The high top vs. low top basketball shoes is a battle that seems to be never-ending for some people, as many and opinions of which is better cross over. So which one is actually better if there is such a thing? Is there a major difference you should know about?
Well, today I’ll do my best to answer all those questions while giving you a detailed breakdown of both low tops and high tops. I’ll point out some of the myths that are floating around, give you some solid examples of quality high top and low top shoes, and in the end, I’m pretty sure you won’t be needing to stay concerned anymore.
Whether that’s in a good way or not, let’s find out!
HIGH TOPS PROVIDE BETTER ANKLE SUPPORT? NOT EXACTLY.
Let’s first address the elephant in the room – there’s the ongoing myth that the main difference between high cut shoes and low cut ones is that high tops provide better ankle support, thanks to the higher ankle collar giving more protection and not leaving the ankle free, as low tops do.
Let me tell you something – it’s 2020 now, basketball shoe technology has vastly improved ever since the beginning of ’em. Ankle support and overall foot security don’t solely come from the ankle collar of the shoe.
In fact, the ankle collar barely does anything but provide additional ankle lockdown, not actual support. What many people tend to think is the ankle collar of the shoe is the #1 component of providing ankle support.
That’s not true. Why? One, because ankle support is not achieved by simply locking in your ankle in place. It has to come from other areas of the shoe to blend in all the elements that provide support and containment. Simply fixing your ankle in place doesn’t do much but restrict your ankle’s range of motion.
Yes, that can be beneficial at times, like when you’re coming off an ankle injury or it’s an extremely important game and your ankle is banged up, but you cannot afford to miss the game, so you do everything to prevent your ankle from moving too much.
Two, lots of mid tops or high tops don’t even have a sturdy or stiff enough ankle collar to actually lock in your ankle, so if you’re wearing higher cut shoes because of this, you’re kinda having it the other way around.
Three, locking in your ankle is not good for your knees and even hips. Restricting one joint’s movement means that the next joint of your leg will naturally take all the load from the restricted joint and all the force will be absorbed by the next joint.
That’s not a winning formula, which is also why many trainers and experts don’t recommend wearing ankle braces too often. And which is also why most basketball shoes don’t rely on locking in your ankle.
Now you know that a piece of material around your ankle cannot magically protect you, where does actual ankle support come from?
WHERE DOES ACTUAL ANKLE SUPPORT COME FROM?
When it comes to a quality pair of basketball shoes, low tops or high tops – shoemakers construct a sneaker that is built to provide multi-directional support that’s coming from multiple areas of the shoe.
Everything has to work at once, and all the features of the shoe have to complement one another in order to achieve good support that’s not too restrictive for the foot.
First and foremost, probably the most important feature of a shoe’s support is heel lockdown and containment.
How well your heel is locked inside the shoe will greatly affect how supportive it will be for your ankle. Basketball shoes commonly share having an internal and/or external heel counter that locks in your heel which is where your ankle support comes from.
Remember, your actual ankle is just above your heel, so if 2/3 of your whole heel is supported – this means your ankle is also in place since it’s directly following up the heel. This way, you don’t feel too restricted since the top of your ankle is not locked in and your range of motion isn’t being taken away.
That’s not it though – heel lockdown is the first component. Next, you would usually need to achieve a near-perfect overall fit for your shoe to feel secure and stable.
This means that choosing the correct size specifically for that shoe, breaking the materials in, and optimally adjusting the laces will directly affect how secure and supportive the shoe will feel. You can have all the features in the world implemented – if the fit’s not right, pretty much everything is thrown out of the window.
Lastly, all other features will depend on how much tech and innovations the brand has decided to implement.
The most common ones you see on popular releases are lateral & torsional plates under the shoe for extra stability (such as Air Jordan’s Flight Plate), internal webbing systems to hold the shoe in place, and external outriggers, meaning the sides of the shoe are slightly exaggerated to prevent the ankle from rolling all the way to the side.
Before choosing a basketball shoe that you’d hope strong support from, you MUST first inspect if that shoe offers critical support features, you also need to make sure you’re getting the correct size and it’s also a good idea to read up on a shoe’s review to find out what to expect.
Otherwise, it’ll be a guessing game and lead you right back to where you don’t want to be – and that’s blindly getting a high top shoe thinking it’s the safest bet on getting maximum ankle protection.
COMPARING LOW TOPS AND HIGH TOPS
Okay, so what’s the actual difference between a higher cut shoe and a low top?
The answer might not be as straightforward as it can seem, and lots of differences can come from the personal preference of a player.
Perhaps you like having a higher ankle cut? Or perhaps you hate having something on your ankle and you need maximum freedom?
Before directly comparing the two, you need to first know what your preferences are. You can either stick with those, or you can try something new and see what that does for you!
HIGH TOPS: PROs
- Certain shoes can provide extra lockdown for your ankle when it’s critical to have it
- Users used to higher cut shoes naturally feel more comfortable with their ankle covered
HIGH TOPS: CONS
- Higher cut shoes tend to be heavier
- Certain shoes with stiffer ankle collars can negatively restrict ankle mobility
So, you can see that there’s not much to it when it comes to wearing a high top. I don’t see many reasons to pick high tops over lows tops from a performance perspective.
But if you like this build more and you’re used to it – sure, you’re not going to experience poor performance solely because of an ankle collar.
Just stay away from older releases with very stiff ankle collars claiming “excellent support” as all they do is lock it in, and that’s something you don’t usually want.
Let’s get to some examples of quality high tops that you can get today, and achieve good performance along with security, without being too restricted!
SOLID OPTIONS – HIGH TOPS
I. UNDER ARMOUR CURRY 4
A fantastic option that’s technically a high top due to the ankle collar but it feels like a very minimal, mobile, and unrestrictive shoe. And plus, the ankle collar is almost sock-like as it doesn’t cause any stiffness.
You can achieve more than adequate support from these thanks to an internal heel counter, a good fit, the footbed construction making your foot sit inside the shoe for a very natural and anatomical feel during movements.
II. UNDER ARMOUR CLUTCHFIT HIGHLIGHT II
An older shoe but still one of the better “true” high tops out there still. Under Armour’s Clutchfit material really killed it that year and it shows on the Clutchfit Highlight II.
The ankle collar is very high yet it doesn’t feel like it – the shoe will support you and provide extra ankle lockdown without applying too much pressure to retain comfort.
Now, let’s evaluate the differences – check out my personal take on the main pros and cons of low tops.
LOW TOPS: PROs
- Low tops tend to be lighter, which means more mobility and speed can be achieved
- Maximum ankle mobility means your movements will not be restricted at all
LOW TOPS: CONS
- Users used to higher cut shoes might feel unsafe initially
- Ankles not used to playing a low top might need some time getting used to; there’s a higher chance to roll your ankle if they were used to being locked in
Once again, the pros and cons have the same principles here – what you like and what you’re used to now will have a major impact on how you feel on the court. Wearing a low top for the first time will likely result in a feeling of freedom but certain players might feel insecure.
That’s mostly just a natural reaction and you shouldn’t feel that way – this is why I’d always recommend getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new!
Now, let’s point out a few really good low tops that would provide mobility while also offering solid support!
SOLID OPTIONS – LOW TOPS
I. UNDER ARMOUR CURRY 7 | FULL REVIEW
A killer low top with superb all-around performance. A fantastic example of how free and mobile a low top should feel, yet in a very secure, low-profile way.
The Curry 7 has a solid heel counter, outriggers for lateral protection, a stabilizer plate, and a very lightweight fit which makes the whole package really shine.
A direct counterpunch to those who think they need a stiff, bulky, tank-like shoe to have strong support!
II. NIKE KOBE 11 ELITE
Probably my favorite modern Kobe shoe, the Kobe 11 nails down a near-perfect blend of mobility and speed along with extreme comfort and solid support.
The shoe has internal heel counters, prominent outriggers, an excellent fit that offers most of the security, and in the end, everything works really well with one another.
WHAT ABOUT MID TOPS?
If you’ve stayed with me ’till now, you probably already know what I have to say about mid tops. It might be boring or not ground-breaking, but the main rule of thumb for lots of things basketball shoe-related is wearing what you prefer. And that doesn’t mean performance will suffer because of it.
All hoop shoes today, low tops, mid tops, and high tops are designed in a way to provide support & security for the play, as well as making him/her feel comfortable while playing. At least that’s the idea.
No matter which ankle cut you go for, it’s always best to first inspect what the shoe offers from a tech perspective, and then read up on a good review coming from an actual person who tried the shoe.
Mid tops are the most popular and most common shape basketball shoes get released today, simply because of the fact that lots of players are used to it the most. It’s also versatile – you’re not leaving your ankle exposed completely but you’re also not locking in your ankle too much. It feels right for lots of people.
Will it feel right for you? Well, that’s what you’ll need to figure out on your own. Just while doing so, make sure to get rid of the idea that the ankle cut will have a direct effect on ankle support as well as other performance factors.
Whether you’ve tried both low tops and high tops or not, I’ve recently been playing in the Curry 7 and I’m totally loving it. It’s a true example of busting a myth in the most spectacular way possible.
Click here to check my review of it – I’m pretty sure it has a good chance of changing your perspective on low tops if this guide hasn’t already.
Alright, that’s it for today’s guide people! I truly hope you found it informative in one way or another, as I’ve tried to compile the most accurate and most relevant information.
I reckon you still have some questions? Or perhaps you had your own experience to share? What’s your usual go-to type of shoe on the court?