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High Top vs. Low Top Basketball Shoes

Take a closer look at the differences between high top and low top basketball shoes. Knowing and having the right type of shoes will help you take your game to new heights.

High top basketball shoes and a ball on hardwood floor.

If sport is your career or favorite hobby, you should always place injury prevention at the top of your priority list. In fast-paced games like basketball, the players’ shoes must provide adequate support and cushioning to protect the feet, ankles, and joints. Basketball players have a choice between high-top or low-top basketball shoes.

If you want to make a good choice, you need to know the differences between the two. 

High-top basketball shoes have collars that completely cover the entire ankle, providing restrictions, containment, and cushions best suited for heavier players. Low-top basketball shoes do not extend above the ankle, making them lightweight and ideal for smaller players requiring free movement and speed. 

Everything is easier if you have the right tools, and the same goes for sports like basketball. You can take your game to new heights if you have the right shoes. So which basketball shoes should you be wearing? We explain the differences between high-tops and low-tops in more detail below. 

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High-Top vs. Low-Top Basketball Shoes

The main difference between high-top and low-top basketball shoes is the ankle collar height. Although it seems to be a minor difference, the shoe’s design can greatly impact a player’s game performance. High-tops and low-tops have different purposes, and players should know which shoe will be best suited to their position in the game. 

What are High-Top Basketball Shoes?

Nike Air Jordan 1 high top basketball shoes

High-top basketball shoes have high collars covering the ankle and provide sturdiness and support. They tend to be heavier than low-tops and don’t allow much movement. High-top shoes are heavier shoes that provide the foot protection and support required by post players like centers and forwards.

These players usually have a larger build and need stronger shoes to protect their feet and ankles from injury. 

Brief History of High-Top Basketball Shoes

The high-top basketball shoe was introduced in the 1930s when Chuck Taylor designed a patriotic blue and red Converse high-top shoe for the Olympics. The shoe became very popular, and a new model was introduced later in the 1940s. 

After the low-top basketball was introduced, the high-top basketball shoe became less popular. Today, however, both high-top and low-top shoes are equally popular, and it’s up to the players to choose which shoe is best suited to their position on the basketball court. 

What are Low-Top Basketball Shoes?

Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro low top basketball shoes

Low-top basketball shoes have short collars that extend to just below the ankle. They have a lightweight feel and allow for quicker, sharper movement on the basketball court. Smaller and shorter basketball players like wings and guards who do a lot of cutting and running on the field require shoes that won’t restrict movement or feel heavy, and therefore, low-top basketball shoes are the ideal choice.

Brief History of Low-Top Basketball Shoes

Low-top basketball shoes hit the market in the 1970s when Puma introduced their signature low-top basketball sneaker. Low-tops became the new trend after that, and a whole new string of basketball shoes with a low cut and less restrictive ankle padding followed, namely the Air Jordan 2 Low, Adidas Gil Zero, and Zoom Jet Flight. 

Today, there is a wide variety of low-top basketball shoes that offer good traction, stability, and heel support for those players that need speed and agility.   

High-Tops vs. Low Tops: Pros and Cons

There are upsides and downsides to just about everything in life, and the same goes for basketball shoes. You need to know the good points and the bad points to make an informed decision that will carry the most benefit for you. 

High-Top Basketball Shoes

Pros:

  • They offer great ankle support
  • Thicker fabric and padding offers protection against injury 
  • They are firm and strong, with high durability
  • Good at absorbing impact from jumping 

Cons:

  • They are heavier and make jumping and quick movements more difficult
  • High-tops can be restrictive compared to low-tops
  • They offer less flexibility
  • Less breathability 

Low-Top Basketball Shoes

Pros:

  • They are lightweight, allowing for quick movement and speed
  • Their high flexibility allows for a wide range of motion
  • High breathability due to less padding and material
  • No foot restrictions

Cons: 

  • Offer minimal impact protection when jumping 
  • Less joint protection 
  • No ankle support
  • Less durable due to thin material and less padding

High-Tops vs. Low-Tops for Athletic Performance

Man wearing high top shoes playing basketball during sunrise.

When deciding between high-top and low-top basketball shoes for improved athletic performance, it comes down to more than the shape and style of the shoe. It depends on the player. Some players perform just as well with high-tops as they do with low-tops. 

The most important aspect to consider when you take your pick is whether the shoe provides a locked-in fit to ensure your feet are protected. Prevention of injury should always be prioritized when picking footwear for sports. 

Generally, high-tops are best suited to heavier players that require impact absorption and ankle stability. Low-tops work the best when players need to move fast and do a lot of cutting and running. But, necessarily, no rule says one is better than the other.   

High-Tops vs. Low Tops for Ankle Movement & Support

Man wearing low top shoes playing basketball outdoors.

There is no doubt that high-top basketball shoes take the win in terms of ankle support. The high-cut ankle collars provide excellent padding, support, and stability to the ankle joint and muscles. High-top basketball shoes are very restrictive and provide little space for free ankle movement. This is a good thing for jumps but not ideal for running. 

Low-top basketball shoes provide no ankle support and put players at a higher risk for ankle sprains. They do, however, provide plenty of space for free ankle movement. Players who choose low-top basketball shoes must keep in mind that this shoe places speed and flexibility over guaranteed ankle protection and support.  

High Tops vs. Low-Tops Cost Differences

Air Jordan basketball shoes on display in the NBA store.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that high-top basketball shoes are more expensive than low-top basketball shoes due to the extra material required to make them. 

The type of fabric used, the brand, and the designs and colors of the shoes will also affect the price of the shoes.

Conclusion: Which One is Better for Basketball?

Man tying his low top basketball shoes in the court.

High-top basketball shoes are the safest option for players who do lots of jumping and dunking of the ball since most ankle sprains commonly occur when landing after a jump. In contrast, low-top shoes are the best option for players who want to be able to run and do a lot of cutting and sprinting on the basketball court. 

But in the end, you should decide based on your personal preferences and performance requirements. The shoe that will best help you meet your athletic goals is the shoe for you! 

References:

RunRepeat: High-top vs. Low-top Basketball Shoes

Live For BBALL: LOW Basketball Shoes vs HIGH TOPS: What to Choose?

Dunk or Three: High Top vs. Low Top Basketball Shoes

Next Luxury: High Top vs. Low Top: Everything You Need To Know

AND1: HIGH-TOP AND LOW-TOP BASKETBALL SHOES, THE DIFFERENCE AND HOW TO CHOOSE

Improve Hoops: The Full Report: Low or High-Top Basketball Shoes for Ankles

Wikipedia: High-top

The ChucksConnection: The History of the Converse All Star “Chuck Taylor” Basketball Shoe

Sports Performance Advantage: Low Top vs High Top Basketball Shoes