The Differences between Basketball Shoes and Running Shoes

Don’t be fooled into thinking the reason that basketball shoes are better than running shoes for your favorite court-sport is due to hi-tops preventing ankle injury. While that may be something to consider, there are many other reasons basketball shoes shine while on the court.

Running Shoes

  • Gait Control
  • Flexibility (up/down motion)
  • Lightweight
  • Anchoring tread

Basketball Shoes

  • Heel support
  • Flexibility (multi-directional motion)
  • Shock absorbing
  • Tread for fluidity

How to Tell the Differences

When analyzing shoes, it is important to look at the weight, tread, comfort, and feel.

I know running shoes will make you think you can fly higher than Jordan because of their lightweight build, but they will hurt when you land. Running shoes do not have the same support as basketball shoes, which means you’re taking a lot more impact.

It’s simple.

Find the shoe that is going to give you the confidence to master those super speedy break-aways, hard landings, and the defensive crab shuffles without excessive grip.

Running shoes may seem like a great option for people who haven’t done their research, but trust me, basketball needs to be played in basketball shoes.

Sports Research

There is a plethora of research on the human foot. With that, comes knowledge of what is required to aid specific foot movements with each type of sports shoe.

We’ve learned that the basketball shoe progression, from Chuck Taylors to Air Jordans, mostly came about through advancements in protection and cushion technology.

Evolution of the basketball shoe:

Recent studies prove that the hi-top isn’t necessarily the right fit for every basketballer.

Why Not Wear Running Shoes to Play Basketball?

Runners generally only run in one direction. That is why they’re keen to choose a lightweight shoe that will allow simple movement with great foot arch support.

While arch support is important to us basketballers, we know that running in a straight line isn’t what we’re built for. In fact, if we were to describe our court movements; I think the first thing that comes to mind is a cross between a crab, an eagle, and a puppy – all built into one body.

It’s fair to say that one would assume that we basketballers run a lot. It’s true. We do. However, the straight line isn’t what we’re about, is it?

So, while the running shoe has a lot of what we like, our pup-eagle-crab-like abilities make the running shoe a little less efficient and supportive.

Don’t get me wrong, the running shoe has that incredible circus-strongman type of grip – which sounds perfect – but if you grip too fast on a basketball court, something in your body has to give way… Usually a tendon, muscle or, in a worst-case scenario, a bone. If you want proof, I can show you the achilles reconstruction scar running up my left calf.

Shoe Make-up

Basketball shoes are all about injury prevention:

  • Protection for our unilateral movements.
  • Protection from landing after a high flying dunk, lay-up or alley-oop.
  • Protection for the intensity of fluid movements.
  • Shock absorbing.
  • Stability.
  • Soft sole for non-slip action.
  • Bulkier for all the above reasons.

Running shoes are all about endurance:

  • Lightweight for long-distance running.
  • One-dimensional movement.
  • Comfort with cushion.
  • Very grippy soles.
  • Flexibility.
  • Hard soles for road/pavement.

It’s funny. The research I’ve done for this article shows that comfort appears to be the last option for more people when it comes to choosing a sports shoe.

That doesn’t make sense. Always pick footwear that is comfortable and gives you enough bounce to reach the net.

What about Basketball Shoes for Running?

  • They have excellent cushioning.
  • Ok for occasional running (no more than 10 mi per week btw).
  • To keep your soft tread intact, don’t use them outdoors. (yes, running around in circles indoors sounds fun)
  • Not as flexible as running shoes.
  • Bulkier/heavier compared to running shoes.
  • Acceptable for ‘fashion’ and walking.

In other words, they don’t come with the necessary support to help you move over long distances.


Imagine going into the pack for the biggest rebound of your life only to land on the side of someone else’s foot. You know that’s going to hurt, especially if you’re wearing the wrong type of shoe.

While one might think using hi-tops for basketball is the best injury prevention, make sure you test shoes for all the above-mentioned factors to ensure a free-flowing and injury-free game.

Your safest bet is to choose a sport-specific shoe, every time. The players, designers, and manufacturers have done their research. They’ve spoken to their sponsored players and sports scientists. They know their stuff. Trust them.

Final Thoughts

We’ve done the research and we’re confident in telling you that you and your body (maybe not so much sports surgeons) will thank you for choosing a basketball shoe over a running shoe.

There is nothing but pros for every sport definitive shoe.

Sports specialists have done all the hard work in figuring out what is best in helping keep your body injury-free. Now you’re ready to pursue the perfect shoe partner – this is completely up to your feet and their happiness.

The next part is up to you. Try out what best suits your foot and body. Only then will you know what is best for you.

Don’t leave it to chance.

Go to the shops, try shoes on, then come back to online purchases. We all do it, and shopkeepers expect it from today’s consumers.

I’m a 1980’s under 12’s starter, so for me, it was Nike all the way.

Ok, so tell me… what was your very first pair of basketball shoes? Do you still the brand? If so, why?

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