Best Sports Shoes Reviewed & Rated for Performance
No matter what your skill level is, no matter what your background is, everyone has memories of playing an organized sport. Some resulted in epic victories, while some resulted in bitter losses. Whatever the outcome of the game or the results of the race, life lessons were learned, friends were made, and sometimes, a lifelong commitment to a particular sport was forged.
To be the best you can be, at any sport, you must have the right sports shoes. Footwear will vary from sport to sport, and that’s by design; key features go into the design of each shoe by brands that want to give their customers the competitive edge and the way in which to achieve new personal bests. Some sports shoes will need to be durable and stiff, others more lightweight and flexible. Each has a unique construction that utilizes the best options and technology in athletic footwear currently available.
- Five Ten Freerider
- Sticky Rubber Sole
- Adidas Adipower
- Olympic Level
- Adidas Tech Response 4.0
- Spikeless Golf Shoe
- Breathable Uppers
This is a comprehensive list of the 10 best sports shoes currently on the market, rated and reviewed for performance based on important features such as durability, functionality, comfort, flexibility, and versatility. They represent the best of their sport so that wearers can give their all to it with confidence.
10 Best Sports Shoes
1. Five Ten Freerider
Five Ten is a well-known brand of shoe manufacturer known best for their technical climbing shoes and sticky gripped soles. They’ve applied that same grippy texture and technology to the Freerider shoe, allowing riders to stick to MTB pedals, or BMX tricksters to land a 360 without slippage. For those on hikes outside, consider it a great scrambling shoe, sure to stick to steep pitches or steeps, even on damp surfaces. Five Ten’s unique dotty treaded pattern adds to the sticky rubber Stealth S1 sole, giving superior traction for wherever your foot finds itself.
Designed with a mix of soft suede leather and lightweight mesh uppers, the shoe keeps your foot ventilated and cool, and with a BMX bike shoe inspired style, breathability and room in the toe box keep you comfortable for all-day wear. Although inspired by bike sports, it’s perfect for hiking, skateboarding, BMX, MTB, walking the streets or casual events. Basically, a great all-around shoe!
Cost and Value
More expensive than your average looking sneaker or casual walker shoe, there’s reason and tech to back up the price inflation. With the grippy Stealth S1 climbing sole rubber, mesh lightweight design, and BMX styling, this shoe is an all-around winner wherever a sport is requiring you to stay stuck to your gear or foot surface. The Freerider is stylish enough to kick back at casual events and wear as an everyday street shoe too—a great all-around buy!
- Sticky Rubber Sole
- BMX Style
- MTB Shoe
- Run Wide
2. Adidas Adipower
These shoes have been specifically designed to carry weight under heavy loads, ensuring that you get as much bounce back and energy return as you need to complete each repetition properly. They offer a PU-coated leather upper for comfort and support, as well as an adjustable hook and loop instep strap to keep the fit nice and snug as you continue to increase your weight and reps. These are Olympic level weightlifting shoes, and the fit is everything when you’re trying to harness all the power you have. The uppers are forgiving and flex with your movements while remaining tight against your foot, meaning no irritability but all the maneuverability.
Weightlifting shoes need to be durable. They have the potential of getting ground into the floor with the repeated use of heavier and heavier weights, and therefore need to be resilient to abuse. The heel overlay in the Adidas Adipower’s give stability that is lightweight but strong, and the rubber outsole has anti-slip traction, so no matter what surface you find yourself weightlifting on, from the gym floor to the concrete of your garage, your feet won’t be going anywhere.
Cost and Value
The price tag on these sports shoes may be daunting, but they will be the only pair of weightlifting shoes you need. They will increase your performance as you increase your repetitions, and their construction is secure and durable enough to last through every training session. No matter your level of prowess in the gym, invest in the right pair of weightlifting shoes so that you start off your weightlifting routine on the right foot. They give you deep flexibility, long-lasting comfort, great traction, and thought they first appear narrow, they break in with hardly any wear and fit like a glove forever after.
- PU-coated leather upper
- Heel support
- Adjustable hook and loop
- Great fit
3. Adidas Tech Response 4.0
Keeping in mind the weather can change in the blink of an eye for golf games, Adidas’s Adiwear Outsole helps make the Tech Response 4.0 durable, abrasion resistant, and traction control in all kinds of weather. Add to the outsole their patented thintech EXP Cleats and Traxion Lugs, this shoe will long endure the elements, only stopping when you do. Lightweight with a low-profile, the shoe is designed to help improve your balance, stability, and transfer of power for optimal performance.
In addition to the technical aspects and comfort you’ll find in this cleat, it also comes in several color options, with contrasting Adidas logo on the sides. Uppers are made of a 25% super lightweight mesh and 75% from a microfiber leather, keeping your feet ventilated and steps springy. With a 91-day comfort guarantee, you can’t go wrong!
Cost and Value
On the cheaper end of our spectrum, the Adidas Tech Response 4 is a bargain for the tech trade. Superior traction control to help your swing and performance, combined with lightweight yet durable construction at an affordable price makes this one of the best values on our list. Step out on the green in confidence, and if you aren’t satisfied with their comfort, return within 90 days without a hassle.
- Golf Shoe
- Six-Spike Cleat
- Toe Fits Narrow
- Sole Durability
4. ASICS GEL Venture 5
The ASICS GEL-Venture 5’s are ready for the great outdoors with firm, thick rubber tread for shock absorption over all manner of terrain, making sure that your joints and feet aren’t fatigued as you clock in those miles. The tread is multi-directional, ensuring superior tread on all surfaces, from dirt to grass, and the mesh and synthetic material of its construction ensure proper ventilation and airflow so that your feet stay dry and cool over the long distances you may travel.
These shoes are known for their GEL rearfoot cushioning. Sprinters often run on the balls of their feet, their arms and legs pumping like pistons to propel them forward at lightning speeds. That style of running would be difficult to maintain over several miles, so rear foot cushioning helps take some of the pressure off the forefoot. They also have a removable sock liner that is very accommodating to orthotics when necessary.
Cost and Value
The price point of these trail running shoes can’t be beat, especially for their level of quality in comfort and stability. ASICS has ensured that no matter how long the race, or how far the distance, the thick rubber tread of these shoes will save your joints, and the GEL rear foot cushioning will save your feet. They’re versatile enough to also be used for a regular running routine, and wearing on the go, especially since their features are designed for durability over a long period of time.
- GEL rear foot cushioning
- Removable sockliner
- Good tread for traction
- Good price point
- Not waterproof
5. Adidas Performance Mundial
These cleats are used primarily for indoor soccer, with molded studs along the sole that grip the turf to give you stability and maneuverability. These studs aren’t narrow and they don’t come to a point, ensuring a tread pattern that gives you maximum traction. These shows are known for digging in reliably to hard surfaces, no matter the denseness of the field or environment, which is essential when playing soccer. They have a little arch to the insole and are ideal for flat-footed wearers.
Almost more than any other sport, soccer requires you to be on your feet the entire game. Every member of the team has to be able to keep up, and flexibility, power, and maneuverability are essential to play the game well. These cleats are made from a split-suede upper that is giving, molding to your foot and adapting to your movements. The synthetic lining is padded for extra cushion, and so is the collar, which helps prevent chafing at the ankle bone. The Die-cut EVA insole is lightweight and gives padding along the midsole, but the arches are flat and so arch support is minimal.
Cost and Value
Adidas is a brand known for exceptional athletic footwear and always has been, though most often noted for its running and cross-training shoes. With their foray into the development of a great soccer cleat, they know that extra bells and whistles aren’t necessary; the shoe needs to be able to grip the turf, be comfortable enough to wear for hours on end during high impact engagement, and be lightweight enough so you can run fast. These also happen to be made from Kangaroo leather! A very good investment for the price.
- Split-suede upper
- EVA midsole for comfort
- Padded collar
- No Arch Support
6. Under Armour Highlight MC
UA ClutchFit technology makes the upper, and consists of a unique hour-glass patterning called auxetic formations. This allows the shoe to bend and flex with movement while keeping the ability to handle force or load. The construction of ClutchFit is scientifically designed, creating a level of flexible protection and support. Those prone to ankle injuries may find this shoe extremely helpful to act as a gentle brace, without the movement restriction that regular athletic ankle braces can have.
Molded 4D Foam
Another great innovation applied to this shoe, a Molded 4D Foam footbed which mold exactly to the shape of your foot. This helps prevent shoe slippage and allows better power transfer onto the field for traction and propulsion in scrambles and sprints. It also helps reduce cleat pressure, giving you the endurance to last the game and beyond without that pressure giving you sore feet.
Cost and Value
Technology like this has a premium price and can be more expensive. This quality crafted, and scientifically backed performance shoe will have you outlasting, out-sprinting, and out-performing the competition. With a higher lace up and auxetic structure to help support ankles during periods of load or force, it’s a great investment for a performance football cleat.
- ClutchFit Technology
- Molded 4D Foam
- Run Small
7. Asics Aggressor 2
Uppers are made with a Ecsaine, a form-fitting, yet durable and soft material. This allows for proper foot flexibility for grappling and pushing opponents down on the mat, but also helps maintain the shoe’s integrity over wear and tear. Breathable and lightweight, it keeps a high-top design element, and gives some much needed ankle support with lace closure to help keep you secure.
The base of the Aggressor 2 consists of a sticky rubber sole and Duosole Outsole, technology which keeps flexibility, durability, and traction, all while cutting down overall weight of the shoe. You’ll be able to push and pull to take the win, without slipping out of your footwear as well, with the hook and loop closure that covers the lace up vamp of this high top.
Cost and Value
With a number of color options available, it’s not just a stylish sport shoe, but a high quality and technical one at that. Sticky outsole and base help you perform to take down the competition, while high top and secure closures keep you from slipping and give support. Flexible and light, the Asics Aggressor 2 is a well worth the investment for a new pair of wrestling shoes, and can also be used for weightlifting!
Hook and Loop Closure
Stitching Can Irritate
8. Giro Savix
The Giro Savix has a quick adjustment feature for fit, found in the Boa L6 dial. Incremental adjustments can be made as small as 1mm, so you can find the perfect balance of snug security or adjust on the fly in hotter weather when feet tend to swell. A single adjustable strap at the base adds to the customized fit, and macro release on the Boa L6 provides a quick and easy out from the shoe.
Uppers are made from synthetic materials, allowing the cleat to be durable yet have some fit flexibility. The nylon base helps to provide a stiff platform for power transfer to the pedals on each rotation, and universal 3/2 cleat design makes them great for both road and mountain bike riding. Die cut insoles give ample support and stability, so you can hit the road longer.
Cost and Value
On the more expensive side for a cycling cleat, it backs up the investment with adjustable fit, quality construction and durability. Versatile for both mountain and road riding, and with a few color options, it’s a great upgrade from entry level cleats to something that will perform on the road along with you. A great option for cycling enthusiasts looking for a versatile cleat, but one that will last the wear and tear from daily cycling.
Boa L6 Adjustable Fit
Heel Cup Non-Replaceable
BOA Will Not Adjust Mid-Foot
9. Adidas Barricade Club
While some tennis players play tennis in running shoes or cross trainers and see no change in their ability to volley, having the proper footwear for the sport is still going to make a lot of difference in your progress and performance. The sole is very thick and dense, allowing for maximum shock absorption on impact. They also offer great arch support, and they extend from the toe to the heel cup, allowing a nice fluid range of motion and the ability to pivot at a moment’s notice on the court.
With their thick rubber sole and a combination of textile and mesh uppers, these shoes are built to last. The textile and mesh allow for breathability and airflow on the court, which is essential since there’s very little standing around when it comes to tennis and your feet can quickly overheat. The thick rubber sole will allow for lots of high impacts and running on the court without wearing down. They have a special TORSION SYSTEM midfoot to assist in every return lunge, and ADIPRENE under the heel for extra support and cushion.
Cost and Value
While these are a slightly more expensive sports shoe, the fact that they’re specifically designed by Nike for playing tennis on a court. They have a long lasting thick rubber sole, a mesh and textile upper for flexibility and airflow, and the patented TORSION SYSTEM for midfoot cushion while the addition of ADIPRENE supports the heel. Rather than let your progress suffer from subpar sports shoes, get the shoe that’s right for the game and see your performance and points increase.
- PTORSION SYSTEM
- ADIPRENE at heel cup f
- Mesh and textile
- Thick, durable rubber sole
10. Adidas Performance Crazy Explosive
The Adidas Performance Crazy Explosive is a sneaker made to support your movements, especially when that involves lateral, quick pivots and changes of direction, and the possibility of foot injuries from quick steps or shots. High top lace up vamp has been updated to reduce lace pressure, so you can strap in tight without worrying about any pain points. Xeno uppers are lightweight and breathable, so you can be sure you won’t tire from heavy footwear on the court.
Made with a responsive, energy returning cushion system that lines the length of the sneaker, the Adidas Performance Crazy Explosive gives back energy similar to what you put out. Jump shots will feel padded an airy on landing, and the tinted TPU wrap that covers the midsole not only gives some added lateral support, but grip and durability to the sneaker as well. Sticky grip can be found on the sole, with non-marking characteristics to keep the court clean for the next game.
Cost and Value
For a basketball sneaker, it’s quite averagely priced when compared to some performance running sneakers, and well worth the investment if you’re a basketball player. Tacky sole gives great grip and traction, while lightweight uppers make it breathable and reduce foot fatigue. Energy returning midsole wrapped in protective TPU make it cushioned and great for quick moves on the court.
High-Top Court Sneaker
Reduced Lace Pressure
With the right sports shoe for the sport, a foundation is set for the advancement of personal and professional goals, physical fitness, and overall performance. While all sports shoes will share common features, such as those designed to promote full ranges of motion, lasting comfort, and greater flexibility, they have certain key components that differentiate them and make them unique to their sport. Sports shoes are different from other athletic footwear in that interchanging them can cause injury, not just poor performance. They’re designed the way they are, under certain regulations and matching certain criteria, to be durable, functional, supportive, and ultimately effective so that athletes can give their best at every practice session and every sporting event.
If you’re interested in a specific sport, go out and find the retailers that specialize in sporting equipment and athletic footwear and try on as many brands as you can, because ultimately, an uncomfortable or ill-fitting shoe is an unworn shoe, and will only serve to hurt you and your wallet. Invest in your sport and in yourself, so that any time you walk on the track, field, court, or green, you are prepared with the best footwear possible.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Sports Shoes
With the variety listed here of sports shoes, each has unique components when it comes to performance for their particular sport. Each design was constructed so that whatever force or energy the body produced can be utilized most effectively in sport-specific movements, and give the support or structure needed to avoid injury. We’ve separated these out into ‘sport specific’ and ‘general’ attributes shoes listed here should include.
‘General’ Performance Qualities
All sports shoes, regardless of the sport they’re worn for, need a certain amount of breathability. This ensures proper airflow and air circulation, essential to prevent the overheating of your feet during strenuous physical activity. Some sporting events may last only a few hours, some all day. But most require lots of extensive practice sessions, and that means lots of time on your feet. The best sports shoes will have perforations in the uppers because brands know that without that sort of ventilation, your progress and performance will suffer. Mesh combined with synthetic materials are best because they give you the air circulation you need, combined with stability and support. Whether or not the sport requires lots of impact or sudden changes of movement, breathability, and proper ventilation will make you more comfortable, your feet free from bacteria, and your focus more in the game.
Few features for a sports shoe are actually as important as the level of comfort. This is because an uncomfortable sports shoe is a shoe that quickly becomes unworn and thus, unbeneficial for the sporting event. While some sports shoes will naturally be flatter in the midsole, such as tennis shoes or golf shoes, they still should have a fair degree of padding. Arch support is more important in sports like football, soccer, and running marathons, but less so in cycling. Cushioned EVA midsoles are great for a plush footfall, while a padded tongue and collar will ensure comfort around where your skin is thinnest and most sensitive to abrasion (especially around the ankle bone). Also, a customizable lacing system, such as those with a hook and loop design, can help streamline your comfort since you can make them as tight or as loose as you want.
The fit of your sports shoe is essential to your performance since a loose-fitting shoe can mean distraction, irritation, or at worst, injury. Your form and concentration will suffer if you’re constantly dealing with an improperly fitting shoe. Those athletes with wider feet, feet that are narrower, or other factors that make them think going up or down a size will improve the fit of the shoe need to pay attention to the materials the shoe is made with. Often times shoes just need to be broken in, because the materials they use, such as leather, or a pliable amalgamation of synthetic, textile, or mesh will expand and contract based on your movements. Some shoes incorporate memory foam midsoles that will help the fit of a shoe as well as make it more comfortable. Some shoes have lacing systems that allow the wearer to customize the fit of the shoe with a few adjustments to a strap.
For sports that are played on fields, involve uneven terrain, or take place in precarious environments, traction and tread are vital for stability and durability. Football and soccer, whether played in or out of doors, require cleats with a lot of traction, the tread for which can vary in depth and enumeration. Tred for tennis and running should be sufficient for traction but enable movement more freely than cleated shoes.
Flexibility is a key component in sport’s shoes because it pertains to an athlete being able to achieve a full range of motion. Sports like football, baseball, and soccer all have certain movements that need to be completed with follow through to advance the progression of the game, whereas they also have movements that are specific to each game that with more flexibility, comes greater dexterity and personal performance. Stiffer shoes tend to be stiff only in certain places with sport specific mechanics in mind, such as soles, or at the heel or toe cup where pivoting may occur. Otherwise, an athlete should look for the use of lightweight materials, indentations or flex points in the grooves of the sole and outsole, and points where the shoe naturally bends during a full range of motion from heel to toe.
- Impact Shock Absorption
The higher impact the sport, the more necessary it is to have sports shoes that absorb the shock of impact. Shock absorbing features can consist of anything from thick rubber soles to gel midsoles, to added padding or cushion along the bottom of the foot.
‘Sport Specific’ Performance Qualities
- Football – Football cleats can get quite specific based on playing field composition, player role or position, even the type of weather encountered. When looking for a quality cleat for outdoor fields, consider those with cleats designed to penetrate the ground for traction. Cleat studs can be molded to the shoe, or removable to suit the player’s preference configuration. The cleat should have sufficient insole cushion to prevent harder cleats from aggravating the foot during wear and pressure pushing off the foot. A cleat with a longer lace up or ankle ‘boot’ will help to prevent injuries common in football due to contact, quick lateral movements, or pile-ups.
- Soccer – Similar to football, it can have a variety of specific position nuances. Goalies will require something slightly different than a Midfielder may. Cleats for soccer should allow freedom for ankle movement but have solid construction on the uppers to kick the ball. Cleats should be able to penetrate the ground but also designed to handle the ball when the foot is placed on top of it.
- Weightlifting – General weightlifting shoes can simply be regular sneakers, but for performance in powerlifting, a more specialized shoe is needed. Shoes designed for squatting may have a higher heel than those designed for deadlifting, but both should have a sole with more rigidity than a regular sneaker. Less padding and flat soles give maximum contact with the ground and provide stability. A shoe that has the structure to keep slippage minimal is critical so that power translates to successful reps.
- Cycling – Cycling requirements can vary depending on road cycling or BMX/MTB. BMX riders require something with a sticky sole that will allow the foot to stay on the pedals but also are removable from the pedal when executing tricks. For road or competitive MTB riders, the cleat which clips into the pedals should have a rigid base. This rigid sole helps maximize the transfer of power from the legs to the pedals by minimizing shoe flexion.
- Running – Running shoes for performance again vary based on the surface you’re running on. Competitive track shoes will most likely be extremely lightweight and minimal with spikes for traction on the track. Marathon or road shoes should give plush cushioning, and be constructed to maximize natural running gait and transfer weight efficiently forward. As most runners won’t need lateral support, the uppers are usually a mesh or synthetic material, not designed to support side to side movements, but allow the foot to flatten or swell which occurs during extended periods of running.
- Tennis – Unlike running shoes, tennis requires sufficient lateral support for quick side to side movements, and should be constructed with a firm upper or side to do so. The sole should allow for responsive impact adjustments when suddenly stopping and changing directions. Tennis shoes need to absorb the shock from constant running and feet planting.
- Basketball – This can vary again based on the individual’s needs. Those who need ankle support should look for a higher top shoe, while those who prefer the freedom of movement can go with a low top shoe. Similar to tennis, lateral support is needed in the upper or side construction to help with side to side or evasive maneuvering. Basketball shoes require denser rubber soles to account for time players spend leaping from the ground and running across the court.
- Golf – Well constructed golf shoes are designed with physics in mind, to create the best environment during the swing. Shoes with minimal heel slip or a heel cup help to stabilize, while cleats help provide traction without impairing movement by digging into the ground. Cushioning in the insole and midsole should provide comfort enough for all-day wear.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can certain sports shoes be used for multiple sports?
A: Some athletic shoes, such as cross trainers, are also used in a number of recreational sports, such as weightlifting, touch football, soccer, field hockey, etc. But professional athletes only ever use the specific sports shoe that’s unique to their sport because it’s made precisely for the events therein. While a soccer cleat and football cleat are similar, they’re not used for baseball just because they all require cleats. Weightlifting shoes can’t be used to play tennis, but a tennis shoe can be used as a weightlifting shoe within reason (though it’s not recommended competitively). Your level of skill and athletic prowess in the particular sport of your preference will determine what shoe you need for your sport, but it can’t be used for any other sport unless regulations aren’t strictly enforced.
Q: How should sports shoes fit?
A: Well! You want your sports shoe to fit you as close to a second skin as possible so that you don’t lose any momentum. A track shoe, for instance, needs to be lightweight, snug and unencumbered by a lot of extra features. A weightlifting shoe will be heavier, but it should still fit securely so your heels don’t slide out. If your cycling shoe doesn’t fit well, you’ll find your feet irritated and can risk injury, plus the loss of speed. A well-fitting sports shoe means you run faster, jump higher, and excel overall.
Q: Are more expensive sports shoes better?
A: This is debatable. Some sports shoes will be more expensive by design because their construction requires certain types of materials, fabrication methods, and regulating. Some sports shoes are associated with certain marketing and branding techniques, however, and aren’t any better than a less expensive option. Sometimes sports shoes are universally less expensive in a more popular sport, such as football, where to charge a lot would be unwise, unlike in a niche market sport where supply and demand allow the supplier or manufacturer to charge as much as they want.
Q: Are sports shoes made for different foot widths?
A: While not specifically designed for different foot widths, some sports shoes are naturally more wide at the toe box, while some taper. Some widths differ from brand to brand. Soccer and football cleats naturally taper, whereas weightlifting shoes can be a bit roomier. Cycling shoes tend to narrow, but cross country racing shoes tend to accommodate a variety of foot dimensions. Your best bet is to go to an athletic footwear store and try on all the different pairs of shoes featured for the specific sport you’re interested in and make sure you find out that fits the width of your feet properly.
Q: How long do sports shoes last?
A: Depending on the materials used to make them, and how often you use them, sports shoes should last at least a year. Now, if you’re on the track five days a week tearing it up, your shoes may have to be replaced more often (or at least your cleats!). Likewise, you may blow through a pair football or soccer shoes in a season depending on the aggression of the practices and games. However, some sports shoes, like cycling shoes, don’t get as much wear because they aren’t constantly scraping or grinding against a surface.
Make sure to check out how to treat foot blisters!
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