Tips for Buying Basketball Shoes

Whether you’re a team player or a collector, these Pro Tips will help guide your decision.

September 03, 2015

Basketball shoes are designed with performance, comfort and fashion in mind. Knowing what features best fit your game can help take you from the bench to the paint in no time.

Before you make any decision on a shoe, you need to understand your playing style and capabilities. Do you shoot from long range or are you more comfortable in the key? Does your game showcase agility and speed, or power and aggression? Are you going to crash the boards for every rebound, or hang back and capitalize in transition?

Being over or underequipped in footwear is a problem no athlete wants. Once you understand your playing prowess, you can search for your desired features more easily.

Your typical basketball shoes get separated into three main sections: the upper, the midsole and the outsole. Each section of your shoe has qualities that will affect durability and performance. So, identifying which features fit your needs and playing style is vital to copping the right gear.




When discussing the upper portion of basketball shoes, the first decision you have to make is which height you want. Basketball shoes are available in high, mid or low heights; each of these appealing to a different style of player.

    • High: The upper wraps around your ankle to provide an extra layer of support and stability. With this extra coverage often comes extra weight.
    • Mid: As the name suggests, mid-top basketball shoes provide a happy medium for players in terms of ankle support. The upper material sits right at the ankle to provide some coverage without an all-enclosing design. Mid-tops allow for increased flexibility.
    • Low: Built for speed and agility, low basketball shoes have little ankle support due to their lower profile.


    There are a number of closure techniques available, laces being the most popular.

    You might also find basketball shoes with zippers, straps or hook-and-loop closures. These pieces can add more support to your ankle, especially in high-top models, as well as provide another layer of coverage over your standard laces. Keep in mind added coverage means added weight.


    A basketball shoe’s midsole is where the footwear’s cushioning will be found. This makes this section one of the most essential parts of a shoe’s performance. Most midsoles are comprised of various foams, EVA and compressed EVA foam being the lighter options, compared to polyurethane midsoles, which are dense and more durable.

    Brand-specific cushioning technologies are also found in the midsole; namely in the heel and forefoot. This technology is added to give extra cushioning in pressure points that will endure a lot of stress during the course of a game.


    A shoe’s outsole is made of a rubber or synthetic material and is the point of traction for your footwear. When deciding on basketball shoes, look for a relatively flat and wide outsole to provide you with maximum balance. For added grip, search for outsoles that feature a herringbone or hexagonal pattern, since these are designed to help secure your feet and prevent you from sliding up and down the court.

    Nearly all basketball shoes are designed with indoor play in mind. Outdoor courts are less forgiving than indoor hardwood ones. So, if you know that you’ll be playing exclusively on outdoor surfaces, look for a shoe with a thicker, more durable outsole. Also, keep in mind that asphalt can eat up your shoe’s tread.


    What are the best shoes for shooting guards? Are there specific basketball shoes for centers? Here’s a breakdown of some common shoes worn by position.

      • Guards: This position requires quick movements on the court. Low-top basketball shoes offer little ankle support, but can help with fluid movement.
      • Forwards: Forwards need to command the paint. High-top basketball shoes come with extra weight, which can be popular among these larger, more aggressive players. High-top shoes have additional coverage and support.
      • All-Around Players: If you’re an all-around basketball player on the court, you’ll need to find a nice middle ground. Mid-top basketball shoes provide ankle support, but still give you some room to move around. There is more flexibility in this shoe, which is great for hybrid, multi-position basketball players.


      Athletes have a wide variety of shoes to choose from. But before you lace up your new pair, you need to determine your shoe size. Don’t know where to start? Consult this Pro Tips guide on how to measure your shoe size.

      Once you have your size, it’s time to pick the perfect shoe. There are plenty of unisex shoes to choose from, too. For this reason, basketball shoes on our site are displayed in unisex sizes noted within an “M/W.”

      Normally, there is a 1-1.5 size difference between male and female shoes. However, this can vary based on brand, so be sure to check sizes before purchasing or trying on a new shoe.


      When choosing a new pair of basketball shoes, you not only should consider how they’re made, but also how they look. You’ll want basketball shoes that not only function well but make a statement, too.

      Show your personality by choosing color schemes and designs that appeal to your tastes. If you’re looking to stand out, choose a style with more bold colors and design elements. If you’re looking to rep your school colors on the court, some of your favorite signature models are also available in team colors to match your uniform.

      Basketball shoes can also be worn as a lifestyle option. Looking good and feeling good doesn’t just apply to the court. It can also carry over to the classroom and everyday life. Want to look fresh heading into school? A pair of kicks with signature details from your favorite athlete can help you stand out.  Of course, you’ll want to keep them looking brand new. For advice on how to keep your shoes clean, make sure to brush up on these Pro Tips.

      Searching for the right size? Look for the True Fit icon on apparel and footwear product pages when shopping online at DICK’S Sporting Goods. Get personalized size and fit recommendations with just a few clicks. Learn more about True Fit.