High-top and Low-top Basketball Shoes, The Difference and How to Choose

high top vs low top basketball shoes

So your old basketball shoes are worn out and you’re in the market for a new pair. Naturally, you are going to want to know which type of shoe is best, high-top or low-top? And it’s no wonder you’re confused because there is so much misinformation out there it can be difficult to know who to believe.

Die-hard high-top wearers swear by them and wouldn’t wear anything else, while low top wearers shudder at the thought of going back to high-tops. A look at what the pros wear won’t help either, because they are pretty much split down the middle. Around half of all professional basketball players wear low-tops while the other half wear either high or mid-tops.

So we thought it would be a good idea to get to the bottom of this high vs low-top debate once and for all. Once you are armed with the right information, it’s actually pretty straightforward which one to choose. Let’s start by looking at the two types of shoe individually.

High tops

High-top basketball shoes get their name from their high collar, which was originally designed to protect and support the ankle. But today’s high-tops are more sophisticated than that. The latest shoes provide impact protection and cushioning, thereby reducing stress on the ankle, knee and lower back.

Now you know that it makes sense to always go for high-tops, right? Not necessarily! While they do provide extra support, high-tops actually restrict ankle movement. This could cause a problem for shooters and guards whose game thrives on being lightning quick around the court.

High-top pros

  • Good ankle support
  • Soft cushioning for impact protection
  • Stronger, providing higher durability

High-top cons

  • Reduced ankle movement
  • Heavy construction
  • Reduces response time

Low-tops

Low-top basketball shoes are familiar to almost everyone since they look very much like a standard running or tennis shoe. But they are actually very different beasts. The low-top wasn’t traditionally used in basketball until Kobe Bryant, – who else? – introduced them professionally in 2007.

The low-top shoe was inspired by traditional soccer boots which allow for greater movement and flexibility around the pitch. Kobe thought he could transfer some of this flexibility to the basketball court. And so the low-top basketball shoe was born. And Kobe was right, pretty soon almost all attacking players were wearing them.

Low-top pros

  • Lightweight and responsive
  • Greater flexibility, allowing for good foot movement
  • Gives the player more control

Low-top cons

  • Not as strong as high-tops
  • Less ankle support, increasing the risk of injury
  • Less cushioning for the ankle and knee joints

Which one should you choose?

It should be obvious now that each shoe type is designed with a different type of player in mind. High-tops are for big guys who typically don’t move around the court so much, while low tops are ideal for guards or shooters who require quick feet and good flexibility.

But what if you are somewhere in between? We are not all super-athletic professional basketball players, are we? This question can be answered by considering your physical body size. Big players, regardless of which position they play, put increased pressure on the ankle and knee joints, so would benefit from high-tops.

Smaller, more athletic players should be able to get away with wearing lighter low-tops. But there are no rules, so ultimately the choice will come down to which shoes you feel most comfortable in. The best advice you can get is to try both of them out to see which one suits your game best.

Which position do you play?

Still can’t decide? We’ve put together this position guide which recommends the most appropriate shoe for each of the five main basketball positions:

Point guard

This player is usually the team’s best ballplayer and passer. They need to be quick on their feet and ideally small framed. So it makes sense for them to wear low-tops. A high-top shoe in this position could restrict movement and badly impact their passing play.

Shooting guard

Shooting guards typically cut across the court a lot, so they need to be able to change direction quickly. Players in this position will benefit from wearing low-tops. The lighter shoe will also allow them to run quickly, which is great for attacking play, while high-tops will restrict their ability to cut across the court.

Small forward

The small forward is one of the most versatile players on the team. They need a combination of good dribbling and ball-handling skills. Because these players need to be light on their feet, they too will benefit from wearing low-tops. High-tops will slow them down and affect their dribbling skills.

Power forward

The power forward plays down the centre and is usually the team’s most dependable scorer. Because forwards need to be strong, they are usually big framed which naturally restricts their agility. Therefore, the high-top shoe is the recommended choice because it provides the strength and support such players need.

Centre

The centre or pivot plays near the baseline closest to the basket. The centre is usually the tallest player on the team and needs to be skilled at both shooting and gathering rebounds. Because they are very tall and don’t cut across the court very much, centres will benefit from wearing high-tops.

What about mid-tops?

If you are still having trouble deciding, there is, of course, another option – the mid-top. These halfway house shoes provide a good combination of support and flexibility. Mid-tops have become popular fashion accessories in recent years, so check out our colourful basketball shoes Australia players will love today.

Many non-professional players love mid-tops for the support they provide without restricting play too much. But some professional players have also taken to wearing them. From a professional perspective, mid-tops are most suitable for power forward positions, but smaller framed centres will also benefit from them.

Conclusion

All that being said, there are no hard or fast rules about which shoe is best. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. If you are a forward player and prefer playing in mid-tops, then go for it. No one is going to stop you. The one caveat is, should you find you are getting injured often, it’s a good sign you are wearing the wrong type of shoe.