Shopping for a new pair of basketball sneakers is exciting, but it’s not as easy as you think. Some basketball shoes fit snug, others true to size, and a number fits wide. That begs the question, how should basketball shoes fit?
To answer that question, it’s important to know the movement involved in playing basketball. Basketball requires a lot of lateral movement along with some sprinting. Therefore, you’d want something that is comfortable but does not restrict movement. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt going for the trendiest-looking kicks!
Why Proper Basketball Shoe Fitting is Important?
The shoes are the most critical piece of basketball equipment. As much as Allen Iverson wants you to think sleeves and headbands are cool, they don’t really do much. Basketball sneakers are game-changers.
In basketball, the most common injuries are to the foot and ankle. As previously mentioned, you do a lot of sprinting and lateral movement when playing basketball, so it’s not exactly a surprise. You cut, jump, change direction, accelerate, and decelerate that it just a lot of strain on your feet and ankles.
Strength and conditioning are excellent ways to strengthen the muscles around the ankles to prevent injury, but the proper fit of the shoes also has a lot to do with it. Wearing basketball shoes too big lacks stability on the footbed and the heels and ankles. Shoes that are too small may cause blisters and all minor injuries that you don’t want in a sport where your feet are of utmost importance.
Therefore, you should wear basketball shoes at just the right fit and size to prevent injury. Basketball sneakers should also be comfortable as it translates into your other facets of the game. If you trust your shoes, you’ll be able to focus on the game more, which leads to better performance on the court.
How Do I Know What Size of Basketball Shoes to Buy?
Proper shoe fit depends on selecting the right basketball sneaker size, so this is a pretty critical decision. I’d like to say that it’s a personal preference– hell, Paul George is known for wearing shoes one size small–, but that’s actually pretty dangerous. Wearing the wrong size could get you in a world full of hurt; we’re talking blisters, ingrown toenails, and a horde of ankle issues.
Hence, it is vital to wear basketball shoes that are of the correct size. The first thing that you’re going to consider is your playstyle. Cushioning and traction are given for any player, but big men and guards should choose between support and flexibility. If you’re big, you may want to choose a shoe with a lot of support, but if you’re a guard, you should go for flexibility. You also want to be light on your feet if you’re a shooter, so heavy basketball shoes are a no-no.
Another decision that you should make is choosing between a low-top and a high-top. A mid-top basketball shoe is kind of an in-between, but as a rule of thumb, quick, shifty players might want a low-top (think Kobes) so as not to limit their movements.
Now, on to the sizes. The thing that makes this tricky is that the measurements of your feet may differ from year to year. Your age, possible weight gain, and injuries are contributing factors to an increase in shoe size.
That is why it’s best to measure your feet every now and then or try the shoes themselves at the store to determine your current size. Moreover, some shoes are made wide or snug, so you’d never really know until you try them on.
Should Basketball Shoes Be a Size Bigger?
No, it shouldn’t. Everything must fit right. The toebox should leave ample room for your toes, especially for your thumb. The heel and ankle area should not be tight, but it should be securely in place.
The only exception to this is if your feet are extraordinarily wide or narrow. If it’s really wide, you’d have to sacrifice length, and the toebox is bigger to accommodate the width of the forefoot. Or you might just have to select sneakers that are designed for wide-footers.
How Much Room Should Be in the Toe of a Basketball Shoe?
When fitting a shoe, make sure you stand and walk around for a little. This way, you can feel how much space is in the toebox.
To obtain maximum comfort, ensure that you have a thumbnail’s width of space between the tip of the shoe and your thumbnail. You don’t want your toes to be crammed together. They should feel snug, but they should be able to move freely in there as well.
How to Fit Basketball Shoes?
To achieve a perfect fit for your basketball shoes, don’t just take somebody’s word for it. What may work for some may not work as well for others. Don’t just go for the most popular brands or because it is endorsed by your favorite player. Don’t try to look cool, but wear shoes that are just perfect for your feet.
When fitting shoes, put both pairs on fully. If you’re already thinking of buying one, make sure you wear a pair of socks that you usually go for during basketball games. Lace up the shoes correctly and then stand and walk around with them.
Now, as you fit the shoes, take note of the following:
- How the upper fit around the ankle. It should be snug but not too tight. If it pinches on the sides, you need a bigger size. Try half a size bigger, and if it still pinches, work your way up.
- Supportive heel counter. The heel counter is the plastic in the back portion of the shoe used to increase support.
- How the shoe bends. Checking out how a shoe bends is one of the best ways to tell if a shoe is too small, too large, or is just perfect. A perfect fit shoe bends in the exact location as the ball of your foot. If it’s too big, it bends near your toes. If it’s too small, it will bend near the arch.
What to Look for in Basketball Shoes?
If you’re ready to cop your next pair of basketball sneakers, keep in mind these 7 tips:
1. Look for something that protects your ankles
Remember that you’re not wearing basketball sneakers for the looks and the cool factor. It’s for the protection of your feet, specifically, your ankles so you do not roll on them and have a nasty sprain. For a shoe to have excellent ankle protection, check out its materials, the lacing system, the upper, and the traction. Do that and you won’t find yourself in crutches anytime soon.
A shoe with bad traction is very dangerous for your feet. You come out on a sliding stop and that’s a foot or leg injury waiting to happen. The thing is, most legit basketball shoes do have a bite, but if you play them on concrete basketball courts, they could wear out fast. That means you are not just looking for a pair with good traction. Be sure that the material for the sole lasts long.
Comfort is another aspect of a shoe that shouldn’t be put in the backburner. An uncomfortable shoe is a literal pain on the foot. One of the most common reasons why a shoe is uncomfortable is its materials. If it’s made of cheap synthetic ones, it’s probably not comfortable to wear. Another factor for a comfortable basketball ride is the cushioning setup of the shoe. If the shoe sits too low to the ground, you’ll get more court feel, but you won’t feel the bounce. In many cases, if the shoe is not bouncy, some may find it uncomfortable.
One thing that you should learn about basketball shoes is that you can find real gems even on the cheaper models. If you feel you can ball on sneakers in the $50 to $75 range, then go for it. All brands have budget models and many offer discounts for older stocks, so you won’t have any shortage of options. Of course, if you can afford to go higher, do your due diligence, cast a wide net, and try them all out.
5. Always go for quality
This is the one thing that you should never sacrifice. Don’t believe the people that say you can play with whatever is on your feet. That’s a straight-up lie. When you know you have quality kicks, it will give you the confidence to make any movement. It will protect your ankles and allows you to stop on a dime, and change direction in an instant. You can only dream of that if you don’t invest in quality.
6. Figure out if you need a low, mid, or high top
This decision depends on the type of player you are. In many instances, you either fall into one of three types: a big man, a quick guard, or a versatile forward. Generally, a big man needs a high top for added protection, a shifty guard needs a low top for speed, and the versatile forward does well with a mid-top.
Aesthetics, or the looks, is listed last on here for an obvious reason. It’s not really that important as long as you got the other criteria down pat. However, if you find a pair that hugs your ankles well, has excellent traction, is comfortable, is high quality, AND looks cool, then why not? It’s one way to show your personality and individuality, so go for it if you can.
One more reason why you may choose a shoe that looks good is you can use it outside the basketball court as a lifestyle shoe. The Jordan Brand, or Js for short, often has that effect that crosses over to the popular culture.
How to Break in Basketball Shoes
Another tricky attribute of basketball sneakers is you may not know how good the pair is if you have not broken it in yet. This process, depending on your preparation, could be a bad experience or a comfortable one.
Here are some proven tips on how to break in basketball shoes:
1. Buy shoes in advance
The break-in process lasts a couple of weeks so be sure to buy your kicks in advance before the big day. If you buy them too close to the date, your feet could get painful and all blistered up.
2. Start slow
In the first three days, do not use the shoes for strenuous activities. Wear them for 10 minutes on the first day then add another 10 for the next couple of days, and only for walking or some light stretching exercises.
3. Ramp up
From the fourth to the seventh day, you can now do more difficult exercises on longer durations. For a minimum of an hour each day, you may now do jogging for 15 minutes and ramp up to 30 minutes by the end of the week.
4. Doing basketball moves
After ramping up the activities that include 30 minutes of jogging, you can now incorporate more basketball moves in your exercise for the next four days. By “basketball moves,” we mean turns, pivots, and jumps. If you don’t like doing these moves alone, participate in a light pickup game.
5. Moment of truth
The last three days of the two-week break-in period should be in real team practice and a scrimmage. At this point, make sure you wear the shoes for as long as you can. You will find out that this method of slowly increasing the activities while wearing the shoes allows the sneakers to conform to the shape of your feet. This is a proven pain-free and blister-free method of getting the best out of your pair.
More about how to break in basketball shoes here.
Wrapping Things Up: How Should Basketball Shoes Fit
Looking for the perfect-fitting basketball shoes is not exactly rocket science, but it’s not a walk in the park either. Many are still confused about whether should basketball shoes be tight or loose. The answer is neither.
Wear basketball shoes too big, and your heel slides all over the place, a definite recipe for injury. If they’re too tight, and it hurts! So, how should basketball shoes fit? It should be snug but comfortable. The ankles should be well-protected, and the heels should stay in place.
If your sneakers are made in stiff materials, you may need to break them in before playing in an actual game. The trick is to bring them along slowly as far as the intensity of activities, and at the end of two weeks, it will like they’re made especially for you.
Did you find this post helpful? Then you may also like our other basketball FAQ articles here.