There is no timetable for how long any particular shoe will last outdoors, but there are some simple tips that you can use for picking the perfect outdoor basketball shoe and help you make the best decision possible prior to you spending your hard-earned cash.
Picking an outdoor basketball shoe may seem daunting, but it’s really not that difficult of a task. Some think too much about it or just have their heart set on a shoe that wasn’t intended for primary outdoor use. If you happen to play basketball primarily outdoors, then these are the top 5 tips for picking the perfect outdoor basketball shoe.
In this article, we will also go over the top outdoor basketball shoes currently available to purchase.
When picking a new shoe that you know will be your primary outdoor option, the rubber outsole is the first thing to consider.
Solid or translucent rubbers are perfectly fine, but be sure that you’re aware of the density and thickness of the rubber.
If your rubber is dense, then it’ll last longer against the abrasions that rough outdoors surfaces cause. Softer rubbers will burn out quickly and you’ll be left with a bald outsole before you know it.
How do you know what shoe features dense rubber?
You can always watch or read a review from a reliable source — most reviewers will say whether the rubber is soft or firm. Going in-store and holding the product in-hand works wonders as well. I understand online shopping is very convenient, and for some shoppers, it’s their only option. But if possible, head out to a retail store and feel the rubber for yourself. It’ll be very apparent which outsoles are too soft for rough outdoor courts and which ones will hold their own.
The thickness of the pattern is also a key component when looking at the rubber outsole. This is a feature that can be easily spotted as well. You can quickly and easily assess whether or not a traction pattern looks too thin for consistent outdoor usage or not.
Again, some might have their hearts set on a particular shoe that may not be intended for outdoor use. If that’s you, and you end up with a shoe that wears down too quickly, just know all the signs were there that the specific shoe you chose was not the best option in terms of longevity.
XDR (Nike’s version of durable rubber) outsoles are an option overseas and can be purchased via third-party sellers on eBay, but the shoe’s upper is built to fit a bit wider. This might be great for some and not-so-great for normal/narrow footers. XDR outsoles are also an option on NIKEiD (Nike By You) but if the pattern is thin then XDR won’t add a significant amount of time onto the lifespan of the sole.
Aggressive traction patterns work beautifully (indoors) but they wear down pretty quickly outdoors.
Look for something that has its traction pattern recessed into the outsole a bit. This type of pattern implementation will help promote even wear and tear while you play on rougher surfaces and tend to last longer in general.
There are also shoes with flat patterns to them like the Air Jordan 9.
Those types of outsoles tend to work well no matter what surface you play on as they practically repel dust and debris from the outsole. Without a pattern for the debris to get stuck into, you’re usually safe. As a bonus, it usually wears evenly as well.
Basketball shoes are built with a variety of materials — some last longer than others.
Raw materials feel better around your foot and break in nicely. However, they can show signs of wear much faster than most modern synthetics. If you wish to avoid having your shoe look beat too quickly then builds comprised of TPU (plastic) such as a Hyperfuse will typically last a bit longer.
However, if you’re like me, and insist on wearing raw materials then look for a pair with multiple overlays — especially with overlays located at typical high-wear areas such as the heel and toe.
The K1X Antigravity featured in the image above is a synthetic-based sneaker. However, the image is to show you what I meant by finding a shoe with overlays along the upper.
Sometimes overlooked when thinking of your next outdoor basketball shoe, but an aspect that should be considered.
When playing outdoors you’re playing on a surface that isn’t very forgiving. Ensuring you have some decent cushion will keep your knees a bit fresher for a little longer. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to cushion, so whatever that preference is…make sure the sneaker has a lot of it.
If you happen to love Zoom Air, then make sure it’s full length. Or, at the very least, heel and forefoot. If you love a good foam like Micro G or UA Flow, make sure it’s the rubber bouncy variety like in the Curry 8 and not the firm Curry 7 variety.
Exposed cushion systems should be reconsidered for those looking for longevity. Visible full-length Air units of any kind are great for outdoors in terms of impact protection, but the units are exposed and can pop much quicker than if this was your indoor shoe.
As an example, the Air Jordan 11 and Nike LeBron 8 both feature full-length Max Air cushion. The Air Jordan 11’s Air unit is encapsulated within the midsole while the Nike LeBron 8’s full-length Air cushion is exposed. If you wear the 11s long enough to grind through the outsole and you start seeing the Phylon foam, well, that means you play a lot of outdoor basketball, but it also means your cushion is still protected by the Phylon midsole itself. However, if you were to grind down the outsole on the LeBron 8 then the cushion becomes exposed to the concrete/blacktop and you’ll end up grinding a hole into your Air unit — rendering the cushion useless.
While the LeBron 8 provides more impact protection with its thicker cushion system, it’s a bit more vulnerable.
Once you’ve figured out what it is you need and what it is you want, the last step is making sure you find that product for as little money as possible. Outlets are perfect for this.
It’s true, shopping at the outlet will oftentimes ensure that your footwear choices are from the previous year, but those products still feature the same tech specs and you’ll be able to see and feel the product in hand prior to purchasing. Sure, waiting for sales on current hoop shoes is also an option, but your best bang-for-your-buck typically can be found at outlets and discount stores.
Personally, I’ve never really understood buying the latest and greatest at full retail price and then taking them outdoors. If you’re a big baller like that then that’s awesome, but I grew up with limited funds which meant my new outdoor shoe was typically my old pair of sneakers that I had worn for the entire previous school year while my new day to day shoe was, well, my new day to day shoe and my new indoor shoe. Ah, you gotta love the 90s.
Obviously, you can do what you like to do with your money. It’s yours. You’ve earned it. But if you wanted to be a bit more informed about where that hard-earned cash is going then this might end up helping you make sure you get the most out of that hard-earned purchase.
Top 5 Best Outdoor Basketball Shoes (updated May 2022)
Taking into account all the previous points, it’s time to present our picks for the best current outdoor basketball shoes available. Not only do these sneakers meet the aforementioned criteria, but they have received ample testing time on concrete to put them through their paces. Here are our top 5 picks of the best kicks for outdoor hoops, you can check out our full list as well.
New Balance TWO WXY
The New Balance TWO WXY is a very well-rounded model. The traction is great for outdoor basketball and the FuelCell cushion is effective but needs some time to break in. Once it does, a couple of hours of playing on asphalt or concrete isn’t a problem. The synthetic upper is also super durable and can easily handle the rough conditions inherent in outdoor play. See the full review. Price: $140
Nike KD 14
The Nike KD 14 is a great shoe period, and it is great for outdoor courts for a lot of reasons. The shoe has great cushion, which is essential for a great outdoor basketball shoe. The full-length Zoom Air Strobel along with the soft, plush Cushlon will keep you on the blacktop for hours. The traction is also super effective outdoors. The rubber compound may not be insanely firm, but there’s a lot of tread to go through, so it should last. See the full review. Price: $150
Air Jordan 36
The air Jordan 36, Jordan’s 2021-22 flagship model, packs a tremendous performance punch. Especially if you play on using these guys outdoor, try to get your hands on the XDR version. The cushion on the Jordan 36 is probably its best feature with a full-length Zoom Air strobel and an additional forefoot Zoom unit. See the full review. Price: $185
Nike LeBron Witness 6
Especially when you take into consideration the Nike LeBron Witness 6’s price, you can see how it is an excellent outdoor option. The shoe features full-length Air and a durable outsole for just $100. You will also get all the support you can handle out of the Nike LeBron Witness 6 which will help you feel confident cutting and changing directions out on the blacktop. Read the full review. Price: $100
Under Armour Embiid 1
The versatile UA Embiid 1 is a great shoe that was designed to cater to any player and position. If you mainly play outdoors then these will also make for a great pickup. They’re also very reasonably priced at $120. They feature a sufficient amount of cushion and traction. See the full review. Price: $120