Today I wanted to discuss and shed some light into a very delicate subject among us hoopers: the best basketball shoes with ankle support.
But is it really only ankle support that we should be looking for? What factors determine a quality supportive shoe? Do high tops equal good ankle support and low tops equal no ankle support whatsoever?
And lastly, what’s my ultimate shoe list for ankle & overall support among the models released in recent years?
This is exactly what we’ll be talking about in what’ll hopefully be the only guide you need to educate yourself on the support topic.
So, kick back, relax, and ride along with me! Let’s begin!
ANKLE SUPPORT VS. ANKLE LOCKDOWN – DON’T MIX THE TWO
Let’s address the elephant in the room. ’till this day there’s this misconception floating around, especially on the internet.
Lots of beginners and even some seasoned hoopers tend to believe that the higher cut the shoe is, the better support it provides for the ankle.
This is not true.
In order to explain why exactly, we need to first understand what ankle support really is. You see, people commonly and mistakenly think that support means restricting the movement of your ankle, thus eliminating the chance of your ankle being sprained. It can’t move, so you’re good, right?
Well, in most cases – no. You DO NOT want to eliminate the ankle’s range of motion completely.
There are times when you want to restrict your ankle from moving, though still not to 0%.
For example, you’re coming off an ankle injury or your ankles are very susceptible to being sprained, you’ve been playing long hours lately and there’s a very important game coming up, so you can’t risk another sprain.
This is when you do everything you can to restrict the ankle from moving somewhat, which is not something that’s recommended but sometimes can be needed and which is also why some players wear ankle braces (Steph Curry has injury-prone ankles and wears ankle braces for example).
However, the instances I’ve mentioned are very specific scenarios and such methods should not be condoned on a regular basis. This would be ankle lockdown rather than ankle support.
Locking your ankle down in place for long hours of playtime can cause some serious issues for the joints that come above the ankle since the pressure is put on them instead (mainly the knees).
Plus, getting your ankle used to very restrictive lockdown or constantly wearing an ankle brace can weaken the tendons, muscles, and the ankle joint itself and make them more susceptible to injury since they’re not used to a wider range of motion.
So, don’t look at high tops automatically thinking they’ll be best for ankle support. The same can be said for low tops – it doesn’t mean you’ll get zero support from them and I’ll tell you why very shortly.
I actually have a guide all about high tops vs. low tops. Think of it as a supplementary to this guide. If you’re interested, check it out RIGHT HERE.
SO WHAT IS STRONG AND HEALTHY ANKLE SUPPORT?
Now that busted the popular myth, let’s discuss what you should be actually looking for when it comes to ankle support.
Firstly, you MUST break out of the mindset that it’s all about the ankles.
It’s not. A supportive shoe doesn’t simply mean it’ll be safer just for your ankles. And we can look at it from another side – when you’re looking for good ankle support, you should not only be looking for one particular support component, ankle coverage that is.
Brands make shoes that are very sophisticated in terms of providing support and security, and ankle support is only one of several things that need to be there.
Everything needs to work well with one another. Otherwise – you might get a shoe that has strong ankle coverage but lacks in lateral protection, so you’ll still be susceptible to annoying sprains and rolls.
Okay, so you’re looking for a basketball shoe and you’ve got injury-prone ankles, or you’ve been putting a crazy amount of playtime during the season. Or you’ve got a very explosive playstyle and support is critical to supplement your game.
Whatever the case may be, let’s break down the main components of what exactly makes a basketball shoe supportive, the right way.
A PROPER FIT
Yes, you read that right. What fit has to do with support? Everything.
It all starts with a proper one-to-one fit. You need to make sure the shoe fits your feet almost perfectly, meaning that there’s minimal dead space and your foot is properly contained at all times.
If you don’t get the sizing down perfectly, you’re having major slippage (most commonly in the heel area), or you’re just not feeling secure & confident due to the sloppy fit, no amount of support features will make up for it.
This is EASILY the most important component that you must nail down. It is your foundation for solid support, including your ankles.
I’ve had shoes that were packed with actually good support features but I wasn’t aware I should’ve gone half a size down. Guess what? Support was jeopardized due to a sloppy fit.
DO NOT skip this step & make sure you’re comfortable inside the shoe as well as properly contained at all times. It’ll pay dividends, not only for your ankles but your feet, knees, and confidence on the court.
Moving on, a shoe should have excellent heel lockdown. It can be a low-top, high-top, doesn’t matter. Most shoes nowadays have internal/external heel counters which help lock in your heel in place.
Why heel lockdown? Firstly, it eliminates any possible heel slippage. Second, most of your ankle support and lockdown actually comes from heel lockdown.
It might sound weird for some but it’s true. Think about it – even a low-top shoe covers most of your heel with the use of a heel counter and your ankle follows it up directly.
If your heel is in place, your ankle is also protected from moving too much. This way, range of motion is only being limited, not completely taken away.
This is another critical component that should be taken into account, which is also why 95% of hoop shoes today have internal and/or external heel counters in place.
A STABLE BASE
Next up, we need to make sure we ride on a stable base. What exactly is a stable base on a basketball shoe? Usually, this means that the sole of the shoe is fairly wide and sometimes completely, or close to, flat.
Now, this doesn’t mean that ALL shoes should have a completely flat sole that’s two times as wide as a normal shoe.
Marginal tweaks make a huge difference, so having a wider base already promotes much better stability and a reduced chance of awkward movements. A flat base as well is ideal but we don’t see that much in today’s releases.
The Nikey Kyrie 2 is a good example of a wide & flat base that promotes tons of stability (image above).
Having direct ankle support is one thing, achieving overall lateral protection is another. But the reality is, we need both to ensure we’re not all over the place.
To provide good lateral coverage and prevent players from rolling over a shoe too much, brands use what’s called outriggers.
These are simply exaggerated extensions on the sides of the shoe. A very basic, yet effective solution to keep the limit to how much you can roll the shoe over in check.
Believe it or not, even today some shoes do not leverage the use of such outriggers and you can really feel the absence of them at times. Exactly why it’s important to have this if you have problematic ankles.
Not all shoes utilize this but it’s important for overall support and stability of your foot. Torsional support means proper arch support and allowing the forefoot & heel areas to move independently, thus eliminating unneeded strain and flexing in the arch area of the foot.
In the basketball shoe market, this is mainly achieved through torsional shanks/plates. It’s basically a sturdy piece of plastic that acts as a bridge between your heel and forefoot areas in the outsole.
This results in allowing those two areas to move freely & independently and promotes smoother step (heel to toe) transitions.
Lastly, despite going over the ankle myths, you still need some coverage of your ankle, if you’re having issues with them.
This isn’t vital to everyone (as I’ve mentioned you can achieve fantastic support from a low-top) but for those who need a bit more, looking at mid-tops or high-tops with sturdier ankle collars will be a good idea.
This doesn’t mean completely locking down your ankle of course but some models today can provide that extra protection for your ankle without taking away mobility, which is exactly what you want.
THE BEST BASKETBALL SHOES WITH ANKLE SUPPORT
Finally, it all comes down to the list. I’ve picked 7 shoes I personally played in for a while and believe they provide the best ankle & overall support without completely taking away mobility.
And of course, I wouldn’t pick the shoes that are bad in other categories, so all 7 are great all-around performers.
Let’s hop into it!
#7 – NEW BALANCE OMN1S
Retail Price: $140 | My Rating: 8.2
A rare performance basketball release from NB, Kawhi’s first signature came with a bang. Don’t sleep on these – next to solid all-around performance, these feel like a tank to play in.
Most of the shoe’s stellar support and security comes from the super contained fit. It might even be too snug or tight for some but there’s always the option to go up half a size, or just play around with the laces and see what you come up with.
Along with a very secure fit, we got a stable base to work with, internal heel counters that really lock in your heel, lateral outriggers that are quite extended, along with torsional shanks and ankle collars that aren’t flimsy, so you’ll get that additional boost in ankle security.
Things to note. If I had to pick out some stuff I wasn’t a huge fan of, that would be the shoe’s FuelCell cushion setup. It’s not bad in a sense, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I prefer more cushion and spring back over court feel and responsiveness and I like to feel a little bounce.
These didn’t really give me that. Of course, this will depend on what you like, so if you’re a fan of quicker, firmer setups that still provide some impact protection – the OMN1S is for you!
Also, these are extremely hard to find. You gotta bash New Balance for their poor marketing/exposure job. I’ve only found a handful of places to get them in a limited selection of sizes, so be aware of that if you’re on a hunt for these. The New Balance website might still have some sizes left so check that out!
As you can see, despite them being hard to find, all the boxes I’ve talked about are ticked, so why is the only at #7?
Well, that’s because there are 6 more shoes that kill it even harder…
#6 – NIKE KYRIE 6
Retail Price: $130 | My Rating: 8.5
Kyrie’s shoe line was always known for fantastic support & security without slowing you down or taking away mobility. What I loved about the latest 6th model is the same tank-like qualities are retained along with a few extra tweaks that make it an even better overall shoe than its predecessors.
All the standard features are in place: internal heel counters, lateral outriggers, and as we know, most Kyrie sneakers come with a wide & flat base, so this one is no exception.
We also have a forefoot cable system that you can adjust to your liking to really nail down the fit in the forefoot area. If that’s not enough, there’s also an internal midfoot lacing system that pulls the midfoot in when you tighten the external laces. So with some tinkering around, you can literally achieve perfect lockdown.
Things to note. A few things I should mention – I didn’t feel that the midfoot strap you can see in the image did anything to affect lockdown or support. It’s kind of just a gimmick. Also, the cables I’ve mentioned – those constantly loosened up for me which was quite irritating.
One day I completely took out the laces and relaced the shoe from scratch while making the fit a bit looser which fixed the issue for me. Good to know if you’ll experience something similar!
#5 – UNDER ARMOUR CURRY 6
Retail Price: $130 | My Rating: 9
I’ve picked the 6th model over the latest 7th simply because I feel like the 6th is a better all-around shoe, while also providing awesome support in a low top form factor. This is a golden example of how to make a shoe compact, mobile, and light, yet still very secure and supportive.
We all know support is something the Curry line never truly fails in. The Curry 6 has a very wide and flat base as a stable foundation, widened out lateral areas of the shoe which act as outriggers, there are quite beefy external heel counters and TPU speed plates underfoot for torsional support.
What truly shines though is a very balanced fit – it’s secure, snug, and contained at all times but they’re still very comfortable to play in and feel very light. Learn, Curry 7, learn!
Things to note. The only gripes I have about these is the low profile guard-orientated cushion setup, so no bounce or tons of impact protection to be found here. Once again, hard to call that a drawback since Curry is the one who prefers this setup, and if you do as well – you’re in luck!
Be prepared to wipe the outsoles off quite often, especially if you’re playing outdoors/on dustier courts. The outsole collects dust like crazy which would be the only clear drawback I got about these.
#4 – NIKE ZOOM RIZE
Retail Price: $140 | My Rating: 9
This one came as a surprise for me this year. Signature or not, it doesn’t matter and this one’s a clear example of how good a team shoe can really be.
Killer all-around performance, a fantastic and one could argue, a one-of-a-kind cushion setup along with stellar support for just about every type of player.
The Nikey Zoom Rize packs internal heel counters, large lateral outriggers, a stable base, an internal cable system along with a great fit, and a structured upper that doesn’t get in the way but adds to the containment of your foot.
You could almost call these a mid-high top hybrid of some sort but despite the ankle collars being cut pretty high, I didn’t mind them at al. Plus, there are tons of internal padding around the ankle area to preserve comfort. And boy, did it preserve.
Things to note. These will bring a very condensed and snug fit, even if you’re not a wide footer. So, two main things to note: go up half a size if you prefer a roomier fit and also make sure to give these some time to break in before you feel the full benefits.
I found the break-in time slightly longer than what I usually expect from a synthetic mesh upper (and also because I’m a wide footer), so don’t panic if you’re not feeling comfy the first 1-2 weeks!
Alright, moving on to the prize winners – my top 3 favorites for support!
#3 – ADIDAS DAME 3
Retail Price: $115 | My Rating: 9.6
Yes, a 4-year-old shoe is not only one of my all-time favorite basketball shoes EVER but it also happens to deliver truly amazing support, while still keeping you comfortable.
I don’t know what was up with Adidas during the creation of the third Dame, but these just refuse to fail me, and I’m talking about the same pair for over 4 years now. Including extensive outdoor play!
We have our essential features in place: heel counters, midfoot shanks for torsional protection, a midfoot lacing system encaged in TPU that’s entirely customizable, so you can literally make the fit as close to your liking as it gets.
The base of the shoe is also flat and wide, your foot sits deeper into the carrier than normal which promotes stability. Pair that with a great fit and a very structured upper, and you got yourself a total winner.
Things to note. It’s tough to sh*t on the Dame 3 for me. It’s a near-perfect shoe for me personally. However, if I had to point out something you should keep in mind – that would be the upper.
It definitely starts off as stiff, so give it some time to break in. Even after a solid break-in period, these won’t flex much. At all, in fact, and there’s barely any ventilation due to the nature of the material. If you’re not a fan of more structured uppers and you only prefer soft knits, the Dame 3 won’t be your cup of tea.
#2 – ADIDAS DAME 5
Retail Price: $115 | My Rating: 9.5
Think of the Dame 5 as a direct successor to the Dame 3 (you can skip the Dame 4). I would still go as far as saying I like the Dame 3 just a tad bit more as an overall performer but since support is our main focus here, I think the Dame 5 is an even sturdier tank.
The most explosive, heavier players will truly appreciate these (others will too of course). Despite kind of being marketed as a guard’s shoe, I found these to be as supportive as it can get.
Internal heel counters, TPU panels in the shoe’s lateral areas, a great fit, a supportive upper that doesn’t compromise comfort, your foot sinks into the carrier deep for even more stability. There’s also a wide base for a stable foundation.
The ankle collar isn’t intrusive as it ends with a soft sleeve to eliminate friction for the ankle but it also adds a bit of ankle lockdown. I mean, you name it – these got it.
Things to note. Similar to the Dame 3, you won’t find much ventilation due to the nature of the upper. Also, these come in two different upper options: mesh and leather. I didn’t find them different in terms of performance but if you’re going for durability, stick with the leather option.
And finally, the undisputed king of ankle & overall support is…
#1 PICK – AIR JORDAN 34
Retail Price: $175 | My Rating: 9.2
The king of all. I believe this didn’t come as a surprise for some of you. It’s my favorite shoe of 2020 and also one of my all-time favorites now. It’s simply tough to beat the AJ XXXIV in ANY area, including support.
The main reasons I’ve picked these over the Dame 3 and Dame 5 would be even more versatility, as well as greater comfort that still provides tank-like support.
This is exactly a baller’s dream – a shoe that’s ultra-secure, yet ultra-comfortable and fits just about any play style. These do come at a beefier price but if you can afford it – it’s well worth it. Your feet, ankles, and knees will thank you later.
These got internal heel counters, torsional Eclipse plates for torsional coverage, a fantastic fit, and a supportive upper that might look like it on paper but damn does it feel good.
If that’s not enough – the AJ 34 also comes with a double-layered upper. Underneath the visible layer, there’s a slab of Performance Woven which strategically stretches and limits the range of motion during more aggressive movements, and doesn’t stretch when it doesn’t have to.
In result, we get mad comfort & mad performance. Nothing more to be asked.
Things to note. I’m not an advocate for people’s budget and spending habits but I’d still have to mention this is the most expensive shoe out of the entire list. It’s well worth it if you can afford it though. Also, you don’t really want to take these outdoors much, unless, once again, you can afford to get a new pair sooner than you might think.
The AJ 34 is a beast man. It truly is. If you’re having a tough time deciding, I’d simply go for the #1 option (duh). If you need more information, I’ve got a full comprehensive review of them, so check it out below!
Alright, that’s it for today’s guide! I’ve put my heart and soul to this, it was really tough to pick 7 out of the many beasts released in recent years!
As always, I’m more than happy to get in touch with you. Do you have any questions? Perhaps you’ve got an experience you’d like to share about any of these shoes? Will you be grabbing the AJ 34?