Best Sports Shoes Reviewed 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 have to 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 shoes 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 have a unique construction that utilizes the best options and technology in athletic footwear currently available.
- Adidas Mundial Team
- Traxion Outsole
- Nike Vapor Shark 2
- midfoot overlay
- Saucony Spitfire
- Sprint track shoe
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. Adidas Mundial Team Soccer Cleat
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 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 against 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
2. Nike Vapor Shark 2 Football Cleat
Like any effective football cleat, these cleats from Nike are geared for agility and traction, both of which are reflected in its features. Nike Fast Flex technology ensures that the strategically placed stud cleats move with your motions and reflect your sudden changes in direction. They’re bigger and deeper than soccer cleats with a rugged and durable appearance, perfect for even wet environments outdoors. Their single seam synthetic shape mold to your foot and provide good protection, despite narrowing to a point. They may not be the best for those with wide feet.
With a phylon midsole, these cleats provide you the extra padding you need to be on your feet through various practices and games. They also have a slightly raised arch, allowing for more arch support. They do taper at the toe box, which may be restrictive to some wider footed wearers, so it’s recommended to order a half size up if that is a concern.
Cost and Value:
For a very low price you get a very effective football cleat, that has all the features the game depends on. Deep, aggressive stud cleats help you grip a variety of surfaces, both in outdoor and indoor environments. The single seam synthetic design encapsulates your feet and keeps them protected and secure. They allow you to change direction and sustain your agility all while being comfortable and lightweight. They have arch support but run narrow, so just order a half size up and you’ll be fine, because you can’t beat the incredibly low price of these sports shoes.
- Single seam synthetic design
- Rugged, aggressive stud cleats
- Phylon midsole for comfort
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Great price
- Not the best for wide feet, order half size up
3. Adidas Barricade Club Tennis Shoe
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 impact 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 with subpar sports shoes, get the shoe that’s right for the game and see your performance and points increase.
- TORSION SYSTEM midfoot for cushion
- ADIPRENE at heel cup for extra cushion
- Mesh and textile for breathability
- Thick, durable rubber sole
- Slightly more expensive
4. Adidas Adipower Weightlifting Shoes
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 fit is everything when you’re trying to harness all the power you have. The uppers are forgiving and flex with your movements while still 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 pricetag 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 for flexibility and secure fit
- Heel support on heavy lifts
- Adjustable hook and loop instep strap
- Great fit
- Slightly more expensive
5. Saucony Spitfire Track Shoe
A welded quarter and eyerow make up the components of these lightweight track shoes, with a three quarter spike plate that has 7 spikes to grip the track with maximum traction. Extremely lightweight, they’re made of synthetic material, allowing for optimal breathability and airflow thanks to all of the perforations along the toe box and upper. They have a streamlined, aerodynamic design that means they’ll keep you agile and able to tear up the straight aways and not lose speed on the curves.
Saucony does their customer research, improving upon features in their athletic footwear to determine what will give their wearers the most value and quality. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner runner or an elite racer, stability and comfort are key components to maximizing your skills on the track and improving your performance. With their unique sole-based stability system Grid, you get the cushion and support you need regardless of your level of athleticism. EVA cushioned insoles provide a padded footbed so that mile after mile, your feet won’t feel fatigued and you won’t lose focus.
Cost and Value:
Saucony is a brand that runners, regardless of athletic ability, trust to improve their performance and provide them stability and comfort. With features such as welded quarter and eyerows to support turns, a 7 spike plate, and a special Grid system designed to diminish foot fatigue and increase stability, the Saucony Spitfire’s are the leading sports shoe for all track enthusiasts. Their lightweight and streamlined design will ensure that no matter the length of the race, you’ll come out a winner.
- Aerodynamic design
- Grid system for stability and cushion
- EVA insoles
- Welded quarter and eyerow for support on turns
- Runs small
6. Asics Gel Venture 5 Running Shoe
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 rear foot 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
7. Adidas Cloudfoam Ilation Basketball Shoe
The high top basketball shoe was always designed for stability, the construction of such making sure that players didn’t roll their ankles or tear a tendon as they engaged in sudden changes of movements and pivoting. Like a running shoe, the Cloudfoam Ilation’s have perforations on the side of the upper for ventilation and airflow, while also having an air mesh tongue, collar, and rear heel quarter. The soles are thick and will absorb the high impact from jumping, with light, skid-proof tread so you don’t get stuck too long in one place.
These shoes fit true to size out of the box, and require no break in time. The air mesh on the tongue and collar give your ankle a nice cushioned buffer, and ensure that just because it’s a high top design, doesn’t mean it has to rub. The winning feature of these shoes it their outstanding CLOUDFOAM sockliner and midsole that delivers incredible bounce back and plush comfort all throughout the day. The memory foam will mold to the movements of your foot like a second skin, and minimize your foot fatigue, so you can keep your head in the game.
Cost and Value:
Once again Adidas outdoes itself as a brand, bringing its design innovation and quality for athletic footwear to these performance enhancing basketball shoes. Basketball shoes aren’t always known for their comfort, only their impact absorption and their stability when making quick movements. Once you feel the sweet cushion of the memory foam midsoles, you’ll never want to wear another shoe on the court again.
- Padded tongue and collar
- Skid-proof sole
- Memory foam sockliner and midsole
- Perforations for airflow
- Can run small
8. Giro Rumble VR Cycling Shoes
These cycling shoes are made with Vibram rubber outsoles, a staple to the best cycling shoes, that specifically function to grip flat pedals. Normally cycling shoes can be quite stiff around the toe box to provide stability when pedaling, but these have just enough flexibility that you can engage in pursuits off your bike as well. They have injected inner shank transfer power as well as a molded EVA footbed for support and cushion. Their microfiber and mesh uppers are perfect for proper ventilation and breathability, as well as being easy to adjust. The non-slip laces let you customize your fit as you go about your ride.
The microfiber and mesh construction of these shoes are not only breathable, but also abrasion and water resistant, ensuring that they’ll hold together for many races to come. They’ve been designed to feature a rubber outsole that gives a powerful platform for your forward momentum, that also happens to be crack and weather resistant. They accommodate SPD clipless pedals, flat pedals, and toe clips with straps, so they are as versatile as they are durable in every respect.
Cost and Value:
The Giro Rumble VR cycling shoes are great for the casual rider as well as the racer, and have been carefully designed by Giro to be performance enhancing as well as practical with the ability to be worn both on and off the bike. They can accommodate a variety of pedal systems, have thick and weather resistant rubber soles for a powerful range of motion, and have the latest technology in comfort and support. For their versatility, functionality, and durability, the price point is definitely worth the investment for a cycling enthusiast regardless of skill.
Molded SPD shank
Water and abrasion resistant
- Can run small
9. Adidas Tech Response 4.0 Golf Shoe
A golf shoe that feels like a sneaker, these sports shoes are easy to clean, take care of, and wear. They are lightweight yet supportive, and allow you to flow through a natural series of golf-related movements with ease and flexibility. They boast Thintech cleats that are small and inconspicuous, and are made from a soft synthetic and textile construction that lays comfortably against your foot. They have just the right amount of give and stability so that whether you’re walking the green and playing a full 18 or just a half, you’ll almost forget you’re wearing golf shoes at all.
Some golf shoes can be stiff and unforgiving, made to reflect all the times when the wearer stands in one place and takes their swing. But there’s more movement in golf than that, and being able to focus on your form without focusing on the discomfort of your golf shoe is essential to making progress in your handicap. Because these shoes are lightweight, made from a textile and synthetic fiber, and have a cushioned midsole, they flex with the natural movements of your feet and don’t cause them any irritation or compression.
Cost and Value:
While these golf shoes might be on the more expensive side of things, they really are an improvement over archaic footwear associated with the game, favoring stability over comfort, and sacrificing flexibility and ease of movement. Golf may not seem like a high impact sport, but the features needed with its footwear pertain the specific movements that it requires. Without the fine tuning of key components, such as lighter weight material, cushion, and breathability, a wearer’s game can suffer. Do yourself a favor and make the investment.
- Thintech cleat system
- Cushioned midsole
- Lightweight textile and synthetic fiber
- Feels like wearing a tennis shoe
- Slightly expensive
10. Mizuno 9-Spike Franchise 7 Baseball Cleat
These have a rugged, deep synthetic sole, comprised primarily of one solid piece of material with few natural bending points. It provides excellent traction and grip to any field surface, with the ability to pivot at a moment’s notice. However, this doesn’t allow much in the way of flexibility. It has 9-spike studs that are made from durable rubber, to cling to all fields types and give more comfort than metal. They are also purported to last for many seasons without wearing down substantially.
These are lightweight sports shoes, with a padded tongue and collar for cushion around the ankle, a point so often susceptible to chafing. The feel of the shoe is snug and glove like, and while the sole may not provide a lot of flexibility, the upper, designed of synthetic mesh, affords more. It also has perforations along the side of the upper to allow for some airflow and ventilation.
Cost and Value:
With any sport, the proper equipment is essential, and while baseball has more equipment than some, its footwear is among the most. While you can certainly play it without baseball cleats, professional athletes and serious minded players know that owning shoes like the Mizuno 9-Spike Franchise 7 Low Baseball Cleats will not only enhance their performance, but also provide them stability, durability, and comfort all season long.
Full length midsole for comfort
Padded tongue and collar
Rubber studded spikes
Breathable mesh upper
- Can be narrow
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
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. Though some sports shoes, such as those required for football or basketball may seem more rigid than those needed for golf or tennis, still benefit from the added feature of breathability. 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 wearers might eschew it for durability and stability, those components quickly matter less and less when irritation and injury are more and more a risk. While some sports shoes will be naturally more flat 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. 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). GEL technology or padding at the heel cup and toe cup is important for sports that require you to sink back on your heels, such as in weightlifting, or pivot on your toes, such as in basketball or soccer. 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 more narrow, 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 numeration. Tennis shoes require less tread because digging into the ground of the court would actually be counterproductive to scoring points in a match. This is similar to cross country trail running, where tread that is too deep can make a runner hold a stride longer than necessary, or cause them to fall. Weightlifting shoes don’t require much tread because it can offset your balance the heavier weight you go.
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. Some sports shoes are naturally made less forgiving and more stiff, made to anchor an athlete’s movements and keep their feet secure and stable. But even those tend to be stiff only in certain places, such as thick rubber 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 more high impact the sport, the more necessary it is to have sports shoes that absorb the shock of impact. Basketball shoes require denser rubber soles to account for the amount of time players spend leaping from the ground and running across the court. Weightlifting shoes have to be able to absorb the shock of incrementally higher weights at progressive repetitions, as well as the weightlifter’s muscle gain over time. Tennis shoes need to absorb the constant running and feet planting of a tennis player, especially when they take the shock of a tennis ball being hurtled at them. 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: CAN CERTAIN SPORTS SHOES BE USED FOR MULTIPLE SPORTS?
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?
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?
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 allows the supplier or manufacturer to charge as much as they want.
Q: ARE SPORTS SHOES MADE FOR DIFFERENT FOOT WIDTHS?
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 a 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?
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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- William McCoy, How to Find the Right Golf Shoes, Golfweek