Traction is the foundation of a basketball shoe’s performance on the court. Period. Today, we’ll be discussing and breaking down the 7 best traction basketball shoes, released in the last few years.
It’s all about the aggressive bite today – I know that the first natural assessment of a shoe’s performance by most players is how well the shoe grips the floor. This is why we need to have a quality list in place that would set you up for a superb foundation to start with.
3 IMPORTANT KEYS TO NOTE!
One, I’ve picked all the models from recent years simply due to the fact that they’re all available to get easily, the pricing is still intact (meaning close or the exact retail price) and it’s for those who are looking to stay within the latest technology – that’s never a bad thing.
There are lots of great shoes that are older but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be striving for the latest and greatest.
Two, I’ve also made sure that these particular shoes are no failures in other areas.
Yes, superb traction is the #1 priority but with that, good all-around performance and comfort should also be there. Just like most things in life, all shoe components have to work well with one another. Otherwise, it can all fall apart by removing just one piece.
Traction is key but proper cushioning, comfort, good support, and all-around build quality will all be taken into account!
Three, all shoes that are on the list are properly tested and played in by me, both indoors and outdoors for a while. I don’t just hop in for a few hours and quickly rack up an opinion, which would lack accuracy. Since the list contains only the shoes I’ve tested, there are of course models that I haven’t played in yet (and some of them might have badass traction), so the list will likely change over time!
WHAT IS GOOD TRACTION IN A SHOE? STRONG BITE IS NOT ENOUGH…
Let’s move forward and discuss what goes into great overall traction performance of the shoe. Like the title implies, it’s not all about simply strong grip on the court. Yes, it might feel that way for some naturally, since it’s the thing you think about first when playing in a shoe and feeling out the contact between the outsole and the surface.
However, we’ll go deeper than that.
Sure, it all starts with proper grip on the court at all times. The shoe’s outsole must have a tacky and aggressive bite at all times to properly supplement your cuts, stops, pops, changes of direction, and other movements. This is no doubt the foundation of good traction – if a shoe doesn’t grip the floor consistently and equally as well no matter the movement, then there’s no good traction to begin with.
LARGE MULTI-DIRECTIONAL COVERAGE
Some years ago, multi-directional coverage used to be a welcome benefit to a performance hoop shoe. Today, it’s a must. There are lots of different traction patterns used by different brands, but not all of them cover equal amounts of multi-directional coverage. A quality outsole needs to be well-thought-out and the pattern’s grooves have to extend as wide across all areas that you’d plant your foot on as possible.
LOW SENSITIVITY TO DUST
Most shoes differently handle how fast the outsole picks up dust from the court and how easy it is to take care of it. This is one of the areas where it’s not a total necessity to have your outsole completely immune to collecting dust and other debris, as a quick wipe or two usually fixes the issue. However, some shoes take this to the extreme where you literally need to intrude your game and wipe the soles way too often, to preserve stable traction.
We’ll be looking at the shoes that don’t bring this issue up and lets us focus on the game as less intrusively as possible.
Lastly, the final component is the variety of different surfaces you can play on, without breaking down the rubber. This means that the shoes in the list are mostly outdoor-friendly, they have thicker and more durable rubber, which means you won’t be afraid to take them on concrete for a while. This is a huge plus for those who don’t always have access to a gym court.
Now that you’re informed and now the process of picking out a shoe with quality traction, let’s get into the list!
THE BEST TRACTION SHOES – 7 PICKS
#7 – Nike Zoom Rize | Full Review
My Rating: 9 | Retail Price: $140
I look at the Zoom Rize as an engineering masterpiece, in terms of the outsole specifically. Not many shoes nail the perfect traction pattern choice along with the rubber that’s just right – herringbone with rubber that’s not too shallow, not too rigid, the grooves are spaced out & extended just enough to where dust becomes a non-issue, no matter the court.
These bite the floor very well at all times, prove to be reliable for light-mild outdoor play, and is consistent. All boxes checked – no gimmicks, no unneeded storytelling, just performance.
Along with that, the shoe is also a solid performer all-around. The Zoom Air cushion setup in these is crazy springy and responsive, they’re very supportive mostly due to the near-perfect secure fit and they’re durable. All for a competitive price.
Things I didn’t like. I wasn’t a fan of the lengthy and uncomfortable break-in process of the shoe’s upper. Sure, I’m a wide footer but felt like the break-in process was noticeably longer than most shoes with similar uppers. Not a huge drawback but just something to remember if you’re worried about how they fit for the first 1-2 weeks.
#6 – Adidas Dame 5 | Full Review
My Rating: 9.5 | Retail Price: $115
One of the best shoes of 2019-2020 all-around also happens to have one of the strongest tractions among today’s releases as well. The Dame line has never disappointed with how the shoes grip the floor, most of them also being outdoor-friendly and not fragile or sensitive to dust, unlike lots of new modern shoes focused solely on indoor play.
These come in several different outsole options – I’ve played in the translucent rubber outsole and had zero complaints. It’s reliable, it bites the floor well, it’s cheap enough to make it an outdoor beater.
The Dame 5 is also no slouch in other areas – Bounce cushion makes a return and it’s as versatile as it can get. The shoe provides adequate support for most players and it’s surprisingly durable for a $115 price. I suppose that shouldn’t make me surprised at this point – Adidas has been killing it for a while now.
Things I didn’t like. I didn’t personally have issues with the fit but regular/narrow footers might have some – the shoe runs a bit long in the forefoot area, so it’s best to try these on if you can.
#5 – Nike Kyrie 5 | Full Review
My Rating: 8 | Price: $130
If you’ve followed the Kyrie line for a least a bit, you likely know his shoes have one of the craziest bite on the floor there can be. The Kyrie 5 is among those killers – straight-up monster traction on all courts, they’re as durable as they’ve ever been and the classic herringbone traction pattern never fails to deliver balance.
There were only so many times I wiped them, outdoors included. The herringbone pattern continues throughout the outsole, all the way to the lateral areas of the midsole, giving you coverage even if you’re on your last footing. These remind me of the Kyrie 2’s outsole – and it was legit crazy that year. The Kyrie 5 reminding me that shoe says a lot. The Kyrie 5 can grip!
The shoe is also a great performer for those looking for a light, quick, and responsive guard’s shoe. That’s always been Kyrie’s formula in his sneakers – if you’re a low profile guard, a quick player in general, or a shooter – you’ll love these the most.
From the ultra-responsive Zoom Air Turbo cushion to great support without slowing you down – these got you covered!
Things I didn’t like. Lack of versatility is not always considered a drawback – there’s nothing wrong about a shoe that mainly caters towards specific players/playstyles. The Kyrie 5 does just that, so its versatility for heavier & larger players, explosive slashers to the hoop, or high flyers will be missing here since there’s just not quite enough impact protection.
So if you happen to be in the category of players the shoe focuses on, you’re good. Otherwise – I’d recommend something more versatile and balanced.
#4 – Nike Kyrie 6 | Full Review
My Rating: 8.5 | Retail Price: $130
A direct successor to the Kyrie 5 above, the 6th model keeps all the things that worked well and adds just a few tweaks to make it better where it mattered the most. Since the outsole performed pretty much identically to the Kyrie 5 – I’m not going to waste your time on repeating myself. The Kyrie 6 brings the same aggressive bite, multi-directional coverage, and durability for outdoor play.
As for other areas of the shoe – it’s the other components that helped propel the 6th Kyrie over the 5th Kyrie. Traction will perform the same but the shoe improved the Zoom Air Turbo cushioning to make it more balanced – it’s not as firm now, you can actually feel it, still without losing speed or responsiveness, which is awesome.
Now, more players and positions would enjoy these, which is how it should’ve been from the Kyrie 5 in my opinion. Besides that and the slightly more premium textile + leather upper, everything else feels pretty much the same as the Kyrie 5.
Things I didn’t like. I guess the only clear gripe I have about these is the fact that they tend to loosen up quickly after I lace up the cables. It’s a bit annoying to have to stop and relace these regularly but once I completely relaced them and loosened them up, the issue seemed to have disappeared. Take notes if you’re planning on getting these!
#3 – Air Jordan XXXIV | Full Review
My Rating: 9.2 | Retail Price: $175
The latest AJ in the famous lineup, the Air Jordan XXXIV brings the classic herringbone pattern back and makes it work with the new stuff AJ is using to make a spot-on package. The shoe grips the floor very well at all times. And importantly, it’s never inconsistent or unstable.
They barely squeak but the rubber speaks for itself, no squeak needed. The bite is always the same in all directions and you can forget about dust or any debris piling up in the grooves. Not once I had to stop and wipe the shoe since it never got to a point where I’d feel more slippery than usual.
Durability of the rubber compound isn’t the best in the world – though it’s still sufficient to light-mild outdoor play. These probably won’t last you five years of constant action in the park but for the time it does, it’ll perform great.
The AJ 34 is the definition of modern tech and innovations done right, along with using stuff that worked for years and blending it with the new stuff.
The package is fantastic in result and premium is the best way to describe the vibe AJ is going for with this one. Buttery smooth cushion that works for everybody, support that has you covered in all directions, an awesome Performance Woven upper, and a truly fantastic fit. You barely want to take these off.
Things I didn’t like. Going back to the durability thing, these aren’t the most convenient option for an outdoor beater, or a heavy-duty, throw anything at it type of shoe. I don’t think you’ll be wanting to drop $175 just to wreck them outdoors in two years. So if maximum durability is what you’re looking for – the AJ 34 wouldn’t be among the top five.
#2 – Adidas D Rose 6 Boost | Full Review
My Rating: 9.5 | Retail Price: $140
One of the most durable outsoles on a basketball shoe EVER. That’s a strong statement but a true one for 2015’s D Rose 6 Boost. One of the few shoes I still have for this long, that still performs almost as well as they did nearly five years ago.
Adidas implemented their NON-MARKING outsole in the shoe (self-explanatory of what that’s for) which bites the floor very well, and consistently to this day. You will have to wipe them from time to time but not nearly as often as today’s norm for most shoes.
Durability is something that I am truly impressed by. This shoe has been among my primary outdoor choices for nearly 5 years and they’re still gripping the court great. Probably not 100% great but enough to where I feel good playing. Yes, these don’t have the greatest bite ever but it’s enough to get the job done, especially with the insane durability, you could end up saving a bunch of cash with these.
Just as the traction, the Rose 6 is a true beast all-around. Crazy Boost cushion, tank-like support, great build quality, and a one-to-one fit that’s as soft as it gets.
Things I didn’t like. I seriously don’t know anything negative to say about these – they are durable, fantastic all-around. The only thing from a practical standpoint, these are tough to get today.
There are barely any sizes left on Amazon and since most sports retailers focus on new stock (last 1-2 years), they’re not available anymore. But if you can find ’em – I strongly recommend them. The D Rose 6 is a bad boy.
#1 Pick – Adidas Dame 3 | Full Review
My Rating: 9.6 | Retail Price: $115
Think of this as the D Rose 6 on steroids. Well, except for cushioning, all the awesome things the D Rose 6 does, the Dame 3 just made it a little bit better, in my opinion. This is probably my top-three basketball shoe ever, including the traction. The Dame 3 doesn’t sport the classic herringbone pattern but the bladed shape pattern just works wonders. It’s a literal tank.
I’ve had these for four years and feel like the traction is still confidently at 100%. I don’t know what Adidas really did or what was their focus at that time but I’m sure as hell glad we got the Dame 3.
Aggressive bite at all times (no squeaking though), no wiping required, and INSANE durability. You can make these your outdoor beater, or an indoor beater, or just a great shoe all-around, in all scenarios, because that’s what the Dame 3 is.
The rest is history for the shoe as well – great Bounce cushion, tank-like support that still keeps you mobile, a very effective upper that blends support and comfort all into one. It’s not pretty for a lot of people but it sure as hell gets the job done.
And the best thing – they’re still widely available and prices are cut down, so you can take these for even less than $115. That’s an official steal right there.
Things I didn’t like. I don’t have much bad to say about these – if I had to pick out something, I’d say it’s their one-bootie construction that makes it a bit of a pain to put on.
The lacing system is extremely customizable and you can make these as loose as you want (making them easier to put on as well) but I like to keep these tight and snug at all times, which means I’m not loosening them up every time I wanna put them on. Barely a drawback, but something to remember.
Okay, that’s it for the ultimate list of the top traction performers!
I HIGHLY encourage you to check out the Dame 3 if anything, it’s still a beast on the court and I’ve never truly seen anything like it in terms of longevity. Protect the Dame 3 at all costs – it’s a gem to have in your rotation.
Strong and durable traction directly correlates with outdoor play. If you’re looking for shoes that are outdoor-friendly, I encourage you to check this post!
I hope you found the list useful! Perhaps something’s not clear and you got a question? Or you’d like to share your own experience?