If you’ve been keeping up with today’s trends and tendencies when it comes to basketball shoes, you know that high tops became somewhat of a rarity. Light, free, and compact 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 the 6 best high top basketball shoes!
But let’s address something important before getting into the list…
HIGH TOPS MEAN BETTER SUPPORT, RIGHT?
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 today, tend to think the ankle collar of a shoe is the #1 component that provides ankle support. So this must mean I’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 and overall support of a player during game time is a much more complex topic than just an ankle collar and the restriction of your ankle.
You must understand that today’s shoes consist of relatively sophisticated technology and features that provide all-around support, and each component has to work well in tandem with one another. Locking down your ankle simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
The most critical features seen on a basketball shoe are heel counters (which play arguably the biggest role in terms of ankle support), lateral outriggers, torsional shanks, lacing/cable systems for lockdown, and more.
So where does the high ankle cut come in?
The same as the other components mentioned. Yes, it does play a part in providing some restriction to your ankle’s range of motion and while that does prove to be useful at times, it’s something you shouldn’t solely focus on.
A basketball shoe should first have the main components to provide all-around support in place, and then you can decide 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.
DIVE DEEPER – GET KNOWLEDGE
I’d imagine some of you might want to get more insight into this topic and 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.
SO WHAT’S THE MAIN TAKEAWAY?
I don’t want to brainwash you into thinking high tops are useless or that low tops are dangerous but 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 you go with 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
Let’s address how I compiled the list to get you familiar with how I pick my shoes. For high tops, I was mainly aiming at three components.
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 6 high tops just for the sake of them being high tops.
This means that each shoe fits properly, it’s comfortable, has good traction, absorbs impact for as many players as possible, it’s supportive, and doesn’t completely break the bank.
Believe me, finding modern high tops that would suit these criteria wasn’t as easy as I might think.
NO OLD-SCHOOL VIBES HERE
High top hoop shoes were the s**t back in the day. It’s getting tougher to come by these days but I was striving to pick only the models released in this era.
All shoes up to 7 years old, which means they still offer pretty recent technology and are still available to purchase for non-ridiculous resell prices.
AN OPINION NOT BY THE BOOK: SHOES WERE TESTED BY ME
It’s one thing to see what people have to say, it’s another to actually play in it and form an accurate opinion from a player’s perspective. This is why I never compile these types of lists without actually having some form of experience of each shoe.
BEST HIGH TOP BASKETBALL SHOES
It’s finally that time! Let’s break down the list, starting in at number #6…
#6 – UNDER ARMOUR CURRY 4
Retail Price: $130
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.
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.
The shoe does have its drawbacks. The outsole is very prone to collecting dust quickly, so you’ll need to keep wiping these off to preserve 100% traction. 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 strong impact protection, bounce underfoot and some form of 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.
#5 – ADIDAS CRAZY EXPLOSIVE 2017 PRIMEKNIT
Retail Price: $140
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 if you will but it does rise up to that level with its compression sleeve as an ankle collar. It’s also the reason I’ve put it at the bottom of the list.
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.
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, which is pretty cool. You can barely feel it though 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?
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 occasionally will be needed, especially outdoors.
This particular version of the shoe is quite tough to come by in 2020. There are a couple of 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.
#4 – NIKE LEBRON SOLDIER 10
Retail Price: $130
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.
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 pretty stiff, so not a Curry 4/CE 2017 scenario.
If you’d like maximum protection and a bit extra ankle lockdown – play around with the straps and you should be able to get the desired result.
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.
#3 – UNDER ARMOUR CLUTCHFIT DRIVE HIGHLIGHT 2
Retail Price: $130
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 too much.
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 but if you happen to ball in a park occasionally, these shouldn’t break down on you soon. The traction overall is great – nothing less expected from herringbone.
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 cloud-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 fantastic in terms of pure performance.
Support is also awesome, and no, not because of the ankle cut. The shoe has an internal heel counter along with these 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 stiff.
The ankle collar feels more like a compression sock rather than a stiff ankle brace. It does help secure the ankle a tiny bit but you’ll notice it more due to the added comfort and padding around your ankle.
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 nothing else, 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 with these. Your best bet would be eBay, StockX, or your local retailers.
#2 – NIKE KOBE 10 ELITE
Retail Price: $225
One of this era’s true classics – the Elite version of the Kobe 10. Think of it as a high top edition of a compact low top, as opposed to a true high top from the ground up. The awesome thing about that is you get to experience the qualities a guard’s shoe would have while keeping a high cut if you’re a fan of it.
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, low to the ground, yet you’re still very quick and comfy 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.
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-key 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 compression feel to it.
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 UA Clutchfit Drive Highlight 2 but still something that haunts me when I think about it.
The traction on these is phenomenal as 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.
#1 PICK – NIKE KOBE 9 ELITE
Retail Price: $225
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 steep it’s becoming.
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 softness 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, flex.
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. 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?
That’s a wrap for the list! I hope you’ve found what you’re looking for! I want to know how you feel about high top basketball shoes in 2020. Do you still rock ’em? Do you prefer the modern take on shoes with a lower cut, compact design?
Speaking of low tops, for those who prefer them instead, I’ve got almost the exact same article like this one – check out the best low top shoe list and quick guide here!
2021 is just around the corner, so the best 2020 shoe list is coming very soon! In the meantime, check out what 2019 had to offer here!
If you have any questions, suggestions or feel like sharing your own experience in a high top,