There’s no question that a lot of us are aware of the fact that some people can’t purchase more than 1-2 pairs of expensive athletic shoes to cater to multiple sports or activities. Let’s narrow it down to hoops and running. Can we ACTUALLY use running shoes for basketball?
I wanted to make this guide to analyze the subject and explain how both sports shoes work, share my own experience, and make sure you’re balling on the court as safely & efficiently as possible.
I. RUNNING VS. BASKETBALL SHOES
Let’s go over the differences between basketball and running shoes that matter
So you got a good running shoe that feels safe and comfortable for you overall. We all know it’s pretty safe and efficient to also train and do related sports activities in a running sneaker.
But particularly for basketball though – it’s not always that simple. Let me explain why.
Let’s take a good quality, reputable brand running shoe. Usually, you’ll see two types of them in the market – road runners and trail runners.
Road runners are softer, more flexible, and offer less support but make sure you’re feeling as free, light, and comfortable as possible.
Trail runners are a bit more rigid, offer more support, and also provide a thicker, more reliable outsole to prevent damage to your feet, as you’re running on uneven roads or trails with obstacles.
However, regardless of the running shoe type, it’s still easy to differentiate between a basketball sneaker and a running sneaker.
The main aspects of a running shoe are:
- Always lightweight
- Thinner, more flexible upper materials
- More ankle mobility
- Thinner, more flexible outsole
- The shoe sits low on the ground
Of course, these can be a bit different depending on the running shoe but the gist of it is always the same.
Now, the main aspects of the basketball shoe are:
- Medium-heavy weight
- Usually more structured, more durable, and less flexible upper materials
- Less ankle mobility & stronger foot support
- A heavier, thicker outsole
- The shoe sits higher on the ground
As you can see, the aspects are pretty much the opposite between the two sports sneakers. And for a good reason.
Yeah, this does not mean that all those key points are describing all basketball and all running shoes as the modern era of sports footwear is constantly bringing in lighter, quicker, and more flexible basketball sneakers these days.
Regardless, manufacturers can’t afford to sacrifice the safety and efficiency of the athlete, so no basketball shoe can’t be technically identical to a running model.
II. WHO CAN PLAY BASKETBALL WITH RUNNING SHOES?
Let’s properly determine who excactly can pull off playing ball in a pair of runners
Now, judging from my list of key aspects of both types of shoes, I still can’t state that you strictly cannot play basketball in your runners. You can.
But everyone is different, and everyone is playing basketball on a different level, everyone’s body build is different, then there are age differences, play styles, and more.
The main areas of alert when considering to play ball in a runner are generally the cushioning (impact protection and foot comfort), foot support, ankle protection, and traction.
Playing in a running sneaker will, in fact, feel comfortable if you’re used to running shoes, as your foot will be very well ventilated and your movements won’t feel restricted at all.
However, especially for someone with more of an athletic background will find that the support runners offer isn’t always adequate and the cushioning is oftentimes very minimal which doesn’t always transition well on a basketball court for some people.
There’s also the traction element. I’ve had running shoes where I was sliding all over the place due to the outsole not really made for an indoor wood court.
If you’re hooping in your pair of Nikey Free Runs just fine – all is good. As long as you’re aware that things can be even better and safer for you in the long-run.
Let’s talk about the main scenarios where I’d recommend and not recommend playing ball in your road or trail runners.
Don’t take it as official guidelines though. I’m stating my personal opinion based off my own experience that I believe would be helpful.
IF YOU’RE A PROFESSIONAL PLAYER
The answer, in this case, would be a big no-no.
Pro players, no matter the league or level, play a substantial amount of 40 or 48-minute games. Enough to cause various injuries and safety risks if you’re constantly not having enough shock absorption, foot lockdown, and your ankles are pretty much open for anything.
I know this might sound obvious for someone who’s already a pro or getting there but just wanted to get it out the way and let others know that we gotta protect our joints, ligaments, and our long-term health overall.
Even if that means saving up and spending that cash.
IF YOU’RE A COLLEGE OR HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER
Pretty much the same thing as for professionals – I highly do not recommend playing in anything other than quality basketball shoes.
You’re still a young gun, some of you guys’ bones and muscles are still growing, so you don’t want to damage that process by wearing something that does not preserve your knees, aid your jumps, cuts, and often decrease overall performance.
It might not yet feel damaging or cause injuries as you’re on your peak youth performance and health but that adds up, so you want to think smart.
IF YOU’RE A HARDCORE BASKETBALL FANATIC
Let’s say you’re not a pro, you’re not a high school or college player – you’re just a casual baller but you play a lot and love the game.
You put a lot of hours per week. Not as much as a pro or a high schooler but still like to show up often.
This one will also depend on your age, weight, and playstyle but I’d generally still stay away from anything other than basketball sneakers.
If you’re still a young individual, not playing anywhere major – as long as you’re not a very physical, athletic player and you play lower to the ground, you can try out playing in runners, especially if you’re saving cash.
For anyone who’s coming up in reasonable age numbers or someone who’s athletic and like to play explosively – I’d stay away from runners. Pro or not, there’s still a bigger chance of hurting yourself.
IF YOU PLAY OR SHOOT AROUND OCCASIONALLY
If you only play a game or two per a few weeks, or just like to have some fun shooting around with your friends or family – sure.
This is where you can definitely consider saving cash and playing with your runners, as you’re not putting your body on as much physical demand and you’re not really damaging yourself casually hooping from time to time in a good pair of runners.
Just pick something up from a reputable brand, a traction pattern that will actually grip the court and see if you can find a more rigid and reliable upper. These criteria are usually found more often on trail runners.
III. BEST RUNNING SHOES FOR BASKETBALL
Let me give you a few examples of solid all-around running sneakers that would handle some hoops
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NIKE AIR ZOOM TERRA KIGER 7🛒 NIKE 🛒 AMAZON 🛒 GOAT
Probably the best shoe for some hoops out of Nikey’s running catalog right now.
The Air Zoom Terra Kiger 7 features some things that are pretty close to being great for basketball. And if you stay within the casual side of things, you might find this one really good.
The shoe features a React midsole and a forefoot Zoom Air unit for cushion. It’s not as much as on the Asics model but cushioning is no big deal for casual shootarounds – you’ll be comfortable.
One thing that’s great about these is the low drop-off. At just 4.5 millimeters + fantastic cushion, you’ll be getting a smooth ride but also one that’s pretty stable.
These are also a bit wider at the forefoot which, again, is great for basketball-specific movements.
The Kiger 7 utilizes an open mesh design and it’s probably the weakest point if we’re talking basketball. It doesn’t have a lot to hold someone’s foot in during a lateral movement.
Make sure to stay within the non-intensive level when you’re in the park.
And don’t take these indoors if you’ve already played outside as the extremely tall rubber grooves of the outsole will probably result in you sliding like crazy. I haven’t personally played in these but that would be my guess based on my experience with similar shoes.
RETAIL PRICE: $140
WEIGHT: 10.91 oz / 309 g.
CUSHION: React midsole + forefoot Zoom Air unit
UPPER: open mesh
HEEL DROP: 4.5 mm.
ASICS GEL-KAYANO 28🛒 AMAZON 🛒 GOAT
Asics is one of the most reputable running shoe brands you can find and I found their Gel-Kayano 28 model to be among the closest for shooting some hoops.
It features fantastic gel-based cushion that not only offers a sufficient level of impact protection but also awesome ride comfort.
There’s also a strong focus on support here.
It’s got Asics’s DuoMax system, external heel counters for heel & ankle lockdown, and an engineered mesh upper that doesn’t overly stretch and it’s one of the stronger choices among the runner’s catalog.
These will also last a while outdoors since they’re using an AHAR Plus outsole which is significantly more durable than standard high abrasion rubber.
A balanced option for those looking to go for runs, perform workouts and also shoot some hoops on the side.
RETAIL PRICE: $160
WEIGHT: 10.9 oz / 308 g.
CUSHION: forefoot & heel GEL technology + FLYTEFOAM BLAST midsole + OrthoLite X-55 Insole
UPPER: engineered mesh
HEEL DROP: 10 mm.
NIKE ZOOM PREVAIL🛒 NIKE 🛒 AMAZON 🛒 GOAT
A cheaper all-around running shoe that should get you through a casual hoops session or two.
Once again, I do not recommend rocking these for a full-blown basketball game due to a lack of proper support and structure but for something more casual, you should be good to go.
The Nike Zoom Prevail has a cushion setup that’s pretty good for basketball as it’s not a completely minimal approach.
The mesh build is definitely nothing that you can call structured but these utilize a 3 Flywire cable system that pulls down on internal cables to enhance lockdown.
A must-have feature if the build isn’t there to hold things together.
Traction should be fine on all surfaces since conventional rubber is used. I doubt it would work that well indoors but if you’re shooting hoops in the park – it should bite the surface pretty well.
RETAIL PRICE: $110
WEIGHT: 9.5 oz / 269 g.
CUSHION: Cushlon & React midsole + forefoot Zoom Air unit
HEEL DROP: 8 mm.
IV. WOULD YOU PLAY IN RUNNING SHOES?
Share your thoughts and questions below – your engagement is invaluable to me and the future reader!
That is it for today’s insights on running shoes for basketball! I hope you found something valuable here and from now on, you’ll consider if you really want to put your basketball hours in running sneakers.
Or check out the whole catalog of extensive shoe reviews.
Do you have any questions? Perhaps you’re playing in running shoes for a while now and would like to share your personal experience?
Drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you shortly!
The guide you’re reading right now is considered entry-level. I covered who would be able to play basketball in running shoes and picked a few sneaker recommendations.
However, for more in-depth insight on the technical aspects of runners vs. basketball shoes (and vice versa), I put together a reworked guide on this topic.
It covers both perspectives: running shoes for basketball & basketball shoes for running. I highly suggest checking it out after you finish with this one.
> BASKETBALL VS. RUNNING SHOES REWORKED <