You will see all types of basketball shoes on the court, from outdoor shoes to performance sneakers and low tops to high tops. It can make you stop and wonder, is one better than the other?
If you suffer from ankle pain and looking for a pair of the best basketball shoes for ankle support, then you may be particularly concerned with the level of support offered by different shoes.
Low-top shoes may seem riskier than high-top shoes when it comes to protecting your ankle joint, but is that really the case?
Do Low-Top Basketball Shoes Have Ankle Support?
Before we dive in, a quick comparison may be helpful. When considering basketball shoes, the low and high adjectives refer to the position of the ankle cuff. With high tops, the shoe comes up over the ankle or sits just below the top of the ankle. Low-top shoes resemble more of a traditional sneaker. The ankle cuff rests below the ankle.
High-Top vs Low-top Basketball Shoes
High-top shoes used to be the norm for basketball, until around 2008 when Nike’s Zoom Kobe line introduced a low-top basketball shoe. Since this time, it has gained popularity with both professional and non-professional basketball players.
It isn’t just the aesthetics of these two shoe types that differ. The fit and feel of the shoes can be significantly different. High-top basketball shoes tend to feel more secure. Many players claim low top basketball shoes offer them greater freedom of movement. Are high tops more supportive and less flexible? Does the increased range of motion with low-top shoes mean less support?
In most cases, the answer to both questions is yes. However, each shoe’s role in ankle injuries isn’t as straightforward. Basketball requires a variety of motions, from jumping to quick lateral movements. While one shoe may support a player better during side-to-side motions, it may not offer suitable protection during jumps and landings.
Studies haven’t shown that one shoe is significantly better than the other in protecting an athlete’s ankle joint. Sometimes, the impact or forces are transferred, mainly if the high top is very rigid during a landing. The shoe may support the ankle in such an event but might put tremendous strain on the Achilles. Additionally, sometimes impacts are so significant that no shoe model can prevent injury when one player falls on top of another.
Nevertheless, conventional wisdom tells us that a low-top shoe would be less supportive. And, some players simply feel less protected while wearing a low top. That doesn’t have to be the case, though!
Who Should Wear a Low Top Basketball Shoe
Low tops don’t have to be off-limits for every basketball player. Particular athletes can benefit from the freedom of motion.
Guards and shooters may prefer low tops. As mentioned, too rigid of a high-top shoe can transfer forces from the ankle to other areas of the body. When shooting and jumping, landing in a stiff high-top shoe could protect your ankle but pose a risk to your knee or Achilles. For this reason, shooters may choose to wear a low top.
The freedom of movement also benefits guards. Low tops don’t prevent a player from making fast lateral movements. They’re often light and flexible so that they don’t impair performance.
You may be thinking flexible sounds like the opposite of support. It’s true; low tops lack the ankle collar found on high tops. However, this shouldn’t be the only measure of support. The ankle collar does lock a player’s ankle in, restricting movement, but that is about all it does. Much of the other protection you receive from a shoe comes from different mechanisms.
Low tops are often designed with the same supports as high tops, excluding the collar. This means you can still get a cushioned and supportive heel intended for impact and a secure upper with laces that lock down the foot to prevent shifting. These features are designed into a performance-friendly shoe that allows for fluid movement often required by guards.
Nevertheless, if you are prone to ankle injuries or generally prefer the stiffer feel of a supportive high top, low tops may not be for you.
What to Look For In a Low Top
Low Top shoe selection is very similar to choosing a high or mid-top basketball shoe. Here’s what to consider.
- • A secure upper. Laces can help lock down your foot and prevent shifting, though you can find shoes with zippers or other closures. Leather uppers tend to be more rigid, while synthetics or those with mesh overlays offer more flexibility.
- • A cushioned midsole. A perfect midsole has the right balance of cushion and responsiveness. Light materials, like EVA foam, offer excellent impact protection and energy transfer during a game.
- • A durable outsole. A good grip on the court is key to a great game and injury prevention. The outsole should have sturdy treads or patterns that provide traction while not impairing turnover through your stride.
Like all things in life, there isn’t a perfect option. The best shoe, whether it be a low or high top, is one that suits your needs and preferences.
If you do decide to wear low-top basketball shoes but want a bit more ankle support, then you should head over to our next article which talks about how to tape your ankle for basketball. We look at two types of tape (athletic, and KT tape) and then look at two different ways to apply them.