When it comes to basketball, performance is the mantra.
From your professional training to your jerseys to your basketball sneakers, everything is either focused on better performance or not achieving anything at all.
It is hard to decide 5 or 10 best performance basketball shoes from a long list of famous basketball sneakers made by the biggest companies in the competition.
Yet, after much research and vetting, I’ve finalized 10 winners from 4 major basketball shoe manufacturing companies: Adidas, Nike, Under Armour and Reebok.
This blog post does not only consist of detailed reviews of these top performance basketball sneakers, but it also provides a buyer’s guide to those who want to know what to look for when buying best performance basketball shoes.
Best Performance Basketball Shoes [TOP PICKS]
In this part, you will read detailed reviews of ten top performance basketball shoes. Apart from explaining the features of each of these shoes, I will mention the pros and cons of each of them.
Adidas Crazy Explosive
I’d start the reviews section with Adidas’ shoes – I picked 3 of them for this list. The first one is Adidas Crazy Explosive, a sneaker known for some amazing qualities.
For example, this is a high-top sneaker with adequate padding on the collar as well as tongue. This is perfect for those who are concerned about ankle support.
Apart from the performance-only features, that I will mention, this sneaker has a very sleek and stylish profile. It is perfect for those who want an urban/casual style sneaker that they can wear anywhere.
The only problem that I find with this sneaker is its translucent rubber outsole. Since we’re reviewing it from the viewpoint of performance, it is a bad choice because traction-wise, such outsoles aren’t considered ideal.
In terms of cushioning, this shoe features the best that you can expect from an Adidas basketball sneaker. It has a full-length Boost cushion. Boost is a TPU-based cushioning technology; the micro cells of this cushion compress under pressure and spring back to original shape – for the springy effect.
When it comes to material, it is a mixed bag of everything. The material is not very breathable – which is not good, but people who prefer durability and protection to breathability would love this material. However, Neoprene upper makes it somewhat breathable.
In case you love low-top and ankle support is not on your performance checklist, this sneaker from Adidas should be on your wish-list.
For starters, this shoe’s upper is made of mesh and synthetic fabric. This is the best combo that you can get because while mesh keeps your feet 100% breathable, fabric makes this upper more durable and less vulnerable to wear and tear.
Traction wise, this shoe has a tough rubber outsole with a multidirectional pattern on it. The pattern is not so great if you ask me and the grooves aren’t deep, but since it is a tough rubber outsole, it delivers comparatively better on all sorts of surfaces.
What comes next to traction (performance-wise) is cushioning. This shoe, as the name suggests, have Cloudfoam cushioning. The cloudfoam sock liner makes your feet more comfortable and cloudfoam midsole provides cushioning against impact. Name aside, this a type of EVA cushion considered ideal for shock absorption.
Since it is a low-top sneaker, they provided ample padding in the collar to make sure that it would not dig into the wearer’s skin just like in case of low-top sneakers with stiff collar/insufficiently padded collars.
The lockdown system on this sneaker is pretty basic – there is nothing but lacing to provide the lockdown and lacing itself only covers an adequate part of the shoe. However, the good thing is that they didn’t do any fancy eyelets or other experiments with it.
Adidas Dame 5
Last, but not the least, on our list of ten best performance basketball sneakers is Adidas Dame 5. Dame 5 is another design-wise beautiful, urban/casual style basketball sneaker that does the job on all types of courts.
Let us talk traction first. Traction-wise, this sneaker features the world’s best combo: a tough rubber outsole with a herringbone pattern. With this pattern and decently deep groves, you can easily maintain your grip on any and all types of basketball courts.
Then it trickles down to cushioning. In terms of cushioning, this sneaker features another proprietary technology of Adidas. It has Bounce cushioning. As the name suggests, Bounce is a cushioning technology known for a springy effect – it helps you more or jump easier right after your foot hits the ground.
Another good thing about Bounce is that you enjoy a decent amount of court feel. This low-to-the-ground feeling helps a player maintain better control on the ground.
More good stuff? This shoe upper is made of lightweight textile. This means that you enjoy breathability at no expense to durability and protection. While the material is not as vulnerable as mesh, it is also not as airtight as synthetic leather.
Too boost breathability, they added two silicone panels on both sides of the shoe with perforations on them. This does not only make this shoe even more breathable but also adds a protective layer to each side of the sneaker.
Nike Kyrie 6
Now, we’re done reviewing Adidas sneakers and we will review its arch-rival’s Nike’s best performance sneakers. When you think of a Nike basketball sneaker and performance, you cannot ignore Kyrie 6.
Traction wise, this sneaker features a tough rubber outsole. Why tough rubber outsole is preferred over the translucent one? It is because it does not lose its edges, it does not fray and thus it maintains its shape and its grip on the court.
The traction pattern is a multi-angle blade pattern. It will help one with multidirectional movements because of different angles. Grooves are deep and because of all of these qualities, I see no reason why wearer would not enjoy a solid grip on any type of court.
This is a mid-top sneaker with decent padding on the tongue as well as a collar. This means that you would enjoy good ankle support and neither the collar nor the tongue will dig into your skin.
In terms of cushioning, this shoe is blessed with Nike Zoom Air unit in the forefoot. The Zoom Air unit in the forefoot is used to enable the player to have an energy return right after landing on the ground. A lightweight midsole provides protection from impact and keeps it comfortable for you.
Nike LeBron Soldier IX
Nike’s LeBron Soldier IX is one of the most famous versions from the line that was launched to pay a tribute to basketball legend LeBron James. This shoe has an urban/casual profile that makes it your go-to sneaker – not only for basketball but for any urban/casual setting.
Performance-wise, this shoe provides a good grip on all sorts of courts because of its tough rubber outsole. The pattern is a hexagon pattern with very small triangles in each hexagon. I’d personally go with a sneaker with deep grooves that are missing in this case. However, multi-directional triangles help with multidirectional moves.
In terms of cushioning, this shoe performs really good because of two Zoom Air units: one for the forefoot and the other for the heel. On top of these two units, there is a Phylon midsole that provides optimum cushion and shock absorption.
When it comes to material, people have different preferences. They prefer to mesh for breathability or faux leather for durability, protection, and water-resistance. The best combo, in my opinion, is something that is breathable as well as durable. This shoe has a mesh upper with a fused overlay that keeps mesh from being as vulnerable as it gets.
In terms of lockdown, this shoe presents a very innovative style. Instead of trying a lacing system, they tried to hook and loop Velcro straps. Combined with Nike’s proprietary Flywire thread, these straps provide a snug fit feeling.
Nike Hyperdunk 2016
This is the last Nike basketball sneaker on this list. I picked this for those who want maximum protection and durability at no expense to breathability. Since I’ve let the cat out of the bag, it’d be better if we talked about the material first.
The entire upper is made of a synthetic fuse with few patches of mesh on both sides to keep the shoe breathable. This is the perfect combo because fuse keeps your shoe durable without making everything airtight.
In terms of lockdown to this shoe is impressive. The primary lockdown system is lacing, but laces are connected with the Flywire cables which provide a really good lockdown when you cinch down the laces. You can see those wires via mesh patches.
When we come to traction, we see that this shoe comes with a tough rubber outsole with a multidirectional pattern. There are thick and deep grooves that help the player with a firm grip on dirty and clean courts.
Just like the above reviewed Nike sneaker, this one also has Zoom Air units in the forefoot as well as in heel. Both of them help with energy return – the bouncy feeling you need right after your feet hit the ground. Just like LeBron Soldier IX, this shoe also has a Phylon midsole that helps with shock absorption.
Under Armour Curry 4
The third biggest brand in the niche of basketball shoes is Under Armour. While its impact is not as big as Adidas’s or Nike’s, it is fast making its space in the hearts and minds of basketball fans and players.
The best of Under Armour basketball sneakers have mostly a tough rubber outsole and herringbone pattern. While this one does not have a herringbone pattern, its cross-centric pattern with deep grooves does the job. The pattern is apparently based on Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves. It provides ease and confidence while you make multidirectional moves.
In terms of cushioning, this shoe features Under Armour’s proprietary one-piece Speed Plate that helps with lateral containment and rigidity in the midfoot area. Not only this plate will flex, but support your foot, while you cut. The other thing is the EVA foam that helps with bounce.
In terms of material, this shoe is unique and gives serious competition to other shoes with such construction. To address general complaints about how hard it is to put on a few shoes, UA, added a knit sleeve to the collar. The microfiber synthetic material provides protection while perforations on it make the shoe somewhat breathable.
The lockdown system of this shoe is basic lacing – however, this lacing covers a large area from the rear end of the toe box to the mid-top collar of the shoe.
Under Armour ClutchFit Drive 3
UA’s ClutchFit Drive series is one of the best series from the brand. In a moment, when I will dissect the shoe and explain the features, you would see why UA/basketball fans love this series and especially Drive 3 so much.
The best thing about this shoe is it’s cushioning. Under Armour used its proprietary cushioning in Drive 3. Micro-G is a foam-based cushion that is made by mixing rubber and traditional EVA foam. As a result, you get a cushioning the delivers equally well in terms of energy return and shock absorption. The foam helps with impact protection and rubber’s elasticity is the reason for the bounce.
What I love the most about Drive 3 is its upper material. It is made of mesh and textile fabric. This is my personal favorite combination because while mesh makes it breathable for you down there, textile keeps the shoe durable.
What else? This has one of the best lockdown options that any UA pair of shoes have offered to its wearers. It has a ‘Beartrap’ lacing system. While the rest of it just like any lacing system, the way it binds the tongue provides a strong lockdown.
Yet, the best of this sneaker is the traction that you enjoy while having it on your feet. It has a tough rubber outsole and a herringbone pattern. The grooves are deep and the grip you enjoy is fantastic.
Under Armour Hovr Havoc
Under Armour’s Hovr Havoc is one of the most advanced basketball sneakers made by this company. This is the last UA sneaker on this list – and I picked it for a few very important reasons.
One of the best things that they did to this shoe was to use UA’s modern and proprietary cushioning technology known as Hovr – hence the name. The EVA midsole of the sneaker has this foam called HOVR. Then they wrapped it in a special type of mesh called Energy web. Due to these two components, the sneaker is capable of doing two things at the same time: shock absorption and energy return.
Traction-wise too, this sneaker offers the best that you can expect from a UA sneaker. It has a tough rubber outsole with a herringbone pattern. However, shallow grooves in the forefoot area keep it from being a 100% perfect traction combo. Still, you can feel the ease with lateral and linear movements.
When it comes to material, this shoe’s upper is mostly made of mesh. But to cater to the needs of those who prefer the durability and protect the shoe in high wear and tear areas, they added a relatively thin TPU layer.
In terms of lockdown, this shoe keeps up the innovative theme. The heel counter helps with a snug fit, but it is mainly lacing that takes a major chunk of the credit. The innovative lacing system of this sneaker is integrated with different parts of the shoe, brings them closer and thus provides a tight fit.
Last, but not the least, here is a Reebok sneaker to bless this list. Reebok’s Lifestyle is by every single centimeter a very competent and performance-based basketball sneaker with a profile that makes it suitable for any urban/casual setting.
Let us start with the cushion – this shoe features Reebok’s proprietary Hexalite cushion. It is a lightweight cushion that looks like a honeycomb. While it is more durable than EVA, it provides better energy return and shock absorption.
However, where this shoe sort of disappoints is in terms of traction. It has a translucent rubber outsole. The problem with this type of outsole is that the edges start to fray and it loses grip with the passage of time.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Good Basketball Shoes for Performance?
What is performance?
What defines performance and what do the best performance basketball sneakers look, feel and perform like?
What if you are not satisfied with my list and you want to know what to look for when buying best performance basketball shoes?
This is all that this part is about. Follow the guide and I bet that you will pick the best sneaker for you.
So, when we talk about performance, the most important concern is your grip on the court. When you’re cutting, when you’re making multidirectional moves and jumping and landing, you need to maintain a strong grip on the court.
Make sure that you purchase a good pair of basketball sneakers with a tough rubber outsole and one of the best-known patterns with deep grooves.
This is where it gets tricky, because unlike three main core concerns that you have in case of traction (tough outsole, deep grooves and a pattern that delivers well on all sorts of courts), here you face different cushioning technologies.
You can buy any sneakers with proprietary cushioning technology such as Zoom Air, Micro-G, Boost, Bounce, and Hovr etc.
You might have noticed that ‘material’ is missing from this list. It is because while it is one of the most important choices to make while buying a good basketball shoe, it does not have any direct impact on performance.
A good or bad lockdown may have a good or bad impact on your game. Here are my recommendations:
- Pick a shoe that has ideally more than one lockdown options.
- You can pick one that has both: laces and hook and loop straps.
- Or you can pick one that has one primary lockdown option and one supporting feature e.g. lacing + Flywire system.
Before I declare 3 best performance basketball sneakers out of this list, here is a little table to put things in perspective:
|Adidas Crazy Explosive||Translucent Rubber||Boost|
|Adidas Cloudfoam||Tough Rubber||Cloudfoam|
|Adidas Dame 5||Tough Rubber||Bounce|
|Nike Kyrie 6||Tough Rubber||Zoom Air|
|Nike LeBron Soldier IX||Tough Rubber||Zoom Air|
|Nike Hyperdunk 2016||Tough Rubber||Zoom Air|
|Under Armour Curry 4||Tough Rubber||Speed Plate|
|Under Armour ClutchFit Drive 3||Tough Rubber||Micro-G|
|Under Armour Hovr Havoc||Tough Rubber||Hovr|
|Reebok Lifestyle||Translucent Rubber||Hexalite|
Here are the 3 best performance basketball sneakers as per my opinion:
Pick any of these and I bet that you would not regret