Looks like your wallet for new basketball kicks is looking beefy and hungry! I present you my guide breaking down the 7 best basketball shoes under 200 dollars!
Devoted to the regular consumer, I’ll do my best to bring the most practical, comprehensive, and ever-developing cheat sheet you can have when it’s time to purchase some new heat for your desired budget.
LISTEN UP: NEED-TO-KNOW ONLY
But it’s not just about the $$$: you’ve got to be aware of what 200 bucks can get you, you’ve got know how to maximize value per every dollar you spend, and also understand that a more expensive, well-known shoe doesn’t always mean it’s more practical and overall better than the stuff released for $150, $100 or even less.
That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about for a quick second to hopefully offer some valuable perspective and then I’ll show you my personal list of shoes in this price range along with my personal favorite one at the end.
Let’s go! (or, click here if you’d prefer jumping straight to the shoe list)
WHAT’S IN THE BOX FOR $200?
First, let’s talk about what exactly you’ll be getting for this price range in terms of basketball shoe brands, quality, tech & materials offered, some other key points.
I. TOP OF THE LINE TECH
The first thing you should know about this budget – this is your top of the line shoes. Sure, there are a handful of shoes priced over $200 but the $160-$200 range is where all your top dogs from Nikey, Jordan, and, occasionally other brands such as Li-Ning, reside.
This is where you’ll see flagship technology being implemented.
For example, if we’re talkin’ cushion compounds: expect Nikey’s & Jordan’s unlocked Zoom as well as multiple Zoom variations combined (Max Air, Zoom Air, Zoom Air Turbo, etc.), adidas’s Boost, Li-Ning’s BOOM, and some others.
II. LUXURY MATERIALS ARE A HIT OR MISS
For materials and overall build quality, we should always remember that price doesn’t always equal excellent quality. HOWEVER, there’s no denying that seeing more luxurious materials, raw materials (genuine leather, suede, nubuck) and just more “premium” stuff isn’t a rare sight for this price.
We should absolutely be expecting the best of the best in terms of what was possible to put the shoe together with as we should assume a high budget was present to make that kind of shoe in the first place.
III. LEBRON AND JORDAN WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIENDS
Well, not literally your best friends of course. But at least you’ll be rocking their main, top of the foodchain signature kicks. Expect popular/flagship signature models as a regularity in this price range.
However, there are several “regular” shoes that don’t belong to any player that I found fantastic as well.
IV. PRICIEST DOESN’T MEAN THE BIGGEST SELECTION
If you’ve got $160-$200 in your pocket, you can pretty much afford 90%+ of all basketball shoes released. Does this mean there are DOZENS of shoes at this price range?
Not at all. If we’re looking at this specific window, there aren’t that many different models when compared to ~$150 releases but that’s not a bad thing at all. Less variety means less saturation and less confusion, which is something that’s definitely present in our sneaker market today.
A few signature lines as well as a few other models are what we got in this price range. But you can’t deny there are still some fairly poor shoes in there, so it’s still important to pick out the good stuff.
MORE SHOES ARE AWESOME THAN YOU THINK
Now that you’ve got an idea of what your wallet can buy, I want to address an equally as important factor before buying basketball shoes.
Don’t let the marketing of brands fool you. Money can buy you a lot but it’s not always the best possible product from a practical standpoint. The same goes for hoop kicks.
I’ve seen PLENTY of cases where a so-called “budget” shoe at $110 blows a $180 (forgive me, AlphaDunk) shoe out of the water. And of course, I’ve seen things the other way around.
It’s not about how expensive the shoe is, it’s about being familiar with the tech, features, and other elements of the shoe that are used and even more importantly, actually having experience in as many shoes as possible.
Read dedicated reviews and be aware of the general reception of each shoe that you’re interested in, and don’t be afraid to tap into the cheaper ranges – you might be surprised what you find there! But of course, that’s where I come in in this case, so you’re in luck!
The bottom line is, don’t get fixated on the idea of “pricier = better” and absolutely stick your head out to other prices ($50, $100, $150), view the market all from aside, read reviews and you’ll be equipped with the right knowledge!
HOW I PICKED THE SHOES
Let’s briefly discuss the most important factors I took into account when compiling the list. Just the relevant stuff, no B.S. needed!
I. VALUE PER DOLLAR IS EVERYTHING, EVEN AT $200
Let me put it this way. There HAS to be a good reason you’re spending $160+ on a basketball shoe.
No matter the budget, value per dollar is the top priority – this means that a particular $200 shoe has to be worth it and has to offer some kind of value another $120 shoe couldn’t offer.
Believe me when I say there is plenty of bad product priced way over 150 bucks and even over the 200’s. This is why we can’t rely on the marketing brands put so much effort into, we have to be harsh critics and aim for the best.
Of course, all because of strong on-court performance, comfort, durability, and overall value. That’s what we, consumers, are always after, even if we can afford the pricier stuff. This is undoubtedly the most important factor that was taken into account when compiling the list.
II. ALL SHOES WERE BANGED AROUND
I mention this a lot in my shoe lists but I feel like it has to be emphasized – no shoe I haven’t played in will make the list. Now, I definitely haven’t played in EVERY basketball shoe ever released in this price range but I still tried a whole bunch of ’em and personal experience is the only way to bring accurate and practical information for you.
Most of the shoes will have their own dedicated reviews that will be linked in the list, so check those out if you want to get more in-depth with a shoe you’re interested in.
If a particular shoe doesn’t have a review yet, this means I’m currently in the middle of testing it but since I’ve put it on the list, I’ve already got a solid enough opinion and the review should arrive shortly after.
I play in my shoes for at least 2+ months before I publish a full review, and all of the playing time is spent outdoors for this particular list and some others. I think we all know why at this point.
III. EMPHASIS ON SHOES OF THE MODERN ERA
Due to practical reasons from a consumer standpoint, all the shoes on the list have been released in the last few years. Even though there are quite a few fantastic old-school/retro kicks that still play great, keeping up with the latest and greatest is the way to go for performance basketball.
New tech, better use of materials, improvements due to research are all important factors to consider. And let alone availability – you’ll still be able to grab all of the shoes in the list for retail or close to it, and they’re widely available in most sports retailers.
Something we can’t say about older kicks. I’d rather not pay $500 for a pair of $150 KD’s.
IV. NO PARTICULAR ORDER & MY PERSONAL FAVORITE
Lastly, the list is in no particular order in terms of their ranking. I’ll list them from cheapest to priciest ($160-$200) for the sake of convenience and I’ll show you my personal favorite at the end.
BEST SHOES UNDER $200: 6 PICKS
It’s that time! Let’s go over the best basketball shoes under 200 dollars breaking down why I picked them, what justifies their price, and also some additional key points you should remember before buying.
NIKE ZOOM RIZE 2
Retail Price: $160
The 1st Zoom Rize was sooo much fun to play in and usually, I try not to have high expectations for the next shoe in the series. But this time, I can finally kick back and say that the Zoom Rize 2 is equally as good, if not better than the first shoe.
Looks like we’ve got a $20 price increase but I still think it’s a good buy for a variety of reasons.
WHY IT’S WORTH IT
Regardless if you’ve played in the first shoe or not, this should feel like dynamite underfoot. Forefoot Zoom units + a high-quality foam midsole might sound basic on paper but it’s the furthest thing from that while playing.
Absolutely everything about the cushion screams versatility and provides qualities most players would find efficient: loads of impact protection, softness and comfort underfoot, responsiveness, and an INSANE amount of spring back upon impact.
You WILL feel explosive and you’ll have a ton of fun playing with the Zoom Rize 2. Feels almost the same as the first shoe, if not slightly softer.
The upper has undergone some tweaks as well. Much lighter, more low-key textile is used and it sure does feel that way. I haven’t had issues with the first shoe’s weight but this one just feels quicker and more nimble, I’ll definitely take that.
Pair that with very solid overall support & stability and great traction that’s outdoor-ready and we’ve got ourselves a fantastic package.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Since the shoe rides pretty damn high off the ground, some people might be concerned about stability. I’m personally a driver to the hoop, I play above the rim when I can and I haven’t really faced any issues that would cause concern.
However, the shoe won’t be perfect for everyone. Shifty guards that play below the rim and need maximum court feel or quick spot-up shooters might not find the Zoom Rize 2 as the perfect fit.
Also, the thin textile upper isn’t going to be as durable as a raw material like leather. This is where you’ll have to prioritize what’s more important for you: performance or longevity, especially if you plan on playing outdoors.
I’m not saying the shoe is unreliable but don’t expect it to outlast a leather shoe just because you’ve paid $160 for it.
Lastly, there is a regular and an EP version of the shoe. The EP one has XDR rubber for the outsole, so if you’ve got the chance, I’d suggest getting the EP shoe if you’re mainly an outdoor hooper.
AIR JORDAN 35
My Rating: 8.1 | Retail Price: $180
The latest and greatest from Jordan Brand. The Jordan 35 is the epiphany of “you get what you pay for”. Clocked at $180, it offers some of the best performance, versatility, and comfort a basketball shoe can achieve. My favorite shoe of 2020, no questions asked.
WHY IT’S WORTH IT
Unlocked forefoot & heel Zoom Air sports the shoe’s cushion setup and it is awesome. It’s not as bouncy or “cushion-y” as the Zoom Rize 2 offers but still a near-perfect setup performance-wise in my opinion.
Don’t get it twisted though, this is still a fun ride – tons of impact protection, super smooth stepping motions, moderate energy return upon impact, and all that’s done while keeping responsiveness & some court feel intact. A brilliant setup worthy of $180.
The AJ 35 comes in two variants: a leather & textile upper or a suede & textile upper. Both are great and having played in the leather variant, it feels like a really nice, not over-the-top mixture of new-school and old-school. It’s light, yet supportive. It’s durable, yet doesn’t require that much break-in time. A rare treat.
Finally, the shoe features very solid traction along with phenomenal support we all know and love AJ for.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
While the build of the shoe should hold up really well, the outsole is what holds me back from saying it’s an outdoor-ready shoe. Sure, the rubber used seems decent enough but I wouldn’t put these in an outdoor roration you can trust for a long time. Occasional games here and there though should be fine!
Another thing that seemed to have bothered a lot of people are the lockdown cables digging into the arches of their feet. I’ve personally experienced this but it went away after I loosened the fit up & gave ’em some time to break in. Something to keep in mind.
NIKE AIR ZOOM BB NXT
Retail Price: $180
This came as a slight surprise for me but I’m glad I tried these out. Some of the best cushion on the market right now, as well as super solid overall build & performance.
WHY IT’S WORTH IT
Speaking of cushion, these things have a React midsole which is dual-layered, a React insole, and two huge a** Zoom Air units at the forefoot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a setup before (I might be lying though) but it doesn’t matter now – I’m in love with it.
While having tons of cushion, bounce, and impact protection underfoot, I still felt fast and precise. Not something that’s commonly achieved in this type of setup. If I had to put the Zoom Rize 2’s and Jordan 35’s cushions together, this is what I would’ve likely got. And man it’s amazing!
The upper is your regular modern textile with some pieces of reinforcement. Nothing special but works on the court. And then there’s the superb outdoor-ready traction, support that’s unrestrictive and pure comfort. Couldn’t ask for more.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Some users reported on the forefoot Zoom unit over-compressing and introducing a lateral stability issue. I’ve personally got used to it and while I do think it shouldn’t have been there, it’s not a dealbreaker.
However, it might be for some. Super quick guards who play by the word “shifty” might have some problems.
Also, I don’t feel like the upper is a $180 level upper. At least if we’re talking reliability or touches of luxury.
However, I can personally live with that as performance is what matters most for me. If it’s the same thing for you – you’re in luck. The upper fits like a damn sock in the best possible way.
NIKE LEBRON 16
My Rating: 8.8 | Retail Price: $185
You’ve read that right – I still think the 16th LeBron is the most well-rounded and versatile LeBron hoop shoe. If we’re talking performance, practicality, and bang for your buck – turn back the clock to 2018 and let me explain.
WHY IT’S WORTH IT
First, the cushion. If you’re being bombarded by all these different shoes with different setups, fancy tech names, and you’re just confused as to what will fit you best – just take the LeBron 16’s.
It’s an extremely well-rounded setup: full-length Max Air, as well as Zoom Units underfoot, make for a killer combo: there’s impact protection, there’s quickness, and super fast energy return. But you’ll still feel the softness of Max Air while staying nimble which makes for a very comfortable experience.
The upper is also brilliant: Nikey calls it Battleknit 2.0 and it might even live up to its name. It’s a knit at its core so you’re getting comfort and close to no break-in time but you’re also getting proper structure that holds your foot very well, as well as durability. This is among the most durable knit-based shoes I’ve ever played in.
The rest of the shoe doesn’t slack either: fantastic traction that holds up extremely well outdoors, overall support is there, yet you’re not feeling restricted. It’s not the lightest LeBron shoe but I could make a case that it’s the most balanced.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
I did feel some heel slippage occasionally within the first week of play but that went away, so keep that in mind – best to get the sizing right to prevent bigger issues!
Also, if you prefer snug, condensed fits that leave virtually no extra room for your foot – these offer exactly that, so go up 1/2 size if you’re not used to that type of feel.
NIKE LEBRON 18
My Rating: 8 | Retail Price: $200
The most expensive shoe on the list and an argument could be made that it’s the most luxurious. If that’s even a word for a pair of basketball shoes.
The latest LeBron 18 might not be as extremely versatile as the 16th, but it damn sure will be a brilliant shoe for certain people, I have no doubts.
WHY IT’S WORTH IT
It’s the cushion setup that stands out and what makes up for the shoe’s ridiculous comfort. It’s got a Max Air unit in the heel, a Cushlon midsole, and a full-length Zoom Air unit within the midsole. This is what $200 can buy you in terms of tech.
So yes, you can pretty much forget about court feel as these ride high off the ground. Though you’re not feeling slow because of it – there’s plenty of quick spring back, there’s bounce, there’s impact protection but the units never compress too much which prevents the player from feeling clumsy underfoot.
This setup will never get old – if you’re feeling bored, just lace the LeBron 18 up and enjoy the ride.
The upper is called Knitposite 2.0 and it’s similar to the way the LeBron 16 is built. A buttery soft knit coated with TPU for structure and durability. I don’t see these lasting as long as the 16’s but you still get a premium experience. This is a light, comfy, fairly breathable shoe to play in but it doesn’t stop there.
There’s also the fantastic traction, support that covers all areas (even with this upper) and doesn’t restrict you, and even though it’s primarily a knit, the LeBron 18 looks to be a very well-built shoe. Don’t be fooled by the looks.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
I did play outdoors only but the rubber already seems to be fraying, so don’t expect durability in terms of the outsole. You’ll have to keep outdoor games to occasional rather than regular.
Also, there’s some talk regarding the shoe’s lateral containment and support. I don’t think a lot of you would experience this issue but if you’re a very shifty guard who slashes to the rim or creates openings off the ball aggressively, you might run into confidence issues while wearing the LeBron 18.
Lateral protection could’ve been better especially when you’re riding so high off the ground but that would be my only real gripe about the shoe. If you don’t fall into the category of such a player – I’m pretty sure you’ll absolutely love the LeBron 18.
MY PERSONAL FAVORITE – AIR JORDAN 34
My Rating: 8.4 | Retail Price: $175
Not because of some crazy feature or a ridiculous cushion setup. It’s simply due to the fact that these deliver everything I need performance and comfort-wise while making me forget I’ve got a shoe on. Besides the times where I found myself impressed by how good and seamless these fit.
WHY IT’S WORTH IT
Heel and forefoot Zoom Air was used along with a high-quality Phylon midsole for the shoe’s cushion. Take everything I said about the Jordan 35’s cushion and make it just a bit softer & bouncier. I think that’s what ultimately wins it for me.
I won’t repeat myself much here but this setup is for anyone who’s not sure what to get or for someone who needs a little bit of everything.
Impact protection, nice bounce, and energy return upon movements, buttery smooth step transitions, AND still some court feel. You’re not overly slow in these. You’re not feeling like a lightning bolt either. It feels just right.
The upper’s mainly synthetics along with a layer of Performance Woven underneath the visible pieces. It stretches when it needs to, providing comfort and mobility. It tightens up when you’re making a move to hold your foot and provide excellent dynamic containment.
Sure, the shoe is heavier than the Jordan 35 but that kind of difference really didn’t matter for me. On top of that, we get the same amazing traction which looks to be more durable for outdoor play.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
It’s honestly tough to find flaws for this one. Some stuff you might want to remember is the shoe’s still not an outdoor model. The rubber used here looks better than your average indoor sneaker but I could think of 10 shoes right now that have more durable outsoles.
With that thought, I’ve been playing in the shoe for about a year now (primarily outdoors) and even though there are some slips here and there, the traction’s still fine. Something worth keeping in mind if you’re planning on rocking these for a whole season.
LOVED IT? MORE TO COME!
That’s a wrap for the shoe list! I truly hope you enjoyed it and found it informative! Don’t forget to come back to this list occasionally – I’ll surely update it with new shoes if I find better options down the line. The journey just begins!
And remember what I said at the beginning: be sure to tap into other budget ranges and see what shoes those bring you. You’d be surprised how many sleepers are out there that deliver A LOT for A LOT less!
And as always, if you’ve got a question, suggestion, feel like sharing your experience, or just like to chat,