How Should Basketball Shoes Fit? A Simple Buyer’s Guide

I remember buying my first pair of Nike basketball shoes as a young teenager. I was shocked at how much better I played simply because the shoes fit me so much better than previous pairs. After buying those Nike’s, my feet didn’t feel as beat up after games and I no longer got painful blisters or calluses.

Finding the perfect fitting basketball shoes can be tricky, so we have assembled this simple guide to help you. Learn how to find the right pair of basketball shoes for you and your game.

Do You Need Special Shoes for Basketball?

Absolutely! Basketball is incredibly rough on the feet because it requires intense sprinting and the ability to quickly change directions on the court. 

Investing in a quality pair of basketball shoes will help protect your feet from injury. You’ll also perform better in basketball shoes than you would in regular running shoes.

How to Know What Size Basketball Shoes to Buy?

While most people will probably just go by their normal shoe size, this isn’t always a wise move. Basketball shoes are made differently from other types of shoes and all brands are sized differently. Always try basketball shoes on before buying them.

When shopping for the perfect fitting basketball shoes, be sure to take your thick basketball socks with you to see exactly how the shoes will fit during a game. After putting the new shoes on, do some jumping and stretching to find out how they feel on your feet. Wear them for several minutes in the store before buying them.

Should Basketball Shoes be Tight or Loose?

Neither. The keyword is SNUG. You want basketball shoes that have a snug fit, but you never want a shoe that suffocates your feet. You’ll never play your best basketball if your feet feel uncomfortable.

If your toes are touching the top part of the shoe, the shoe is too small. You also want to make sure that you find a shoe with a broad toe box (especially if you have wide feet), otherwise, you’ll end up with a lack of blood flow and possibly some broken toenails (OUCH!).

Do Basketball Shoes Run Big or Small?

This really varies depending on which brand of basketball shoes you buy. This is why it’s so important to always try your basketball shoes on before buying them, especially if you are thinking of trying a brand that you’ve never worn.

Many basketball players find that Nike basketball shoes tend to run a little on the small side. Adidas basketball shoes seem to run big. Most folks think that Under Armour’s basketball shoes fit true to size. Also, keep in mind that men’s shoes and women’s shoes are sized differently.

Should Your Toes Touch the End of the Shoes?

No, you never want your toes touching the end of your basketball shoes. Your feet tend to swell during intense exercises like basketball due to the heat and high amount of impact. You need to keep this in mind when buying your new basketball shoes. 

The perfect fitting basketball shoes will give you a thumbnail’s length worth of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. The ideal fit is tight enough for support but loose enough to give your feet a little bit of breathing room.

High Top Basketball Shoes vs. Low Top Basketball Shoes

Ahhh, now we get into the great debate of whether to go with high top or low top basketball shoes. During my playing days, I endured several ankle injuries so my coaches always pleaded with me to wear high tops. If you’ve ever rolled an ankle while on the court, you know how painful it can be! 

The old-school thinking was that high top shoes provided more ankle support than low tops, making it less likely that you’ll suffer from a rolled ankle. However, after several recent studies, we have learned that high tops don’t protect the ankle any better than low tops. 

With this new knowledge, what type of basketball shoe should you buy?

Post Players

Big men who are power forwards or centers usually prefer a high top basketball shoe. The big boys down low on the block don’t rely on speed as much as the guards do so they can get away with a heavier shoe. Post players typically like high tops since they tend to have to deal with more contact when going up for rebounds.


Most guards opt for a low top shoe since they need the lightest weight possible to play at top speed. Low tops enable guards to have a greater amount of traction and change directions quickly. Any player who relies on agility as part of their game should choose a low top.

Wing Players

For small forwards or wing players, it may be best to opt for a pair of mid-top basketball sneakers. The mid-tops will provide a decent level of stability but won’t be as heavy as high tops.

How to Break in Your New Basketball Shoes

Nothing is more comfortable on the court than a pair of well-worn basketball shoes! Like any type of shoes, basketball shoes feel their best when they are broken in.

Wearing brand new shoes on the court that haven’t been broken in can be uncomfortable and even hurt your feet. Here are a few tips to break in your new basketball shoes.

1. Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Never buy your shoes right before the basketball season starts. Always purchase your new shoes at least a couple of weeks before the season so that you won’t be rushing to break them in. This will also give you enough time to get used to the feel of your new shoes. 

2. Wear Them When You’re Not on The Court

To break your new shoes in faster, wear them even when you’re not on the court. Obviously, you don’t want to get your new kicks dirty, but if you’re just hanging around the house all day, put them on. Many players notice that the new shoes start to feel better after only wearing them around the house for a few days.

You can also walk or lightly jog around the neighborhood in your new shoes. This will help the rubber and leather components to loosen up a little bit. 

3. Wear Two Pair of Socks

To break your new shoes in even faster, wear an extra pair of socks. This will help stretch the heels of the shoes out. Lots of basketball players choose to keep wearing a couple of pairs of socks even after the shoes are broken in for the added protection against blisters.

Related: Check out our guide on finding the best pair of basketball socks.

4. Do Drills

Before competitive games start, take a few days to put your new basketball shoes through some drills. Since these drills will simulate some game movements, you’ll get a better idea of how tight or loose you want your shoes to feel. This is the ideal time to adjust your laces if needed.

5. Game Time

Once you feel comfortable and confident in your new basketball shoes, it’s time to wear them in games. With a stylish new pair of kicks, you’ll be ready to dominate the competition!

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Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with basketball for over 30 years as a player, coach, and bettor. He has a degree in Sports Psychology and enjoys following both the NBA and College Basketball on a nightly basis.