Today, I’ll talk about a topic I’ve noticed quite a bit of people seem to be intrigued by: basketball shoes that make you taller.
With 10’s to 100’s of hoop shoe releases each year, it can be tricky to find sneakers you think would fit your preferences. For some, one of those preferences might be achieving higher elevation on the basketball court.
Regardless of why you’d particularly want that, I have broken down all there is to know from a long-time hooper’s practical perspective: how do shoes provide elevation, my opinion & the pros and cons while playing, and a handpicked & regularly-updated rotation of well-rounded basketball shoes that make you taller.
I. BASKETBALL SHOES THAT MAKE YOU TALLER: OVERVIEW
In a hurry? Here’s a quick look at the tallest basketball shoes that are also great performers
|UA ClutchFit Drive 3
|Nike LeBron 17
|Nike LeBron 19
|Explosive big guys
|Nike KD 14
|Most players, particularly 3’s-5’s
|Air Jordan 34
|Air Jordan 36
|Nike Zoom Rize 2
|2’s-5’s, explosive & athletic styles
|Nike Air Zoom G.T. Jump
|Cushion maximalists, frontcourt players
II. HOW SHOES PROVIDE ELEVATION
The design and performance principles of how basketball sneakers vary in ride height
Before I get into the meat of things, I need to explain what exactly makes a performance sneaker taller. In other words, why is it that you sit higher off the ground in certain shoes?
Without a doubt, the shoe’s midsole is the single biggest factor when it comes to elevation for your foot.
MORE BOUNCE – MORE HEIGHT
Basketball shoe midsoles (middle part of the sole) are most commonly made of a certain foam and sometimes combined with other synthetic compounds in order to provide shock absorption & energy return properties for the wearer, as well as step comfort.
Let’s put this into perspective.
Scenario #1 would be a shoe with a very firm, thin midsole that yields minimal cushioning properties.
This type of shoe will make your foot sit very close to the ground, thus you won’t be playing on a platform that’s any taller than your natural anatomy.
Such hoop shoes are often designed for particular players in mind: guards who are quick and/or light often rely on such models.
This is because a low-profile midsole allows the wearer to retain close to 100% of their speed and maneuverability, as well as play with high precision when planting the foot in a variety of angles on the court.
Scenario #2, however, is a sneaker with a thick & dense midsole that’s built to achieve maximum impact protection and efficient energy return properties for someone who’s heavier, and/or has a particular playstyle that would suit a well-cushioned shoe.
Such a setup will make your foot sit higher off the ground because of such a midsole design, which means you’ll appear a bit higher than in your standard pair of shoes.
There are other smaller components that contribute to more elevation BUT anything other than the cushion properties of a shoe won’t really make a significant difference in ride height. Those can be the following:
- the thickness of the outsole (the bottom part of the sole which is usually built out of rubber)
- the drop height from heel to toe (some models offer an elevated heel platform which promotes a faster stride)
LOW-PROFILE VS. ELEVATED: BIG DIFFERENCE?
So, is the difference between, say, extreme examples of scenario #1 and scenario #2 I mentioned above significant in practice?
I wouldn’t say a taller basketball shoe will transform you into a frontcourt beast all of a sudden, but you can definitely spot a difference if you’d play in a scenario 1 pair and a scenario 2 pair back-to-back (or even the next day for that matter).
An average pair of basketball sneakers elevates you about ~1 inch (~2.54 cm) from the ground.
The shoes with the tallest platforms can elevate you 1.5 – 2+ inches (3.8 – 5+ cm). There will always be a few exceptions but those would be the usual borders.
That’s not that much on paper but it can surely be noticed, and ESPECIALLY noticed by yourself.
I often get comments from friends I play with for a few consecutive days that I look taller after I switched from a lower-profile shoe to a beefier model like the LeBron 17.
shoe image source: nike.com
Check out the visual comparison in elevation between the Nike KB Mentality II and the Nike LeBron 17 above.
The former boasts a springy Phylon foam midsole as well as 4 Zoom Air pods in the forefoot area + a large Max Air unit in the rear. This is Nikey’s proprietary technology designed to go hand-in-hand with a standard foam midsole for even more cushion.
The foot does not sit directly under the midsole (which is already pretty thick) in such a shoe. It rests on top of the large Zoom Air and Max Air units, making you elevate off the ground more than usual.
The LeBron 17 adds about 1.5 inches (~3.8 cm) of extra height.
On the flip side, there’s the KB Mentality II: the midsole portion is much thinner, thus the shoe sits much lower to the ground. It features a low-profile removable Lunarlon midsole for lightweight cushioning and a more responsive ride.
There is no additional technology to supplement this midsole, so the foot sits directly on top of it. As a result, you wouldn’t play as high off the ground as you would with the LeBron 17.
The KB Mentality II will only add about 0.6 – 0.8 inches (~1.5 – 2 cm) to your ride height.
III. ELEVATED SHOE: PROS AND CONS
A must-know for those who are looking to try out a basketball shoe that creates more elevation: not everyone will enjoy a taller ride
There are two sides of the coin to pretty much everything and wearing a basketball shoe that elevates you more than your natural anatomy does have both its benefits and drawbacks in some circumstances.
Before you get into a shopping spree of “taller” shoes, I want to first let you know what you’ll be getting into from biomechanic & performance perspectives.
Knowing this, you can then make a more informed decision about what would be best for you.
✔ IMPACT PROTECTION, COMFORT, AND SPRINGBACK
Having a meatier midsole usually means the shoe is catered towards players who need more energy return upon movements and require more prominent shock absorption.
This is a great performance trait to have if it fits the way you move and play.
I usually prefer a setup with cushioning that’s more on the bouncier side as I like to play explosively, and lots of all-around players love having a springy ride under their feet.
This accommodates your jumps so you feel more explosive & efficient, while impact upon landings will be absorbed.
It’s also just more fun to play in this type of shoe – you just feel like you’re jumping on clouds, and each movement is very comfortable.
❌ MORE BOUNCE – LESS RESPONSE
Having a thicker, plusher midsole comes the cost of having noticeably less court feel, and even less responsiveness upon each movement.
Mushier foam properties can sometimes result in your foot sinking into the foam during movements, so the rebound effect arrives in a slightly delayed fashion, resulting in less agility vs. a more minimal shoe.
This is usually against the preferences of shifty guards or nimble spot-up shooters as their movement patterns will be delivered better on firmer, thinner cushion setups.
However, we have to remember that basketball shoe technology has greatly improved over the years. Each year, this line between comfort and stability gets progressively more blurred.
Nikey’s full-length Zoom Air Strobel technology or adidas’s Lightstrike foam are some of the examples that do an excellent job in giving you the best of both worlds. We’re not fully there yet but we’re getting close.
Regardless, you still need to keep this point in mind if you’re in search of your optimal sneaker.
✔ A TREAT FOR YOUR JOINTS & LIGAMENTS
What does more impact protection mean? It means that you will be able to play with more confidence and possibly enhance the longevity of your knees, joints & ankles if you’re someone who’s not in your prime years anymore or you’re coming off an injury.
This is especially important to take into account.
A sneaker’s cushion implementation can have a dramatic effect on how comfortably you can perform on the court, how long you can perform before feeling joint/muscle fatigue, and how your body feels after a session.
This is a must-consider and will play a role in withstanding any form of injury & recovering in between games. But of course, you have to try different types of shoes before you can really decide on what’s for you.
If you haven’t, don’t limit yourself to what sounds good just yet.
❌ TALLER – LESS STABLE
Having an especially thick layer of cushioning underfoot will usually mean you won’t feel as stable during certain movements on the basketball court.
The higher the platform you ride on – the flimsier this ride can become as the foot now has a higher chance of tipping over its natural axis, especially laterally.
Think of a large boat floating on water as opposed to a compact formula stuck to the asphalt.
Again, this boils down to personal preference but overall, you never want your shoe to feel less stable than you’re comfortable and confident with during intense moments of a session (where the risk of injury is at the peak).
Don’t get me wrong, there are several examples of a very bouncy shoe with a thick midsole implemented in a very stable way but this is still not the usual. As I’ve said, we’re getting there.
That’s why it’s always a great idea to read up on shoe reviews first before getting one!
IV. TALLEST BASKETBALL SHOES: 8 PICKS
Now that you’re more informed on the subject, here are my picks for the best basketball shoes that make you taller.
I tried my best to pick out the models that excel in providing elevation but also retain all-around performance despite riding higher off the ground.
I also only include the shoes that I have some personal experience with & that are still available to get today for good prices.
Shoes last updated: July 7th, 2022
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UNDER ARMOUR CLUTCHFIT DRIVE 3🛒 STOCKX 🛒 GOAT
A Well-Rounded Budget Pick
UA’s sleeper, the third Clutchfit Drive model improved upon the 2nd and gave us a much more versatile all-around performer at a low price.
I think this is one of those well-made setups that accommodates heavier players but also keeps the speed and responsiveness to an extent, thanks to the Charged portion in the heel.
Your foot sits directly underneath the midsole but you feel stable and secure thanks to strategic support features.
RETAIL PRICE: $125
CUSHION: dual-layered midsole (Micro G + Charged)
UPPER: mesh + Clutchfit
SIZING: true to size
NIKE LEBRON 17REVIEW 🛒 STOCKX 🛒 AMAZON
Flagship Shoe, Flagship Comfort
LeBron’s 17th flagship sneaker is a TON of fun to play in. The midsole is very thick as you can see, so your foot will sit underneath Zoom Air units in the forefoot and Max Air bags in the heel area.
Under those is a thick Phylon foam midsole, so the shoe is loaded in terms of cushioning.
This will be catered more towards players who need maximum impact protection in favor of less responsiveness and almost non-existent court feel, due to the shoe riding so high off the ground.
Several players reported lateral tippyness while playing, especially those who are lighter and don’t push the shoe to the ground with as much force.
If you can afford to spend 200 bucks at retail, you’ll be in for an extremely fun ride though, paired with beastly all-around performance. Just don’t consider these among the best options if you’re a below-the-rim guard.
RETAIL PRICE: $200
MY RATING: 7.3
CUSHION: 4 Zoom Air units (forefoot) + Max Air unit (heel) + Phylon midsole
UPPER: Knitposite (knitted mesh + infused TPU yarn)
SIZING: true to size
NIKE LEBRON 19🛒 AMAZON 🛒 DICK's 🛒 GOAT
For the Athletic Big Man
The LeBron 18 received mixed reception and while the 19th model isn’t exactly a perfect shoe for everybody – it heavily addressed an issue that reoccurred on multiple LeBron shoes: stability.
The added TPU pieces all throughout the upper and Flywire cable system took a mediocre platform and made it a strength.
On top of that, it’s one of the tallest basketball shoes at the moment, boasting an insane cushion setup that’ll deliver shock absorption and comfort for the heaviest and most explosive players.
I haven’t played in the 19 enough for a full-on review yet but they’re shaping up to be a solid sneaker. Just make sure you play on a cleaner court and maintain the outsoles since the traction pattern is quite sensitive to floor debris.
RETAIL PRICE: $200
CUSHION: forefoot Zoom Air + heel Max Air + Cushlon midsole
UPPER: mesh + TPU reinforcements
SIZING: true to size (snug fit)
NIKE KD 14REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON 🛒 STOCKX
A Balanced Option For Everyone
If you’re looking for a shoe that will add elevation but isn’t as preposterous as the one above, the KD line and especially the 14th iteration is a brilliant all-around performer.
Nike’s full-length Zoom Strobel cushion is nothing short of amazing, combining impact absorption and comfort but also some court feel and efficiency even for guards.
It’s one of those shoes where you won’t feel as high off the ground as you actually are.
Combine that with grippy traction, a comfy upper that molds to your foot, and excellent support and you’ve got yourself one of the best hoop shoes of 2021.
The only minor gripe I had with these is the midfoot strap. It doesn’t really add anything in terms of lockdown and it also tends to go undone quite quickly. Merely an annoyance and not a dealbreaker but worth mentioning.
RETAIL PRICE: $150
MY RATING: 8.1
CUSHION: full-length Air Zoom Strobel + Cushlon midsole
UPPER: multi-layered mesh
SIZING: true to size (snug fit)
AIR JORDAN 34REVIEW 🛒 AMAZON 🛒 STOCKX
2019’s Best Shoe That Also Gives Elevation
One of the most amazing releases in 2019, the 34th Air Jordan is still up there with just about any other shoe. This is not the tallest shoe here but it’s still elevated clearly more than a lower profile model.
The AJ 34 offers excellent versatility and pure all-around performance.
There was not a second where I felt unstable or insecure with these. Traction is fantastic on pretty much all floors, and the Zoom Air cushion setup is ridiculously effective, yet balanced so it doesn’t lose all its responsiveness.
Forward or guard, lighter or heavier, the AJ 34 will handle any load you throw at them. All while sitting high off the ground and giving you those inches of elevation.
I HIGHLY encourage you to check out my comprehensive review on the Air Jordan 34, which should inform you about the shoe’s comfort and performance, so you’ll know what you’ll be getting.
RETAIL PRICE: $175
MY RATING: 8.4
CUSHION: forefoot & heel Zoom Air units + Phylon midsole
UPPER: synthetic textile (top layer) + Performance Woven (bottom layer)
SIZING: true to size
AIR JORDAN 36REVIEW 🛒 STOCKX 🛒 NIKE
AJ 34 Performance With Upgrades
While the Air Jordan 34 is still my favorite model in the series, the 36 proved that there are still ways to improve that shoe. As a result, we’ve got a more rugged 34 that we call the 36.
The Air Jordan 36 is another well-balanced option for just about any player: deadly traction, a fantastic cushion setup that feels very similar to the KD 14’s, improved support, and an extremely strong Leno-Weave upper.
It might not be as comfy as the soft textiles on the 34, but it’s thinner & stronger for sure.
A red flag for wide footers – in my opinion, these are a hard pass for most wide footers, including myself. They fit narrow and are also quite compact height-wise. Combine that with the hard Leno-Weave build and I barely enjoyed the experience while testing these. Definitely not a wide-foot-friendly choice.
Lastly, the AJ 36 will give you a moderate level of extra elevation, so nothing crazy, but you get fantastic all-around performance to go along with it, provided your foot fits the shoe.
RETAIL PRICE: $185
MY RATING: 8
CUSHION: full-length Zoom Air Strobel + forefoot Zoom Air unit + Phylon midsole
UPPER: Leno-Weave (leno jacquard weave)
SIZING: true to size (very snug fit)
NIKE ZOOM RIZE 2REVIEW 🛒 GOAT 🛒 STOCKX
For the Explosive Jumper
The Nikey Zoom Rize 2 is something you have to try yourself before having an opinion on. The tech specs on paper don’t sound too exciting but this is where it can get misleading.
The actual experience blew me away once I started playing in these back when they were released. The midsole they used here is INCREDIBLY explosive and goes in-hand with the springy Zoom Air unit in the front.
The rebound effect underfoot upon most movements is seriously quick and something that merely a few shoes have seemed to replicate. It’s a shoe that basically encourages leaps, accelerations, and heavy landings. Elevation is increased because of this setup.
RETAIL PRICE: $160
MY RATING: 8.4
CUSHION: forefoot Zoom Air unit + EVA foam midsole
UPPER: textile w. haptic print texture
SIZING: true to size (snug fit)
NIKE AIR ZOOM G.T. JUMP🛒 NIKE 🛒 GOAT 🛒 STOCKX
For the Ultimate Maximalist
Here’s a desert for those going all-out on cushion and elevation. Nikey’s G.T. series produced three models and the Jump, in particular, is solely focused on delivering as much impact protection as possible.
Clearly targeted towards bigger/heavier guys, the G.T. Jump will give you unrivaled elevation but the strong Leno-Weave upper actually provides great foot containment.
They’re also not as tippy as, say, a LeBron 17, and while I haven’t played in these for long yet, I can already say they’re more stable than the 17th & 18th LeBron outings.
I haven’t experienced this (yet?) but several wearers report that they’re having arch pain. Might be something to keep in mind.
RETAIL PRICE: $180
CUSHION: full-length Air Zoom Strobel + forefoot & heel Zoom Air units + Cushlon midsole
UPPER: Leno-Weave (leno jacquard weave)
SIZING: true to size
V. PERFORMANCE INSOLES FOR EXTRA ELEVATION
Always an option not only to upgrade your shoe’s performance but also possibly increase ride height
No matter what kind of shoe you play basketball in, there’s a way to make your foot sit a bit higher off the ground. Insoles.
I don’t personally think buying an aftermarket insole just for adding height is something that’s worth the money. However, performance insoles are in fact a multi-varied approach to increasing the performance of your shoes.
The extra height comes as a bonus, so if you’re looking to improve your current pair of sneakers while also slightly upping your ride height – this is something to consider.
Sports insoles are commonly designed for a single specific goal to accomplish for the wearer. Those are usually the following:
- increase the amount of cushion
- provide additional support (arch, heel, midfoot)
- improve the heel-to-toe motion
- alleviate certain conditions (flat feet, overpronating, heel pain, etc.)
- protect the shoe’s midsole for longevity
However, the market also offers some good all-around insoles that give you a little bit of everything. Let’s talk about those.
Move Gameday insoles are the first to come to mind, and for good reason. They’re not the beefiest on the market but they’re probably the most well-rounded for the price.
There are two versions: the Gameday and the Gameday Pro. The standard version mostly focuses on comfort, while the Pro variant features additional structure for those needing it.
I’ve got a review comparing both versions, check it out here!
Another brand I’ve got some experience with and would recommend is Superfeet.
I’ve tried their Green, Run, and Carbon insoles. While they’re all catered towards a more specific goal, all of them are still solid all-around options for increased comfort, support, and protecting the shoes from damage.
Let’s round things up
Putting on basketball shoes that make you taller isn’t just about adding extra elevation. Ideally, it’s advisable to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of such shoes before stepping on the court.
Most hoop shoes that are taller have beefier midsoles and more sophisticated cushioning systems in general. The more cushion you have underfoot, the higher you’ll ride off the ground.
This has several benefits: you’ll be more comfortable, have an explosive stride and your body won’t feel as fatigued after a longer session.
Having more cushion is also the recommended approach if you often play outdoors.
But there are also some potential downsides: guards who value speed and precision over anything else might not find a maximalist shoe suitable for the way they play.
Playing on an elevated platform also means you’re compromising stability since the shoe has a greater chance of rolling inwards or outwards.
Whichever shoe you go with, make sure you read up enough information on it and make an informed decision.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
This officially takes us to the end of the guide! I truly hope it was interesting and that you also found it useful!
I’m excited to hear your thoughts on it though. What’s your experience with elevated shoes vs. lower-profile options? What’s your preferred route?
If you have any questions, suggestions, or would just like to chat,
Leave a comment down below and I’ll get back to you ASAP!
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