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Top 5 Tips to Picking the Perfect Outdoor Basketball Shoe

Top 5 tips to picking the perfect outdoor basketball shoe

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 to picking the perfect outdoor basketball shoe. 

In this article, we will also go over the top outdoor basketball shoes currently available to purchase. 

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Top 5 Tips to Picking the Perfect Outdoor Basketball Shoe

XDR Rubber traction
Nike Zoom Witness - Black - XDR

Rubber

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.

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 are 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.

 

Traction pattern puma rs dreamer

Traction Pattern 

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.

jordan 2x3 traction pattern detail
omni 1 traction pattern detail
Anta GH traction pattern detail

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.

Materials 

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.

Cushion

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.


Top 5 Tips to Picking the Perfect Outdoor Basketball Shoe 8

Price 

 

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 6 Best Outdoor Basketball Shoes (updated August 2021)

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 is our list of the best kicks for outdoor hoops: 

Play Video

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 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.  

Play Video

Nike KD 14

The Nike KD 14 is one of the best shoes, if not THE best shoe of 2021. It provides great traction, great cushion, decent materials, solid fit and decent support. The full-length Zoom Air strobel and Cushlon midsole are great for outdoor play, and your joints will appreciate it. It’s the perfect recipe for playing multiple hours without pain. 

UA Embiid 1

Play Video

 

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. 

Nike Court Air Zoom GP Turbo

Play Video

 

The surprising Zoom GP Turbo deserves extra points for making this list. It isn’t even a basketball shoe. it’s a tennis shoe.

Tennis is played on hard courts similar to where many people play basketball. The full-length Zoom Air Strobel, herringbone traction, and sleek fit provide a uniquely comfortable ride. 

Nike LeBron Soldier 14

Play Video

 

The solid LeBron Soldier 14 features an XDR rubber outsole made for outdoor play as well as forefoot and heel Zoom combined with a Cushlon foam midsole.

The shoe’s main draw-back is the hidden lacing system and bootie upper, which make it hard to put on. But the fit’s good anyway. 

Puma Clyde All-Pro

Play Video

 

The Puma Clyde All-Pro is very reminiscent of the Kobe 9, but with several improvements. Traction is fantastic on all surfaces. The Puma Clyde All Pro features Puma’s new ProFoam+ and a Pebax heel puck which offers a balanced and responsive ride. Also, they fit true to size, snug, and supportive. They aren’t a signature shoe, but perform better than most of those. 

More Outdoor Basketball Shoe Reviews

Check out more of our outdoor basketball shoes reviews: 

38 comments
  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE the last one. Choosing outdoor shoes is all about being smart and not being whiny/picky. If you’re picky, then don’t whine when you $100+ shoes break, you already know it was gonna happen. And NO, I’m not some broke dude who hoops in take-down models only lol. My mid-tier shoes are still holding up fine outdoors. If my expensive shoes break, Oh well, that sucks, I already know it was gonna happen. I’ll just suck it up. I’ll head over to Wal-Mart and get me a pair of And1s until I can save up for another pair of nicer kicks.

  2. By the way, I know that XDR is somewhat hard to find here in the US. In Nordstrom Racks, I have seen Jordan Ace 23’s with XDR tags. An alternative is to just buy a pair of tennis shoes. A shoe literally built for the game of tennis. The rubber compound was made specifically to survive the rough surfaces of outdoor floors. I used to hoop in a pair of Reebok tennis shoes. It lasted me a good 3 years until I had to replace it.

  3. Peak shoes. Almost all Peak shoes are great for outdoors. Even the TP9. And price is cheap. Just bought one only for outdoor hooping.

  4. I did mention XDR and this again took it to the next level. You have already posted a video on outdoor and types of rubber on shoes…so I guess this doesn’t hurt. Did you elaborate on the pitfalls of using XDR indoors? Heavier and not as pliable so the opposite would be true. You can…but try not to use an XDR pair for indoor play.

      1. Hello mate, been watching your video reviews on YouTube and I’m happy to know you also have a website:) I’m honestly a beginner in the sport-I’ve been playing on a very light magnitude for the past year (2-3hours/week), and I want to really hone my skills. I currently live in Korea, where high-quality indoor courts are hard to come by-so I usually play outdoors. My friends all recommend be the Adidas CrazyLight Boost 2016 (the all-white is so dope). Could you give me your opinion on this shoe for outdoor use? (Top priority is durability, as I’m not gonna get another pair for years.)

  5. as somebody who plays a LOT of pickup ball outdoors (3-5 times a week outdoors/1-2 times a week indoors), i very much appreciate articles like these…

    i can also tell you that XDR outsoles don’t last as long as you might think, though this does vary from shoe to shoe. MUCH depends on the traction pattern of said shoe- my lebron Xs with XDR have already pretty much been ground down after 4-5 months of usage (i’ve probably only used them about 20-25 times in total), and i suspect that has something to do with the fact that the pattern is quite shallow, and that i subject the edges of the outsole to a good deal of abuse because of all the sharp cutting and lateral movements that i do. the CP 3.VI XDRs have lasted a bit longer, though the pattern hasn’t, as NW has suggested, worn down evenly over time.

    surprisingly enough, though, my KD Vs, which have a pretty shallow pattern as well as rather soft, non-XDR rubber, has lasted longer than the XDR lebron Xs, XDR CP3.VIs and XDR kobe 8s…why this is i have no idea, but they still offer A+ traction after about 6-7 months of serious indoor and outdoor wear.

    i would suggest that anybody looking for a reasonably-priced, dependable performance shoe for outdoor play should look no further than the hyperdunk 2012, which should be on sale everywhere…i have two pairs of high-tops and two pairs of low-tops that can withstand pretty much anything that you can throw at them. they are by far my favorite shoe for basketball in the sun…

    i’m sure all of us remember the time when these sorts of things weren’t even a concern. when i was in high school i would just use the same shoes to play in league games indoors and pickup outdoors, and there was never a problem with traction or materials breaking down or whatever…i am, of course, not qualified to comment upon whether this had to do with the way sneakers were built back then or not, but shoes like the flightposite 1, the air jordan XVII and the adidas kobe would last me an entire season on any surface…

    just the other day, i saw a kid wearing the john wall crazyquicks on a blacktop, the upper already showed serious signs of wear and the traction pattern on the forefoot had already been wiped out….

  6. Nightwing I was looking for a nice dedicated black top pair of kicks last month. I ended up going with the Nike Zoom Hyperfranchise XD because they were $89.99. What is your opinion of them for doing a review? I will admit that the humid 100+ degree heat where I’m from has keep me indoors at my local 24 and I have yet to test my B-Top Kicks out.

    1. Pretty much any of the Hyper- shoes play like the Hyperfuse. Just about the same shoe, just a different design on the upper.

      1. The prefix did cross my mind and I was thinking that since NW reviewed the Hyperdisruptor, my pick would be too close to those shoes.

  7. Could you do a piece on which basketball works well outdoors? I use a Spalding Zi/O and like it but haven’t tried any others

    1. have you tried the nike elite competition? it was made for an indoor court, but it holds up really well on an outdoor one, i have two and i’ve been using them for about a year each, the grip is still there and they retain air really well. pretty much everybody in hong kong uses it, though i’ve seen folks using the much more expensive tournament and championship balls on the asphalt, too…

      i don’t think much of spalding balls generally (with the exception of the nba official ball, that is), they tend to be too hard, and the grip on them wears out quick…

    2. Basketballs. the most overlooked part of the game. Basketballs should be replaced probably every month. WHY? balls get lopsided very quickly. i see way too many kids trying to through balls off walls trying to go from one side of the court to the other, idiots practicing full length court shots – leave that for “Drain”. Just like shoes that neeed great traction, flexability, cushioning and breathabilty a ball needs only 2 things. “feel” and stay round! if a ball is not round you will have a tough time handling the ball because when it hits the lopsdided part the return bounce will vary. Thats why OUTDOOR balls are either tough or very cheep. Tougher balls like the low end nike ball seem to retain there shape. This is key because concrete – blacktop etc do not give way and will eventually all by themselves warp the ball. spin the ball in the air and watch the ball reveale its warped shape – replace it. Warped balls are great for shooting free throws, working on 3 pointers etc but not for game time when dribbling and ball handling are fundamental to the outcome of the game you you need a “round” ball. Good outdoor ballls are easily Spalding indoor/outdoor ball, Nike Elite competition NFHS, Wilson jet. Indoor balls, Spalding TF1000, UA 495 / 395, Wilson Solution. What is cool is when you use indoor balls outdoors and the ball gets that grounded texture and actually provides extra control. my $00.02 for what it’s worth. (replce your ball as frequent as you pick up shoes)

      1. Nike Dominate balls are EXCEPTIONAL for outdoors. i mean the grip is FENOMINAL! It’s soft and just comfortable to hold. Also, i notice kids these days tend to inflate the ball so much it fucking bounces off the court and while dribbling you don’t even have to push it to make it come back, it bounces so hard even if you just “drop” it, it’s flattering. So many broken fingers. People, inflate the ball correctly.

  8. Would you please do a review on the Air Visi Pro III? I noticed that you gave praise on that shoe. thanks in advance 🙂

  9. Why did this topic leave out Cushioning all togother. The worst thing an outside baller can do to themselves is play in a minimal cushioned system. Later in life when you develop arthritis at an early stage in life i guarantee it will be due to outdoor hooping. Court fell cushion systems are meant for Indoor hoopers where the courts gives and returms energy (or takes it away via dead spots) XDR for ballin shoes debut themselves when NIKE came out with the “NDESRUKT” line back in mid 90’s. the shoe is great for lengevity but horrible for movement since it took more energy to flex the sole. A good outdoor shoe would also be the Jordan “D’reign” it has a large stiff tread pattern and the cushionin system is built like the Jordan 11 – same full length air unit and foam midsole.

    1. Great comment re: min. cushion for outdoor shoes. I’ve always thought that an outdoor shoe should have more cushion. And also better ventilation. That’s why I loved my Lebron X’s so much. Superb cushioning. I am a guard so I’d prefer something lower to the ground but then my knees. Trade offs. Sigh. My zoom bag popped as the rubber wore out. I wish there was a shoe that is like Lebron X in terms of cushioning but with a lower to the ground feel.

      I’ve looked into Jordan D’Reign. They look like CP3 VII’s don’t they? I’ve never seen D’Reign before so I guess it’s nearly impossible to get them.

  10. It all comes down to price for me. I also dont designate outdoor vs indoor shoe. Il run my new kicks in a gym until i get tired of them or i upgrade to something new and demote them to outdoor. But its all about price. I picked up some Jordan 2012 for $40 at the outlet and those will probably get run outdoors sooner than later. Shop smart, most pricey legit performing “indoor” shoes can be found on the cheap at outlets. They might not last a whole year but still worth it for the price.

    1. If I had access to the outlet deals like you guys do, then I would buy multiple pairs of the same performance shoe and just wear them outdoors. Being overseas, we have to pick very carefully as we can’t get those outlet deals you guys get in the US.

  11. I don’t play outdoors anymore, but when I was younger I did. The most impressive shoe I had was the AJ 5 Laney. I was 5’10”, 215, moved like a guard and usually had to check the fastest players. My Laney’s held up a good 2 years.

  12. Hey NW question is the Li-Ning way of wades outdoor or not ? since its made in a chinese corp and china are only using outdoor courts so ?

    1. i’ve played in my way of wades three times now, and i’d say that they can probably be used outdoors, though for a variety of reasons- the materials, the lack of ventilation, the shallowness of the traction pattern, the relative softness of the rubber- it is far from being an outdoor-specific shoe, and there are much better options out there if you’re looking for something to play in outside.
      that being said, it is an excellent indoor shoe, the only downside being the fact that the traction pattern needs wiping every now and then on dusty courts.

  13. Even though I don’t play games outdoors or anything like that, I do practice in my backyard that has a half-court with asphalt. I usually have a cycle of two to three shoes and then once I grow out of a size then I demote the pair that gets small the fastest for outdoor use, pretty much what happened to my Jordan CP3.VI. This is a great way to cut costs. Have two indoor game ready shoes, and then purchase a less expensive shoe, preferrably from this lists, for my outdoor court. Perfect! Thank you Chris!

  14. been playin most of my life outdoors and i really do agree on all aspects of this post, been always using kobe and in such cases kb24’s, dreamseasons and other of his models with translucent outsoles holds pretty much good considering the grind of daily pick up games.. hopefully they keep on i proving on their ventilation thou as its really sweltering to ball outdoors xD! still #basketballneverstops even here in dubai!

  15. Hey,
    I am getting the nike prime hype df. I play outdoor basketball mostly.
    Would you advice me continuing with my purchase.
    Another option i have is adidas cross’em 3 which is cheaper.
    Awaiting your reply.
    Thanx

  16. I have played and still playing many outdoor games, especially if you take basketball choosing the right type of shoe is important to play well without any distraction. Breathability, traction pattern, soft rubber pad, the right fit is always essential.

  17. Much thanks to you for the post.

    My younger brother-in-law is getting into basketball. He is fixated on it. His birthday is one week from now and might want to purchase shoes for him, however, know nothing about basketball shoes.

    So this post was beneficial for me. Presently I realize what to purchase.

    Much obliged to you again and keep doing awesome

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