I know a lot of you will fall into a couple of categories when it comes to low tops. You’re either fans of low tops and prefer how they feel when playing, or you’re used to mid/high tops, so the concept of a secure low top isn’t familiar to you. Whichever you are, I think it’s a great time to level up your arsenal knowledge and give you my personal picks for the 7 best low top basketball shoes.
Came just for the shoe list? Click here to jump to it
LOW TOPS? THANK YOU BLACK MAMBA!
It all started with the Kobe 5
That release and Kobe’s preference for light and minimal shoes became one of the biggest influences in today’s modern shoes.
Light, free and compact slowly became the staples of today’s modern hoop sneakers. You can now see low top models and low versions of already established mid-top releases take up a large chunk of the basketball shoe market!
But with that also comes unfamiliarity when it comes to low tops & how exactly they protect you or not protect you compared to higher cut shoes.
Let’s quickly get you familiar and get that sorted out…
LOW TOPS AREN’T SAFE? THINK AGAIN!
Let me quickly dismantle the idea of low tops being generally less “safe” to play in when compared to mid’s or high’s
It’s not true. There – done.
On a serious note, support, and the core of it, simply does not come from the ankle collar. The only thing an ankle collar does is limit your ankle’s range of motion. To a degree.
Yes, there are scenarios where this is welcome. Let’s say you’re coming off of an injury but desperately need to play today’s game.
Or you’ll be playing a long, intense game and can’t afford to roll an ankle. Perhaps you’re prone to ankle rolls and want to get that slight boost of ankle protection.
That’s all cool but the core support of a shoe doesn’t come from that. Heel lockdown, torsional stability, a stable shoe platform, and several other factors all matter CRITICALLY when it comes to security.
How the shoe’s ankle area is cut is just a piece of the puzzle. At times it’s totally unneeded, especially when considering the benefits of a compact low top sneaker.
I’m not saying mid-tops or high-tops are worthless and you shouldn’t pay attention to them, I’m just saying that foot support is more sophisticated than an ankle collar & low tops can be just as secure as any other shoe.
Don’t count them out, if you’re unsure how to feel about ’em.
WANT TO GO IN-DEPTH? HEAD OVER TO THE GUIDE!
I won’t get into much detail here since I don’t want to bore you too much. But if you’d like more insight into this topic and the specifics of ankle & overall shoe support, you MUST check out this guide I’ve made.
I also give my top picks for the best shoes that provide ankle support and overall security on the court in that guide.
HOW I PICKED THE SHOES
Let’s quickly break down how and why I picked these exact 7 shoes that I think are awesome low tops to give you some background behind the list
ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE IS KEY
The general aim was to pick the 7 best all-around performers that are low tops. This means that each shoe fits & plays well, most of ’em are also pretty damn versatile so any player will be able to appreciate them.
And of course, security & support is a huge factor too – I believe that these particular models do a killer job in providing competent support while keeping quick and mobile.
ALL SHOES ARE RECENT RELEASES
All 7 shoes are released in today’s “modern” shoe era. The oldest shoe in the list dropped in 2017. I believe that regardless of preference, we have to stay within the latest tech & innovations that brands constantly race each other with.
We don’t really have no choice regardless – lots of shoes that are 5+ years old are often tough to get and chances that you’ll find your size are becoming slimmer by the minute.
ALL SHOES HAD THEIR RUN FOR THE MONEY
I’ve personally played in & tested each shoe for an extensive period of time. The usual period of time I play in a shoe before finalizing my opinion & putting out a review is 2+ months.
I played a bit less in a couple of shoes on the list but I’ve already got a pretty good idea on them – they’re bangers. When you know – you know. Reviews of those coming out soon – that’s also why a couple of shoes won’t have dedicated reviews yet.
I try to switch up courts as I play too. Some are played in more outdoors, some indoors but the newest shoes in the list are mostly tested outside in a good ol’ park. We all know why – quarantine doesn’t help me here. At all. I think that’s actually good though! I’ll break down which shoes are outdoor-ready.
THE BEST LOW TOP BASKETBALL SHOES: 7 PICKS
It’s that time! Let’s break down the 7 winners, giving a brief performance overview, what makes it a great low top, and things you should know before getting a pair.
#7 – PUMA CLYDE HARDWOOD
Retail Price: $120
DO NOT sleep on brands such as PUMA, Brandblack, Li-Ning, and a few others that also make awesome basketball products. It’s not just Nikey, AJ and Under Armour.
PUMA only put out a handful of hoop shoes recently and I think the Clyde Hardwood is currently their best release. Minimalist low top design, solid all-around performance, and just a distraction-free experience.
These may not have the world’s leading tech or the most premium components but I think it’s a great choice if you’re not looking to spend too much and unsure what shoe to go with.
The PUMA Clyde Hardwood has got phenomenal traction and the outsole is outdoor-ready, it sports full-length ProFoam for cushioning which is a very quick, responsive setup. And don’t forget that nice mesh & genuine leather upper which actually impressed me since we’re getting that for $120.
It’s also supportive for a low top checking all the needed components: a secure fit, a flat & stable base, a heel counter, a TPU cage for lateral coverage, and cables that pull into the forefoot area for better lockdown.
Keys to remember. This is not the most versatile shoe. The ProFoam setup might sound awesome but it’s just very low-profile EVA foam that’s relatively firm. So you’re getting good court feel and response which is what lighter & quicker guards enjoy.
But for those who fall more into an all-around or more explosive player categories, you might feel a lack of bounce or any real spring back upon impact. There’s some impact protection here but just a bit to keep you safe.
#6 – NIKE KOBE A.D. NXT 360
Retail Price: $200
These things look straight off the football field but don’t get fooled by the silhouette. This is as premium as Kobe’s shoes get. Pair that with the fact that Kobe is the one who started this trend and you got yourself a product that’s well thought out and crafted with love. Well, that does come at a cost. A $200 cost.
However, this is one of the many examples of “you get what you pay for”. The Kobe A.D. NXT 360 comes at you with an aggressive traction pattern that bites just as aggressively as it looks, it’s got a React & Lunarlon combo for the cushion setup, and the main selling point is the 360-degree Flyknit upper.
A near-perfect, secure, and one-to-one fit is what we’re used to expecting from Kobe’s low tops, and this one’s no exception.
Then there’s the super responsive cushion setup that’s a bit more forgiving than the PUMA shoe offers and support that is adequate as the focus here was mainly on comfort, mobility, and making the shoe as light as possible.
Keys to remember. Think twice before taking ’em outdoors. The traction pattern is burning off extremely quickly.
I know it’s not meant to be an outdoor model but since I’ve got no other options to play regularly, it looks like the park exposed how unreliable the rubber on the A.D. NXT 360 is. And it’s a $200 shoe, I don’t think you’ll be wanting to wreck these outside for that alone.
#5 – UNDER ARMOUR CURRY 6
Retail Price: $130
Still my favorite modern Curry shoe. I liked the Curry 7 but the 6 was just something that felt just right for me. Even though I’m not a light & low-profile guard that Curry is, I still found this shoe to be among the most comfortable AND versatile models Curry has ever put out.
The UA Curry 6 offers awesome multi-directional traction the Curry always gives us (it’s also pretty durable for outdoors), a full-on knit upper that’s fantastic, and a full-length HOVR midsole for a somewhat versatile ride. Not the bounciest in the world but for a Curry shoe, this is awesome.
If you’re looking for maximum response and speed while still maintaining that step comfort and just a little bit of bounce – this is a great option.
The Curry 6 really shines in giving the most possible support while keeping the shoe light and comfy as hell. It’s got a nice flat base as a foundation for stability, the lateral areas of the midsole are extended for lateral protection, there’s of course a TPU heel counter, an amazing fit, and a speed plate underfoot for torsional rigidity.
Everything works super well with one another and you’ll hardly find a more supportive low top.
Keys to remember. Make sure to wipe the outsoles periodically if you’re playing in a poor condition court or outdoors. The pattern is fairly dense and dust gets in there quickly, affecting the traction.
Not a dealbreaker and there was never a time where I felt the traction degraded dramatically but taking care of the outsoles will be needed to keep it at 100%.
#4 – ADIDAS HARDEN VOL. 3
Retail Price: $140
Similar to the Curry 6, I liked the 3rd Harden shoe more than the latest Vol. 4. Launched back in 2018, I think this is an amazing low top that feels minimal but packs a punch just enough to make you feel comfortable, fast, and efficient.
The Harden Vol. 3 is the shoe I’m also currently taking with me to a park. The traction is great while giving you that multi-directional coverage and the synthetic upper is nothing short of awesome as it shows us how far material technology has come in basketball footwear.
Support is also there and just enough to where I can feel secure but not overly restricted. Something low tops can do EXTREMELY well if the job’s done right. And the job here is surely done right.
It’s super light and comfy, yet has enough structure to keep you in the footbed and not fall apart. Something people initially expected when knit uppers started getting more popular.
We cannot skip over how great Boost cushion feels here. You already know Boost is king and it shows here.
Responsiveness and blazing fast energy return – check. Full-length impact protection – check. Stability and some court feel – check. Everything you need from a cushion setup is there performance-wise.
Keys to remember. Similar to the Curry 6, you’ll have to wipe these off periodically if playing outside or on a crappier court. The outsole is not the best for outdoors either. Not the worst rubber I’ve seen but I can already sense these won’t last a full season if playing solely outside.
#3 – NIKE LEBRON 16 LOW
Retail Price: $160
Ahhh, the LeBron’s. We already know we’re getting the most premium, comfortable and fun package when we’re getting a LeBron shoe. The low variant of the 16th LeBron will be the most FUN low top for you to play in out of the list. No doubt about it.
The LeBron 16 Low packs a ridiculously comfortable full-length Max Air midsole along with multiple alien pod-looking Zoom Air units underfoot to give a ride of the ages. However, unlike the LeBron 15 and somewhat the 17, this time we’re getting a more stable and well-balanced ride.
Even though this is a bouncy, springy setup that’s high off the ground, I still felt fast and responsive. Of course, “below the rim” guards or spot-up shooters might need something a bit firmer & quicker but for the rest of us – it’s as good as it gets.
Traction on the shoe is also great and it’s outdoor-ready! Not a lot of wiping needed either, unless you’re on a nightmare of a court.
Let’s not forget about support! Thanks to a flat base, a heel counter, outriggers that extend each Zoom Air pod for lateral coverage, and an improved lacing system over the Mid, we’re getting the best possible support with minimal cost in comfort/mobility.
Keys to remember. The link to the full review will take you to the Mid variant of the shoe. No worries though! I don’t feel it’s necessary to do a dedicated review on the Low simply because they’re nearly identical performance-wise. However, there are a couple of differences you should know about.
The upper on the Low is now a synthetic textile instead of Battleknit 2.0. It might not sound as cool but performs just as well. The second thing is the lacing system – I think it’s a step in the right direction and you’ll be able to squeeze even better lockdown now.
Also, several users reported on heel slippage and that’s also fixed for a lot of guys with the Low.
#2 – ADIDAS CRAZY EXPLOSIVE 2017 PRIMEKNIT LOW
Retail Price: $130
I’ve been praising the 2017’s Crazy Explosive over and over again in various scenarios but let me praise it again. It’s an amazing shoe that offers just about anything you’d want, including a low top variant that performs identically as the Mid, just without an ankle collar.
The CE 2017 PK Low offers full-length Boost and this is still my favorite Boost implementation to date. Take the Harden Vol. 3’s Boost and make it just a tad bit softer, bouncier but keep it just as quick & efficient. I think there are hardly better setups out there that scream versatility.
On top of that, we also got great traction that’s ready for outdoor play. I’ve had the shoe for over 4 years now and the bite is STILL competent.
The upper comes in either a mesh variant or a full-on Primeknit variant which is the one I recommend but the standard mesh one is actually still very good. You’d barely feel a difference performance-wise.
Support is excellent as well – if you can make a knit shoe as supportive as this, I think anything’s possible going forward. I simply love how brilliantly these play – everything works smoothly with one another and the shoe feels light, fast, and MAD comfortable.
Keys to remember. Due to the dense pattern of the outsole, wiping these occasionally will be needed. Once again, nothing super annoying but best to keep it at 100% when you can.
Also, something that was initially a bit irritating was how the laces kept untying, no matter how tight I laced ’em up. This actually got better over time but if you’re getting a new pair – you might experience something similar. I still need to tighten them up occasionally but not nearly as much as before.
#1 PICK – AIR JORDAN 34 LOW
Retail Price: $165
Some of you might’ve seen this one coming. The AJ 34 is my favorite shoe of 2019 and its low-top counterpart is nothing short of awesome too.
The main reason I’ve picked these in the #1 spot over the CE 2017 PK Low is because of the shoe’s support features and the way it’s built to absolutely nail the fit for those long, intense games. This one will surely change how you think about low tops if you were skeptical before.
AJ really shook the usual formula up, making the 34th entry much lighter, more minimal, and put more emphasis on freedom of movement. But the brilliant thing is, that’s all done while still keeping the shoe’s security properties and industry-leading build quality.
The AJ XXXIV has got great traction sporting a herringbone pattern and you can almost entirely forget about wiping with these. For cushioning, it’s got Zoom units in the heel & forefoot areas and a nice soft Phylon midsole. If there’s anything close to perfect when it comes to cushion – it’s either adidas’s Boost or Nikey’s Zoom.
Responsiveness, spring back, impact protection, and undeniable step comfort – all that’s given to you with a single setup. Not a lot of setups can achieve great performance with close to zero sacrifices when making a versatile shoe. I think the Jordan 34 is showing us the way how.
Fantastic support is yet another component the AJ 34 brings. A one-to-one fit, an internal heel counter, a torsional plate, and a supportive upper. Under the visible material, there’s a layer of Performance Woven which is nothing short of awesome.
Think of it as an additional layer of containment, as the material strategically stretches when it has to upon quicker movements, giving you unrestricted support. All the boxes are ticked – what more is there to ask?
Keys to remember. Once again, the full review links to the Mid variant of the shoe but this is another case of the two versions being almost identical.
The first difference is in the fit – expect a more snug & more secure fit for the low-top version. The Mid is surely wide footer-friendly but you might need to go up 1/2 size for the Low if you’re a wide footer.
The second difference is some changes in the upper materials but it’s nothing major since it’s still mainly synthetics that play the same performance-wise.
Alright, that’s a wrap for the list! I’ve put a lot of effort to compile a comprehensive & practical list for you guys to have some options going forward.
Perhaps you’re more old-school and prefer high tops instead? Truth is, the market for modern high top basketball shoes is getting less saturated by the minute, but check out the best high top list here!
If you’d like a more in-depth dive into the topic of low tops vs. mid/high tops, check this guide out! Fresh shoe reviews and best shoe lists are constantly coming for you, check ’em out!
What do you think about it? Do you own any of these? Perhaps you have some questions I haven’t answered in the article?
2 thoughts on “7 Best Low Top Basketball Shoes of the Modern Era: My Picks”
Your picks for the best low top basketball shoes are amazing and I must say you have a great taste for picking high quality low top basketball shoes. Another thing I must commend you for is giving out your strategy for selecting these shoes. Your strategy sounds great and I would love to share this article with my friends who are ballers. Great job on this one.
Thanks a lot Nelson! This is what keeps me going!