Do You Need Different Basketball Shoes for Outdoor Basketball?

Basketball originally started out being an outdoors sport. Today, however, we know that most official or competitive basketball games in the United States are played on indoor courts. 

There’s a lot of difference between paying on an indoor court versus playing outdoors. Many people still play basketball outdoors, so basketball shoe manufacturers have to take the different surfaces into account. Hence, there are now different basketball shoes depending on whether the player will be playing indoors or outdoors. 

Having the right shoe for the type of ground you’re playing on is an important matter when it comes to choosing the right basketball gear. If you’re not sure which kind of basketball shoe to get, here are some of the main differences between indoor and outdoor models: 

1. Consider the Sole

The sole is among the most important components influencing grip and comfort of your basketball shoes. It’s also essential to get a proper rubber sole for foot support when playing outdoors. High quality material will make sure that the shoe lasts a long time, which is especially important when you’re playing on uneven terrain outdoors. 

If you get premium outdoor basketball shoes, the rubber in their outsoles and insoles will be of the durable, more expensive kind. With this, players will be able to play on all kinds of surfaces without worrying about slipping or tripping much. 

Outdoor basketball shoes need to have very tough outer soles that are usually thicker than indoor ones. This ensures they can deal with rough, uneven surfaces. With indoor basketball shoes, you’d find a thinner sole that won’t stand up to playing on pavement or asphalt courts. This is because indoor basketball courts are usually flat, well-polished, and smooth, so the sole suffers little wear and tear if any. 

2. Tread and Traction

When a basketball player has proper grip on the court, they can jump high and have more control over their movements. This requires the group, tread, and traction of their shoes to be on point. Outdoor basketball shoes have larger tread patterns than indoor ones due to this requirement. With these, the player gets proper lateral stability and a nice grip no matter what the surface is like. 

Indoor basketball shoes, on the other hand, usually have circular and flat spots on the bottom of their soles. These provide a suction that’s good for gripping flat, smooth surfaces that we get with indoor courts. They’re also perfect for providing traction when playing on a wooden court. If you use them for outdoor basketball, however, they’d be much too slippery. The lack of tread will make them slide over asphalt and other surfaces that aren’t completely smooth. 

3. Materials 

With the thicker outsoles and sturdy materials, outdoor basketball shoes are much more long lasting than the ones made for indoor playing. Outdoor shoes are made for withstanding all kinds of weather elements, so they’re built in a different way. The materials are very durable all around and more able to withstand dry air, heat, moisture, and harmful UV rays. These are the qualities found in the more expensive, dedicated outdoors models, so you have to be prepared to pay up as well. 

In general, you can wear outdoor basketball shoes off the court as well as on it. If they’re clean enough, players can even wear them while playing indoor basketball. However, this is a bit risky as these shoes might scratch the court’s floor with the chips in their treads. 

The materials of outdoor basketball shoes are usually synthetic, with natural rubber for the tick soles and polyester making up the shoe’s body. These materials naturally resist UV rays and other conditions that might affect the shoe outdoors. They’re also layered up in an outdoors shoe and are quite thick, so one should expect them to be heavy as well. 

While indoor basketball shoes are also usually made up of synthetic components, the premium models will often use real leather to make their bodies. The soles will be of natural rubber too, but thinner than outdoors models. Overall, these shoes will be thinner, lighter, and with more versatile designs. If you use these shoes out of doors, whether playing or just walking around, the soles are liable to chip off and even rip on the rough surfaces. 

4. Comfort Level

Since outdoor basketball shoes have to protect a player from rough, uneven surfaces, they need to have a bit more cushioning for comfort. The thick sole also helps with this aspect, though the insoles are thick enough to dampen the impact of outdoor surfaces. Basketball players have to run and jump quite a bit while playing, so it’s essential to have proper lateral comfort and support.

Insulation is another important factor when it comes to outdoor basketball shoes. You’d be playing in all kinds of weather, so your shoes have to insulate your feet against the cold. Along with this, there should be enough breathability and ventilation so that your feet don’t get overheated or sweaty. This is why such shoes might also have some zones with mesh material.

Indoor basketball shoes, on the other hand, don’t have such thick insoles or outsoles. They don’t have to give you all that cushioning, since you’d be paying in a climate-controlled environment quite a flat surface. However, they do have thin lateral walls that give better breathability.  

5. Ankle Support

Every sports shoe needs to have proper ankle support, but outdoor and indoor basketball shoes differ in this matter as well. Indoor basketball courts usually have a grippy, smooth wooden surface, which puts more stress in basketball players’ ankles. This is why indoor shoes will have high ankle support.  Some players might personally prefer lower ankle support even when playing indoors, but the high and tight kind is deemed better in such cases. Even if you do get a sprained ankle while playing basketball, here are some easy ways to treat it at home

If you look at proper outdoor basketball shoes, however, you’d notice that they don’t have much ankle support and are usually lower than indoor ones. This is so that the shoes are easy to lace up, put on, or pull off. The design makes them wearable even when you’re not on the basketball court. 

Indoor basketball shoes get pretty hot after a game or practise session, so you need to let them vent for at least 30 minutes afterward. In any case, these shoes are vulnerable to bacterial growths, bad odors, and other issues. Many players use odor eliminators or go for a leather and mesh combination to minimize such problems. 

Outdoor shoes, on the other hand, don’t need a lot of breathability. This is because you’re playing in the open and your feet aren’t getting as hot as they would indoors. However, outdoor players might want to   look around for thinner shoes with low profiles if they usually have to play in high temperatures and on hot surfaces. Shoe technology has given us a lot of ways to stay safe and comfortable while playing basketball, so it makes sense to find something that fulfils our requirements while playing.

6. Price Range

If you’re looking for the best outdoor basketball shoes in the market, be ready to pay the high prices attached to them. There are several models available in all kinds of price ranges, but the proper outdoor models will usually be quite costly. This is because they use more material, more layers, more cushioning, and are also built to last a very long time. 

However, many well-known brands such as Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas have relatively inexpensive options that can be used for playing basketball outdoors or on different types of courts. 

In fact, their more costly options are usually for indoor basketball. This is because most semi-professional or professional basketball games are now played on indoor courts. Players would like to get a lot of use from their gear, so they go for material such as real leather. Real leather has a lot of breathability, but it will drive up the price of an indoor basketball shoe. 


It’s evident that one needs different basketball shoes for playing outdoor basketball. These shoes are more versatile and long-lasting, though they might not be very comfortable for beginners. In any case, outdoor basketball shoes have to account for rough terrains, uneven surfaces, weather elements, and a whole lot more. They have to be heavy, bulky, and made in a certain way to cope with all that, so serious players should be looking for the perfect shoe for better playing outdoors. 

Unfortunately, most of the major brands manufacturing basketball shoes don’t have a lot of variety when it comes to outdoor basketball shoes. In fact, it might be very hard to find dedicated outdoor shoes for this sport in the USA, since most of them are designed for indoor play. If this is the case, a passionate player might have to get customized sneakers with durable soles, or simply settle for regular basketball shoes which can work for all kinds of terrains. 

To get more info on how to pick the right basketball shoes for you, check out our Guide to Selecting Basketball Shoes.