate the strengths of the shoe. A heavy shoe provides more cushioning and support while a light shoe provides more flexibility.
Of course, there are shoes between both of these extremes, so it’s good to know what you want out of a shoe to get the best fit.
Now, the classic basketball shoes are high tops, but that’s slowly changing. Kobe made waves by putting out low tops last year, but the average player will want high tops as they provide needed ankle support. Again, low tops provide greater flexibility and range of movement than high tops, so if you’re willing to sacrifice a little support, give low tops a try. Kobe did.
An important and prominent design choice is how the sneakers lace up. Most shoes have straight laces. Others use some combination of straps, zippers and laces to secure the foot in the shoe. Straight laces have worked since the birth of shoes and are certainly good enough, but try out some straps and zippers if you want. You just want to make sure your foot isn’t sliding around as you move around – especially when you move side to side.
Another major quality of a basketball shoe is it’s cushioning. I don’t need to tell you the shoe should be comfortable. Great shoes will make it feel as if you’re walking on pillows. Nothing fancy here. If you think it’s good, it’s good. If you think it’s bad, it’s bad.
Finally, there is the out sole – the bottom of the shoe. Try on the shoe to see how well the shoe grips the ground. If you play outside a lot, look for thicker, more durable out soles as they will last longer. Again, your intuition is a good judge. If you think it’s good, it is. If not, it isn’t.
These are other details you can consider including airflow (is it more comfortable for you to get air in the shoe?) and heel to toe transition (how does the shoe feel when you move from heel to toe?) but don’t get too caught up in the details. When you try out the shoes, try some side-to-side movements and make sure the shoes are comfortable. If you don’t feel too embarrassed, try jumping up and down a little. These are the major movements you make on the basketball court and you want to simulate how the shoes feel when you play. If everything feels good, they’re going to be good shoes.
Lastly, don’t discount the psychological factor of wearing your favorite player’s shoes. Like I mentioned in the intro, playing in Iverson’s shoes made me feel like Iverson. Even as you get older, nothing motivates you to play like putting on the shoes of your favorite player and pretending you’re him (or her).Just remember that the player’s signature shoes are designed for that player. Kobe’s shoes are designed for Kobe. LeBron’s shoes are designed for LeBron. So, if you play like one of these guys, their shoes will suit your play style.