Best HIGH TOP Basketball Shoes 2021 & A Player’s Guide

If you’ve been keeping up with today’s trends and tendencies when it comes to basketball shoes, you know that high tops are becoming somewhat of a rarity. Lightweight, minimal, and fast are now the pillars in basketball and performance footwear in general.

However, there’s no denying that some of you still prefer the classic high cut shoe, which is why I’m bringing you my list of today’s best high top basketball shoes which still perform great and that you can actually buy today.

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: Intro

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HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

During my years of playing basketball, I was never a huge fan of a high cut, however, this doesn’t mean I didn’t stumble upon shoes that were actually really damn nice as high-tops.

I don’t PARTICULARLY aim for a high-top but if a shoe is good performance-wise and comfort-wise, that’s all that matters.

In this guide, I’ll break down some common misconceptions about higher-cut shoes that are still alive today, explain my process behind selecting the best kicks for the job, where to get ’em today, and of course, give you a comprehensive, regularly updated list of the best high top basketball shoes.

First, let’s address something very important…

DO HIGH TOPS REALLY PROVIDE BETTER SUPPORT?

The answer might be a little different than you might think…

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: Better Support?

A lot of people still stick with the mindset of “the higher the better” which is becoming less and less true in the modern era of performance footwear.

Way too many guys, even including actual pro players who simply didn’t do research on the shoes they’re wearing, tend to think the ankle collar of a shoe is the #1 component of ankle security.

So this must mean you’ll be safer in a high top as opposed to a lower cut shoe at all times?

That’s where you need to hear me out.

Ankle “support” and overall security of a player during game time is a much more complex topic than just an ankle collar and the restriction of your ankle joint.

You must understand that today’s shoes consist of relatively sophisticated technology and components that provide support in a multitude of areas, and each component has to work well in tandem with one another.

Locking down your ankle simply doesn’t cut it and this is exactly why 99% of hoop shoes don’t completely restrict your ankle even if it’s a higher-cut sneaker. You can freely move in it despite the beefier structure of some shoes. This is intentional.

Some of the most common and critical support components seen on a basketball shoe are:

  • heel counters which arguably play the biggest role in terms of actual ankle support
  • lateral outriggers which aid in the shoe’s stability as it can “catch” certain lateral movements that might cause an angle that’s too extreme
  • torsional shanks/plates which add torsional rigidity for the shoe and help with midfoot support
  • lacing/cable systems which provide the meat of the lockdown
  • and many more features that vary depending on the shoe
Best High Top Basketball Shoes: Components
image source: news.nike.com

As you can see, none of these include the ankle collar as a critical component in the security department.

Does it play a role in providing some security? Yes. Sometimes. While a handful of shoes do offer stiffer and more structured ankle cuts that can apply some restriction for your ankle’s range of motion, it’s something you shouldn’t solely focus on.

In fact, it’s something you should probably not focus on at all.

A basketball shoe should first accommodate one’s foot with a proper one-to-one fit which is actually the foundation of your “security” per se. Then the added components help everything come together, and only then you can decide if you’d like to go with a higher cut or a lower cut.

For just a tad bit of extra ankle lockdown, a high top sure works. Just don’t get it twisted – you must think about the big picture here. Once again, a basketball shoe’s purpose isn’t to restrict your ankle and encase it in a shell. Leave that to ankle braces.

The purpose of a basketball sneaker (from a security standpoint) is to aid the player in supporting his/her movements in a way that feels comfortable, secure, and stable.

If you’ve got injury-prone ankles and you’re getting a sprain every few months – no shoe is going to help you fully prevent that. You need physical therapy, proper training, and correct mechanical habits on the court. A good shoe is just a tool.

DIVE DEEPER – GET KNOWLEDGE

I’d imagine some of you might want to get more insight into this topic and still have some questions. I have just the thing for you.

  • I’ve got a guide talking about lows vs. highs which weighs the benefits of each shoe type. You’ll get some insight as to which one would suit you better.
  • I’ve also got a complete support guide that breaks down how a shoe supports your foot and what are the most important components you should be looking for. There’s also a shoe list of the most supportive models at the end as well.
BOTTOM LINE – IT ALL COMES DOWN TO YOU

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: Preference

I don’t want to brainwash you into thinking high tops are useless or that low tops are dangerous. After all, you’ve come looking for a high-top sneaker and I’m not going to stop you.

I’m simply trying to be realistic here and help you realize that you should choose a high-top sneaker for the right reasons and you must know both sides of the coin.

If you’re striving for maximum support and protection – you shouldn’t limit yourself to just high tops. The same goes for low’s as well – a low top doesn’t mean it’ll be the lightest, quickest, and most comfortable shoe on the court.

It all comes down to personal preference and also a little bit of knowledge (something you can get via the two guides above). If you’re used to low tops – awesome! Stick with ’em. If you’re more of a fan of high tops – stay here and enjoy the list!

And as always, let me know if this confuses you or you’ve got any questions about it, I’m always here to talk!

Now, let’s get into the list and how I picked the shoes…

HOW I PICKED THE SHOES

The criteria I stuck to when putting the shoe list together

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: How I Chose

Let’s address how I compiled the list to get you familiar with how I pick my shoes. I believe these are just as important to know as the shoes themselves. For high tops, I was mainly aiming at three rules.

ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE IS A MUST

Doesn’t matter if it’s a high, a mid, or a low, the shoe must perform well in all areas. This means that I didn’t pick these high tops just for the sake of them being high tops.

This means that each shoe fits properly, it’s comfortable, has good traction, provides efficient cushioning for as many playing styles as possible, it’s supportive without being overly restrictive, and doesn’t completely break the bank.

Believe me, finding modern high tops that would suit these criteria wasn’t as easy as you might think.

NO OLD-SCHOOL STUFF HERE

High-top hoop shoes were the s**t back in the day. It’s getting tougher to come by ’em these days but I was striving to pick only the models released in the last few years. A.k.a. the “modern era”.

All shoes are up to 7 years old, which means they still offer pretty recent technology and are still available to purchase for non-ridiculous resell prices. You should be able to snatch all of these for either retail or close to it.

AN OPINION NOT BY THE BOOK

It’s one thing to see what people have to say, it’s another to actually play in it and form an accurate, practical opinion from a player’s perspective. This is why I never compile these types of lists without actually having some form of experience with each shoe.

I usually play in a sneaker for at least a couple of months before putting my opinion out there. However, for this list, in particular, I did include a couple of models that I haven’t had the chance to test.

Why? The general feedback about ’em (from buyers, reviewers, etc.) was so one-sidedly positive, I felt like I’d do a disservice by not letting you know about them if you haven’t already. Don’t worry though – every single shoe I’ve included, I’ve done plenty of research on regardless if I played in it or not.

No B.S. allowed in here!

Now, let’s talk about where and how to actually buy these sneakers if you’ll be doing that on your own…

WHERE TO BUY SOME OF THE BEST HIGHTOP BASKETBALL SHOES

Some guidelines on getting these shoes and getting them for reasonable prices

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: Buying Options

Since pretty much all of the shoes are more than a couple of years old here, you are not going to find them at your regular seasonal sports retailers such as Foot Locker, Finish Line, DICK’s, etc.

Retailers empty their shelves of older models and replace them with new shoes since virtually every shoe line across multiple brands puts out new shoes on a yearly basis.

You can still find a handful of sneakers at the big dogs such as Amazon but most of your shopping for older hoop shoes will be done at deadstock sneaker stores. The main ones are StockX and GOAT, while eBay is the worst-case scenario choice.

Typically, a high-demand sneaker that’s out of the retail shelves costs a small fortune over at StockX or GOAT but this won’t be the case for these high-tops simply because they’re not demanded. They aren’t popular sneakers and this is why you can take advantage of this for your performance needs.

You’ll be able to grab most of these shoes for their retail price and some of them you’ll be able to snatch for even cheaper. There are only a couple of exceptions where you’d need to lash out a bit more than the original retail price in the list.

STOCKX AND GOAT

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: StockX and GOAT

Both StockX and GOAT stores are long-timers in the sneaker market. I’ve ordered on both and I still have a 100% success rate. Of course, you can look them both up online and quickly find out that some people weren’t as lucky as me.

There were multiple incorrect orders, examples of subpar customer assistance, and failing to issue refunds for incorrect items. But let’s face it – all of that happens EVERYWHERE. And we’re talking about a store that ships out thousands of shoes per day.

Upon doing further research a while back, people that did various experiments comparing the two stores (StockX and GOAT) formed a conclusion that GOAT is the more trustworthy option but not by much since both companies do have a high success rate in general.

Generally, you’ll be paying a bit more on GOAT in comparison but shipping times are usually quicker over there when stacked against StockX. Don’t expect ultra-quick shipping times as you would with sports retailers though.

A couple of weeks is usually the average time to receive a package and both platforms ship internationally. I love that since I live overseas myself.

Despite a few failed orders/unhappy experiences from customers from time to time, I still have to give credit to these two giants since they’re literally the only credible places to grab deadstock sneakers. Well, there are some others but those two are the highest-regarded.

Not just the popular, high-demand releases. I’m talking about ANY shoe you can possibly think of. Almost.

BEST HIGH TOP BASKETBALL SHOES

Each shoe’s overview, strong points, potential drawbacks, and things to know before getting


UNDER ARMOUR CURRY 4

🛒 STOCKX 🛒 GOAT

💰 $130  🏆 4/5 (ua.com)

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: UA Curry 4
image source: underarmour.com

I’ve put this at the bottom of the list mainly because the Curry 4 isn’t a true high top. You can call that cheating – I won’t argue! Still though, it’s technically a high top since that ankle collar, which is merely a compression sleeve, rises up to a high-top level.

STRONG POINTS

The Curry 4 is a very minimal shoe. You can really feel it while playing in it – and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s not a shoe for a big guy due to some things I’ll mention in its drawbacks but I loved how the shoe cups your foot and adjusts to pretty much any foot shape you can imagine.

Yes, even for us wide footers.

Traction is fantastic once you give it some time, the upper is a knit & synthetic leather combo which is awesome and for such a light & minimal shoe, support is magnificent. It won’t restrict you or slow you down but it’ll provide adequate lateral as well as torsional support at all times.

Think of the Curry 4 as something to play in when you’re feeling very tired of those classic, bulky high tops. This is the complete opposite of that. Feels almost like a thick, hard sock that’s safe to hoop in.

DRAWBACKS

The outsole is very prone to collecting dust quickly, so you’ll need to keep wiping these off to preserve 100% traction. Especially on dirtier courts. Due to that and the mediocre rubber compound used, I wouldn’t recommend these for heavy and regular outdoor use.

Remember I’ve mentioned it’s not a big men’s shoe? That’s mainly due to its cushion setup. The shoe feels super minimal but the same goes for its midsole, unfortunately. If you’re looking for a very responsive, quick, and low to the ground ride – this will do.

Otherwise, if you’re aiming for tons of impact protection, bounce underfoot and some form of felt energy return – I’d advise skipping the Curry 4. It’s a shoe for those Curry-like players – quickness and precision is where it’s all about here.

ADIDAS CRAZY EXPLOSIVE 2017 PRIMEKNIT

FULL REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON

💰 $150  🏆 9/10

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: CE 2017 PK
image source: adidas.com

Still one of my favorite basketball shoes EVER, the 2017’s Primeknit version of the adidas Crazy Explosive is similar to the Curry 4 in a sense. It’s not a true high top but it does rise up to that level with its compression sleeve as an ankle collar.

If you’d like some of that comfort of a sleeve hugging your ankle – this one’s great for that. However, unlike the Curry 4, I believe the CE 2017 PK is a ridiculously fantastic performer in just about every way imagined. I simply never get tired of praising it, so let me praise it once again.

STRONG POINTS

Pretty much everything about the shoe screams performance. It’s light, it’s mad comfortable thanks to that slick Primeknit upper. The full-length Boost cushion setup is something you should experience for yourself to grasp what it has to offer.

For a full-on knit shoe, it’s also very supportive. The ankle sleeve kind of feels like a compression sock on your ankle but you can barely feel it once you’re in a game. The shoe feels more like a traditional mid-top.

No real restrictions, no gimmicks. Just every component working well with one another and providing a hassle-free experience. It’s not a shoe for guards. It’s not a shoe for big guys. It’s a shoe for everybody.

Oh, and did I mention it’s super durable, good for wide footers, and suitable for outdoor play?

DRAWBACKS

I always find a tough time finding flaws for this one. But let’s point some stuff out you should still be aware of.

The outsole does pick up dust quite quickly. Not the worst scenario I’ve seen but wiping the outsoles off occasionally will be needed, especially on weary courts with dirty spots.

This particular version of the shoe (Primeknit) is quite tough to come by these days. There are some pairs on Amazon and you could probably find it on several local retailers but if I said this one’s still widely available everywhere, I’d be lying.

NIKE LEBRON SOLDIER 10

🛒 STOCKX 🛒 GOAT

💰 $130  🏆 4/5 (nike.com)

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: LeBron Soldier 10
image source: nike.com

2016’s LeBron Soldier 10, the first true high top in the list is no slouch of a shoe. LeBron’s Soldier line which is supposed to be more of a mid-tier choice for consumers with a tighter budget is actually one of the most consistent shoe lines to date.

If a shoe properly utilizes a high-cut form factor and balances out what would normally seem a bulky shoe, it’s a LeBron shoe.

STRONG POINTS

For a laceless shoe, the support and containment it offers for your foot are fantastic. Once you get the size right and give ’em some time to adjust to your foot, the Soldier 10 should feel like a mini tank on your foot, but in a good way. The ankle collar is well-structured, so not a Curry 4/CE 2017 scenario.

If you’d like maximum protection and a bit of extra ankle lockdown – play around with the straps and you should be able to get the desired result. The Soldier 10 also provides solid traction on pretty much any surface.

DRAWBACKS

For such a secure shoe that appears to cater towards bigger players, I don’t feel like its cushion setup does that justice. It’s pretty damn firm.

I wasn’t completely horrified by it but I feel like most larger guys would find the setup too firm and lackluster in terms of shock absorption. For someone who prefers a stiffer, quicker ride though – these should do the trick.

Even though the shoe’s upper is definitely durable, the same cannot be said about the outsole. The rubber compound is meh at best and the traction pattern’s grooves burn out rather quickly. The traction itself is decent though.

Another thing you should remember is the ankle collar tends to cut into your ankle at times. If you’re a shifty player, you’ll definitely find this annoying. The solution to this would simply be wearing higher-cut socks. If you’re already doing that – you shouldn’t face any issues.

UNDER ARMOUR CLUTCHFIT DRIVE HIGHLIGHT 2

🛒 GOAT

💰 $130

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: UA CLD Highlight 2
image source: amazon.com

A classic emerged during Under Armour’s Clutchfit era. If you’re looking for the most streamlined and trusty big men’s shoe – I think this one gives what a big guy needs without taking away the other aspects.

STRONG POINTS

The outsole sports a trusty herringbone pattern along with solid rubber that isn’t your regular indoor-only weakling. These aren’t THE shoe for outdoors and the traction overall is great – nothing less expected from herringbone with strong rubber.

The shoe sports a full-length Charged midsole for cushion and a nice soft Ortholite insole for just a tad bit of extra step comfort. While I’m not that big of a fan of Charged setups, I gotta appreciate this one, particularly for the versatility aspect.

This isn’t a bouncy or pillow-like type of setup but performance-wise, it packs enough impact protection for just about anyone, while keeping you quick and fairly low to the ground. While the setup isn’t “fun” so to speak, it’s solid in terms of pure performance.

Support is also awesome, and no, not because of the preposterous ankle cut.

The shoe has an internal heel counter along with plastic wraps along the heel area, a strong torsional shank, a wide platform for stability, and that super nice Clutfhfit upper which is both comfortable and contains your foot well, without making you feel like your foot’s in a plastic shell.

The ankle collar feels isn’t a compression sock like on the CE 2017 or a Curry but it ain’t no stiff ankle brace either. It moves well with your foot and does help secure the ankle a tiny bit but you’ll notice it more due to the added comfort and padding around your ankle.

DRAWBACKS

First off, these are a NIGHTMARE to put on. Perhaps my wide feet have to do with this but I refuse to believe others who tried the shoe aren’t experiencing something similar.

The high ankle collar has tons of flex so once I start putting them on, these things fold like paper, forcing me to carefully aim my foot like I was in a marksman competition. If you’ve got wide feet – get ready for a rollercoaster.

Just as the Crazy Explosive 2017 PK, these are also pretty tough to find. I haven’t seen any pairs on Amazon and U.S’s major sports retailers have long emptied their stocks of these. Your best bet would be eBay, GOAT, or your local outlets.

MY PERSONAL FAVORITES

The kicks that come first to my mind when thinking of high-tops. These are AWESOME


NIKE KOBE 10 ELITE

🛒 STOCKX 🛒 GOAT

💰 $225

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: Kobe 10 Elite
image source: nike.com

One of this era’s true classics – the Elite version of the amazing Kobe 10. Think of it as a high-top edition of a compact low top, as opposed to a true high top built from the ground up.

The awesome thing about that is you get to experience the qualities of a guard’s shoe while keeping a high cut if you’re a fan of it since it doesn’t really get in your way on-court.

STRONG POINTS

If you know something about the older Kobe’s – you know they provide some of the deadliest traction you can imagine. The Kobe 10 is one of those shoes – they might not squeak or have the most visually aggressive pattern, but damn do they grip the floor.

Dust or no dust, you will be stopping HARD with these.

The Lunarlon & heel Zoom Air cushion combo is another component to be impressed by. Impact protection, quick energy return, great step comfort, and yet you’re still very quick and agile each step.

Everything you need in a cushion setup – these should deliver. Not the bounciest or softest setup but most guys should feel it underfoot. Balanced out very nicely just like most Kobe’s are.

The Kobe 10 Elite is also a supportive shoe. While it doesn’t provide tank-like support a LeBron shoe would, for those looking for low-profile protection with comfort and mobility in mind, these got just that.

The upper has these flex grooves strategically cut out in key areas to allow the high ankle collar to properly flex, and the experience is nothing but great in result. Once again, not a stiff ankle collar – more of a complementing feel to it rather than an essential component.

DRAWBACKS

So what happens when the ankle area flexes so much? You guessed it once again. It becomes a nightmare to put on. I think these were a bit easier to deal with than the Clutchfit Drive Highlight 2 but still something that haunts me when I think about it.

The traction on these is phenomenal as I mentioned earlier but nothing’s ever perfect. The rubber used here seems to be catering mainly towards indoor play. Don’t expect these to last long outside.

NIKE KOBE 9 ELITE

🛒 STOCKX 🛒 GOAT

💰 $225

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: Kobe 9 Elite
image source: nike.com

Ahhh, the Kobe 9. What a shoe that was back in the day. Luckily for us, you can still find it today if you look around your retailers or the eBay’s and StockX’s of the world.

For high-top lovers, I think this still is the most well-rounded choice. That says a lot about today’s high-top market and how narrow it’s becoming.

STRONG POINTS

Everything about the Kobe 10 Elite can almost be applied to the Kobe 9 but I just prefer the 9th for a few reasons.

The first reason is the traction. It’s even deadlier. If I had to put together a best EVER traction shoe list (which I might do), the Kobe 9 Elite would likely be in the top three.

The second reason is the upper. It’s Flyknit with Fuse for more structure and even though the Kobe 10 also used Flyknit, I find this version to be better in terms of containment and the way these feel while playing.

If you’d compare the weight, the Kobe 9 would likely be heavier but I don’t really care – how it feels on the court is what I care about.

The cushion setup is a removable Lunarlon midsole. Say what you want about it and the whole fiasco with the midsoles popping in time, performance-wise, this works brilliantly.

It’s a low-to-the-ground ride that’s quick, responsive but provides enough impact protection for most players and also grants you that nice comfort each step since it’s directly underfoot.

Support is very close to what the Kobe 10 offers – a secure shoe that doesn’t slow you down or restrict you due to the fairly light upper and the flex grooves cut out for, you guessed it, flexibility.

DRAWBACKS

Once again the putting-them-on scenario is similar – be ready for a tricky process, filled with hate, frustration, and some pain here and there. Or none of that if you’d just be more patient than me and loosen the laces all the way up each time.

Just as the Kobe 10 Elite – not an outdoor-friendly outsole either. They won’t break down on you right away but I wouldn’t put these in my outdoor bag. For some games or casual shootarounds here and there, you’ll be fine.


WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HIGH TOPS?

Best High Top Basketball Shoes: Your Take

That’s a wrap for today’s best high top basketball shoes! I hope you’ve found what you’re looking for!

I want to know how you feel about high-top basketball shoes. Do you still rock ’em? Do you prefer the modern take on shoes with a lower cut and a compact design?

Speaking of low-tops, for those who prefer them instead, I’ve got almost the exact same guide as this one – check out the best low top shoe list and quick guide here!

And for those who are looking to continue on their hoop shoe knowledge journey, check out some of the similar guides/lists below!


BEST LOW TOP SHOES

BEST ALL-AROUND SHOES

LOW TOPS VS. HIGH TOPS GUIDE

SUPPORT GUIDE & SHOE LIST


If you have any questions, suggestions or feel like sharing your own experience in a high top,

Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can!

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2 thoughts on “Best HIGH TOP Basketball Shoes 2021 & A Player’s Guide

  1. HI, Julius,

    I like the way you’ve explained all of the strong points, as well as the drawbacks of these high tops.

    It looks like you have tried them all which is best in terms of recommending a product.

    I’m not a big fan of basketball but a friend of mine is, so your blog post is a blessing for me because now I know what to choose as his birthday gift.

    He has a wide foot and it looks like I should choose #6. Or is there any other option I have missed?

    I appreciate your feedback on this!

    Cheers,
    Ionut

    1. Good to know I can help one way or another Ionut!

      You can go with the Curry 4 (#6) but bear in mind, I don’t really recommend it for heavy outdoor play due to the relatively weak rubber used on the outsoles. If the friend is mainly playing outside, the #5 option, the Crazy Explosive 2017 will surely be the best option.

      But if indoor hoops are your friend’s primary option instead, #6, #5, #2, and #1 options are all great for wider feet. Just be careful with the Kobe shoes, as those are pretty damn horrific to put on due to the high ankle collar being extremely flimsy.

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