Basketball is a physically challenging sport that requires power, speed, quickness, the ability to jump and land, change direction, run forward and backwards, move sideways and stop and start rapidly. The best way to maximize your performance and to minimize your risk of injury is through physical conditioning. However, equipment is important, and one of the most important pieces of equipment a player can choose is the sneakers they wear.
In a survey of 165 basketball players of varying skill levels, all players rated ankle stability as the most important characteristic, and most preferred mid-cut sneakers. Guards and small forwards preferred low weight sneakers with a lot of flexibility such as low to mid-cut sneakers, while centers and power forwards favored sneakers with high stability as in high cut (high top) sneakers. In a study published in 2015, high top or high cut shoes were shown to limit ankle motion during planting and cutting without limiting performance. The opposite was found in an earlier study – although the high top shoes reduced ankle motion, running and jumping performance was decreased and forefoot impact was increased.
In terms of what basketball players should consider when choosing the appropriate sneakers to help avoid injury…
- Basketball sneakers must balance stability and cushioning.
- When choosing a sneaker type, the midsole is the most important part of the shoe as the materials used in the midsole will directly impact cushioning and stability.
- The outer sole and midsole must have minimal material so the foot and shoe are low to the ground. The shank of the sneaker must be solid.
- Of course, optimal fit of the sneaker will allow the sneaker to do its job. Ill-fitting shoes, as seen when the laces aren’t tied properly or when females wear sneakers made for male feet, will decrease the intended performance of the shoe. This can lead to increased risk of injury and/or decreased athletic performance.
In summary, shoes don’t make the player but they can make the player better and less prone to injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or just play recreationally, the right footwear can help you be at your best.
Theresa Chiaia, PT, DPT is the Section Manager of the James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center and Tisch Sports Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. She has been part of the HSS Women’s Sports Medicine Center since its inception and has guided athletes of all levels along the road to recovery and a successful return to competition. Along with her colleague, Polly de Mille, Theresa has developed a Quality of Movement Assessment (QMA) to aid in the return to play decision making process.