2020 truly has been somewhat a nightmare for a lot of people, including basketball players and folk who just like to shoot some hoops in a gym. Quarantine, social distancing, closed indoor gyms – it’s the complete package of stuff that we’re not currently finding very welcoming.
This is part of the reason I felt compiled to make this guide for you guys – let’s take a look at the best outdoor basketball shoes 2020 and the recent few years have to offer.
Think of it as your go-to, all-in-one source of all you need to know about shoes for all types of outdoor (harder surface) courts.
I’ll be breaking down what exactly makes a solid outdoor shoe, give you my personal list of the 7 best outdoor hoop shoes.
First, to get you acclimated with the general idea of a good outdoor sneaker, let’s first break down the main key components you should ALWAYS look for in an outdoor-friendly shoe.
THE PERFECT OUTDOOR SHOE FORMULA
I. DURABLE UPPER MATERIAL
The line between “stiff but durable” and “soft but fragile” is getting more and more blurred.
This is why it’s important to get in-depth with any shoe’s tech specs and examine its upper and how exactly it’s made – what materials are used, is it a double layer of materials, what’s used to reinforce the upper’s key areas, and so on.
ALWAYS check a shoe’s review from someone you trust and who properly examined, evaluated, and tested the shoe in terms of its durability.
No matter the actual materials on paper, a knit no longer means the shoe is very unreliable or the opposite – a stiffer Fue & mesh upper will be uncomfortable.
Getting up close and personal with the product using a quality review will help you wonders, which is the first step.
The second step is to generally still aim for trusty upper options. Not trying to contradict myself here – if you are sure that a particular knit upper shoe is durable (it’s reinforced with TPU in key areas or perhaps the knit is molded with Fuse for more structure, you checked the review, whatever the case may be), then you can totally go for it.
However, in cases where you’re not sure about it yourself and there’s no review that would provide enough insight – I would still encourage you to go with something that worked for outdoors time and time again.
Synthetic/genuine leather & nubuck are the most durable materials you can get, some of the newer stuff that uses some kind of mesh usually molded with Fuse or TPU is also a solid option that will last a long time. Nylon is also very strong by nature but newer shoes today rarely use it – so you’ll rarely spot it today.
II. DURABLE OUTSOLE RUBBER
Another absolutely critical component is having an outsole that has durable rubber. We see all types of crazy choices by brands today and this is one of those areas where you should totally go for what’s been proven as durable.
Stick with solid rubber outsoles generally as some translucent or semi-translucent rubber outsoles still aren’t as consistent both in terms of traction and durability today. Sure, there are some exceptions but the general rule of thumb is to go with solid and solid rubber only.
III. A TRACTION PATTERN DONE RIGHT
Now, having the rubber compound itself be durable is only the first part. The second part is making sure the pattern of the outsole is implemented in a way that will prevent fraying and deterioration. I see so many brands put out shoes with actually durable rubber but their pattern choice straight up doesn’t make sense sometimes.
Aim for thick, strong grooves of the rubber pattern on the outsole – it’s a good idea to grab the outsole and move around the rubber grooves to check if they got a lot of give and if they’re thick enough to last on a hard surface.
If you can feel the rubber is very flimsy, you can move it around with barely any pressure and the grooves are thin – run away.
Another component is the actual pattern and how it’s spaced out – tighter, more dense traction patterns usually mean more dust to be collected inside. More dust means more slipping and you don’t want any of that.
Sure, some shoes deal better with sensitivity to dust than others but a thick, properly spaced out pattern will ensure the debris that’s piling up has room to actually exit while you’re playing.
Herringbone is the true GOAT of traction patterns – it’s introduced by Nikey and still used to this day for many years now – it’s usually the best option in terms of durability, traction, and sensitivity to dust.
So if you see a shoe that’s listed with a herringbone pattern – at least you know you’ll be getting a strong bite. Always a welcome addition.
IV. PROPER IMPACT PROTECTION
This will come down to people’s personal preferences when it comes to how much cushion you like in a shoe. However, we should always take into account that outdoor courts usually have zero give to your feet. Concrete, blacktop, or even a synthetic outdoor surface is still not as forgiving on your knees as hardwood is inside.
This area of the shoe will vary upon the person but for someone who has an athletic & explosive playstyle, had issues with their knees or perhaps an older player – you will want to have plenty of cushioning in your shoes.
But you can also go with something more balanced to keep some of the court feel and quickness while still being protected. Adidas’s Bounce, Nike’s Lunarlon & UA’s HOVR cushion setups all do magic in terms of providing a balanced ride.
I suggest not sleeping on this one – your knees, feet, and tendons will thank you later.
V. SOLID VENTILATION
Ventilation is something not everyone’s going to care about but I thought I’d mention it.
I personally don’t really care if my feet get hot inside a shoe – I focus on the game and the game only, and that seems to be working well so far. But of course, if you’re someone who’s feet get hot very quickly or you’re constantly playing under the sun – looking into shoes with better ventilation will help a bit.
Thinner materials will be best for more breathability. Knits, jacquards, textile uppers, open mesh are the best in providing some airflow. This won’t always align with actually getting a durable upper but if it does – you might hit two birds with one stone.
VI. VALUE FOR THE PRICE
The last thing I wanted to touch on is the value you’re getting for the shoe’s price. Strictly for outdoor play – I usually use shoes that are cheaper/discounted or they’re a bit older and you can get them under retail.
Think of my outdoor rotation as beaters that are solely for the purpose of lasting a long time while providing good bang for your buck in the long run.
I don’t think you’ll be wanting to spend $200 on a shoe that will last 4-5 months outdoors before the outsole burns off and the upper is all banged up.
That’s kind of a waste, so it’s generally safer to pick something with a lower price tag, ensuring that if a shoe breaks down quicker than expected (which is often the case outdoors), at least you didn’t throw $200 away.
Of course, I can’t speak for everyone as everyone’s budget is different, so if you’re feeling like spending more for a more premium shoe and taking it outdoors – there’s no one stopping you. This is why I’ve picked shoes that are varied in terms of price, so you will find some slightly more expensive ones.
The general vibe of the list will still be models that are more affordable though.
BEST OUTDOOR BASKETBALL SHOES 2020 – THE LIST
Alright, now that we’ve covered some stuff you should know going forward, let’s get into the actual list. I’ve picked 7 shoes, all released in the recent few years.
They’re all based on the keys I’ve broken down above – all of the sneakers are durable, they’ve got durable outsoles, competent cushion, some of them have solid ventilation and they all can be considered as solid all-around performers at a competitive price.
I’ve tested and played in all of the shoes for a lengthy period of time.
I’ll leave a link to a shoe’s individual in-depth review if I have one on that particular model.
#7 – Adidas Harden Vol. 4
Retail Price: $130
Coming in at number #7, Harden’s latest product – the Harden Vol. 4. Think of it as the go-to option for something very light, mobile, super comfy, soft to the feet, and also pretty damn durable for outdoor play. The shoe is still considered an indoor shoe but I can see people playing in these on the blacktop for a while. Why?
A few reasons. First, the upper comes in two options: Primeknit or thin mesh. Regardless of what you pick, both are reinforced with Fuse on high-wear areas and around the laces. Zero compromises on comfort or the weight of the shoe – this is exactly that blurred line I was talking about earlier, and the Harden Vol. 4 is a solid example.
Second, the outsole seems to be durable and the compound used seems to hold up really well, despite not looking aggressive or durable at all. Pair that with the shoe’s fantastic all-around performance and you got a solid outdoor contender.
Third, the shoe uses a full-length cushion setup called Lightstrike which is a minimal setup by design but doesn’t quite feel like minimal. The foam actually has a lot of give despite being thin, and in result, you’re getting a very balanced ride – it’s responsive and quick but doesn’t leave you with zero impact absorption.
Things to note. This is merely a nitpick but if you’re not a fan of wiping a shoe in a game – you won’t like these.
The outsole is pretty durable but the forefoot portion of the pattern is very dense and picks up dust like crazy. I had to wipe every few plays to make sure I’m not slipping. It was actually better outdoors as I had to wipe less – that likely had to do with the synthetic rubber court I’m playing though.
I’d also need to mention that these aren’t going to be your most durable option in the list, hence why they’re at number seven. A knit is still a knit and it will break down faster than something like leather would. So if I had to compare – most shoes on the list are more durable.
#6 – NikeCourt Air Max Wildcard
Retail Price: $90
A tennis shoe? Yeah, you got that right. I really wanted to include this one in the list – I actually have the Air Max Wildcard for several years now and I’ve been pushing every inch of the shoe to its limits ever since. I’ve trained, ran, played basketball, boxed, and casually worn THE SAME PAIR for over 2 years now.
That’s how much I love these and I do believe they transfer to an outdoor basketball court very well. If you know a thing or two about tennis, you know the shoes are made with very similar criteria and intent as basketball shoes are, which is why you’re getting the same level of traction, cushion, and support as you would from a solid hoop sneaker.
The shoe sports a thin but extremely durable synthetic textile/mesh type of material and it’s totally the shoe’s best feature for me. Two years deep – I’m still not seeing any major scratches, frayings, or any other signs of wear and tear.
The same case goes for the outsole – it’s not classic herringbone but it’s damn durable, as I’m getting the same bite as I did a couple of years ago.
This is likely the most durable shoe in the whole list AND it’s one of the cheapest. Talk about a steal.
We also have a Max Air unit in the heel for decent impact protection in the heel but a removable Lunarlon midsole which is nothing short of awesome. It adds a bit of quick spring back as well as makes the ride a bit more stable and contained.
I think it’s a solid mid-tier type of cushion setup if you’d compare it to a basketball shoe. It’s quick, it’s secure and it’s versatile.
Things to note. Your feet will get hot in these. The upper doesn’t really promote any airflow, so for those that take this into account, keep it in mind. Also, the shoe is not very wide foot-friendly. The forefoot portion is very narrow and when you lace them up, the laces are connected with a strap that also tightens your forefoot.
I’m a wide footer myself, so you could imagine how much discomfort I’ve experienced as I’ve gone true to size.
It literally took me about 3-4 months to force the upper to mold to my foot and I’m still occasionally getting some pain here and there, especially in the forefoot area. So, wide footers – I’d either recommend staying away from these altogether or going up a full size.
#5 – Anta KT5
Retail Price: $130
If you’re having mixed feelings on some of the shoes or perhaps you’re not sure what to go for – the ANTA KT5 will be an option for just about everybody. You can call this your safe bet – you’ll win every time.
The reason for this is the shoe’s very versatile and durable at the same time. It’s a rare combo these days but ANTA has been killing it with most of Klay Thompson’s kicks.
We’ve got a knit upper that’s pretty good and it’s also reinforced with Fuse and glue, as well as excellent quality of seams, which makes this option durable. Sure, it’s not going to feel as soft and smooth as Primeknit or Performance Woven would but it’s still a knit – you’ll have some ventilation, the shoe is light and feels mobile.
The outsole has some very tacky rubber that doesn’t look like it’s burning off any time soon. I barely had to wipe them and the bite is still there outdoors a few weeks in.
I also loved the A-flash midsole ANTA uses for the shoe’s cushion setup. It’s very balanced and would supplement just about any player – responsiveness, impact protection, stability, and a little bit of court feel. It’s all there.
Things to note. Just as the Harden Vol. 4, the upper is mainly knit, so it’s not going to last as long as a mesh, leather or nubuck would. The knit is glued together pretty well which does make it more durable than a regular knit but these will still be among the mid-tier in terms of durability.
#4 – Nike LeBron Soldier XIII
Retail Price: $140
LeBron’s main and secondary shoe lines were always known as lightweight tanks that would ensure you’re comfortable but also supported like no other. You can probably guess why LeBron needs that in his shoes. The man’s a literal tank himself.
So here’s the LeBron Soldier XIII – $140 shoe that’s just as tank-like as most of his other releases. This time though, it’s lighter and even more comfortable, making you forget you got a shoe on while playing. Durable and distraction-free – a great combo for outdoor hoopers.
The upper might not match the on-paper criteria of durability as it’s just a textile but it’s more durable than I thought. No, it’s not the most durable option in the list but despite having some visual frays and chippings on a few spots on my shoe, from a performance & comfort perspective – these are just as good as new.
This is one of those cases where you can see the upper visually having some wear and tear after some time due to the flimsy nature of the material but at least for me, it’s nothing serious, so I’m not put off by that.
What I’m also not put off by is the outsole – it’s classic herringbone. Nothing more, nothing less. Solid, durable rubber and a near-perfect traction pattern make sure you’re not sliding all over the place, dust isn’t piling up inside, and it will last a while before you actually feel a difference.
Lastly, Zoom units in the heel and forefoot do their job well – plenty of impact protection, solid stability. It’s not as fun as full-length Boost but it delivers performance-wise. A much-needed piece for less forgiving outdoor play.
Things to note. The shoe is laceless. Literally. It’ll be up to you if it turns out to be a good experience or not – if you get the fit just right, I think you’re in for a great ride. If the fit is not optimal for your foot – there’s a pretty scarce level of customization in terms of tightness.
The straps lock you in nicely but if you feel some slippage, there’s barely anything you can do about that. That’s why I’d suggest trying this one on live if you can.
#3 – NikeCourt Air Zoom GP Turbo
Retail Price: $140
Another tennis shoe, how about that! If you’ve made it this far – you already know a tennis shoe should never be counted out in terms of performance on a basketball court. A more premium and expensive version of the Air Max Wildcard – that’s basically how I describe the Air Zoom GP Turbo.
So, why is this one good for outdoor basketball? A very durable outsole with a spaced-out pattern – check. A comfy textile upper reinforced with overlays – check. Full-length Zoom Air directly under your foot for awesome impact protection – check.
You basically get premium specs that translate extremely well to basketball. One of the most durable options in the whole list despite the textile upper, and also one of the most breathable. All the treats packed into a nice $140 package.
Things to note. If you’re looking for tank-like support – the GP turbo might not give you that. It’s a low top with the intent to make you feel mobile, light, and responsive. There’s a midfoot piece for torsional stability and small outriggers for lateral coverage but that’s pretty much it. Heavy & large players will likely need something a bit more sturdy.
These are also a nightmare for wide footers. The forefoot construction is very narrow, even going up half a size made was still unplayable for me, so your best bet as a wide footer would be to either skip these entirely or try them on to get the size right.
#2 – Nike LeBron XVI
Retail Price: $185
I feel like the 16th LeBron is a near-perfect shoe for outdoors, without LeBron even realizing it. Okay that might not be true but the point is the shoe is mad comfy, it performs fantastically but it also happens to have characteristics for a good outdoor model.
It’s got a Battleknit 2.0 upper with some nubuck and nylon in the mix – a pretty innovative combo that might not look pretty for all but it sure does perform beautifully. This combo basically takes all the good stuff from each material and blends it to make it an effective package.
Battleknit is soft, comfortable, and light but since nylon reinforces it – over-stretching is prevented. Then you have nubuck on higher wear areas which is still very comfortable and doesn’t cause any distractions – it’s there to add some more coverage in areas which might break down sooner than others.
What you get is a ridiculously comfortable experience that’s also durable and has enough structure to support LeBron, the beast himself. I would confidently say that the LeBron XVI is the most durable knit shoe, making the least sacrifices in any field in terms of performance. If you want durability AND maximum comfort – this is the one.
The outsole is also great – super tacky rubber, it’s properly spaced out and works brilliantly on an outdoor court.
Max Zoom cushion setup is what makes this one super fun – I felt like I was running on clouds, yet I was still fast and responsive.
Court feel will suffer since you sit pretty high off the ground but I’d rather take this than something with more court feel, yet not as protective from impact. Impact protection is king here – and the LeBron 16 delivers in that area, and then some.
Things to note. This is the most expensive shoe on the list, so some users could be hesitant to spend that much on an outdoor beater. They’re also a bit tougher to find but I still see some options on Amazon.
Lastly, the shoe is catered towards more explosive players who need more cushion than court feel. If you’re someone who’s low to the ground and you need all the quickness you can get, there are better options out there sure (like my #1 pick below).
#1 PICK – Adidas Dame 5
Retail Price: $115
And here it is – the king of all. Let’s forget about the newer Dame 6 and focus on this beast. If you’re talking pure performance, pure durability, and all at a killer price – the Dame 5 simply can’t be beat in my opinion. We’re in 2020 and I rarely see a shoe better than the Dame 5, not just for outdoors.
The upper. Mesh & synthetic nubuck. Pure durability, no gimmicks, no complaints. It feels great after you break them in, it plays great and it’s very tough. You simply can’t make nubuck unreliable and the mesh used here is pretty thin but made very well.
Nearly two years of play – I can’t spot anything that would cause concern. As a matter of fact, I can’t really spot any signs of wear at all, in fact. It’s one of those shoes – put ’em on and forget about it. They’ll handle the load.
The outsole. Classic herringbone, tacky rubber – what else is there you’d need? It grips the floor very well, I barely wipe them as dust isn’t much of an issue and the rubber is still at nearly 100%.
The midsole. Full-length Bounce is king in terms of versatility. I stay strong behind that statement – a few of my all-time favorite shoes happen to feature Bounce and I love every bit of it. It’s not as fun or bouncy as unlocked Zoom or Boost but the experience with Bounce is ridiculously seamless.
I feel responsive, quick, there’s still court feel under the forefoot area but impact protection is also fantastic. If you’re not yet sure what kind of cushion you like – just go with the Dame 5 and your issue is solved. A little bit of everything for everyone.
These are currently on sale on Adidas (during the time I’m writing this), so you can grab them for under $115. There’s seriously not a lot I could ask for – grab these while you can!
Things to note. Ventilation isn’t the upper’s strong suit – so if your feet get hot quickly, these won’t help you much there.
Also, even though I didn’t personally experience this, some people reported that the outsole took some time to break in and provide proper traction. So if you’re feeling a bit wonky the first few wears – give them time and they should be fine in the long run.
Alright, that is it! I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this guide, I truly hope you found it informative!
I know a lot of you are now balling outside, what shoes you hoop in? Perhaps you got a suggestion I could add to the list? Or maybe you got any questions?