Today, I’ll give you my list of today’s best basketball shoes for kids.
Life isn’t as simple for the upcoming kind as it is for a grown athlete in the basketball shoe world. Children’s feet are constantly growing, some kids often got some orthopedic issues that need to be corrected and everyone’s physiological progress is different.
Let’s knock all those birds out with one stone.
SHOW TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Kids’ vs. Men’s Shoes: Any Different?
- All About Kids’ Sizing
- Here’s How You Choose a Kid’s Shoe the Proper Way
- Best Basketball Shoes for Kids
- Here’s What’s Next
HERE’S EVERYTHING YOU’LL LEARN
From my years of hooping as a kid and maturing into a full-fledged high-flyer, I’ll explain what you should be looking for when shopping for kids’ basketball shoes, the differences between kids’ and men’s kicks, and put together a regularly developing shoe list so you can bookmark it and have it as a cheat sheet no matter the year.
KIDS’ VS. MEN’S SHOES: ANY DIFFERENT?
Not really – don’t overcomplicate this one
The simple answer to this question would be no. Period.
The only two things that are different about kids’ shoes are the sizing options and the price. Kids’ shoes come in smaller sizes, obviously, and you can grab the same model that’s available in men’s sizing for considerably cheaper.
Why are they cheaper? Simple. A smaller shoe frame means fewer resources to make each pair. The rest is all the same: the tech used, the materials and build, everything.
Sometimes, there can be some exceptions though. For example, the Nike Kyrie 7 Kids shoe offers a few colorways unique to kids’ sizing. This doesn’t happen very often though.
TREAT YOUR KID’S SHOE AS A FULL-BLOWN PERFORMER
So, what I’m getting to is you NEED to do some research on a kids’ shoe before buying it just like you would before grabbing a pair of men’s/women’s kicks.
Since the overall performance and fit of that children’s shoe will be identical or near-identical to the men’s/women’s counterpart, it is extremely essential to read up on a full, dedicated review of that shoe, even if it is nowhere mentioned that the shoe performs the same or is available at kid’s sizing.
If you can find that shoe in smaller sizes – you can trust that the evaluation will mostly match what you’ll end up with as a kid or as a parent shopping for your up-and-coming baller.
I’ll leave links to full reviews of each shoe’s men’s counterpart in the list if I happened to test it out. I HIGHLY encourage you to check it out and find out some deeper nuances that might matter to your specific situation.
And if you’re in a hurry and just want the meat of it, I have a shortened version of each shoe’s review at the top or a 1-minute review as I call it. The gist of it is broken down into just a few paragraphs if you prefer to keep your information intake to essential rather than comprehensive.
Now, let’s break it all down on how to pick the right shoe for the job…
ALL ABOUT KIDS’ SIZING
Understand how kids’ sizing works & how to correctly gauge if a shoe fits you properly
For someone who hasn’t purchased a kid’s or toddler’s shoe online before, things might look a little complicated at first. Certain stores refer to kids’ sizing a bit differently but the general idea is always the same.
If you’re not sure, I highly recommend checking out this guide from DICK’s, as it talks all about how to differentiate toddler sizes from preschooler sizes, all the way up to grade-schoolers and “kids” sizes so to speak. It should probably explain such nuances better than I would.
Before you snatch a pair for your young player, you need to measure his/her feet first. Here’s a quick guide from adidas that should get you started – nothing complicated there.
And lastly, if you get the chance to try the shoe on in-store before buying it or you’d like to reassure things even after buying, there are a few things to test out for your kid.
Firstly, make sure there’s no heel slippage for your kid – make sure he/she laces the shoe up while simultaneously driving his/her heel back into the shoe. If you can easily shift the heel inside the shoe – it’s not a good fit.
But perhaps you feel as if the fit’s just fine but the heel is still slipping? In that case, refer to my heel slippage guide which should offer you some possible methods to fix it and prevent it in the future.
In addition, make sure things are optimal width-wise and length-wise. The foot should not feel uncomfortable pressure while idle and you shouldn’t be able to see a clear outline of the kid’s foot inside the shoe.
Length-wise, there should be about a pinky width of room from the longest toe for infants, and about an index finger length for slightly older kids.
Also, make sure to cater to the larger foot of your kid while trying a shoe on. All of us share this: one of your feet will be a bit bigger than the other, so you have to make sure it’s optimal for that foot in particular. You can always compensate for the smaller foot with the help of laces/straps.
HERE’S HOW YOU CHOOSE A KID’S SHOE THE PROPER WAY
Everything there’s to know about correctly choosing a youngin’s hoop shoe
Now that you know all about sizing and how to grasp if a shoe fits the kid properly, it’s time to talk shoe specifics.
As some of you might already know, kids’ basketball sneakers don’t offer nearly the variety as men’s models do. Or so that was true several years ago – the market is developing and we see more and more options in smaller sizes.
However, if we had to compare the two – men’s variety still trumps any other, so it can be tough to find a specific model you might be a fan of in smaller sizes. That puts some difficulty on the job.
Not to mention that many kids AND their parents don’t usually know what to get and what to value in terms of performance features/components, so they rush off to the nearest Walmart and grab a pair of cheap AND 1′ just because they look pretty nice.
That’s usually not the best idea.
So, along with the fact that you first need to treat these shoes as full-blown men’s performers, here are the most important things to take into account if you actually care about picking the right footwear for a young hooper.
LOOKING TO GROW INTO A SHOE? NOT SO FAST
I know a lot of people, especially parents, give into this idea that it’s best to grab a shoe for your kid where he/she could grow into over time. In other words, buying a size that’s not the kid’s actual size just so the parent could potentially save some cash by avoiding the need to get another shoe in a short period of time.
While I do get the practical approach, it’s really something none of us should practice on our children. Playing in a shoe that introduces too much room for one’s foot can bring all sorts of issues. Poor foot containment being one of them – something that doesn’t feel comfortable at all.
Security and increased risk of injury is another: basketball shoes are designed in a way (especially NOW more than ever before) for your foot to sit closely to the build.
A lot of things depend on it – if the fit is not one-to-one (or very close to it), many support components that were built into the shoe fail to do their part and end up compromising security.
You DO NOT want to expose a child with potential issues just to save a hundred bucks per year. Get the size that fits the kid perfectly right now. If he/she grows out of the pair, well, you’ll need a new pair. That’s the healthy way of looking at it.
Provided you get the fit right, it’s time to think about performance. A basketball shoe should provide grippy traction that’s consistent on most common surfaces (hardwood, rubber, concrete), it should give the kid adequate cushion to keep things comfortable at all times, and also provide support.
Most kids still don’t know what kind of player he/she will become – most of us were still just having fun and figuring our preferences and styles on the court at a young age.
That’s why it’s best to pick a shoe that provides well-balanced performance, which means it doesn’t necessarily cater to a specific player/style but as many of them as possible. This is where I come in – you should have a sufficient list that mostly only includes shoes that are versatile.
SUFFICIENT IMPACT PROTECTION
A critical component when playing basketball is impact protection.
This comes from the shoe’s cushioning properties and it’s usually accomplished by using a foam midsole as the shoe’s base for absorbing impact, while brands such as Nike and adidas tend to add their own cushion technology in addition to a foam midsole for even better results.
You want to make sure the kids’ shoe has enough impact protection and even more of it if he/she will be playing outside. Concrete puts much more stress on the joints so you need to be equipped with excellent cushion.
However, you do not want TOO MUCH cushion. I know it’s a lot of fun to feel like a little cloud bouncing on springs but leave that when the kid’s grown.
Now, there’s nothing wrong to have a kid try out a shoe with lots of cushion but you want to make sure his/her feet are active, properly growing, and developing thanks to proper mechanics and shoes that don’t do all the work for them.
It’s critical to ensure your kid is training his/her feet while playing a sport, and this means choosing a shoe that offers the protection needed but keeps it in check to allow for the bones, joints, and tendons to naturally get stronger.
A general rule of thumb – if a shoe looks to have a very tall platform, chances are there are tons of cushion under the hood. You don’t want that if your kid’s still at a young age.
SUPPORT THAT DOESN’T IMPEDE BIOMECHANICS
Another critical component is adequate support. A no-brainer? Not so fast. Just like cushion, you don’t want to encase a kid’s foot in a literal shell thinking it’s the best thing to do security-wise.
You want to allow the foot to move freely and develop proper movement patterns without feeling overly restricted. Why? If you limit a particular joint’s range of motion too extremely, the body’s natural reaction is to pass over the load to the next joint upwards.
So if you’re wearing an old pair of hardcore leather shoes that barely allow the ankle to even budge, you’re putting excess stress on the knee and end up doing more harm than good.
Today’s modern basketball shoes do a fairly good job of eliminating this issue but there are still shoes that you should avoid. Opt for lightweight material choices without too much overwhelming structure and look for the fit itself to provide the foundation of your security, not external components.
There are laces on a shoe for a reason.
STABLE & ANATOMICALLY NATURAL PLATFORM
Another important factor is the platform of a sneaker. This is especially easy to mess up – lots of shoes (even today) come with an elevated platform and one that has a high heel-to-toe offset.
While that might be good for marginal performance gains, the kid’s health and long-term well-being should absolutely be more important. Flatter platform shoes can feel a little weird at first if you’re not used to them but your posture will thank you.
I recommend aiming for a flatter or even a completely flat base when choosing a shoe for a young gun. This will make sure the feet are actually doing more of the work in terms of step transitions rather than the shoe and also ensure a correct posture is maintained.
High heel-to-toe contrasts don’t do any good for one’s posture, especially in the groin area. A huge percentage of professional athletes develop severe cases of anterior pelvic tilt just because of this reason. It’s pretty crazy but it’s true.
adidas tends to make more models that utilize a flatter platform, so if you plan on purchasing a kid’s shoe on your own later – that might be a good place to start.
ANY ORTHOPEDIC PROBLEMS?
Lastly, a good portion of kids don’t start with perfect feet health and often have to deal with orthopedic issues which need to be actively worked on.
If that’s the case for you or for your young baller – you need to take this into account when choosing a basketball sneaker. Always be sure to consult with professionals as orthotics might be prescribed. Be sure to check if those fit in your desired basketball shoe before buying if possible.
For those with flat feet (plantar fasciitis), I’ve got a guide explaining what kinds of shoes work best, for example. Also, check out the video above to get some guidance on fixing the issue.
And now, it’s time for the SHOES…
BEST BASKETBALL SHOES FOR KIDS
Each shoe’s overview, specialties, possible drawbacks, and things to know before getting.
List last updated on the 16th of August, 2021
I. UNDER ARMOUR JET🛒 AMAZON
💰 $55 🏆 4.6/5 (ua.com)
A GOOD STARTING POINT ON A BUDGET
One of UA’s lesser-known releases but I think one of the most surprising performers, both for kids and men. These got your typical Under Armour’s modern upper material combo: a synthetic overlay with a layer of synthetic leather for additional support and durability.
The midsole features standard EVA foam. These also got a midfoot shank along with an internal heel counter for optimal lockdown for your foot but not overwhelmingly too much.
STRONG POINTS. The biggest draw to these was easily the fit and how secure but still comfortable they feel, without weighing down the shoe or getting any distractions in the way.
The construction offers a pretty roomy but secure fit which I think will work well for a kid for a foot that’s not yet clear how fast or present the foot growth will be. Including wide footers. I also liked the traction which is a bit sensitive to dirty courts at times but not a big deal at all.
DRAWBACKS. A very mediocre EVA foam setup for impact protection. Of course, there’s not much to expect at this price tag but for a kid who’s looking for good impact absorption and is naturally drawn to a more athletic playstyle – you might want to skip these.
Also, the outsole’s pattern isn’t of the most durable so I’d recommend keeping outdoor games with these to a minimum if you’re looking to save cash.
II. UNDER ARMOUR CURRY 7FULL REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON
💰 $80 🏆 8.1/10
THE LOW-PROFILE SOLUTION
The 7th iteration to the Curry line packs awesome performance and improved features. These got a MicroG & HOVR cushion setup combination for the midsole.
The upper is, again, something from the new world and consists of a textile & synthetic blend. Standard features such as an internal heel cup and outrigger are in place as well for foot stability and support. I believe the 7th shoe is a better overall option than the Curry 8 for a growing kid.
STRONG POINTS. On-court grip is always something out of this world in the Curry line and this one’s no exception. Your kid will NEVER slide all over the place with these.
The shoe’s support is brilliant, along with maintaining stability but keeping you feeling agile and free – something critical to allow the young gun maximum mobility to play but to also protect him from unneeded injuries. The shoe feels light, fast, and slapped low to the ground.
DRAWBACKS. Like the UA Jet, this one isn’t a cushioning beast either. I did expect more from MicroG with HOVR but hey, it’s a Curry shoe – agility, court feel and 100% focus on freedom of movement are what’s the biggest focus here.
If you or your kid’s a shooter, a lighter player, or a generally quick & low to the ground guy – this is your shoe. Get it. Don’t think about it.
III. NIKE KYRIE 6FULL REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON
💰 $80-$110 🏆 8.3/10
A STELLAR GUARD’S SHOE
The latest Kyrie masterpiece comes with quick Zoom Turbo cushioning, the upper is a premium blend of genuine leather and soft textile. A midfoot strap, forefoot nylon cables, and a heel counter make sure the support and stability are unbreakable WITHOUT taking away movement freedom.
STRONG POINTS. Three things. The cushion setup is single-handedly the most versatile we’ve ever had on a Kyrie. The traction is outstanding as usual – outdoors or indoors. The overall stability, lockdown, and support are nothing less of phenomenal – if your kid’s having foot issues such as constant ankle rolling – get these. Period.
Overall, it’s a solid shoe with reliable build quality and features that I think most children will find suitable. It won’t do all the work for you and won’t overwhelm kids with too much structure or cushion but it will provide them with a very responsive shoe that’s built to be quick.
DRAWBACKS. Just as most people that played in these, I have also found these to be very tight and snug (in terms of the men’s counterpart). I’m a wide footer though, I went up half a size and still felt like I’d like more free space inside on certain movements that cause some collisions.
Something a regular footer likely will find more forgiving than me but I’d advise not going with these if the kid prefers a slightly roomier fit or is a wide footer.
IV. NIKE KYRIE 7FULL REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON
💰 $80-$110 🏆 7.8/10
A GUARD’S SHOE, IMPROVED
A direct successor to the Kyrie 6 above – the 7th shoe doesn’t do anything new but what ain’t broke – don’t fix it. The Nikey Kyrie 7 is still the same fast, mobile, and ultra-lightweight sneaker that a kid should enjoy running around.
STRONG POINTS. A noticeable change in this one was the lack of strong midfoot/torsional support. Is that bad? Not exactly.
For a young hooper who’s healthy at the moment, playing in such a shoe will make sure his/her foot will constantly work and all those little bones & tendons will have to work just a bit harder than they would in a more structured shoe with beefier torsional coverage.
The rest is pretty much the same – quick, low-to-the-ground Zoom Turbo cushion, a flat base, deadly traction that’s also pretty durable for action in the park, and a standard mesh upper that won’t weigh you down, nor it will compromise security. Also doesn’t take a long time to break in.
DRAWBACKS. Once again, not an ideal option if the kid has a wider foot. Going up half a size is pretty much required but even then, I wouldn’t say these are 100% comfy for me despite stepping up 1/2 a size.
V. NIKE PG3FULL REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON
💰 $90 🏆 7.8/10
THE ULTIMATE ALL-AROUND SOLUTION
Paul George’s signature line is constantly going strong so far and the third model has a ZOOM AIR midsole, a synthetic & mesh upper along with the standard support and lockdown implementations.
STRONG POINTS. This is one of those models that are really versatile and most kids should find it awesome.
The cushion setup is nice and smooth but still contained and stable (not too much sinking in), amazing traction and the fit is near-perfect, even for a wide footer, as long as he/she gives the shoe some time to break in. The platform of the shoe is almost entirely flat which is also a bonus.
DRAWBACKS. The shoe’s upper isn’t one of the more durable ones as cheaper mesh can wear out pretty quickly, so you might want to reconsider if you’ll be rocking these on asphalt or planning to wear them for multiple seasons.
Also, from other reviews and people’s feedback, some of ’em report that the fit is pretty mystical and the opinions clash whether you should go true to size or not. Ideally, you’ll want your young athlete to try these on if possible. If you’re not able to – sticking true to your usual size is the safest option.
VI. ADIDAS HARDEN VOL. 4FULL REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON
💰 $110-$120 🏆 8.4/10
A COMPACT LOW-TOP THAT WORKS
After a dreadful Harden Vol. 5, I’m now convinced that the 4th shoe in James Harden’s signature series is still the best modern sneaker, including for kids. We’ve got a full-length Lightstrike midsole for cushion, essential support features implemented and a minimal knit upper.
STRONG POINTS. Balance. That’s what it is about this one – everything just seemed to work beautifully with one another and in addition, it’s a very solid option for a young, growing foot.
The cushion offered is super comfy but it’s slapped low to the ground and you won’t be riding on pillows, so things are still kept quick while maintaining a flat platform.
And you’d think a low-top isn’t secure? Think again. I think it’s important to expose a child’s joint range of motion such as the ankle, in order for it to get stronger, learn movement patterns and develop stronger tendons. The shoe just aids in keeping you stable and confident.
The Harden Vol. 4 is also a great outdoor option AND it’s fantastic for both regular/narrow footers as well as wide footers like myself.
DRAWBACKS. Many people have experienced an annoying issue with this one – the midfoot elastic band that wraps around the foot and acts as additional lockdown digs into people’s feet during certain movements.
For me, it was causing issues for about a week. Stay patient but don’t let your kid play with discomfort if the issue persists.
VII. NIKE LEBRON 18 LOWFULL REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON
💰 $60-$130 🏆 7.8/10
THE ULTIMATE PACKAGE OF FUN
I picked the low-top variant of the LeBron 18 for two reasons: one, this version stabilized and slightly firmed up the cushion, so the kid won’t be riding as high off the ground.
Two, the low sneaker made some improvements in the containment & support departments making it a fantastic all-around option that’s still a ton of fun.
STRONG POINTS. How to make TONS of cushion balanced and still fast? LeBron 18 Low is how. It’s stable, well-caged, still fairly fast-feeling and you’re not a 6-foot man all of a sudden like you’d be with the regular version of the shoe.
The LeBron 18 Low is also a supportive low-top that allows for mobility but keeps stability in check, so you’ll be able to move around freely while staying confident.
Traction is also solid, and so is the build itself. Screen mesh is used for the upper and while it’s not as premium as the mid-top counterpart, it got the job done for me just fine.
With all of that in mind, I’d still recommend this shoe for an older kid since there’s still quite a bit of cushion here, and the platform’s elevated in the heel as a result. Not an ideal scenario for a toddler/preschooler if you care about long-term health and developing correct habits.
DRAWBACKS. This is not a shoe for wide footers. It’s doable but despite stepping up half a size, I never felt 100% comfy in these. The slightly stiff screen mesh build is likely part of the problem but when the shoe’s last is as narrow as here, there’s not a lot you can do about it.
Also, keep outdoor games to occasional rather than regular with these. A few months in and I’m already seeing heavy wear & tear on the outsoles.
VIII. ADIDAS D.O.N. ISSUE #2FULL REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON
💰 $80-$85 🏆 8/10
ALL-AROUND SOLUTION ON A BUDGET
A secure, unrestrictive fit? Check. Just the right amount of cushion while staying naturally quick? Check. A flat, stable platform? Check. All-around security taken care of? You bet.
Adidas just makes straight-up solid sneakers while keeping the price very competitive and the second shoe from Donovan Michell is exactly what we’re hunting for a kid.
STRONG POINTS. Mostly everything. Traction’s great and you won’t need to wipe your outsoles down every two minutes. Bounce cushion is always the balanced option of the bunch, and support in adidas’s sneakers virtually never lacks.
The build utilizes synthetic textiles with some Fuse overlays for lightweight structure that won’t restrict your foot but will keep it secure. An impressive overall package that encourages freedom of movement, comfort, and staying anatomically natural while playing.
DRAWBACKS. Be sure to give these some time before judging the shoe – even if that means the ride will feel a little stiff at first. Bounce needs a bit of time to soften up and when it does – you’ll get a well-balanced ride in return.
HERE’S WHAT’S NEXT
How about teenager’s shoes? Or men’s shoes? Or perhaps you’re feeling like learning?
Alright, that takes care of today’s best basketball shoes for kids. I appreciate you staying all the way to the end and I truly hope you found this list useful!
I got a question though – does your kid have a current favorite shoe at the moment? If he does, perhaps he needs a refresh?
In the meantime, let’s step things up a notch! For those 12-15-year-olds looking for a new pair of shoes, I’ve made a similar guide to break down the best shoes for teenagers. Check it out!
Or perhaps you’re looking for men’s shoes instead? Jump straight to the best overall basketball shoes for men.
I’m always super curious to hear your thoughts. Was this guide helpful? Perhaps you’re looking to grab one of these shoes for your young baller but still have some things to clear up?