The 5 Best Outdoor Basketball Shoes – Durability and Performance

If you play a lot of outdoor basketball you are probably familiar with this problem: Most basketball shoes are designed for indoor use and won’t last very long on rugged outdoor courts. So, unless you want to buy a new pair every month, it is important to find shoes that can take the beating of playing on blacktop.

How do you recognize good outdoor basketball shoes?

  • The outsole is made from hard and durable rubber
  • The traction grooves are wide and deep
  • They shouldn’t cost a fortune because they won’t last forever
  • The upper material needs to be tough and resilient

Unfortunately, the big basketball shoe brands release very few (or none) dedicated outdoor basketball shoes these days. So if you can’t afford to customize your favorite Nike ID sneaker with a durable XDR outdoor rubber sole, you need to find regular basketball shoes that also work well outdoors

Inr eality, this means you need to watch dozens of shoe reviews and hope that the reviewer mentions if this particular shoe works outdoors. Check any Youtube video about a basketball shoe and there is a good chance that someone asked this question in the comments!

To help you avoid wasting so much time watching sneaker videos I have checked out 321 reviews of 52 of the most popular basketball shoes and recorded the opinion of the reviewers about traction, cushion, material, support and their fit. But most importantly for this article, I also looked if the reviewer would recommend the tested shoe for outdoor use. You can check out the complete list of shoes here.

Below you can find a list of basketball shoes that are recommended for outdoor use (as of Jun 15, 2018) and are currently available for less than $100:

Overall Rating: 8.8 (4 reviews)
  • Premium materials
  • Great cushioning
  • Recommended for outdoor use by 2 shoe reviewers
  • Deals from $97.74
Overall Rating: 8.6 (3 reviews)
  • Nice cushioning
  • Works outdoors
  • Recommended for outdoor use by 2 shoe reviewers
  • Deals from $69.99
Overall Rating: 8.5 (8 reviews)
  • Very supportive
  • Good cushioning
  • Recommended for outdoor use by 2 shoe reviewers
  • Deals from $75.47
Overall Rating: 8.4 (5 reviews)
  • Adjustable Ankle Support
  • Very supportive
  • Recommended for outdoor use by 4 shoe reviewers
  • Deals from $52.97
Overall Rating: 8.3 (4 reviews)
  • Amazing traction
  • Works outdoors
  • Recommended for outdoor use by 2 shoe reviewers
  • Deals from $76.49
Overall Rating: 8.2 (3 reviews)
  • Sticky traction
  • Very comfortable
  • Recommended for outdoor use by 2 shoe reviewers
  • Deals from $112.00
Overall Rating: 8.2 (6 reviews)
  • Fair price
  • Amazing traction
  • Recommended for outdoor use by 5 shoe reviewers
  • Deals from $52.97
Overall Rating: 7.9 (10 reviews)
  • great court feel
  • awesome traction
  • Recommended for outdoor use by 3 shoe reviewers
  • Deals from $75.98
Overall Rating: 7.3 (5 reviews)
  • Good traction
  • Works well outdoors
  • Recommended for outdoor use by 3 shoe reviewers
  • Deals from $80.00

The Best Outdoor Basketball Shoes

1. Air Jordan 32 Low

Average Expert Rating: 8.8 (see all reviews)
The low version of the Air Jordan 32 offers slightly improved traction and the same premium materials and comfortable cushioning as the mid. Unfortunately, the traction is still not great, especially on dusty courts. Overall, this is a great shoe for fans of the Jordan 32 that prefer the freedom and flexibility of a low-top basketball shoe.
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2. Jordan Ultra Fly 2

Average Expert Rating: 8.6 (see all reviews)
The Ultra Fly 2 is a great performer at a decent price. The traction is solid, and thanks to the hard rubber, it works very well outdoors too. Getting forefoot and heel Zoom units at the affordable retail price of only $125 is a great deal. The only downside of this shoe is that the one-piece-bootie upper construction is very hard to get on at first. Overall, this is a very affordable shoe that's perfect for players with narrow feet who like to ball outdoors.
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3. Nike Lebron Soldier 11

Average Expert Rating: 8.5 (see all reviews)
The Nike Lebron Soldier 11 gets good to great marks in every category. Unfortunately, traction is a little inconsistent, especially on dustier courts. The support and lockdown are the strongest features of this shoe making you feel very secure on the court. Overall, these shoes are recommended for bigger guys who look for impact protection and support and don't mind the slight bulkiness and inconsistent traction.
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4. Under Armour Curry 3Zero

Average Expert Rating: 8.4 (see all reviews)
The Curry 3Zero is part of a slightly downgraded and more affordable line of Steph Curry shoes. The traction has remained the same and performs very well on clean courts but many reviewers complained about inconsistency on (mildly) dusty courts. The reduced price shows in the materials which are less premium than in the original Curry 3 but still do a good job. Universally liked by shoe critics is the innovative adjustable heel which provides great lockdown and works especially great for ankle brace wearers. Overall, the Curry 3Zero is a solid performer at a fair price.
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5. Adidas Crazylight Boost 2018

Average Expert Rating: 8.3 (see all reviews)
The Adidas Crazylight Boost 2018 has amazing traction that works well on all surfaces - even on dusty courts or outdoors. The Boost cushioning is firmer and more responsive but less comfortable compared to the Adidas Crazy Explosive which works well for quick guards. A lot of reviewers complained about issues with the fit in the form of dead space in the toe box and problems with heel slippage - make sure to go down half a size to limit these issues.
Overall, the Crazylight Boost is an underestimated performance basketball shoe that offers great bang for the buck!
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6. Nike Lebron Soldier 12

Average Expert Rating: 8.2 (see all reviews)
The Lebron Soldier 12 is a great performance sneaker! Compared to the Lebron 15 it's a little lighter and comes with a more responsive cushioning which makes it a better fit for guards and lighter players in general. The traction is absolutely amazing and works well even on dusty courts. Materials are very comfortable and getting into this shoe is a breeze. The only downside are the annoying straps that come undone easily - you will have to restrap a lot!
Overall, the Lebron Soldier 12 is a great all-around performer at an affordable price that will work for a lot of players.
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7. Under Armour Drive 4

Average Expert Rating: 8.2 (see all reviews)
The strongest point of the Under Armour Drive 4 is clearly its traction. The thick and aggressive herringbone pattern works on every surface - even outdoors. The Micro-G cushioning in the heel is nice, but the forefoot feels pretty much dead. The materials are very low-key and some reviewers mentioned a slightly painful break-in period. Overall, this is a solid shoe that outperforms its budget pricing and will work for every style of player - especially if you have wide feet!
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8. Nike Kyrie 3

Average Expert Rating: 7.9 (see all reviews)
Kyrie Irving's third signature sneaker is praised by reviewers for its fair price, good looks, and great traction. The biggest flaw of this shoe is the missing cushion. Good choice for light and quick guards who value court feel over impact protection. The upper and outsole are made of very durable materials, so this shoe will also hold up pretty well outdoors.
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9. Nike Kyrie Flytrap

Average Expert Rating: 7.3 (see all reviews)
At an incredible retail price of only $80, the "Flytrap" is Kyries most affordable basketball shoe so far. But does it perform like a true signature model?
Reviewers agree that the traction is by far the best aspect of this shoe. One reviewer even suggests that the Kyrie 4 should use the outer sole of this budget model. Unfortunately, the cost-cutting is very obvious in the setup of the cushioning which comes with a tiny Zoom bag and thin Phylon insole. Other performance aspects of the Kyrie Flytrap are very basic but mostly get their jobs done.
Most reviewers would rather save $40 more and go for the Kyrie 4, but the Flytrap might work well for wide-footers or if you are looking for a cheap outdoors shoe.
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How do you find good outdoor shoes?

Before you start to search for your next pair of outdoor basketball shoes, you should be clear about what you are actually looking for. What differentiates a great outdoor sneaker from a regular indoor performer? Let’s find out!

Durability of the rubber​

The rubber of the outsole suffers the most from playing on rougher outdoor courts. If your shoes feature a soft rubber compound you will probably end up with a completely slick outsole, or even worse, holes in your shoes, pretty fast! Overall, there are two things you want to look for when it comes to outsoles:

Solid and dense rubber:

You can either go with regular shoe models that come with a firmer rubber compound out of the box like the Adidas D Rose or the Nike Lebron Soldier line. Or you look for shoes that are specifically made for outdoor use. Especially Chinese brands produce a lot of outdoor models like the Anta KT Outdoor Low as indoor courts are much harder to find there compared to the US.

If you can afford to spend a little more on your outdoor shoes, you can also customize your favorite Nike Sneaker with an XDR (extra durable rubber) outsole using NikeID.

Wide traction pattern:

A very narrow traction pattern will attract a lot of dirt and rubble and lose grip quickly. Make sure to get a traction pattern with wide and deep grooves that will last a lot longer on dirty blacktop.

Durability of the upper material

The upper material usually suffers less from outdoor play as it shouldn’t be in contact with the surface of the court all that often. But if you tend to toe-drag a lot, or if other players are stepping on your feet all the time you might want to look into more durable upper materials like fuse or mesh.

Cushion​

Indoor courts are much easier on the joints than less-forgiving outdoor courts. Especially, if you have recurring knee problems, you shoud look for shoes with more comfortable cushioning that reduce the stress you put on your joints. If you are a younger and lighter player, additional cushioning is probably not as important, but firm shoes can still lead to sore legs after a day of playing outdoors.

Price

Inevitably, shoes that you use outdoors will have a shorter lifespan than shoes that are only used on pristine hardwood courts. Therefore, it might make sense to look for cheaper shoes that you can replace more often. Playing in $200 Air Jordan outdoors could become expensive really quickly!​

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1 comment
Arpan says December 23, 2017

Gr8 advice

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