I wanted to dedicate today’s guide and list to find the best basketball shoes for teenagers and also inform you of only the things you’ll need to know.
Whether it’s your up and coming kid or it’s the young you himself, you’ve come to the right place!
So, in this guide, I’ll first give you some insight into what is a good basketball shoe for a teenager, what you should be looking for when buying one on your own and finally, I’ll introduce my 6 personal picks.
Without further ado, we need to discuss something important you should always remember…
A “TEENAGER” BASKETBALL SHOE – IS THERE SUCH A THING?
If we’re talking kinds in the 7-13 age range, sure – there are smaller versions of men’s shoes available for you. If you or your kid is in that age range, I would highly suggest checking out my guide for the best shoes for kids.
As for actual teenagers – you’ll be looking at regular men’s shoes. It will be a bit tougher to find sizes under 9-10 (US) but it’s totally possible. There are no dedicated “teenager” shoes which is why there are a few things we need to be looking at to properly accommodate a teenager’s needs.
So if you see someone recommend or write guides about the best shoes SPECIFICALLY made for teenagers or perhaps that someone is telling you how great the shoe is specifically for a teenager – run away.
The reality is, there’s not a lot of specific things that are different from how we look at regular men’s shoes when it comes to sneakers for younger folks.
THE PERFECT TEENAGER’S SHOE – 5 COMPONENTS
Having said that, there’s a reason I’ve made this guide.
I whole-heartedly understand the confusion and difficulty of choosing the “right” shoe in such a huge sneaker market that it is today.
And not only that, I do believe there are still a few things you’ll need to look at in order to find a good shoe that’ll fit a teenager well AND in the long run.
So, let’s break down those key components you should always look for when shopping for a teenager-friendly hoop shoe.
I. A FORGIVING UPPER
What do I mean by forgiving? I mean you should always aim for a flexible upper that stretches and adjusts to one’s feet quicker and easier.
A teenager’s foot is the most difficult foot to find the right fit as it’s rapidly growing, changing, and adjusting. All in a pretty short period of time.
What we need to do to combat this is to find a softer & more plausible upper that would still support you but also provide those stretch qualities.
Knits and jacquards are materials that deliver exactly what we need: comfort for days, ventilation, they’re able to stretch if your foot is undergoing a development phase so you won’t have to throw the shoes in the trashcan.
Adidas’s Primeknit & Nike’s Flyknit and Battletknit are the most popular knit materials that would be ideal for a teenager. However, you don’t have to stick with those only – if you find a shoe you like and it sports a knit, woven, jacquard (it could be reinforced with something too) or even thin mesh upper – that’s a solid option nonetheless.
This is likely the most important step so make sure to lay this as your foundation!
II. A STABLE & PROTECTIVE RIDE
Since your muscles, tendons, bones, and joints aren’t fully developed yet – you need to make sure you’re getting an ample amount of impact protection (no matter your playstyle) as well as stability.
This is achieved by choosing a shoe with a cushioning setup that delivers a good amount of full-length impact absorption and also does it in a way that’s stable & efficient.
An argument could be made that a cushion setup is everyone’s personal preference. A low-profile guard doesn’t have to go with bouncy cushion and vice-versa. For teenagers though – I would have to somewhat disagree.
We need to balance effectiveness and security more than ever when it comes to teenagers that don’t have their bodies fully developed yet.
Perhaps you’re injury-prone? Or you got flat feet? Or your jumping/running mechanics aren’t quite correct yet, making it unsafe to hop on the court with shoes that don’t provide proper shock absorption.
Adidas’s Boost and some iterations of Bounce are awesome for this. For Nikey/Air Jordan, I would take my hat off to full-length Zoom Air (some shoes offer Zoom Air + Max Air which is also great).
Under Armour’s MicroG and the recent HOVR also do a good job providing that balance.
III. SECURITY AND LOCKDOWN
This one’s quite obvious but you will need to make sure the shoe provides strong support & lockdown for your foot. I don’t recommend something that’s overly tight and restricts your movements in return for good lockdown.
Once again, a balance of mobility & freedom of movement, and security is something we need to strive for here. A tank-like shoe with all support features but barely any mobility and stiffness isn’t the best fit for a young player.
On the other hand, an overly flimsy shoe that doesn’t cover the essential support needs isn’t great either, so it’s all about balance to support the development of a young player’s foot in a comfortable manner.
IV. FRIENDLY PRICE TAG
The budget scenario will of course come down to how much you can spend but I’d imagine some of you don’t have the funds to regularly buy $180 LeBron’s right?
If you do, I take my hat off to you but if you don’t, I’ll provide a few budget-friendly options that will cater to those who need a quality shoe but can’t afford to spend two month’s worth of lunch money.
I mean come on, you’ve been there – you know it!
V. FOR NON-CONVENTIONAL FOOT SHAPES: A WIDER CONSTRUCTION
Lastly, I know some of you aren’t blessed with perfect feet that most of today’s shoes are actually made for. Some of you might have a wider foot than average which makes it an entirely different ballgame.
There are a lot fewer shoes that sport a wider construction or that are wide foot-friendly in general. Most shoes in the soon are wide-foot friendly and I also have a dedicated guide & list talking about the best shoes for wide footers.
I’m myself a wide footer, so I know the pain!
THE BEST SHOES FOR TEENAGERS – 6 PICKS
Let’s get into the meat and potatoes of the guide! I’ve personally played in all 6 of the shoes provided on the list and I strongly believe they’re great for teenagers.
They all tick the four main boxes I’ve talked about above and they also have solid all-around performance on the court.
The prices vary between shoes, so you should be able to find something that fits your budget. You’ll find links to full reviews of each shoe in case you want to get more details!
#6 – AIR JORDAN CP3.XII
Retail Price: $100
One of 2019’s sleepers and true examples of a quality budget shoe. And it happens to have the qualities we need to supplement a developing foot comfortably and securely.
A pure Flyknit upper paired with responsive Zoom + Phylon cushioning that manages to deliver good impact protection while still being quick.
This is fantastic for a $100 (or less) price, as a few recent models from Nikey have cheaper tech & weaker overall performance with a price tag of $140+.
The shoe isn’t tank-like in terms of support but it packs more than enough structure and a few features to support most guards/forwards, so teenagers are good to go.
It’s one of those shoes you forget you have on your feet and they just let you play distraction-free. They feel and play light, you’re comfy in there and they’re not restrictive by any means while keeping you safe.
And they’re also great for outdoors – the outsole has durable rubber as well as the classic herringbone pattern, so you’re getting the best traction and outdoor-capable rubber.
Things to note. Firstly, this isn’t your best shoe for wide feet. So those guys who are wide footers, you’d either need to go up half a size or look elsewhere entirely. I’m a wide footer myself and even after going up 1/2 size, I still wasn’t as comfortable as I would’ve liked to.
The cushion setup won’t be very bouncy or pillow-like, so for those who are looking to really max out the soft and plushy ride out of their shoes, these won’t quite deliver it.
However, it’s in the list for a reason – for such as minimal and economic setup, the midsole does manage to provide a good amount of impact protection. So even though you won’t feel much spring back, you’ll still be protected.
Lastly, the Jordan CP3.12 is quite tough to get these days. Most online stores don’t have ’em anymore but you can check out eBay or StockX – I’ve seen the black colorway available there a few times.
#5 – UNDER ARMOUR CURRY 6
Retail Price: $130
The only Curry shoe I’d recommend for a young player.
Steph’s signature line consistently sticks with the same formula: quickness, responsiveness, court feel, and mobility. The thin cushion setups used don’t really fit what we’re looking for but the 6th Curry in particular changed up the formula.
It’s still quick and responsive, as well as the comfort level and support we come to expect from a Curry hoop shoe. But this time around, the ride has been changed up and the HOVR midsole used makes up for one hell of a balanced ride.
For any teenager, there’s plenty of impact protection without losing any response, and they’re as stable as it can get. I always say this and I’ll say it again – the Curry line is #1 in giving killer support & security while keeping an ultra-light profile.
The upper is a knit with some synthetic coating on some areas for more structure and durability. Excellent for a developing foot – the upper has some stretch to it to adjust when needed. It’s not Flyknit/Primeknit type of soft but still mad comfortable.
So the Curry 6 basically feels like a jet plane. A very comfortable and safe, first-class jetplane. Exactly what we need.
Things to note. These won’t be as good for outdoors as the CP3.12 above would. The rubber used here isn’t the weakest I’ve seen and you could take them outdoors occasionally, but for regular play in the park, I’d say the traction on these would break down rather quickly.
Besides that, you should be good to go, as the shoe is a great overall performer.
#4 – NIKE LEBRON 16
Retail Price: $185
I love the LeBron 17 but I believe the 16th has those properties of a more versatile shoe, while still retaining the ultra-comfy and premium experience a LeBron model mostly consistently delivers.
They have a wider, roomier construction with an awesome Battleknit 2.0 upper that’s soft and durable at the same time. Alongside that, we also have a beefy Max Air + Zoom Air cushion setup.
The shoe has plenty of structure along with essential support features that keep you secure but the thing about LeBron’s is they always manage to pack such punch in such a comfy experience.
You’ll have tons of impact protection with a stable ride that’s very well-balanced. Support and lockdown is there, no question about that for a LeBron shoe. And the structured knit upper is great for a foot that’s likely to grow and not only.
And lastly, outdoor-ready traction is also in place if the other stuff wasn’t enough. We truly don’t get enough outdoor-ready releases these days and the LeBron 16 is somewhat of a treat, even in 2020.
Things to note. This will be among the priciest shoes from the list. Clocked at $185, this isn’t your budget-friendly model but if you can afford it – you get what you pay for.
The tech, materials, and performance offered do match the heavier price, so it’s not one of those models that can’t back up their price tag.
#3 – AIR JORDAN 34
Retail Price: $175 | Check on Amazon
If you’re aware of the main hoop shoe releases in 2020, you know this one was coming. The latest AJ 34 is simply a beastly performer with a first-class experience that comes with a $175 streamline Air Jordan.
Sure, you can’t say the same about ALL the 33 other Air Jordans but the 34th reminded us of where AJ stands when they put their minds of innovation together to create something special.
And I’m not even exaggerating – I think it’s a beautiful release, even when stacked up against other great successes from the last 5+ years.
So what it is that you get from these and they’re good for teenagers? Well, these got a great upper that’s double-layered: Performance Woven under a synthetic visible layer.
We’re talking leading-level comfort, ventilation, comfort, and the ability to dynamically stretch during quick movements.
If we’re talking performance and compatibility for a teenager’s foot – you won’t find much better options out there. And that’s only the upper.
We also have large Zoom Air units in the heel and forefoot for a near-perfect cushion setup. This seriously feels like the ultimate balance between comfort & bounce and responsiveness & stability.
I believe that this is a top 3 cushion setup EVER, and for younger guys – hardly any better ones out there to rely on.
Things to note. While being a fantastic overall performer, I wouldn’t take these outdoors much. The outsole rubber used isn’t the most reliable and the upper’s still a synthetic by nature – some frayings and signs of wear are already there for me after a few good weeks of play.
#2 – ADIDAS CRAZY EXPLOSIVE 2017 PRIMEKNIT
Current Price: $80-$140 | Check on Amazon
I feel like this one belongs to most of my “best shoe” lists as it’s that good, even in 2020. This one, the Dame 3 and the D Rose 6 PK, I just refuse to stop playing, even though all three are considered to be “old” shoes now.
The Crazy Explosive 2017 Primeknit is a near-perfect choice for a teenager in my eyes.
Of course, it’s a beastly shoe for just about anyone in general but that ultra-soft (yet reliable and contained) Primeknit upper, Adidas’s best implementation of Boost cushion, and the shoe being so supportive in such a compact frame is something that still impresses me.
I basically summed it up in one sentence there. It’s all there. A soft upper that stretches, Boost is king in providing impact protection, stability, AND quick energy return.
They’re really low tops by nature (as the ankle sleeve is just a fabric) and in such a light and compact frame, they manage to really nail down the fit which ends up making the shoe very supportive. It’s outdoor-ready too.
When you really want to have fun on the court and also stay safe & comfy as hell – the CE 2017 PK is the way to go. And you can grab these for great prices under retail over at Amazon.
Things to note. The Primeknit version of the shoe is tough to get. I’ve checked everywhere and in the US, you could still find a few sizes over at Amazon.
However, the shoe also comes in a mesh upper variant (the name won’t have Primeknit in it), and that one’s actually very good as well. You can find more sizes in that variant. It’s not as good and stretchy as Primeknit, but I’d still put these as solid for a teen’s foot.
#1 PICK – ADIDAS D ROSE 6 BOOST PRIMEKNIT
Current Price: $55-$140 | Check on Amazon
Finally, the winner of the best teen’s shoe is the classic D Rose 6 Boost Primeknit by Adidas.
Basically, take everything I’ve said about the Crazy Explosive 2017 Primeknit above and add a wider construction as well as the fact that you can get these for even cheaper. The original retail price was $140 but today, we’re talking from $100-$120 all the way to $60-$50!
That’s simply crazy and truly displays the value that the shoe has, even after all these years.
The shoe feels extremely similar to the Crazy Explosive 2017 Primeknit. It’s got that awesome Primeknit upper, a very similar implementation of full-length Boost and outdoor-ready traction. The reason I’d take these over the CE 2017 Primeknit if I’d still be a teenager is their strong overall support and kick-ass lockdown.
These are mid tops that come with a 3-dimensional strap that pulls your foot in if you like a more condensed fit. The upper is also a bit more structured and Boost is caged in which makes it just a bit more firm but extremely stable in return.
So, in 2020, I’d take the Primeknit D Rose 6 as the best shoe for a teenager. And I’d also take the same shoe as one of the best shoes in general, of recent years. I cannot compliment them enough and hope Adidas will someday bring back the same vibe of their basketball releases.
Things to note. The saddest throwback of all is the fact that these are super hard to find. I suppose eBay, StockX and local outlets are always the routes you can take but most regular online retailers don’t have ’em anymore and Amazon only has a couple of sizes.
WHICH ONE DO YOU PREFER?
That’s a wrap for the guide and list! I hope you found it informative & hopefully I shed some light on the misconceptions and the things you should be looking for when it comes to young player’s shoes.
I really want to know what you think about it though! Maybe you or your kid has one of these? What shoe you’re aiming to get? Do you have a question?