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Finding the right basketball shoes to maximize your play on the court can be tough.
However, it gets even tougher when you have to consider the fact that some shoes might come with materials like leather or suede, which aren’t vegan-friendly.
Plus, the market is no longer dominated by brands such as Nike, Adidas, or Air Jordan. There are brands like Puma, Converse, New Balance, and Under Armour gaining ground, which makes things more interesting for basketball lovers, but it complicates matters.
With this many brands, what basketball shoes should you choose? Which ones are vegan-friendly?
We have compiled a small list of basketball shoes that are both vegan and also happen to be the most popular in the world.
Below you will find our 6 best vegan basketball shoes.
Top 6 Vegan Basketball Shoes
Air Jordan 34 Basketball Shoes
By creating the Air Jordan 34, the Jordan brand moved in a slightly different direction and focused on providing players with a lightweight, top-performance shoe.
We’d like to believe they’ve succeeded, as the shoe is a victim of an immense amount of praise.
They have a built-in herringbone traction pattern that works well in hardwood floors, providing players with an exceptional amount of traction to perform crossovers or explosive movements without slipping.
Under Armour Curry 3 Zero 3 Basketball Shoes
At such an affordable price, the Curry 3 Zero 3 also perform marvelously, with the traction being top-notch on clean courts.
Being made with synthetic leather, they’re not super durable, but they provide you with a very solid and comfortable fit, and most importantly, exceptional mobility as they’re lightweight.
In terms of cushioning, they’re very firm and not that protective.
NIKE PG 3 Basketball Shoes
The PG 3 shoes feature a “moon crater” pattern that functions well on several surfaces, but it might take a while to break-in.
The Zoom Air cushioning technology provides you with responsiveness (and some bounciness for jumps), while at the same time, it gives you decent impact protection.
The synthetic materials do not seem to be very durable, but the shoes have a very comfortable fit and seem to perform really well according to reviewers.
ADIDAS Harden Vol. 3 Basketball Shoes
The Adidas Harden Vol. 3 are excellent signature shoes, equipped with the superior Heringbone traction pattern that performs marvelously in any court.
The cushioning system (Boost), is very low-to-the-ground and provides players with an excellent court feel and responsiveness, without overly sacrificing impact protection.
NIKE Lebron 17 Basketball Shoes
The Lebron 17 are very expensive shoes, especially when compared to the aforementioned shoes, however, it has certain characteristics that are useful to big, stronger players.
While it may lack traction, it has an insanely protective cushioning system. The Air Max unit placed in the heel combined with the Zoom Air in the forefoot provides you with tons of impact protection and a solid bounce. Qualities that are ideal for physical players.
NIKE KD 12 Basketball Shoes
First off, the Nike KD 12 are great all-round shoes for highly versatile players.
The full-length Zoom cushioning provides you with exceptional bounce but also gives you a great court feel and responsiveness.
That being said, you’ll find people that love it, and also others suggesting that the shoes don’t perform well in dusty courts.
How to Find Basketball Shoes That Fit Your Playing Style
The list above contains the best basketball shoes in the world, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every shoe on this list is the right choice for you.
Not every basketball shoe will work the same for different types of players, and you can’t expect a big and heavy center to wear the same shoes as a small, fast guard.
But how does that work? What should you look for in a basketball shoe?
In the following paragraphs, we will go into more detail and show you what you should be looking for to find shoes that fit your playing style.
Different Styles of Basketball Shoes
There are three styles of basketball shoes: low-tops, mid-tops, and high-tops.
Back in the day, every basketball player used to wear high-tops which completely covered the ankle, however, today there are a plethora of players wearing low-top and mid-top shoes.
High-tops used to be the standard because they provide players with more ankle protection, but conversely, they are heavier due to the extra protective material. Low-tops, on the other hand, provide players with more flexibility and mobility, and they’re quite popular nowadays.
As we’ve mentioned, low-cut shoes provide players with more flexibility and mobility, not only because of the stretchy nature of the materials but also because they’re light.
They’re ideal for small guards that want to feel light and quick on their feet and don’t need any of the extra bulk of high-top or mid-top shoes. If you’re a big, heavy player, low-top shoes won’t add anything to your playing style, in fact, you’ll feel less protected when landing from a rebound.
Mid-tops are a hybrid between low-top and high-top shoes, so they provide you with some of the qualities from both worlds: Decent flexibility and mobility, as well as decent ankle protection.
They’re ideal for forwards or wings that don’t require the extreme flexibility of low-top shoes but also don’t want the bulkiness of true high-tops.
High top basketball shoes have been used for decades. They provide players with a lot of ankle protection, stability, and cushioning. However, it takes away some flexibility, which is why they’re not ideal for mobile players but heavy players who fight for rebounds or a position below the rim.
Are you planning to do explosive crossovers or quick changes in direction? Then you need a shoe with excellent traction, otherwise, you’re going to be like one of those players that are constantly slipping and ending up in Shaqtin’ a Fool. More importantly, you can avoid getting injured.
The amount of traction in each shoe is dependant on two factors: the traction pattern and the rubber compound used for the outsole.
A popular traction pattern that is used in basketball shoes is the “herringbone” pattern, which is essentially a pattern comprised of zig-zag lines of rubber that provide players with traction in every direction, and also prevent dust from sticking to the sole of the shoe.
The Herringbone pattern is reliable, and the same can’t be said for other patterns that brands often try to push out either because they want to innovate, or because they simply want to be different. If you want something that works, go with the Herringbone pattern.
Although it’s difficult to differentiate good from bad rubber, there are some things to keep in mind when evaluating this type of stuff.
For instance, soft rubber works better indoors but attracts a lot of dust, while hard rubber is a lot more durable but doesn’t provide players with as solid as a grip in hardwood courts.
If you would have to pick between both, going for basketball shoes with solid rubber is always the best option. They might not look as sleek, but they usually perform well.
The heavier you are, the more important cushioning becomes, because having basketball shoes that provide you with solid cushioning is key to protecting your joints after each jump, especially if you’re a tall guy like Steve Adams, for example.
Naturally, if you’re a smaller and swift player, you’ll probably want shoes that are more flexible and responsive, so that you can maximize your speed in a fast break, or quickly change direction.
This being said, you can find several cushioning technologies, with one of the most popular being Nike’s Zoom Air cushioning, which is made from tightly stretched fibers installed in a pressurized air unit that is embedded in the mid-section of the shoe.
Other types of cushioning technology include setups like Nike Lunarlon, Adidas Bounce, or even UnderArmour’s MicroG. These are all foam-based cushioning systems that protect the base of your feet by evenly distributing the force created upon impact.
Cushioning systems that are too soft (like the Zoom Air), might reduce some of the court feel and responsiveness you often feel, which is why if you’re a speedy type of player, then going for options with a firmer cushioning setup might be more beneficial for you.
Optimal support is not synonymous with bulky, high-top basketball shoes. Even since we’ve shifted to a more technological age, you can see a lot of players wearing low-top shoes, which wasn’t seen 20-30 years ago.
Nowadays, you have things like the outrigger, which is placed on the lateral side of the shoe. It acts as an extension of the outsole, providing players with a wider base.
Other supportive features include midfoot shanks that provide torsional support, as well as heel counters that lock you into the shoe. That said, the most important thing you can verify when choosing a shoe is the actual fit. Even if the shoe has several support features, it won’t matter if you’re not wearing a shoe that matches your feet.
Indeed, the fit is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a new pair of shoes, and this is true for any type of shoe, not just basketball shoes.
As soon as you push your feet in, you want them to be locked in place and NOT feel loose to the point where you’re foot goes from left-to-right or front-to-back on a whim. If you can, try the shoes in-store, but if you can’t, order two different sizes and return the one that doesn’t fit. Before doing that, read the brand’s return policy to make sure you can get a refund.
If you buy a pair of shoes and they feel rather tight in the beginning, don’t worry, that’s normal because it takes time to break-in the shoe. Over time they’ll become more comfortable.
There are a wide variety of materials used in the construction of a shoe, but in this particular case, we want to completely avoid shoes with leather or suede built-in, as those shoes are not vegan.
Nowadays, you see a lot of synthetic materials, and while that’s often seen as a cheap alternative to high-grade materials like leather, brands are constantly innovating, and now you can see brands like Nike or Adidas using high-tech textile materials.
Aside from actual aesthetics and comfort, these modern materials do not differ that much from each other when it comes to performance, therefore, you should go with the one you have a budget for.
When looking for a pair of vegan basketball shoes, always be mindful of what type of player you are, and don’t immediately pick a shoe that you think looks cool design-wise.
Since not every player is equal, pick a shoe that is in line with your playing style. Remember, a fitting pair of basketball shoes can improve your performance.
While the design is definitely important, it’s not much of a problem nowadays because most shoes look absolutely awesome.