3 Basketball Sneakers You Need To Take A Look At
Today, I bring you another compilation of shoes but this time we’re merging the best of two world – sneakers and basketball. If you know me, you’ll know that I have a huge passion for basketball, despite being from England (where basketball is not that popular!). If you’re wondering, I support the Chicago Bulls – we’re having a great run as of right now. My passion for basketball actually started (sounds like a cliché) from the hit basketball game, NBA 2K – before playing 2K, I didn’t really know much about basketball. However, after I played consistently throughout last summer, I got into the wonderful sport of basketball and I haven’t looked back since. So, this article is perfect for me as it combines my two favourite things – shoes and basketball. In this list, I’ve tried to make it so that you can buy most of these shoes at retail prices – there are many shoes that would be on this list but they simply go for way too much on the secondary market. Personally, I feel that basketball sneakers should be affordable (especially if you’re just starting out playing basketball or you’re not that serious about it) so most of this list will be shoes that are available for retail from your favourite sneaker stores. As always, this list isn’t complete and it features my personal views on the best basketball sneakers; if you feel like that there are any sneakers that I missed off this list, please let me know and if we get enough suggestions, I’ll make another list. Have fun reading!
Air Jordan 36
We’ll kick off this list with the newest release from Jordan, the most influential basketball shoe brand of all time, the Jordan XXXVI (or 36). The Jordan line up, without a doubt, is the most successful run of shoes from a specific athlete. After seeing it pop up on various forms of social media, the Jordan 36 was first seen on a basketball court when star of the Boston Celtics, Jayson Tatum, debuted the shoe in Game 2 against the Brooklyn Nets (first series). When looking at the Jordan 36, it is clear that the designers have taken inspiration from the iconic Jordan 5 – if you’re not too sure what I’m talking about, have a look at the tongue and heel. Not a great deal similar between the shoes but the subtle details like the tongue and heel are enough to tie the two shoes together. The upper of the Jordan 36 is made from a Jacquard Leno Weave – now this had me confused too but when I looked it up, I found that a Jacquard Leno weave is the end product of two weaves in textiles. The Leno weave is a weave in which two warp yarns are woven around the weft (crosswise threads) to provide a strong fabric. The Jacquard weave simply adds another process to this and the end product is the Jacquard Leno weave that is used to make the upper of the Jordan 36. If you’ve ever purchased basketball shoes and played in them before, you’ll understand the value of a strong upper so it’s good to see that Jordan Brand are doing their best to ensure that the upper is of the highest quality.
The sole of the shoe features the Air Zoom Strobel unit which is lightweight and features flexible cushioning for the whole foot. Furthermore, another Zoom Air unit under the front of the foot provides further comfort for the wearer. This means that the Air Jordan 36 scores well on the comfort side but it does just as well on the ‘sporty’ side – the zoom air unit actually serves a double role. The air unit provides ‘extra responsiveness off the dribble’ which helps with your agility – as we all know, agility and responsiveness is another vital feature of succeeding on the court. Those who are agile on court are usually successful – let’s take the Greatest Shooter of All time, Steph Curry, as an example. The agility of Steph Curry on court is a huge part of his game – his agility and responsiveness off court (and off dribble) allows him to create good looks which he always sinks. Therefore, agility on court is very important. In terms of the shoes, agility translates to the grip that the shoes provide – the more grip a shoe has, the easier it is to turn effectively and be as agile as possible on court. While the zoom air unit contributes to this, the main contributing factor is the outsole on the Air Jordan 36. The pattern on the outsole which is said to be ‘multidirectional’ provides ‘stop and go traction’ is what we are looking for in a pair of basketball shoes. Almost everyone who has worn the Air Jordan 36s can agree that the shoes provide insane amounts of traction, no matter where you are playing.
The Air Jordan 36s also provides good amounts of support to your feet – it has all the features which characterize a shoe that provides good support. They have a mid foot shank plate and a secure fit too however one thing that many users find quite annoying is the zoom Air unit at the forefront of the shoe. The Unit has a slight wobble that is pretty noticeable when running around or when taking a jumper – this can be quite annoying but after a while, you can get used to it. Personally, it didn’t really put me off using the Air Jordan 36 too much but it has annoyed quite a few people who have spent their hard earned cash on buying this shoe. Despite this, the ankle support that the Air Jordan 36 provides is second to none and makes up for the protruding Zoom Air unit at the forefront of the shoe.
Overall, the Air Jordan 36 is a great basketball shoe – personally, I believe it looks great and it performs pretty well too. The Air Jordan 36 retails for £165 which is on the steep end for a pair of basketball shoes but it’s what you expect from the newest release by the leading basketball sneaker brand in the world. Currently, it’s on sale for £129 from a few retailers (pro direct basketball being one) so move quickly if you are interested!
Nike KD 14
The next shoe on this list is the 14th shoe made for the person that occupies the 5th spot on my all time great list – Kevin Durant. If you want to have a debate about why he’s there on my list, contact me and I’ll explain my reasoning about it but let me sum it up – KD is a 6’11 power/small forward with a wingspan of 7 and a half feet. I could end it there but let me continue; he’s the best dribbling 7 footer (nearly) the game has seen and he’s got a silky smooth jumper too. Back to the shoe – the KD 14 is a great shoe made specifically for Kevin Durant that retails for about the £130 (I say about because I have seen the shoe go for £125 and £135.
The materials that are used in the KD14 are simply exquisite – the multilayer breathable fabric in the upper is lightweight yet feels durable at the same time. Furthermore, Nike has added a bit more padding in certain areas of the shoe which helps secure the foot further – this is great as it means that your foot doesn’t move around as much which helps with agility and helps in preventing injuries too. Nike also says that the KD14 comes with an already ‘broken-in’ feel – I think what they mean by this is that the KD14s come game ready. All you have to do is slip them on and you are ready to go. With many other basketball sneakers, especially those that were released a few years ago, you have to struggle to break the shoe in – this means that you can’t wear the shoe to a game straightaway. However, with the KD14, you don’t have this problem which simply adds to the appeal of the shoe. Another benefit of the quick break in time is that within a few wears, it feels like the KD14 is made for you. While doing all of that, the upper is also pretty breathable – this is one aspect I think they could have improved but that’s me being really critical. If Nike could find a way to improve the breathability of the KD14 for the next iteration, I’d buy a couple pairs for myself because it really is that good elsewhere. Many users complained that the KD13 didn’t really secure their feet as much as they would like it too – well, for those users, it seems like that Nike has answered your prayers. The KD14 secures your foot insanely well – the padding in certain areas helps with this but another factor that plays into it is the fact that the shoe is pretty rigid. The build of the KD14 doesn’t stretch much at all which means that your foot stays secure when your going up and down the field. Another feature that helps with securing your feet (supposedly) is the ‘Grim-reaper’ style straps that adorn the front of the shoe – the reason why I say supposedly is because I found that they weren’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, your foot still stays secure but I feel as if the straps weren’t needed. Furthermore, I don’t really like the design of them (the straps, not the shoes) much so that might be clouding my judgement a little bit.
With the support, the KDs do pretty well - there’s a standard shank as well as an internal heel counter. So let me explain what these features actually do – a shank is an internal part of the supportive structure of the shoe that exists between the insole and outsole that provides rigid nests and stability to the shoe. As we all know, rigidness is quite an important aspect of a basketball sneaker (because rigidness means that the shoe moves less which consequently means that your foot is more secure) so it’s becoming more and more common to see shanks being placed in basketball shoes. The internal heel counter refers to a little plastic insert that is used to reinforce the heel cup of a shoe – this increases support and makes the shoe more rigid. Additionally, the internal heel counter helps to cradle the heel (keep it in place) and reduces over-pronation too. Moreover, an internal heel counter helps lock the foot into the shoe and anchors the shoe to the midsole too. The KD14 also has a TPU sidewall which increases cushioning inside the shoe – trust me, if you’ve played basketball before, you’ll know the importance of having internal and external cushioning. Basketball as a sport places a lot of stress on the feet; constant jumping, turning and getting hit on the feet makes them quite vulnerable. Therefore, the fact that the KD14 takes this into account is a huge advantage for this shoe. After reading many reviews online, the KD14 has also been recommended by many users as being suitable for people with wide feet. As I don’t have wide feet myself, I couldn’t gauge this but I have been reassured after reading the reviews of many people. After some further digging, I found out that KD actually likes having a wide platform for a shoe so that’s why they are fine for those with wide feet too.
Similar to the Air Jordan 36, the KD14 also features a full length Zoom Air strobel unit – the unit is actually stitched directly to the upper which Nike says helps reduces ‘unnecessary’ weight and makes the shoes as comfortable as possible. Moreover, the Zoom Air strobel unit provides full foot responsiveness too which is very good (have a read above at the bit I wrote about the importance of agility for a basketball player if you haven’t). The cushioning for the shoe is actually pretty soft and bouncy and is surprisingly quite nice – I enjoyed wearing the KD14s and often found myself slipping them on for casual trips to the grocery store (for instance) because of their supreme comfort. Another thing that I found quite good was the amount of return the shoes gave – it almost felt like a running sneaker which helped when running in these shoes. The traction for this shoe was also very, very good. Similar to the Air Jordan 36, I found that the KD14s were perfect for use both indoors and outdoors and provided more than enough traction in every setting.
Overall, the KD14 is a great sneaker – the 14th edition in the Kevin Durant range certainly lives up to the expectations and the hype around it. I think it’s a great sneaker that is perfect for any basketball lover or anyone who is looking to buy a pair of basketball sneakers.
The Puma Clyde All-Pro
The Puma Clyde All-Pro originally released in November 2020 and it was named the best basketball sneaker by many reviewers online. Almost a year on from its original release date, the Puma Clyde All Pro is still one of the best basketball sneakers available today. The shoe is actually one of the cheaper one of the basketball shoes available on this list – it originally retailed for £105, but has been discounted at 30% off recently. It is currently retailing for £73.50 which is an absolute steal for these shoes. Many reviewers (myself included) see the Puma Clyde All Pro as the second coming of the Kobe 9, one of the best basketball sneakers of all time. Thus, the Puma Clyde All Pro makes it onto this list but why exactly?
One of the reasons is the overall performance of the shoes; most basketball sneakers (and sneakers in general) have one things that is lacking which holds them back from being great sneakers. With the Puma Clyde All Pro, there is no glaring issue – everything is in balance, and nothing seems an issue. However, this implies that while the Puma Clyde All Pro has no glaring issues, it performs decently at everything – this assumption would also be wrong. In fact, the Puma Clyde All Pro actually does very well in every aspect of being a basketball sneaker. When talking about the performance of basketball sneakers, I have used a few metrics above – traction, cushioning, materials used and the support that the shoes provide. In all of these measures, the Puma Clyde All Pro performs exceptionally but I’ll go into detail to why that is.
Let’s start off with the first metric – the traction. With the Puma Clyde All Pro, the traction is simply exquisite. It provides exceptional traction in multiple situations – whether you are playing on the hardwood floor, on concrete or practically any other surface, you’ll never find traction to be a problem. The source of all this traction is the rubber outsole that is housed on the bottom of this pair of sneakers – the tread is multidirectional, meaning that you can turn quickly and efficiently (very important when it comes to game like situations in a basketball match). I cannot stress how good the set up of the traction is; it’s just something you have to experience. Without a doubt, the Puma Clyde All Pros have the best traction of any sneaker on this list. Traction is a very important part of any basketball sneaker so the fact that the Puma Clyde All Pro is the best in this is a big advantage for this sneaker.
In the Puma Clyde All Pro, we see a new form of cushioning being introduced – in previous iterations of basketball sneakers released by Puma, we saw Puma going to ‘ProFoam’ as their main form of cushioning. While ProFoam did the job, it lacked when compared to its Adidas and Nike counterparts. With the Puma Clyde All Pro, Puma debuted their new form of cushioning which is called ProFoam+. Puma describes ProFoam+ as the ‘lightweight, high-rebound EVA midsole solution’ – now, just out of curiosity, I had a look at what EVA was and I thought I’d share it with you too. EVA actually stands for Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate - it’s a naturally stretchy polymer that is rubber like in softness and flexibility. And the Profoam+ does the trick – it makes the Puma Clyde All Pro go from good to great. It simply works very well and provides the perfect amount of cushioning to ensure a comfortable experience. However, with some shoes, it sometimes has too much cushioning – now, I know, this may sound out of order but trust me, there’s something like too much comfort, especially when it comes to basketball sneakers. With these types of sneakers, the brand making them sacrifice court feel and agility for comfort. However, with the Puma Clyde All Pro, Puma has perfected the balance between the two – the shoes are extremely comfort yet are able to still maintain the court feel which is the real essence and driving force that makes a basketball sneaker rise out from the crowd.
The third metric was materials used – as the Puma Clyde All Pro is a sneaker that goes for much less than the others on this list, you would naturally expect there to be a compromise somewhere. However, I don’t know how Puma have pulled this off but these sneakers definitely don’t compromise when it comes to the materials used. While the materials used on the Puma Clyde All Pros may not be as innovative as materials used on other shoes on this list (the Jacquard Leno Weave used on the Air Jordan 36 is a great example), they do the job – and they do the job well at that. Similar to the Air Jordan 36, the Puma Clyde All Pro has a woven upper (Puma has not specified which weave is used to produce this upper). Let me use Puma’s words, which all are true, to pitch the materials used on this pair of sneakers to you – a ‘seamless, lightweight woven upper with multi-zoned materials for targeted support and breathability’. While this may have an air of promotion to it, most of the words said here are true. Initially, the materials used on the Puma Clyde All Pro may seem a bit stiff but after a few wears they loosen up (in materials, I think I’d go for the KD14 over these) – this does mean that you can’t use the shoes straightaway in a game like situation but breaking them in is all part of the process and as Joel Embiid would say, ‘Trust the process’.
The final metric that we used to gauge whether a basketball sneaker is good or not is the amount of support they provide. In order to provide a good amount of support, the Puma Clyde All Pros use a variety of features. One of these features is the outrigger that can be seen on the lateral (outer) part of both pairs of the shoe – so what does an outrigger actually do? The outrigger exists for a simple purpose which is to provide the wearer with a wider platform. The benefit of this is that the wider platform helps the athlete brace themselves as they cut in different ways – trust me, while it doesn’t seem like a big thing, it’s useful. Similar to the KD14, the Puma Clyde All Pros have an internal heel counter but they also have a torsion bar which helps to improve the rigidity of the shoe which means that your feet are more secure in the shoe.
Overall, the Puma Clyde All Pros are everything that we, as reviewers and basketball enthusiasts, demand from a pair of sneakers. Puma have struck the balance of comfort and performance with these sneakers and that’s why I think they’re one of the best basketball sneakers available on the market right now. In terms of sizing, stick to TTS (true to size) – if you have wide feet, go half a size up but definitely try on these shoes in person before you buy if you have wider feet.