The Full Report: Low or High-Top Basketball Shoes for Ankles

Two questions seem to bother those who decide to learn more about basketball shoes and dare to find out what are the right shoes for them.

  1. What’s better? High top or low top basketball shoes?
  2. What’s the difference?

To stay safe, injury-free, and in shape, the sneakers choice must be basketball player’s first priority.

That’s why it’s so important to solve this once and for all.


Until the early 2000s, it was considered that the low top shoes are not a brilliant option for the game of basketball.

The problem was always the same – low top basketball shoes don’t protect the ankle.

It is true that some of the players were wearing lows regardless of what people were saying. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve Nash, and Gilbert Arenas are just some of them, and these NBA players knew what they were doing.

But one man decided to take the game of lows to another level, and it was in his game’s interest.

Somewhere in 2007, Kobe Bryant, who’s a big soccer fan, thought about how would it be to transfer some of the benefits from low top soccer shoes to basketball shoes.

He knew that the soccer was full of cutting, fast changes in pace and course, and mixes between sprints and moderate speeds. Was Kobe onto something?

He called Nike, set up a meeting, and presented his idea. The same day it was decided; the next Kobe’s signature shoe – KOBE IV from Nike Zoom Kobe line will be a low top basketball shoe.

A few years later and half of the NBA wears low tops.

The names like James Harden, Paul George, and Lillard speak for themselves. And it’s strange that some of those signature sneakers don’t even look like they’re for basketball.

The thing is, most people today are looking to buy a low top shoe because they are simply bored of high-tops. They want to try something new, but without picking up an injury that will cost them a season. So they ask questions, research, investigate, analyze, but they don’t worry. Because they have all the answers on Read on.

Are low top basketball shoes safe?

Here we have the breakdown of key things we need to consider when observing low top basketball sneaker, and then we’ll say something about high-tops.


  • Ultra lightweight, gives less resistance when shooting the ball or going for a dunk (jumping)
  • Maximizes speed, movement quickness, and jumping capacity
  • Makes changing directions and cutting to the basket easier
  • Better recruitment of the muscles


  • Not the greatest resistance to the force
  • The chance of spraining an ankle is higher than on the high-tops if you’re prone to foot injuries
  • A possibility of hurting toes, especially pointer toe.


Ever since Wilt Chamberlain came into the league, the high-tops are winning. Starting with Chuck Taylor’s, leading to legendary Air-Force, Jordans, and Reeboks.

Almost fifty years ago, when Adidas presented Top Tens, the basketball world started to believe that there can’t be any other shoe for basketball than a high top shoe. Of course – because of the better ankle protection.

And a hypothesis for high-tops being safer shoe is simple: Tie them, tight them it up, and make solid protection for an ankle so it wouldn’t get twisted. It seems totally reasonable!

But the problem is, nothing similar to that hasn’t been proven, at least not yet. No science confirmed it.

This game demands a vast deal of side-to-side and up-and-down action, which can stretch the ligaments of the foot and joint. The possibility for players to injure ankle is higher than the one for not hurting an ankle. Landing on another players foot – you can’t avoid it forever.

Are high top basketball shoes better?

Here we have the breakdown of key things we need to consider when analyzing a high-top basketball shoe.


  • Greater resistance to the force
  • Firmer and stronger than low-tops
  • Feature extra ankle support


  • Decreased ankle range of motion
  • Delayed response time
  • Often too heavy

What Does The Science Say?

Now let’s take a quick look at the four scientific studies.

Study 1 (Click for full research)
– 20 healthy young men with no recent ankle injuries
– Half wearing a low top shoe, half wearing high top shoe
– Placed a foot on specially designed apparatus and forced their ankle to roll outwards to 16 and 32 degrees of ankle plantar flexion.

What the study found out?
Those in a high top shoe had greater resistance to the force than those in a low top shoe.

Study 2 (Click for full research)
– How shoe height can affect athletic performance when cutting maximally
– 15 male university basketball players
– Performed cut side to side step as hard as they could (kind of like agility test you might’ve seen in the NBA)

What the study found out?
1. Those in a high top shoe had a decreased ankle range of motion, which makes it less likely to sprain an ankle.
2. There was no significant dropoff in those wearing a high top shoe regarding their times and performance.

Study 3 (Click for full research)
– 622 college basketball players over the course of the season
– The study compared the number of ankle sprains in those in high top shoes vs. those in low top shoes.

What the study found out?
1. There was no difference whatsoever.
2. The number of sprains was almost identical.

Study 4
– High school students were jumping on a box at different angles.
– Half of them was wearing a low top and half high top basketball shoes.

What the study found out?
1. There is no difference between highs and lows when their foot was maximally inverted or rolled out.
2. Those in a low top shoe had better recruitment of the muscles which could help persist injury.
3. Those in a high top shoe had a delayed response time and produced significantly less amount of force from those muscles.


No scientific study has yet precisely confirmed that the high top basketball shoes are somehow better than low-tops. We even have a reason to believe that it’s the other way around.

High-tops ruled for a long time, but who cares. Times are changing, and an exceptional basketball shoe doesn’t require balloons sewed in it, or strengthen straps, or anything like it.

Look for the shoe that fits you most, and don’t worry if they’re low-tops or high-tops. If you want to know what are the safest basketball shoes to play in, here’s the full report.