High Tops vs Low Tops: Which Are Best For Basketball?

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If you're a keen basketballer, you've probably wondered whether high tops vs low tops are best for basketball.

As the best basketball shoes come in a variety of styles, the answer to the question may seem unclear but don't worry, because we're here to help guide you through some of the key differences and similarities to determine which are best.

With that being said, let's begin...

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High Tops vs Low Tops - Price

You'll most likely find high tops to be slightly more expensive than low tops which is probably unsurprising as they tend to require more materials to make.

Of course, this will vary depending on the brand, technology, and fabric used, but the majority of the cheaper basketball shoes we could find, like the adidas Dame 7's, were low tops.

adidas basketball shoe product image of a singular purple shoe
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Image Credit: adidas

In terms of how much you should spend on a pair, it would really depend on your budget, but there are plenty of options out there, from inexpensive to premium manufacturers, so finding basketball shoes within your price range shouldn't be too challenging.

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High Tops vs Low Tops - Ankle Support

Despite numerous studies testing the theory of high tops being better for ankle support, there has been practically none in more recent times that have shown a direct link.

One of the aforementioned studies, as featured in our guide to how basketball shoes should fit, examined 10,000 Australian basketballers and did not find high or low tops to be a major risk factor for ankle injuries.

The most common form of ankle injury in basketball is either an inversion or flexion and is most likely to occur after landing following a jump so, in actuality, you need a pair of shoes with good cushioning, like the Nike LeBron 18's, to absorb most of the shock and to keep you balanced.

Nike basketball shoe product image of a pair of black shoes with white soles
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Image Credit: Nike

With that being said, low tops can provide more freedom for ankle movement as one study found low tops allowed for 4.5 degrees more ankle inversion than high tops which may be more beneficial to players who employ a lot of sudden changes in movement.

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High Tops vs Low Tops - Other Injuries

While wearing high tops might be beneficial for your ankles, they may start causing issues in other areas.

Jeffrey Taylor, a physical therapist and biomechanist at High Point University in North Carolina, said, "You change one thing, and it's better for one area and unfortunately may be worse for the other."

A stiff high top, for example, may improve ankle support but, like with ski boots, excess support can transfer the forces, and potential injuries, towards your knees.

To counteract this, it has been estimated that around half of the players in the NBA use custom insoles made from a computer scan of their feet, designed to minimise injury risks as much as possible.

High Tops vs Low Tops - Athletic Performance

Ultimately, one of the key indicators to decide between the two trainer styles is whether one will make you perform better on the court than the other.

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In terms of improved reach, a 2017 study found shoe collar height did not affect performance during realistic jumping - a difference here would more likely come from the spring of the midsole.

It could be argued that, typically, high top shoes are heavier than low tops and, therefore, could slow you down slightly when dribbling with a top basketball or impede your jumping going for a slam dunk in a top basketball hoop.

It is also worth noting that high top shoes have been linked to requiring less muscular effort which is why you'll often see a lot of rebound-heavy players both past and present like Dennis Rodman wearing higher collar shoes.

Are High Tops Or Low Tops Better For Basketball?

Under certain conditions, low tops prove a bit more freedom for ankle movement which might benefit you if your game is built around a lot of speed and agility.

By contrast, high tops are linked to requiring less muscular activation which is more beneficial for the bigger men in the sport

Ultimately, we'd say that low tops should suit the smaller, faster players like a point guard, whereas high tops will likely suit some of the taller players on the court like centres or power forwards due to being involved in more rebounds.