NBA players wear the best sneakers on the market night in and night out. With the amount of ground they cover in a game—according to nba.com, it’s almost three miles—they’d better wear the best possible shoes to avoid injury or poor performance. But how often do players change their footwear? Do they wear new shoes every game or break sneakers in before moving on?
We will answer these questions, and more, in this article. So, lace up and enjoy!
How Often Do Players Change Sneakers?
The short answer? A lot. But rarely will you see a player changing their sneakers every single game.
According to a 2018 piece from the Denver Post, players from the Nuggets go through about 50 pairs of sneakers per season. This number comes from Nuggets’ equipment manager Sparky Gonzalez, a reliable source for this type of info. The NBA season is 82 games long, meaning that if a team fails to make the playoffs, a player switches shoes every 1.64 games.
Now let’s take a look at the last pre-COVID season the Nuggets played. In 2018-19, the Nuggets played 96 games—an 82-game regular season and 14 playoff contests. If the players changed their sneakers 50 times that season, they would have averaged a new pair every 1.92 games.
According to Gonzalez, some guys change out their sneakers every single game. This isn’t the norm but isn’t uncommon for him to see.
So what about other teams and players around the league?
According to this article, most play a couple of games in the same shoes, but it certainly differs. Former journeyman Matt Barnes says he used to go three games tops with the same pair. Golden State Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson will stretch it to a surprising 10-12 games before ditching old kicks. Former Cavs big man Anderson Varejao would push his until they fell apart, which could take up to twenty-five games.
Custom Made Shoes
The next time you watch the NBA on Christmas Day, one of the signature days of the season with games from noon until midnight, check out the sneakers being worn. Chances are, you will find some stylish customs on more than one player’s feet. ESPN even devotes a story each year to NBA star’s holiday sneakers and decides their favorite ones.
Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray often asks his fans on social media which pair of sneakers he should sport for a game. Josh Hart once wore special custom-made Fortnite kicks to show his fandom of the popular video game. Halloween, birthday, and playoff-related shoes are also common.
Put simply, players will use any excuse to wear a fresh pair of shoes, and they have the financial means to do so. Players with signature shoe deals just have to reach out to the brands that dress them—Nike, Under Armour, New Balance, adidas—and ask. I definitely would have abused this little perk if I made it to the league.
New Vs. Worn Sneakers: A Preference
Growing up, I played a lot of basketball. From age thirteen until I graduated high school, between my AAU and high school season, I probably logged around 100 games. There were off-season leagues, too; none of that includes team practices and my own personal workouts. Through all of this, I wore one pair of sneakers per season.
My sneaker count increased a little when I played college ball. We were given a pair to start the season and had access to a couple of extra pairs if the first ones broke down. I played Division 3 hoops, so our budget was nowhere near big-time D1 college programs. But, as someone who always had to buy his own shoes, I was thrilled to have even one free pair. I’m jealous of the pros and their ability to rock a new pair of kicks every game.
There are advantages and disadvantages, though, of new versus worn sneakers. Let’s break those down.
- You look fresh every game. Nobody can knock your sneaker game when you have a new pair each night. You can also wear different styles. Jordans, Kobes, and Kyries are on constant rotation.
- You will never have more foot, heel, and ankle support as you will with a brand new pair of sneaks. Let’s face it—shoes have a shelf life, especially with the amount of running NBA players do each game. Basketball shoes are designed with an athlete’s foot in mind; when you pop open a fresh pair, you get the best possible product.
- Newer rubber soles allow for maximized grip on the court. Nothing is worse than slipping around the court while playing.
- Without the chance to break them in, brand new sneakers can be stiff on your feet. That stiffness can lead to foot pain or blisters, which can bothers players for multiple games.
- When you wear sneakers you’ve played in, their fit is more accurate to your feet. As they’re broken in, shoes have a sweet spot. When you hit it, they feel like a glove wrapped around your foot with optimal protection.
- Worn soles can be slippery, leading to lost traction on the court. As an NBA player at the top level of competition, remaining secure on your feet is crucial.
- Remember the sweet spot I talked about as it pertains to sneaker fit on your feet? Well, once that sweet spot has passed, the potential for sneaker breakdown increases. I will never forget NBA star Zion Williamson’s sneaker blowout when he played at Duke. Don’t be that guy.
The frequency with which players change shoes boils down to personal preference. Some guys love the new shoe feel, while others like to use them a little bit before transitioning to a new pair.
Where Do Old Sneakers Go?
So, does the locker room just have a pile of old sneaks after a game, a sort of sneaker graveyard for fallen soles (get it)?
Sure, some just toss them when they wear out. Others, if they are still in decent enough shape, sign them and give them to fans or people close to them. If a player hits a special milestone in his career—setting personal or team records or winning the NBA title, for example—he might keep them. Where sneakers go after they leave a man’s feet is a personal preference, one that hinges upon just how special the pair is to the player.
One thing that differentiates basketball from other sports is the need for virtually no equipment. Sure, you need a hoop and a ball, but that’s about it. The one thing that ballers should invest in, though, is a good pair of sneakers. Good kicks help protect your feet and ankles from injury and cushion your feet after a rebound or layup.
The guys in the NBA don’t mess around with their feet. They change out sneakers, typically every 2-5 games, to ensure that their performance doesn’t falter because of their footwear.
Hooper! How often do you change out your sneakers? Let us know in the comments section below!