It’s that time of the year. Or is it? We’re 10 months deep into 2020 and just now I’ve decided to really nail down and put out my complete list of the best basketball shoes of 2019.
Listen, I’ll take an L for being so behind but after all this time, I simply couldn’t pass up on this. 2019 was actually a really strong year for performance basketball releases and the list will let you know why.
I have to mention that I haven’t tried ALL shoes that were released in 2019. But from the ones I’ve heavily played in and tested, I’m more than confident that you’ll be extensively informed on what’s your next purchase for a new pair of beasts on the court!
Because of that, keep an eye out for changes to this list, as chances are, I’ll try some more kicks from 2019 later down the line!
THE STRUCTURE – EVERYONE WILL FIND THEIR GEM
I know a lot of you have different play styles, you’re all built different, you all have different budgets and different accesses to the types of courts available.
So, I’ll pick out one best shoe in each category I’ve come up with that I think should help out as many people as possible. And at the very end, I’ll also pick out my all-around top 3 of the best shoes that I thought that just killed it in every department.
Some shoes might be mentioned several times since some of them excelled in more than one category, so you’ll know it’s a gem!
Lastly, I’ll leave links to my full reviews of each shoe mentioned if you’re looking to get more details.
Let’s not waste any time and start out with 3 honorable mentions!
I. HONORABLE MENTIONS
3 solid shoes that were good in all areas but didn’t make the final list (not in any particular order)
PUMA CLYDE HARDWOOD
My Rating: 8.3 | Full Review
A rare performance basketball release from PUMA, the Clyde Hardwood actually impressed me. A very competitive $120 price tag, along with great performance that lower profile guards or shooters will enjoy the most.
Traction is the shoe’s tipping point – it’s fantastic, along with being outdoor-friendly. It’s got good overall support for most guards, the textile + genuine leather upper is a welcome sight we that just don’t see it often these days.
PUMA’S ProFoam cushion isn’t anything special but gets the job done for most guards/lighter forwards. No real bounce or spring back but enough impact protection to play safely.
Overall, a solid package that doesn’t really excel in any way (besides the traction I guess) but does a good job providing a little bit of everything at a good price.
Why it didn’t make the list. I did enjoy playing in the shoe but there were simply other releases in 2019 that had a similar price point but offered better tech & more versatility in the cushion department, as well as greater support features that are catered towards more players/play styles.
Again, not a bad shoe – a great shoe in fact. It’s just that I found 8 other shoes that were better.
UNDER ARMOUR CURRY 6
My Rating: 9 | Full Review
Probably my favorite newer Curry shoe to date. Yes, I’d take the 6th over the 7th in most cases. This is a very innovative Curry model that offers plenty of tech as well as finally giving more versatility, which came as a bit of a surprise.
Not only spot-up shooters or below the rim guards will enjoy these now. They’re crazy light, comfortable as hell, they’ve got solid traction that you can take outdoors and the best part was the full-length HOVR cushion which doesn’t feel like you’re running on bricks. At last.
The shoe is still very responsive and low to the ground but this time we’re getting more than that. We’re getting a more balanced ride that provides more impact protection and feedback than your average Curry model. We’re also getting better support without sacrifices in comfort & mobility, and while retaining a very compact low top design.
Why it didn’t make the list. Similar to the PUMA Clyde Hardwood, I feel like the Curry 6 is a great shoe but doesn’t particularly excel in any category. Its price point is competitive and the performance is above-average.
For a similar price point, I’ve found some other shoes on the list to deliver even better and more versatile setups. Still a good shoe for a guard though, and something fresh from the Curry formula!
NEW BALANCE OMN1S
My Rating: 8.2 | Full Review
Another quite unexpected release from NB – Kawhi Leonard’s first signature shoe is definitely a success. If maximum security is what you’re looking for – the OMN1S got you covered.
Be prepared for a very snug and condensed fit. If you’re more of a fan of roomier fits, going up half a size will be needed. If you can get the sizing down – they’re comfortable and containment is extremely good, it’s got one of the most durable and trustworthy outsoles of 2019 (yes, outdoor-friendly traction) and all your regular support features are in check.
Why it didn’t make the list. For $140, I feel like we could’ve gotten more in the cushion and upper departments. NB’s FuelCell looks good on paper but in reality, it’s pretty standard foam that’s not bouncy but not super low to the ground either. It’s a bit of both without that “fun” factor, but it does get the job done.
The upper is mainly synthetic textile with Fuse overlays and some shades of synthetic suede. It feels kind of bubbly and plasticy, especially during the first times of play.
Not what I’d expect from a $140 price tag but if you don’t really care about premium qualities in a basketball shoe and just looking for pure performance – this shouldn’t throw you off.
II. BEST SHOE FOR GUARDS
A shoe that best fits most guards: light, responsive, and mobile & emphasis on strong support without slowing you down
NIKE KYRIE 6
My Rating: 8.5 | Full Review
16.5 oz light & responsive Zoom Air Turbo cushion
Similar to the 6th Curry, the 6th Kyrie release came as a surprise, slightly breaking out of Kyrie’s usual “I want to run on bricks but be very fast and precise” shoe formula. Applying some slight tweaks here and there to the already good Kyrie 5, the 6th one became one of my favorite 2019 releases.
The shoe is any guard’s dream – they’re comfortable and fit just right (also good for wide footers) to the point where I forget I got shoes on during game time. Traction’s fantastic, as the Kyrie line never fails in this category. Support is absolutely stellar for just about any player out there.
The Zoom Air turbo + Phylon foam cushion setup isn’t super bouncy or as fun as something like Boost but I feel like Kyrie really nailed down the balance in the ride.
It’s still extremely responsive, low to the ground, and precise as what the Kyrie line is known for. But this time, I could actually feel some give throughout the midsole, as well as more impact protection is there.
You won’t feel like you’re running on clouds with the Kyrie 6 but all the essential boxes are ticked: responsiveness, court feel, impact protection, and a little bit of feedback.
III. BEST SHOE FOR FORWARDS/CENTERS
A shoe that best fits heavier/bigger players: emphasis on impact protection and more cushion & support and structure
NIKE ZOOM RIZE
My Rating: 9 | Full Review
Ultra bouncy Zoom cushion & tank-like support
Something about the Nikey’s main 2019 Team release, the Zoom Rize screams one of a kind. I’m not even exaggerating – I LOVED the Zoom Rize and even though I’m not a big guy, I feel like most players and especially forwards/centers will appreciate this one.
The shoe is hella comfortable. it’s got that high ankle cut that’s heavily padded from the inside, so it doesn’t bother your ankles. The fit overall is what any heavier/bigger player would love – it fits like a glove, they’re ultra-secure as I call them mini-tanks, yet they still retain plenty of comfort of mobility, so there’s virtually no tradeoff. A rare sight these days, I love it!
The Zoom Rize’s forefoot Zoom Air + Phylon midsole cushion setup is what truly impressed me though. I don’t remember the last time I felt so springy, yet still responsive and quick in a hoop shoe. The amount of spring back you get from these is kind of crazy but I really like it.
Impact protection for DAYS, they’re pretty bouncy yet they don’t feel super high off the ground, so if balance is what you’re looking for along with a super fun ride – there’s the Zoom Rize for you.
Remember when I said one of a kind? This is why.
IV. MOST COMFORTABLE SHOE
A shoe that performs well all-around but excelled in providing the most pleasant & comfortable experience no matter the movement
NIKE LEBRON 17
My Rating: 8 | Full Review
Super soft Zoom Air & Max Air cushion, premium Knitposite upper
I think we’re used to expecting something premium when it comes to LeBron’s expensive shoe line. The LeBron 17 is the purest example of it in my opinion.
Yes, they’re great overall performers with solid traction and tank-like support (I mean look at LeBron) but the shoe’s premium feel and comfort for days sells it for me as the most comfortable shoe of 2019.
The Zoom Air + Max Air cushion combo might not be as ultra-quick as on the Zoom Rize but it’s sure as hell bouncy, soft, and plushy. If you’re looking for that “walking on clouds” feel, this is the one to go. You will be high off the ground with these, so barely any court feel to be found here.
The icing on the cake is the Knitposite upper. It’s mainly just knit overlayed with synthetics for more structure. They take a bit to break in but after that, your feet will thank you. Crazy comfortable, buttery soft upper I wouldn’t trade for anything else when it comes to comfort.
V. BEST SHOE FOR OUTDOORS
A shoe that ticks all the boxes for outdoor play: long-lasting traction, plenty of cushion to absorb more force & durable build
ADIDAS DAME 5
My Rating: 9.5 | Full Review
Long-lasting outsole & durable build
‘Till this day, I simply can’t get enough of the Dame 5. Due to my own and the world’s crappy circumstances, I’ve been playing outdoors a lot lately. I know a lot of you are too and I think the Dame 5 is a near-perfect shoe that can deliver all you need for quality outdoor play.
They’re priced at a mere $115 with beastly & durable traction, dust is barely an issue thanks to an excellent traction pattern. Full-length Bounce cushion might not be as springy as the Zoom Rize’s or the LeBron 17’s but it performs amazingly well.
You’ll want solid impact protection for outdoor play and the Dame 5 delivers. The shoe is also built like a tank, these won’t break down on you any time soon. Even if it would, it’s priced ridiculously low when compared to other signatures, so it’s a total outdoor package!
VI. BEST SHOE ON A TIGHT BUDGET
A shoe that doesn’t break the bank yet performs as well as a trusty higher-priced model
AIR JORDAN CP3.12
My Rating: 8.6 | More details
Price Range: $60 – $110
One of the most slept-on releases of 2019, Chris Paul’s latest signature doesn’t really do groundbreaking things but gets the job done in all areas.
It’s comfortable, got a one-to-one fit, traction is fantastic along with it being pretty good for outdoors, the forefoot Zoom Air + Phylon midsole cushion setup is very versatile, one of the most versatile in the whole list in fact. They’re not overly bouncy and you won’t get the infamous cloud feeling with these but all performance boxes will be ticked.
I know these are a bit tougher to find these days but you can find these greatly under retail in most places. We’re talking $60-$100 for a quality signature. If that’s not a steal, I don’t know what is.
VII. THE FINAL LIST: 3 BEST ALL-AROUND SHOES
The final list of my top 3 favorite shoes of 2019: beastly all-around performance
#3. NIKE KD 12
My Rating: 9 | Full Review
It’s been a while since I’ve found myself extensively enjoying and sticking to a KD model these days. Well, the KD 12 certainly changed that as it’s one of my favorite shoes to play in for a while now. It’s also a ton of fun!
Why are these so good? They’re comfy, they’ve got solid traction that would hold up outdoors too, support is great and achieved in a way that doesn’t promote restrictions or lack of mobility.
But the main attraction was the cushion setup – Full-length Zoom Air sitting directly underfoot. Let me tell you something, there is not a lot of stuff in the market that feels better than this setup. When Zoom Air is done right and in a full-length fashion, it’s simply tough to beat.
Responsiveness and a little bit of court feel? Check. Impact protection and energy return? Check. Mad comfort? You got it. These got just about everything you’d ever need from a quality ride and then some. Easily the best cushion setup out of the whole list.
One of the most versatile packages of 2019 – if you play basketball, chances are you’ll love the KD 12.
#2. AIR JORDAN 34
My Rating: 9.2 | Full Review
If we’re talking premium tech, pure comfort, all the performance features you can think of – we’re talking Air Jordan 34. This is arguably the pinnacle of AJ’s main shoe line as it pays homage to many different Jordans released through the years. And it does so without getting in the way of superb all-around performance.
With a completely reworked frame, the AJ 34 feels lighter and more mobile than ever (something you can’t say about most Jordans), it’s got killer traction, fantastic support for every player you can think of with the addition of a Performance Woven layer underneath the upper.
Lastly, forefoot + heel Zoom Air combo might sound pretty simple for a flagship Jordan model but it feels far from that. This is cushion technology at its finest – the setup is very comfortable, yet quick and responsive. It’s got tons of impact protection, yet you don’t sink into the midsole too much, so you’re still fast at all times. And did I mention it’s bouncy & tons of fun to play in?
This is a complete package folks. I was extremely close to putting the AJ 34 as the #1 shoe but there’s just something about the #1 contender that I can’t get enough off…
#1. ADIDAS DAME 5
My Rating: 9.5 | Full Review
If I’m not sure what shoe to go with for that day’s game – I simply take the Dame 5. If I need to be as fast and precise as possible – I take the Dame 5. Or maybe I’m going to a park to play outdoors – well, the Dame 5 is usually what I go for. You get the idea.
Adidas’s Dame 5 is simply the #1 killer for me. It was in 2019 and still is today. Granted, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion and I might be a little biased since I’ve been playing in the Dame line since the very first shoe (back when it was called Adidas D Lillard).
But it’s just something about it man. It damn near perfectly caters towards my play style and I’m sure it would do the same for many different playstyles since it’s that good and well-balanced.
We got killer traction that’s durable for heavy outdoor play, fantastic Bounce cushion, tank-like support, and a mesh/leather upper (there are two versions) which isn’t anything special but feels great and you forget about the shoe entirely.
I see reasons why the AJ 34 could’ve been the #1 instead but I decided to put the Dame 5 over it for a couple of reasons. First, the shoe is easier to get with more sizes and options available. Second, it’s almost HALF the price of the Jordan 34. And lastly, it’s a much better fit for outdoor play – durability, compatible traction pattern are both in favor of the Dame 5.
I think that’s more than enough reasons – the Dame 5 is simply a very practical shoe that you can throw in your bag any time and forget about it. It’s beastly – don’t sleep on it.
If you’re still not entirely convinced or looking to get more details, I’ve got a full comprehensive review of the shoe – check it out!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SHOE OF 2019?
This is it – the big one is done. I hope you found it informative and should be able to choose wisely for your next shoe purchase!
As always, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What was your favorite shoe of 2019? Perhaps you got some sleepers I haven’t tried yet and I should consider adding? Do you have any questions?