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How to Choose Basketball Shoes

If your basketball game is in dire need of assistance and you’re looking for a remedy, you won’t find it in a sneaker box.

Despite the array of shoe companies and their appealing marketing campaigns, the fact remains: No pair of shoes can make you a great basketball player. Improvement comes with talent, hard work, and lots of practice. However, the right pair of shoes can minimize risk of injury and increase traction on the court. Here are a few tips and suggestions to keep in mind when shopping for your next pair of kicks.

Measure Your Foot

Even if you think you know your shoe size, it’s still a good idea to have your feet measured. The shape or size of your feet can change over the years (even if your feet are done growing). Knowing their exact length and width will help you find shoes that fit properly. And here’s the best part: Most shoe stores provide this valuable service free of charge!

Know the Basics: Highs, Mids, & Lows

Basketball footwear comes in three basic styles: High-tops, mid-tops, and low-tops. The style that suits you best will depend on your playing style and personal preference. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, some of which are outlined below.

  • High-tops: Of the three styles, the high-top offers the most ankle support and stability. However, high-tops are generally the heaviest of the models because of the extra material. If you’re looking for maximum support and don’t mind a little extra bulk, this could be the shoe for you.
  • Mid-tops: The mid-top is shorter than the high-top, stopping at ankle level. For that reason, it allows more freedom of movement than its taller counterpart, while still providing sufficient ankle support. The mid-top is the most popular style and is a solid choice for all-around players or beginners.
  • Low-tops: The advantage of the low-top is that it is the lightest of the three models. In theory, this style allows fast players to capitalize on their speed and quickness. It should be noted, however, that these shoes do not provide much ankle support.

Determine Your Playing Style

What type of player are you? Are you a slasher who depends on quickness to beat the defender and drive the lane? Or perhaps you prefer to bang down low with the big boys. Determining your playing style is essential when choosing new footwear. Here is a breakdown of three popular playing styles and shoes that suit each one:

  • Power player: Generally, power players spend the majority of their time working in the low post. Because this type of play requires a lot of physical contact and jumping within confined spaces, power players will want a shoe with maximum cushioning and stability. The power player can probably afford to wear a slightly heavier shoe because the extra weight won’t have a significant impact. High-tops or mid-tops would work well for a power player.
  • Speedster: Fast players rely on speed and quickness, so they don’t want a heavy shoe holding them back. Low-tops—lightweight shoes that still provide a decent amount of support and cushioning— are ideal for this type of player.
  • All-around player: These players are jacks of all trades. They do a little bit of everything. That being said, this type of player should look for shoes that offer good support, cushioning, and flexibility, but are not too bulky. Mid-tops are usually a great fit for this type of player.

Try Before You Buy

It can’t be overemphasized: Trying shoes on before you buy them is a must. So slip those feet into the pair of your choosing and give them a test drive. Take a walk around the store, jump up and down a couple of times, and do a few quick lateral movements to get an accurate feel for the shoe. Remember, if the shoe is uncomfortable in the store, that feeling will only be magnified come game time. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when trying on shoes:

  • Wear the type of socks you plan to sport during games. Dress socks or a pair of wool socks will not give you an accurate idea of size, and you may end up with a shoe that fits in the store, but not when you’re ready to take the court.
  • Because feet expand slightly during physical activity, it’s best to try on shoes at the end of the day or after a workout, when your feet will be the largest.
  • There should be about a finger’s width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Once you’ve got the shoe on your foot, take your index finger and use it to gauge the distance.

Shop Around

Hot Tip: Get Online
The internet is a great place to find bargains. Just make sure to try on the shoes in a store before purchasing online, that way you'll be sure to order the correct size.

Once you decide on a pair of shoes, it’s time to start bargain hunting. While it will be tempting to immediately buy that perfect pair as soon as you get it on your feet, do your best to hold off. Write down the brand and model of the selected shoes and do a little bit of research. Compare prices at various stores and check newspapers to see if any stores are having sales.

It's Not a Beauty Contest

Shoes are a baller’s most important piece of equipment, so it’s imperative that you make the right choice for the right reasons. This may mean choosing a plain (but comfortable) shoe over a more stylish one. No one wants to sport ugly kicks, but aesthetics should never take precedent over practicality. The best pair for you is the one that best meets your needs on the court. Let your game be the reason you stand out, not your shoes.

Shoes are the first pieces of equipment that any new basketball player needs. This guide outlines the many types of shoes on the market to help you choose the right pair.
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