Perhaps you’re wondering if that new pair of kicks is going to help you jump higher or not. Are basketball shoes actually designed to help us jump higher?
Basketball shoes are not designed to make you jump higher and won’t increase your vertical. They’re designed to support the foot and ankle throughout all of the various impacts and lateral movements encountered during a basketball game.
But aren’t there some basketball shoes that are slightly better for your vertical jump? What shoes should you be wearing in order to jump your highest? Let’s take a deeper look at what impact basketball shoes are going to have on your vertical jump.
Do Basketball Shoes Help You Jump Higher?
The short answer is no. Basketball shoes just simply weren’t designed with your vertical jump in mind. In fact some basketball shoes may even have a negative impact on your vertical, which we’ll get into later.
The reality is that most basketballers aren’t all that interested in increasing their vertical jump. It’s something I’m fanatical about and likely something you’re very interested in too since you’re reading this, but it’s not something top design execs at Nike or Adidas seem to be thinking about. Otherwise we’d have plenty of shoes marketed to help us jump higher.
What Basketball Shoes Actually Do
The real purpose of a good basketball shoe is to protect your feet, ankles, and knees.
Basketball is a brutally physical game which involves sprinting (fast breaks), max jumps (layups/dunks), toe jumps (rebounding), landing impacts, and dramatic changes of direction (turnovers/steals). Most basketball shoes are designed with these things in mind, not with maximizing spinginess.
One of the biggest issues I had as a basketballer was weak ankles. I’d constantly be going up for rebounds and coming down landing awkwardly on other peoples feet, twisting my ankle and being out for weeks.
While shoes aren’t going to make a massive impact on ankle health, they can certainly add some protection and could be the difference between a sprain you’re able to walk off and a season ending injury.
Ankle injuries can be best prevented by strengthening the connective tissue surrounding the ankles, calves, Achilles, and shins, but a decent pair of kicks is going to help as well.
Imagine playing an entire basketball game barefoot… And you’re a big who averages 20 boards a game. How do you think your joints would feel after going up for that many rebounds while landing barefoot?
Your feet would likely start hurting because of the unforgiving ground and you’d definitely not be able to jump as high because you’re bracing for the impact before you even jump! Eventually your knees would turn to dust after so many unprotected landings.
A decent pair of basketball shoes should help soften your landings adequately, but not too much. You still need some rigidity in the shoe for efficient transferral of force both when jumping and landing. I.e. you don’t want to be landing on clouds every time because that’s going to be equally bad for your joints.
Grip & Traction
Traction on the court is of vital importance. Ever played on a court that hasn’t been cleaned in a while? You’re slipping and sliding all over the place. It becomes impossible to dig your foot into the ground to generate force when jumping or sprinting.
There are some shoes, general purpose sneakers, which simply aren’t designed with the court in mind. They have such poor traction that it feels the same as when you’re playing on a dusty court.
I used to wear an old pair of sneakers to training because they fit better than my new pair of basketball shoes and were really comfortable. But the tread on the bottom had completely worn out and I was slipping all over the court!
Do APL Basketball Shoes Increase Vertical? Nope.
Years ago the Athletic Propulsion Labs shoe was banned by the NBA. This shoe famously claimed to add inches to your vertical jump through their spring-loaded design.
It’s hard to say whether the NBA banning these shoes was anything more than a publicity stunt because there is absolutely no proof that these shoes increase your vertical in the slightest.
Countless people have tried the shoe and the results are simply not there. Some people experience slight increases. Some people see no difference whatsoever.
At best it seems as though the APL shoes produce a nice placebo effect. Those who claim they were able to jump higher can’t say it’s the APL shoe specifically and not just any brand new pair of kicks with fresh tread that’s helping them jump higher.
You can cherry pick plenty of videos on YouTube where people have claimed they jumped higher with these shoes, but you can find at least as many reviews saying the exact opposite.
If this were a scientific paper, we’d conclude with the following, “no statistically significant differences were found between the test and control groups”.
Cool looking shoes though, but won’t help you jump higher!
What Basketball Shoes Will Help You Jump Higher?
By now we’ve established that no basketball shoe is going to increase your vertical jump in any meaningful way. But I’m a firm believer that the weight of your shoe contributes to how high you’re going to jump.
In the past I’ve worn some really heavy, clunky high tops that, while providing excellent ankle support, I felt as though they simply weighed me down a lot.
While I don’t have any evidence to suggest that wearing lighter shoes is going to make much of a difference to your vertical jump, mathematically it should help ever so slightly. And if you’re serious about jumping as high as possible, then you should be happy to take what you can get!
The below chart compares the weights of various recent basketball shoes and, as you can see, the heaviest shoe weighs almost twice as much as the lightest!
My recommendation would be to pick a shoe towards the left of the chart and avoid the ones furthest to the right.
Volleyball Shoes That Make You Jump Higher?
What about volleyball shoes? Both volleyball and basketball are sports which desire high vertical jumps, so perhaps the volleyballers have something basketball is missing?
Because volleyball requires a lot less lateral movement and sprinting, these shoes seem to be slightly more optimized for jumping than basketball shoes do.
Overall, volleyball shoes tend to be a bit lighter and the most common style is the low-tops – a high-top volleyball shoe is very uncommon. The above Nike Hypersets are a popular volleyball shoe that emulate a slightly higher mid-top basketball shoe design.
Both volleyball and basketball shoes are designed to be played on the same court, so I actually think it’s worthwhile checking out some of the more popular lightweight volleyball shoes even if you’re a basketballer. They’ll do more or less the same thing and might even be slightly better!
What’s The Verdict?
At the end of the day, what shoes you wear is going to have very little impact on how high you’re able to jump. You should be way more concerned with support, comfort, and traction than weight as really lightweight shoes are only going to get you a tiny fraction of an inch at best.
So no, basketball shoes aren’t designed to help you jump higher, but to support you while you are jumping and performing all of the other necessary movements on court.