The Best Basketball Socks – A Definitive Guide

I used to read everything I could find about the latest basketball shoes and debate endlessly which shoes would let me jump highest or slash to the hoop with the most explosion. Then I would rock my new shoes in cheap, thin suit socks - what a mistake. It was a revelation when I got my first pair of high-performance basketball socks. They really make a difference!

In this article, I want to go into great detail and tell you about the best basketball socks on the market. Read on - you don't want to make the same mistake I did.

List of the best basketball socks:

There are a lot of things to consider when looking for the perfect basketball socks. In the following paragraphs I want to sum up the most important ones.

Material

Performance socks are usually made of varying mixes of cotton, polyester, nylon and elastane (spandex). Pure cotton is rarely seen in socks these days, as cotton quickly absorbs sweat and doesn't dry very fast. On the other hand, synthetic materials like nylon and polyester wick away moisture quickly and retain their shape much longer, which makes for much more durable socks. Elastane usually makes up a very small percentage of the material (around 2-6%), but its incredible flexibility adds stretch and makes socks a lot more comfortable!

Material of Nike Hyper Elite

Thickness

This comes down to personal preferences, but I like my basketball socks to be a little thicker than my usual everyday socks. I have rather narrow feet, so thicker material helps me to improve the fit of my shoes.My feet slide less inside the shoes, which not only helps to avoid blisters, but also makes quick basketball moves much more comfortable.

Of course, if you have very wide feet and you already have a hard time getting into your shoes you might want to look towards thinner socks like the Nike Cotton Cushion.

Length

There was a time when players wore long tube socks all the way up to the knees. ​But, these socks are completely out of fashion now and have been replaced by modern compression pants.

This leaves you with the decision whether you want to wear crew cut socks up to the middle of the shins, mid cut socks just above the ankle, or the low cut style, which makes your socks almost invisible.

This is mostly a fashion decision, but some like the added compression of crew cut socks. Another reason to choose crew cut socks is when you wear an ankle brace and want to avoid unnecessary friction. 

Cushioning and Arch Support

The more expensive performance socks like the Nike Elite bring you additional cushioning in the forefoot and around the heel making them extremely comfortable and helping you to avoid blisters. I personally love the additional cushioning because it really helps to lock down my rather narrow feet inside the shoes.

Some socks feature compression bands in the midfoot area, which provide additional arch support. This can be helpful if you suffer from arch pain or plantar fasciitis.

This picture of the Nike Hyper Elite shows the compression bands and the cushioning on the inside of modern performance basketball socks:

Alright, let's take a closer look at some of the most popular basketball socks:

Socks

Features

My Rating

  • Price: Out of stock

Nike Jordan Men's Low Quarter Dri-Fit

  • Low cut socks
  • Left/right specific design
  • Price: $14.00

Nike Cotton Cushion Crew Socks

  • tight fit
  • comfortable material
  • Price: $15.38
    Was: $16.99

Under Armour Men's HeatGear

  • thick and warm
  • very tight fit
  • Price: Out of stock

Nike Men's Hyper Elite Crew

  • very good cushioning
  • synthetic feel
  • Price: $22.95

Nike Men's Elite Basketball Crew

  • most popular basketball socks
  • huge variety of colorways
  • Price: $29.00

Nike Men's Elite Versatility

  • three different lengths
  • very comfortable material

Nike Cotton Cushion Crew

I like the clean style of these all black socks (with a white Nike swoosh on the top). As basketball sneakers get more colorful every year, these provide a nice contrast.

The Nike Cotton Cushion socks are made of 68% cotton, 31% nylon, and 1% elastane, which gives them a nice plushy feel, I love wearing these socks at home. Unfortunately, the socks can present a bit of a problem during games. I had to tie my shoes extra tightly when wearing these socks because they are quite slippery. A couple of times, I hit my toes on the front of my shoes during quick stops because my feet slipped inside my shoes.

There is also less added cushioning in these Nike socks - problematic for my narrow feet - but a great choice if you have wide feet and your shoes are already very tight.

Jordan Men's Low Quarter Dri Fit

If you are looking for clean socks to go along with your Jordans, these socks have you covered. They are low quarter cut socks, which means they are lower than regular athletic crew cut socks and end just above the ankles.

These Jordan socks borrow a lot of features from more expensive performance socks:

  • They are left/right foot specific
  • The red compression band supports the arch of your feet
  • Thicker material adds cushion​

Overall, these socks are very comfortable, affordable and also go well with lifestyle sneakers.

Under Armour Men's Heat Gear

​The Under Armour Heatgear socks are made out of 77% polyester, 20% cotton and 3% elastane. This mix of materials makes the socks very flexible and durable; they also dry very fast. The cushioning near the heels and toes is very thick, which works great for my narrow feet and locks in my feet much better than thinner socks.

The socks also feature a compression band around the midfoot, designed to support your arch and avoid foot fatigue, however, I didn't actively notice this when wearing them. What I did notice, however, is the compression material around the ankles and calves. The Under Armour socks fit very tightly and pulling them up all the way can be a bit uncomfortable at first. They are a great choice for basketball players who are looking for added compression around the lower leg.

Nike Elite Basketball Socks

These socks were introduced by Nike in 2008 and were an instant hit. They were so popular and rare, people were buying them in their local stores and reselling them on Ebay for $40 or more. In the following years, the socks with the iconic Nike elite logo have become the most popular basketball socks and even collector's items for some!

There is a reason behind this madness. The Nike elite socks really are in a different league compared to your average 6-pack, white sports socks.

The first thing you notice when you put on a pair of Elites is they are specifically tailored to fit your left or right foot. This really improves the fit and avoids unnecessary bunching around the toes.​ Added cushioning on specific high-impact zones of the foot as well as arch support make these socks insanely comfortable during play. The material is very durable and lasts for years of high-intensity basketball.

The Nike Elites are not cheap, but once you’ve worn a pair, you really won't want to go back to your average sports socks. They were the first high-performance basketball socks on the market and I believe they are still the best overall basketball socks available.

Nike Hyper Elite

Released as a follow-up to the original Elite socks, the Hyper Elites came out in 2014. You can recognize them by the slightly altered logo, but you will probably see them a lot less on the playgrounds as they never caught on as much with the basketball world as the originals.

Compared to the Elites, these socks have a more synthetic feel to them. This makes them basically indestructible, but also a little less comfortable on your skin. Cushioning below the feet as well as the arch support stayed mostly the same, but the Hyper elites added external cushioning around the ankles. This could be helpful if your shoes are uncomfortable around the lacing, but it didn't add any benefits for me.

Overall, the Hyper Elites are great basketball socks, but I don't think they justify the extra three to five dollars in cost when compared to the original Elites.

Nike Elite Versatility

As the latest addition to the Nike Elite series, the Versatility line was released in 2016. And, they are more versatile, indeed.

Compared to previous editions, the Nike Elite Versatility comes in three different lengths: low, mid and crew. This gives players the option to choose the style they prefer. That's great because I like my socks a little lower than the rather high crew cut. You can also go for an almost sockless look if you choose the lowest cut.

With these socks, Nike went back to a plush, cottony feel that is much nicer on the skin. They also added a ventilation zone on the top of the socks, which makes you feel as if you are playing with air conditioning. Cushioning, arch support and fit are all top-notch - exactly what we expect from Nike.

The Nike Versatility is a worthy addition to the Nike elite series, especially if you want to go for a lower look without sacrificing performance.

Final thoughts

If you are playing basketball for hours every day, high-performance basketball socks can really make a difference! They protect your feet from fatigue, help you avoid blisters and make playing basketball much more fun. I would recommend buying the original Nike elite. They are the most popular basketball socks for a reason!

If you are looking for socks which are more affordable I would go with the Under Armour Heatgear, they are also very comfortable and durable.​

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