Top 5 Best Basketball Shoes for Dunking in 2021

Basketball can be a tough game to excel in, but have you ever wondered if it’s possible to improve your dunking skills by changing your shoes? Well, our team of basketball players, coaches, and even referees say you can, with one of the top 5 best basketball shoes for dunking.

In this article, you will learn:

  • How basketball shoes can help you jump higher
  • How you can maintain your basketball shoes
  • What to look out for when buying basketball shoes for better dunking

And more!

Before you move to the details, you can check a preview of our top-rated products by looking at the table below.


#1 - Nike Sonic Flight Basketball Shoes


#2 - Adidas D.O.N. Basketball Shoe


#3 - Nike Lebron XII

#4 - Nike PG 2.5 Basketball Shoes

#5 - Nike KD 11 Crimson Knit Basketball Shoes

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

Updated On August 13, 2021

Nike Sonic Flight Basketball Shoes

The team bought, tried, and tested different basketball shoes for dunking from the market. Out of the several pieces of footwear we wore, the Nike Sonic Flight is the basketball shoe to beat, especially for dunking. 

A good shoe for dunking should have plenty of support and comfort, and it should also allow you to jump well. The Nike Sonic Flight is a great example for bringing these benefits to its wearers.

Our Top 5 Best Basketball Shoes for Dunking

The following basketball shoes are the top-rated footwear for dunking the team bought and tested for your convenience:

Do Different Basketball Shoes Make You Jump Higher?

Being able to run fast is one of the most important aspects of playing basketball, but another characteristic that many people forget about is a player’s jumping ability. Jumping vertically certainly adds a new dimension to a game that could otherwise be played on a flat surface. But while it’s easy to train speed and agility, is it possible to improve your jumping capabilities? Specifically with shoes? Well as it turns out, the answer is yes.

Although certain basketball shoes offer players assistance by adding spring loaded mechanisms into the shoe itself, they are usually banned from official games. Players caught wearing such shoes are automatically disqualified. Still, these shoes can help you get the feel of jumping higher and help improve your technique. Just make sure to use different shoes during an official game.

Better, and more legal ways do exist that can help you jump higher. Some basketball shoes are basically training shoes for jumping. These special shoes tend to be heavier on the front part of the shoe compared to normal basketball shoes. This setup lifts the heels higher off the floor and helps prevent players from pushing the heel down too far when trying to jump. 

Using these shoes can help strengthen your calf muscles and improve jump height when you switch to regular basketball shoes.

Certain basketball shoes meant to improve jump height also have improved cushioning, which helps secure your feet on the landing, preventing jump related injuries.

How to Know Which Basketball Shoes are Good for Dunking

Finding a good pair of basketball shoes that can help improve your jump skills, and subsequently, your dunking skills, are pretty straightforward. As we’ve mentioned before, having a shoe that can help raise your heel higher than your forefoot is essential. Look for basketball shoes that have thicker cushioning in the back, where your heel should rest.

Look for a pair of shoes with a wide toe box as well. Spreading your toes wide can help increase the surface area of your forefoot, giving you more power to jump off.

This might also seem counterintuitive but find a pair of basketball shoes that have thinner padding. Extra padding ends up dissipating the energy you put out when you’re driving your feet down for a jump. This leads to a lower jump height. Of course, just because there’s less padding doesn’t mean less protection. There are basketball shoes with very efficient cushioning, so the trick is simply finding the good ones.

How to Maintain Basketball Shoes for Dunking

Most basketball shoes are designed to be very durable. They are meant to be used for intense games, after all. However, if you fail to properly maintain or clean your shoes, not only will they wear down a lot quicker, but they may also be detrimental to your health and your performance if you wear them. But don’t worry, here’s a few tips and tricks that can help you extend your basketball shoes’ lifespan.

  • Start with a Good Quality Shoe

One thing that can help make shoe maintenance a lot easier is having a good quality shoe to begin with. If you pay for a low-priced item, then don’t expect it to last that long, no matter how well you take care of it. An ill-fitting shoe also tends to wear down quicker than a shoe that fits your foot perfectly. Finding an excellent shoe is already half of the shoe maintenance done.

  • Clean them Regularly

Excessive dust, especially on your soles, can not only reduce your shoe’s lifespan, but it can also lower the effectiveness of your shoe’s grip. Cleaning your shoes regularly is an important part of maintenance. Use warm water and soap. Avoid using harsh detergents and washing machines. Before storing your basketball shoes, make sure that they’ve been properly dried.

  • Store them Properly

How you store your basketball shoes is just as important as keeping them clean. Store your shoes in a well-ventilated place with plenty of airflow. Leaving them in an unventilated, cramp place can ruin their overall shape. It’s also possible they don’t air out properly, causing bacteria to build up and giving your shoes a funky odor.

  • Keep the Soles Protected

The soles of your shoes tend to be where damage first shows up. It is the point of the shoe that makes contact with the ground a lot, after all. When storing your shoes, avoid putting other shoes on top of your sole.

  • Don’t use them Outside the Court too Often

Basketball shoes have a limited lifespan, so make sure that you only use them when you actually need them. Avoid using your shoes for everyday use outside of the court. Switch to a different pair of shoes or footwear after each game. You don’t want your basketball shoes to lose traction outside of the court.

Aside from the points mentioned above, check out the video below to help you clean and maintain your basketball shoes.

What Should You Look for When Buying Basketball Shoes for Dunking?

A good pair of basketball shoes can not only prevent injury, but also improve your performance. This is especially true for basketball shoes designed to improve your dunking skills. But if you don’t know what to look for, you might end up with a subpar shoe. So, here is a list of what you should look for when buying basketball shoes for dunking.

  • The Upper

The upper is the first thing that you should look for in a shoe. High top shoes usually have an upper that wraps around your ankle. These shoes are ideal for players who prefer to play in an aggressive manner. On the other hand, a low profile shoe provides little support but can help players zip around the court. Finally, a mid-height variant provides support to the ankles while allowing players to maintain their natural position.

  • Material

When it comes to choosing the right shoes, it is important to consider the material used. If you love the breathability of shoes, then flexible uppers made from soft materials are ideal for you. If you prefer a more supportive fit, synthetic materials may be your go-to option.

  • Stability

Since you’ll be using your shoes on a very intense sport, you’ll want a pair that can keep you from falling over. Look for shoes with good traction plus good response. Having stable basketball shoes can help you drive off better and improve your verticality when jumping.

  • Ankle Support

Jumping can put quite the strain on your ankles, especially on the landing. So, find a pair of basketball shoes that have good upper and top, ones that can support your ankles. High top basketball shoes can be a great candidate but do keep in mind that they can limit your ankle’s flexibility in the process.

  • Arch Support

Another part of your foot that can be vulnerable to jumping is your arch. Of course, too much padding for your arch can be detrimental to your jumping ability. Too much padding can dampen the initial push you do on your jump. Look for a shoe with great arch support without relying too much on padding.

  • Extra Cushioning on the Heel

As we’ve mentioned before, you’d want a basketball shoe that has a thicker cushion at the heel. This is to keep your heel higher, which can help with improving your jump height. A thicker cushion can also help reduce the impact towards your heel, which can lead to injury.

Pick #1 - Nike Sonic Flight Basketball Shoes

If you’re out looking for a good performance basketball shoe that can help improve your jump height, you can’t go wrong with the Nike Sonic Flight Basketball Shoes. We tested the shoes by dunking on the hoop a few times, and its lightweight design helped us feel like we have wings for shoes. Despite this lightweight construct, however, it doesn’t feel like Nike skimped out on the quality.

Couple the lightweight properties with excellent traction control and great ankle support, and you have footwear specifically built for high jumps. Aside from this, cushioning is pretty good, and should give you enough support to stick to those hard landings.

We did find the shoes a bit narrow for our liking, but if your feet are on the more narrow side, then this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

Pick #2 - Adidas D.O.N. Basketball Shoe

The Adidas D.O.N. Issue #1 Basketball Shoe is part of the Donovan Mitchell signature series. Its bounce cushioning does well at balancing out court feel, bounce, and impact protection, all of which are important for high vertical jumps and dunking.

These shoes also provide great traction but do diminish a lot in less than optimal hardwood courts. This means you get a lot of inconsistency, unless you clean out your soles regularly. Still, the materials and overall feel for the Adidas D.O.N. Basketball Shoe more than makes up for this.

One problem we have with this shoe is that the middle part can be a bit tight. With more testing, we discovered that the Bounce cushioning on the midsole could be the culprit. Still, the cushion does offer great responsiveness and comfort, so we can let that one slide.

Pick #3 - Nike Lebron XII

The Nike Lebron XII Low is a pair of shoes that prioritizes comfort, traction, and mobility over everything else, which makes it an excellent choice as basketball shoes.

One of its main selling points is the good quality outsole that gives great traction on both inside and outside courts.

This traction also helps with improving jump height. The Lebron XII Low also has a mesh upper that offers unmatched flexibility, and since it is very breathable, also offers excellent comfort. You certainly won’t be sweating buckets with these. Although the breathable mesh is one of its best features, we found that it doesn’t offer a lot of support for your feet. The sock-like fit does make up for this, as you feel like you’re playing without any shoes on.

Pick #4 - Nike PG 2.5 Basketball Shoes

If you’re looking for a solid performer on the court, then the Nike PG 2.5 Basketball Shoes may be what you need. It has a low profile soft foam midsole that gives you plenty of support without sacrificing responsiveness. You pretty much get a smooth, stable run every time. A foam liner also helps increase the wearer’s overall underfoot comfort without being too bulky.

Compared to its predecessor, the PG 2 (which we’ve also reviewed), the PG 2.5 has a strap system on top of a shoelace system to help secure the shoe. The extra strap helps improve the fit as well as give your shoe extra structural support. 

Although we really love this shoe, we felt like it was held back by its slightly narrower fit. Of course, performance-wise, it’s not a bad pair of footwear.

Pick #5 - Nike KD 11 Crimson Knit Basketball Shoes

The Nike KD 11 is a highly responsive basketball shoe that provides a full-length Zoom Air cushioning. Not only do you get to enjoy added impact protection, but it does so without sacrificing responsiveness on the court.

The outsole itself is specifically designed to offer great traction and extends on either side of the shoe. This means you get added stability when making hard turns on the hardwood. Unfortunately, we found that the outsoles also gather dust quickly. In order to ensure peak performance, you’ll need to clean these shoes regularly; after every game if need be.

Still, the KD 11 is designed to maximize comfort and support, and it certainly delivers on both those ends.

Our Top Pick - Nike Sonic Flight Basketball Shoes

For its lightweight design and excellent traction control, we will have to give our top pick to the Nike Sonic Flight Basketball Shoes.

In order to dunk well, you’ll need to jump well, and you can’t do that with a bulky, heavy shoe.

The Nike Sonic Flight avoids this issue, but still manages to be comfortable and highly supportive, both of which are very important characteristics of a good dunking basketball shoe.

Check out the low price on Amazon.

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