The typical NBA player runs fewer than three miles each game, and players who log extended minutes easily exceed that mark. Count in the practices, workouts, and scrimmages, and that’s a lot. All that intense running, not to mention the change of direction, takes a toll on the joints and the shoes.
NBA players need to wear the best basketball shoes to protect them from injuries, but have you wondered how often do basketball players change shoes? Do they wear new shoes every game or wait until the sneakers break down?
This article will answer those questions plus more sneaker talk.
Why Do Basketball Players Change Shoes?
NBA players change basketball shoes because of an apparent reason– they wear out. Continuing to wear worn-out shoes is an injury risk, especially with all the running that these players do. Foot, ankle, leg, hip, and even back discomfort can all be caused by inadequate or worn-out shoes. Why? Because poor alignment in the feet can have a domino effect on the rest of your body. Fatigue injuries result from repeated stress on a muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone and eventually cause injuries.
There is an unwritten rule that shoes are only good for 500 miles. But honestly, no athlete ever tracks the mileage of their shoes. So, how can you tell that your basketball sneakers should never see the light of day again?
If the tread on your shoes has worn down to the bottom, it’s time to get a new pair. When you see the rubber material of the traction worn out, the midsole may already have fallen apart as well. Worn-out robber traction is dangerous as it can make you slip all over the floor, causing injuries such as hyperextended knees.
Middle-sole creasing is another sign that it’s time to get a new pair of shoes. Creasing in the midsole, which appears as wavy and vertical lines, gives the impression that the shoe was crumpled up.
The stress lines mean that the shoe can no longer absorb or disperse force. It’s best to replace them before it gets to that point because you’ll be in danger of foot injuries such as plantar fasciitis.
Do NBA Players Wear the Same Shoes Every Game?
There is no definite answer to this. Every player is different, and it simply boils down to personal preference. Most estimates place the number of games a player will use a given pair of shoes at somewhere between four and twenty. Different people have different reasons for doing so.
For many, it’s all about comfort. Matt Barnes, for example, got new shoes every two to five games because that’s when the shoe started to feel uncomfortable for him. Klay Thompson may go up to 12 games with a pair.
On the other end of the spectrum, some players squeeze the most out of their shoes. An excellent example is Anderson Varejao. The Brazilian big man was said to play up to 25 games using the same pair. Varejao attributed that to his poor upbringing and inability to buy shoes when he was younger.
How Often Do NBA Players Change Shoes?
And now on to the million-dollar question: How often do NBA players change shoes? NBA players change their shoes anywhere between two to 20 games. A Denver Nuggets equipment manager said that NBA players usually wear up to 50 pairs of shoes in an 82-game season. That’s an average of 1.6 games before they change into a new pair!
It’s not easy to see why NBA players have to change shoes every so often. They could have friends and family trying to score their game-worn shoes, or the players might give them to fans and sell signed sneakers for charity. Even Michael Jordan was said to have changed shoes at halftime when he was having a bad game! MJ’s habits were obviously an exception, but NBA players change shoes whenever they feel like it and can afford to do so.
As you may already know, most NBA players have shoe deals, whether it’s a signature or just getting paid to wear a brand. Superstars like Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving have signature shoes. That means that a brand is created around them, they have some input about the design of the shoes, and they get all the free merchandise they can get, on top of the eight-figure deals they sign.
Then, the next tier is the players who may not have their own signature shoes but are paid millions to wear a brand. Like their superstar peers, they have access to whatever free merchandise they can get their hands on or whatever they request. The newest draft picks may also ink shoe deals to represent a specific brand. Needless to say, whether you are a superstar who has his own shoe line or not, players who are signed to wear a particular brand could have all the free shoes they want and can afford to change sneakers as often as they’d like.
Can NBA Players Wear Whatever Shoes They Want?
Yes, they can, as long as they are not signed with a shoe brand. One of the most famous NBA players who wear any type and brand of shoe is Montrezl Harrell. Harrell is often seen wearing models from AND1, Reebok, and Adidas. As you may have guessed, the big man is not affiliated with any shoe brand and, thus, is free to wear whatever shoes he wants.
NBA players who are sneaker free agents are often seen wearing shoes of another brand, perhaps to have the upper hand and leverage this in contract negotiations. Kobe Bryant’s sneaker free agency in 2002-03 allowed him to wear retro Jordans for a while that donned the Lakers’ purple and gold colors.
Sometimes, though, lesser-known shoe companies may allow their signed players to wear shoes from the same brands from time to time. Andrew Wiggins famously wore Kobes in the 2022 NBA Finals since Peak was still working on the new Big Triangle sneakers. Plus, new shoes needed time to break in, so Wiggins chose to wear Nikes instead.
The NBA before was strict about the color of the sneakers. The players were only allowed to wear specific colors of sneakers– they should be 51% black or white. Later, they gave the go-signal for more colors as long as they had something to do with the team. In the offseason of 2018, the league tore that page in the rulebook, deservedly so.
The move was no doubt part business and part freedom of expression. The NBA is still cracking down on customized artwork, shoes with sharp or protruding objects, and reflective elements featured in the shoes.
It was a long time coming for the NBA to remove these color restrictions. They have relaxed the rules a bit during different times, such as theme nights (MLK Day, Black History Month, etc.) and Christmas Day games. Who would ever forget the Grinch colorways that Kobe Bryant wore in the Christmas Day game in 2010?
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Because players are now trending toward customization on the court and have long since moved toward increasingly flamboyant fashion choices off it, it seems logical for the league to follow suit and allow guys to add some flair to their basketball getup.
How Long Do Basketball Shoes Typically Last?
Despite what you hear from basketball sneaker ads, they don’t last very long. No matter how thick the soles were when you got them, they would fall apart at some point. According to experts, the average lifespan of a pair of basketball sneakers is 3.5 months. However, there are several variables to consider. What are these factors? Let’s explore them one at a time.
- Total hours of usage or total mileage
Experts recommend that you should replace your basketball shoes after 75 to 100 hours of use. If you can calculate the mileage, that should be around 500 miles of use.
- Playing Frequency
It’s no rocket science: If you play often, you have to change those kicks often, too. Someone who plays basketball five times a week for hours each time will have their shoes worn out compared with someone who only plays on weekends for one hour at a time.
- How heavy are you?
Heavier and bulkier players will wear their shoes out faster than leaner and skinnier individuals. That’s because heavier players put more weight on each step, cut, and action, leading to faster sneaker deterioration.
- Play Style
How you play is also a factor in determining how often your shoes last. There are basketball players who like to run and hustle all over the court, and there are also individuals who prefer to play at a slower pace. For example, Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs is known for his enthusiastic play on offense and defense. One time, as Manu tried to stay in front of a player, he planted his left foot too hard, causing the shoe to “explode” on him. Watch the play here:
- Type of Basketball Court
Cleaner courts, such as those made in hardwood, are often friendlier to your shoes since they are less abrasive. Concrete courts, on the other hand, may house loose sand and gravel that could cut the lifespan of your shoes considerably.
Even you’re playing in the most expensive shoe there is, these factors are often the biggest determinants how long your sneakers will last. If you have wondered how much do NBA players shoes cost and think they matter in the shoes’ longevity, they don’t. As general rules, if you wear the sneakers often and play in a relatively abrasive basketball court (outdoor concrete basketball courts, for instance), those shoes won’t last very long.
If it’s available in your area, you may choose a pair of sneakers with sturdier materials. For instance, Nike often has an XDR (Extra Durable Rubber) version, which is a better option if you primarily play outdoors. New Balance and most Chinese brands literally built the soles with outdoor play in mind, so you may choose to have a pair just in case.
Wrapping Things Up: How Often Do Basketball Players Change Shoes?
Much has been cleared about the question, “How often do NBA players replace shoes?” Because they subject their footwear to so much pounding between the games and practices, they have to change their kicks often. Obviously, this decision ultimately falls squarely on how the players feel about the shoes.
So, how often do basketball players change shoes? In the NBA, it could be anywhere from two to 20 games. One equipment manager from the Nuggets said that the Denver players may wear up to 50 pairs of shoes in a season, an average of one shoe in less than two games! That’s the perk of being an NBA player, especially one who’s signed with a shoe brand.
However, it’s important to note that NBA players do not change shoes just because they want; their kicks wear out faster because of all the running, and wearing new shoes protects them from footwear-related injuries.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.