This in-depth article breaks down a range of basketball shoes that, due to their specific characteristics, are better suited for larger players, centers, or forwards.
I spent more than 25 years playing basketball at a range of levels. That extensive time wearing different shoes allowed me to conduct research and go over different reviews in a way where I could properly break down the footwear covered in this guide.
The Embiid 1 gets my vote for the best shoe for big guys because of its strong lockdown, sturdy support, and grippy traction.
Where many shoes aimed at big men tend to be large or bulky, the Embiid 1 manages to stay relatively lightweight thanks to the textile upper. There’s also plenty of midfoot lockdown and extra ankle support. Backing that is a tough traction that ensures you won’t slip in the post.
Though the Embiid 1 goes a long way, there are a few other excellent big men’s shoes as well. I will break them down in further detail throughout the ensuing sections.
- Best Overall: Embiid 1
- Best Flexibility: Team Drive 4
- Most Stable: Air Shake NDestrukt
- Best Lockdown: Lebron Soldier XIII
- Most Comfortable: Adidas N3xt L3v3l
- Most Durable: Valsetz RTS
- Best for Jumping: Adidas Crazy Explosive
- Best Breathability: Harden Stepback
Who Should Get This
All of the following items are for big men. That means bruisers, typically forwards and centers, who like to hit low on the block. If you play inside the three line and need to go for rebounds, the shoes will give you extra strength and stability. They also help when you fight for position.
As the footwear here is all about power, it’s perfect for any player who needs a solid base. That typically means big men rather than guards, but if you’re someone who plays physical on the outside or if you simply have a larger frame that needs more support, they are also an option.
Also note that the shoes have a lot of extra protection, which typically means more ways to stop injuries. People with a history of ankle issues may also find these useful during tight spots.
Top Basketball Shoes for Big Guys: Our Picks
Here, I’ll take a closer look at the top shoes for big guys and analyze what specific niches they fill.
1. Embiid 1
- Best for: Overall
- Key Features: Great support with special TPU wing for midfoot lockdown. Ankle protection. Die-cut EVA sockliner. Textile upper. Tough, long-lasting traction.
- Sole: Rubber
- Fit: True to Size
- Weight:13.9 ounces
If you have a larger frame that needs ample support while working in the post, it’s hard to do better than the Embiid 1. This model excels in those situations thanks to the incredibly sturdy rubber sole and ample midfoot lockdown. There’s a lot of ankle protection as well.
Something else to note is that the pair is quite lightweight. That’s a big plus for forwards or centers looking for their next shoes. Not only are they lightweight, but the flexible construction is surprisingly comfortable. As an added bonus, they have solid traction that keeps you in place.
The only downside some might find with this pair is, despite their lighter weight, they aren’t the slimmest shoes on the market. They do have a bit of a bulkier design than some may be used to. Even so, the excellent lockdown and tough support are both definitely worth it.
2. Team Drive 4
- Best for: Flexibility
- Key Features: Strong sole and base. Breathable, lightweight upper. Sturdy construction with molded ankle collar. Comfortable. Toe wrap for improved flexibility.
- Sole: Rubber
- Material: Synthetic
- Weight: 14 ounces
One hundred percent textile and synthetic, the Team Drive 4 is a big man shoe lauded for its flexibility. The entire design is meant to be both lightweight and breathable. Those two traits offer a lot of lateral movement and enable you to make cuts or moves without any hassle.
Backing up the light upper is a strong sole and premium construction that can take a beating during a game. The molded ankle collar helps prevent any injuries, while the toe wrap adds another layer to the already flexible design. These come with top shelf ventilation as well.
When getting the Team Drive 4, know that it runs small. That’s not normally the case with big man shoes, but it’s a sacrifice of the mobile design. The laces could also be tighter, but if you get a size up you’ll have no problem locking your foot in place to keep it from moving around.
- Best for: Stability
- Key Features: Strong leather upper and tough rubber sole. Side-lacing system. Air-Sole unit. Secure top collar for stability. Unique, throwback design.
- Sole: Rubber
- Upper: Leather
- Weight: 4 pounds
When you’re in the post you depend on your shoes to keep you grounded as you go to score or defend. The Air Shake NDestrukt’s answer that call. The shoes, outfitted with a leather upper, and side lacing system, work hard to keep your foot in place and allow you to generate power.
They also provide you plenty of traction through the sturdy rubber outsole, and are quite soft as a result of the lightweight, Max Air heel cushion. As they have a padded interior backed by a tough, rubber exterior, the shoes are perfect for big men who play both inside and outdoors.
There are tons of support built into these shoes, but even so, they don’t have the best shock absorption on the market. You won’t be jumping a ton in the post, but that’s something to know if you do like to play above the rim. They could have better lateral stability as well.
- Best for: Lockdown
- Key Features: Zoom Air with foam cushion. Mesh upper. Good breathability throughout the design. Dual Velcro straps. Snug, comfortable fit.
- Sole: Rubber
- Upper: Mesh
- Weight: 3.25 pounds
Something all big men need is support. That comes in different forms, but one of the biggest is lockdown. You need to be able to keep your foot in place when you’re pounding away in the post. That is where the Lebron Soldier XIII, as well as its dual Velcro straps and snug fit, shine.
This shoe isn’t just cozy, it’s incredibly comfortable as a result of the Zoom Air cushion and foam sole. On top of that, there’s a great herringbone tread pattern on the outsole as well as a tough exterior that you can use on every surface. Wherever you play, this will stand the test of time.
There is no doubt about Soldier XIII’s comfort. However, it is on the small side. You typically want to get a half-size up, as that will give you extra room to work. If you have wider or larger feet, it’s best to be careful about going too tight when pulling on the straps all of the way.
- Best for: Comfort
- Key Features: Laceless design. Strong shaft and expert stability. Soft, synthetic construction. Sock-like fit. Primeknit upper and ample cushion.
- Sole: Synthetic
- Construction: Knit-synthetic
- Weight: 12.8 ounces
One of the biggest issues big men face is comfort. Luckily, the N3xt L3v3l from Adidas fights that with a sock-like design that cushions the entirety of your foot. Where many shoes have some hard or tight areas, the knit-synthetic construction makes sure you’re always comfortable.
The unique design and cushion are both selling points, but there’s a good amount of durability as well. The shoes have a strong construction that adds support and power. In addition, they provide you with mobility for quick turns. Many people will like their striking look as well.
If these shoes have a downside it’s that the extreme comfort doesn’t come straight away. The pair will feel like clouds once they break in, but you’re going to have to put in some work before that happens. The sock-like design is also tight, which restricts ventilation.
6. Valsetz RTS
- Best for: Sturdiness
- Key Features: Fused mesh upper and charge cushioning sockliner. Power synthetic sole. Webbed lacing. Soft leather ankle collar.
- Sole: Synthetic
- Fit: True to Size
- Weight: 1.1 pounds
Every player wants tough, well-made shoes. Though all of the models on my list come with solid construction, the Valsetz RTS from Under Armour takes that to the next level. The shoe is made to last, which makes it a perfect choice for hardcore players who play on different surfaces.
That’s mainly due to the fused mesh upper and strong synthetic sole. However, it also comes with a great leather ankle collar on top of sturdy quarter panels. All of that is backed by the external TPU heel counter and webbed lacing system, both of which lock your foot in place.
While these shoes are undoubtedly comfortable and tough, they tend to run on the small side. When picking them up you typically want to go a half size up to get an ample amount of room. The sockliner is also snug, which can be an issue for players who tend to run hot.
- Best for: Jumping
- Key Features: Springy, responsive sole. Comfortable prime knit upper. Anatomical lace system. Strong outsole, cushioned design. Sock-like construction.
- Style: Low top
- Weight: 2.4 pounds
- Sole: Rubber
Not all big men need to jump, but getting some extra height on your vertical is never a bad thing. The Crazy Explosive from Adidas has all of the support and power needed in a big man shoe, but it also has extra spring and responsiveness to help you truly climb the invisible ladder.
It’s a lighter shoe, which also helps in that regard. However, it’s more than vertical increase. The model has a TPU wrap and sock-like construction, both to keep your foot safe, as well as anatomical lace for superior lockdown. The tough traction and stellar grip are an added bonus.
As great as the sock-like construction can be for stability and strength, it does limit ventilation throughout the shoe. For that reason, the Crazy Explosives can run a little hot. If you’re someone who sweats a lot, you might want to wear lighter socks when putting these on.
- Best for: Ventilation
- Key Features: Sturdy sole. Durable-but-soft mesh-synthetic construction. Cushioned forefoot with ample midsole flex. Plenty of colors. Sleek, stylish design.
- Sole: Synthetic
- Material: Mesh-Synthetic
- Weight: 1.98 pounds
Though many might associate the Harden Stepbacks with guards, their sturdy build and lighter design make them perfect for big guys. Centers and forwards will appreciate how well the pair mixes a sturdy base and tough sole with lightweight upper and breathable materials.
These shoes are surprisingly light, an aspect that works with the cushioned midsole flex to deliver exceptional comfort. Backing that is the wide forefoot, which allows for extra room. If you’re into style or color, these shoes come in various design patterns as well.
Best Basketball Shoes for Big Guys: What to Look For
The traits covered here are all critical aspects of a good big guy basketball shoe.
Perhaps the most important factor to look at when choosing a big man shoe is durability. Every above model is well-made in a way that can handle the stress of being stepped on by a larger frame. They also have an inherent toughness that can take being bumped into again and again.
When choosing your shoe for the post go with well-known or premium brands. That ensures high-quality materials and long-lasting strength. No matter how hard or often you push when playing, your shoes will be able to stand up to the challenge.
Support and Stability
As a rule, large frames need a good amount of support. Not only do you want some extra cushion and protection in your ankle area, but you also need stability down around your heel and forefoot. Strong shoes with good lockdown achieve that goal, as do ones with tight laces.
Being a big man takes quite a bit of balance and strength, all of which come from a stable base. Post moves aren’t easy, and you need to be able to maneuver around your opponent. A shoe that allows you to properly stay upright or turn on a dime is essential for your success.
Traction also matters for big men. Every basketball shoe comes with some type of grip, but only a select few enable you to stick in place without moving or sliding around. Get a model that lets you hold your position well, otherwise, you’ll be pushed around during scuffles or rebounds.
Be on the lookout for shoes with special patterns. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a basic, straightforward grip, but if you can get something a bit more unique you should. Specially-designed traction patterns tend to go much further and hold up longer than other ones.
Useful Tips and Resources
Many big men in today’s NBA play a guard-hybrid style rather than the straight bruiser style first popularized in the 90’s by stars like Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Shaquille O’Neal.
Big men need big men shoes, as the added weight requires extra support and durability. Since a lot of the time you will find yourself under the basket or in the paint, you’ll need a shoe that provides proper leverage to keep your position against your match-up.
On top of that, you also need impact resistance when you go up for rebounds. Big man play is highlighted by strength and power, which derives directly at your feet. Always make sure your shoes are secure and your grip is uncompromised.
No matter how careful you are when playing, your shoes will likely lose some of their grip due to natural wear and tear. That then will cause you to lose some power or position in your games.
If you feel like that’s happening to you, you might want to put some vaseline on the bottom. That will instantly restore some traction on your shoes and re-enable you to get position.
Once you have your shoes in order, you need to put them to work. Professionals make moving in the post look easy, but it’s a lot tougher than it first appears. If you want to take your skills to the next level, this video is a great place to start.
For me, the Embiid 1 is the epitome of a big man shoe. It has strength, power, traction, support, and lockdown all packed into what is a surprisingly light and comfortable package. The pair doesn’t just give you extra support, it gives you that support without holding you back.
The Embiid 1 has a list of features all aimed at making your post game more efficient. You have the strength you need to back people down, but you also get the nimbleness required to spin, turn, or go for a rebound. If you want a shoe that furthers big man game, this is the pick.