Not everyone has the vertical of a Vince Carter or Nate Robinson or the height of guys like Shaquille O’Neal or Boban Marjanovic. (In case you don’t know, Marjanovic can dunk without jumping!) But what if you can score gear to add some inches to your jumping ability, would you bite on that? This article will look at the best basketball shoes for dunking and how to choose the right pair for you.
Of course, realistically speaking, dunking on a 10-foot hoop remains a pipe dream for many. However, some are blessed with height and just need a little vertical push to dunk the basketball. Some gifted leapers may not be blessed with height, thus needing all the help they can get to clear a 10-foot hoop. Whichever you are of the two, you will get the maximum benefit from reading this review.
Our Favorites for the Best Basketball Shoes for Dunking
There is no surprise why the most expensive signature shoes are also the ones you will find in this section. These pairs offer the best traction, energy return, bounce, and lowness to the ground that most dunkers seek. At the very top of the list, our favorites for the best basketball shoes for dunking are:
TheAir Jordan 34 is one of the bounciest shoes of all time, bar none. It offers you incredible traction and outstanding support. The forefoot is bouncy while being supportive. It is very responsive while providing an excellent blend of stability and court feel. You can feel the energy transfer from the shoes to your legs, propelling you as you stride ahead.
There’s a large capacity 14mm Hex Zoom Air unit in the back, and the design ensures that you feel it anytime you land on your heels. This is one of the best shoes for people, especially dunkers and leapers, who want or demand heel and forefoot cushioning. There is a reason why it’s described as “Lamborghinis on the feet.”
What Makes the Air Jordan 34 Unique:
- One-of-a-kind futuristic design
- Even has a lifestyle feel compared with most basketball sneakers
- The lightest numbered Jordan shoe during its release at 13.1 ounces.
- Has an Eclipse Plate for extra cushioning and explosiveness
- Even though it is lighter than all the other Air Jordans, support is never compromised.
The famous dunker Jordan Southerland considers the low version AJ34 as one of his primary dunking shoes. At 6-foot-4, Southerland is considered by many the best one-foot dunkers in the world. The low version of the 34s is basically the same shoe but with extra padding on the collar. The height difference is not as extreme.
The only drawback about the 34s is that it should not be used as your main basketball shoe in an outdoor setting. This is not a hardcore outdoor shoe, so use it at the minimum. It could wear down easily, or the stones could pop the exposed Zoom units, reducing its effectiveness.
Why Choose the Air Jordan 34:
- Works for any position, whether you’re a guard or a big man
- Perfect all-around shoe
- Can be worn casually
- Implementation of Zoom units is perfect
If you are a two-foot jumper, then the KD 14 is perfect because of its excellent lockdown. To be fair, all leapers need a shoe with at least a decent lockdown, but the KD 14 is a cut above the rest in this aspect. The shoe has a bouncy sole that aids in jumping and running and is exceptionally comfortable.
The only tricky thing about the KD14 is the fit. Wide-footers may want to go half a size because most KD models, the 14s included, fit very snug. But outside of the fit, you have a perfect shoe you can ride indoors or outdoors. It doesn’t have the legendary traction status of the Kobe 9, but it’s still highly reliable than most models.
What Makes the KD 14 Unique:
- The build is extremely durable and could withstand even when used by the most dedicated players.
- The strap feature returns to provide more lockdown and security. It has been a mainstay of the earlier KD shoe models.
- Its superior ankle lockdown is best for two-foot jumpers.
While the strap adds to the security of the ankle, it makes the shoe look big. Nike still found a way for the shoe to remain light, but its bulky look may be a deal-breaker for some. That being said, leaders should still seriously consider buying the KD 14. Here’s why:
Why Choose the KD 14:
- Its bulky build makes it very durable.
- Like the Air Jordan 34, it is still a fun shoe to play in regardless of position.
- Its traction pattern is wide so it rarely picks up dust. If it does, it is just an easy wipe.
- Multilayer mesh upper keeps feet dry and comfortable.
- A broken-in feel helps reduce friction within the shoe.
- Midfoot straps provide a snug fit.
The Runner-Ups for the Best Basketball Shoes for Dunking
When considering runner-ups, there is something about these shoes that made them great for dunking and jumping, but they have a glaring hole in another area. Therefore, if the lacking feature of the shoe is not a deal-breaker for you, you can definitely consider wearing the models in this section.
If you’re strictly going for looks and springy cushioning, the Air Jordan 36 will not disappoint you. It’s a shoe that does nothing but perform. Obviously, the materials are toned down because leather is not very breathable. Somehow, the guys at Nike and Jordan Brand found a way to make it even lighter than the 34s at just under 12 ounces. You get a lightweight shoe that feels explosive when put on.
What Makes the Air Jordan 36 Unique:
- Jaw-dropping colorways that are not in the previous two Air Jordan models.
- Has an insanely consistent grip that even a little dust won’t make a difference
- Its springback, or energy return, is pretty explosive.
- Bounciest Zoom Unit setup among Nike and Jordan shoes
Some who have used it have a problem with a couple of different things. First, the ankle lockdown is good but not great. This is terrible news for two-foot jumpers or players who may have persistent ankle problems. Second, it may not be a shoe for wide-footers. Wide-footers may go up half a size, but it may amplify the mediocre ankle protection. Lastly, it may require a little break-in time, so you may have to be patient with it.
Why Choose the Air Jordan 36:
- It has cushioning in all the right areas.
- Very breathable and that’s because of its thin and lightweight upper
- Interestingly, even with the paper-thin material, you can feel its durability.
The Under Armour Embiid 1 basketball shoes have been very underrated for a long time and such is the case with the Embiid 1. It doesn’t have the marketing machine of its Jordan and Nike counterparts, but you may be completely missing out on a solid performer here. As far as basketball shoes for dunking are concerned, consider the Embiid 1 as a poor man’s KD 14– literally and figuratively.
What Makes the Under Amour Embiid 1 Unique:
- The cushioning is a blend of Micro G and HOVR
- Since Adidas concluded its association with Dwight Howard in 2015, this is the first time a major brand has created a sneaker for a true center.
- Has a considerable amount of tech
Aesthetically speaking, the Embiid 1 leaves much to be desired. The upper is just made up of Mesh and Fuse , but it’s surprisingly well-made and breathable. The best part about the upper materials is that it practically takes no time to break in. You just go out there and hoop with it.
Why Choose the Under Armour Embiid 1:
- If you mostly play outdoors, then the Embiid 1 will not disappoint.
- Supportive enough for centers, but also nimble enough for shifty players
- Lightweight textile upper with open-hole mesh for ultimate breathability
- TPU wing provides superior midfoot lockdown & enhanced lateral stability
- 5/8 construction for added ankle support
The Value Picks for the Best Basketball Shoes for Dunking
You can always take the time to rethink your options when buying basketball shoes that make you jump higher. You should go for these options, especially when you’re on a budget, since they perform well relative to their price. Here are some of the value picks for the best dunking shoes:
This is a Nike KD Trey 5 VIII budget model, but its performance rivals the main line’s. It is an excellent indoor and outdoor performer and has a very comfortable cushioning system based on the implementation of the Renew foam. The shoe fits identical to most KD shoes, which are slightly long and narrow; however, wide-footers may be able to wear their normal size. Traction is excellent, and they have some of the most menacing-looking outsoles that will see you through a few seasons, even outside.
What Makes the Nike KD Trey 5 VIII Unique:
- No feature jumps out of the box, but all of its parts make up a really solid shoe.
- Has a broken-in feel right out of the box
- At its low price point, the Nike KD Trey 5 VIII delivers a little bit of everything: bounce, responsiveness, stability, and impact protection.
As mentioned, nothing really stands out with the Nike KD Trey 5 VIII apart from the aesthetics. It can easily double as a lifestyle shoe and a basketball shoe. You may sometimes experience sliding over the footbed, but as long as you don’t overdo your lateral movements, you’ll be just fine.
Why Choose the Nike KD Trey 5 VIII:
- Foot stability and ankle lockdown is a combination that goes so well for leapers and dunkers.
- The wavy traction pattern allows the shoe to bite, again adding to the security of the foot before taking off.
- Will not break the bank
Other budget shoes you might consider:
- Air Jordan Zoom Separate
- Under Armour Curry 3Z5
- Adidas Pro Bounce
- 2-layer textile material in the forefoot includes clear yarns that give it a dynamic look
- Mid-top design with perforated foam pods helps you feel locked in around the ankle
- Flyknit padded tongue protects the top of the foot
How to Choose the Best Basketball Shoes for Dunking
These are the factors that you must consider when buying basketball shoes for dunking:
When selecting basketball shoes, you should pay close attention to the rubber outsole and its composition. If you mainly play indoors, the rubber material is not as important. However, it should be at the top of the list when playing outdoors. The material’s thickness and density will either improve or inhibit your movement and agility. As a result, the shoes will best compliment your abilities to jump higher.
2. Snug Fit
Snug-fitting shoes are best for leapers and dunkers. The added lockdown around the ankles adds to the stability and security so that there won’t be any doubts before jumping. Nothing is worse than slipping inside your shoes while attempting to jump. Poorly fitting shoes cause you to lose a lot of momentum and balance during take-off, significantly reducing your vertical jump.
3. Responsive Cushioning
When choosing the best basketball shoes for dunking, go for something bouncy yet responsive. You don’t need shoes with lots of cushion or super thick midsoles. The reason is just simple science: Thick midsoles absorb so much impact, resulting in a lower vertical. Thick-cushioned shoes are good for the joints, but you need something thinner and more responsive as your go-to dunking shoes.
If your shoes don’t bite the court or are slippery, you are either mentally going to check out, or you can’t achieve the needed results as far as jumping goes. Either way, slippery shoes are the kryptonite to any basketball player, especially for the leapers and dunkers.
The standard materials of modern basketball shoes are often mesh and synthetic stuff. This allows the shoes to be breathable and light. When choosing basketball shoes for dunking, always opt for shoes that have extra support and protection. This may come in the form of a strap or zippers.
Wrapping Things Up: Best Basketball Shoes for Dunking
Dunking is one of the most dominant and momentum-turning plays in basketball. However, the reality is that it is physically impossible for most basketball players. You must either have the vertical leaping ability or the height to pull it off consistently.
Still, if you’re somewhere in the middle or just needed a good day and gear to dunk, you can probably benefit from wearing basketball shoes that make you jump higher. At the top of the list are the Air Jordan 34 and KD 14, while the Air Jordan 36 , Under Armour Embiid 1, and Nike KD Trey 5 VIII are all excellent performers that provide the necessary support, lockdown, and traction all dunkers need.
Regardless of which shoe you choose, be sure that it tailors explicitly to your needs. There are still plenty of models that could pass as the best basketball shoes for dunking. Therefore, do your due diligence and check them out.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.