You might be asking yourself the age-old question that ballers across the world have wondered for years, “are there basketball shoes that make you jump higher?”.
Well, like so many basketball players before your time, I’m sure you’ve never received a definitive answer, and for good reason too.
Shoes that can immediately turn you into a professional dunker has been an idea promoted and spread by nearly all shoe brands for the longest time.
Brands like APL (Athletic Propulsion Labs) claim that their sneakers can increase your vertical jump by as much as 3.5 inches.
Naturally, this all sounds like a simple marketing tactic with as much truth to it as a late-night infomercial, but in 2010 the NBA banned APL shoes, stating it provided the athletes with an “unfair advantage.”
I wouldn’t have believed it if the NBA didn’t say it, but here they were verifying that there is such a thing as performance-enhancing shoes.
That piqued my interest, suddenly this idea didn’t seem like a topic you could just write off as phony, at least on the surface.
Could shoes make such a game-changing difference in your ability to jump, adding an instant 3 inches or more upon use?
I still had this gnawing suspicion that something wasn’t right; adding that many inches to your vertical just by adjusting your selection of shoes sounded too good to be true.
So I decided to do a deep dive into the world of jumping shoes to see if I could get a concise explanation as to what’s going on.
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The Origin of Shoes made for Jumping
It has long been a trend with shoe companies to pose their products as the “ultimate tool” to getting you running faster and jumping higher than you ever imagined.
While there is some truth to the fact that a good pair of shoes can help immensely with learning to dunk, the reality is that they use this approach for marketing purposes, and this technique dates as far back as the 80s with the original Air Jordan commercials, and perhaps even farther.
Seeing Micheal Jordan dunk, and then being told that you can be just like him if you got a pair of his shoes, definitely started turning the heads of many young and aspiring basketball players.
This type of promotion was a pretty massive success, and from then on it became practically routine to show athletes wearing a certain brand and demonstrating that the product works wonders.
However, the key distinction here is that while trying to sell the idea of Jordans, Nike never said explicitly that their shoes added inches to your vertical, it was just a tactic for promoting their brand.
From here stems the confusion regarding shoes that can make you jump higher since this idea was more like a white lie that eventually took on a life of its own.
I’d say that was true for a time, but today some companies do in fact claim that their shoes make you jump higher, allowing to essentially bypass jump training, and this where the conversation takes a turn.
Shoes That Are Made For Jumping Higher
Of the vertical jump shoes available that specifically focusing on making you jump higher, there are two types:
Jump Training Shoes
Jump training shoes are used much like regular gym equipment in the sense that they train your jumping ability by developing the muscles responsible for jumping.
These would include products like strength shoes and jumpsoles, which are largely categorized as a separate type of shoe than the ones we’ll be focusing on.
Performance Enhancing Shoes
These instantly increase your jump height by improving either the total force you generate when jumping or the speed at which you generate it. These are the so-called “magic shoes” that we’re looking for.
From these two types, we’ll be focusing on the performance-enhancing shoes, since these are the ones that propagate the idea of seeing instant results without needing to put in any work.
Technology like Nike Air enhances a user’s performance to a mild degree, most notably in giving additional cushioning and using unique material that is both durable and responsive.
However, there is an important distinction to be made between brands like these versus brands that make substantive claims with regards to their products.
In this category, APL is the only company behind making these types of jumping sneakers that truly asserts its product’s ability to make you jump higher, so for this reason, we’ll be reviewing them to see whether the claims they make hold up.
The Introduction of APL Shoes
Remember the shoes that were banned by the NBA? Well, here they are.
Athletic Propulsion Labs sneakers have garnered plenty of attention over the years, becoming somewhat of a favorite pick for many regular basketball players.
In specific, the banned placed by the NBA on the APL Concept 1 for the 2010-2011 season, which was a legitimate ban, was what set them off and made them popular amongst players looking to become dunkers overnight.
The NBA’s response to APL’s claim that their shoes increased jump height only reinforced the assumption that using their product provided athletes with an unfair advantage, further bolstering their public image in a positive light.
Do APL Shoes Increase Your Vertical Jump?
While the idea sounds nice, the reality is that using APL seems to do little to nothing when it comes to jumping higher, and this verdict has been backed up by many reviews.
Tests designed to differentiate APL products from other shoe companies have shown practically no difference in how they affect your performance; here’s just one example.
This renders APL’s exaggerated claim of adding up to 3.5 inches to your vertical to rest, but these pair of sneakers still make their way in the market, which is due in large part to their set up.
The APL Concepts are very comfortable, using a unique “propelium” material for enhanced cushioning, with a one-piece upper that uses their “techloom” to provide support, all while displaying a slick design.
Another nice touch is the heel-to-toe drop; it has plenty of cushioning near the heel, and then nearly none at the forefoot of the shoe to give you a direct court feel and maximize your ability push off the ground with all of your energy.
With these features in mind, it’s not all too farfetched to say that these shoes can compete alongside most leading basketball shoes, regardless of whether they make you jump higher.
Especially with the most recent version, the APL Concept 3, they provide considerable ankle support with their high-top sneaker model.
Conclusion on APL Shoes
To sum it all up, these sneakers are physically wide and well-cushioned, signifying they are extremely stable and pretty tough, offering tons of support to keep your feet from rolling or slipping.
But as far as making you jump higher goes, they seem to do very little, and the claims themselves don’t hold up when pinned against the countless reviews and experiments debunking their validity.
There have been many tests conducted on APL products to see the advantages they provide, only to find the same performance you would expect to see while using a regular pair of shoes.
What seems especially blown out of proportion is APL’s 8-spring Load ‘N Launch technology which has been their absolute crux in this conversation, dating as far back as the Concept 1’s to the more recent Concept 3.
They have the frontend of the shoes spring-loaded with a pad so that when you push off from the forefoot, the springs create a rebound effect that provides an additional boost at release.
It sounds similar to the flight plate technology used in the Air Jordan XX8, except the purpose of the flight plate was to maximize the responsiveness of the Zoom Air cushioning.
Instead, this was designed to instantly increase your vertical leap, and from what I’ve read on their FAQ page, the device has been extensively tested in a leading West Coast University Biomechanical Lab and has proven that at a statistically significant level, the tech does work.
I don’t mean to discredit their technology or the work they’ve likely put into it, but it does seem strange that while they reaffirm its validity using their data, others simultaneously disprove it.
At that point, you need to ask yourself if the technology only works for certain people, because from what I’ve seen online, it’s a toss-up.
It all comes off as a bit of a marketing scheme, and although some athletes have reported marginal gains when jumping, the idea of circumnavigating exercise through the use of magical sneakers seems unsupported on any logical or scientific grounds.
Especially when you consider that this is athletic footwear tailored specifically for basketball players, I think it’s clear as a day that it won’t be turning you into a dunker any time soon.
After all, can you imagine hearing some of the best dunkers like Vince Carter honestly attribute all of their godlike prowess and talent to a pair of sneakers?
Qualities to Look For in Shoes That Improve Your Jump
Although we’ve established that shoes won’t turn you into a straight-up dunker anytime soon, there’s a reason why most players prefer to use certain brands such as Nike and Adidas over others when it comes to playing basketball.
The technology used within basketball shoes has evolved to provide more support, stability, and even cushioning for the feet when landing, all while still maintaining mobility; It’d be naive to say these features aren’t important.
especially when looking at them from the perspective of improving your vertical jump, some critical aspects of a shoe make it objectively better to use for basketball.
In specific, there are a few areas you want to watch out for when looking for a pair of basketball shoes to maximize their effectiveness towards getting you off the ground nice and safe.
Traction plays an important role in providing you with the stability you need to jump up off the ground with maximum force and land down safely.
In this way, you’re able to maximize your overall bounce by hopping with firmness, and you minimize the risk of slipping and hurting both your reach and yourself.
A slippery court is bad enough, but add on to that a pair of slippery shoes and you’ve killed your chances of developing any tension on your legs with which to jump.
For this reason, you need to prioritize having at least some grip on the court, especially when you’re running down towards the block and plan on converting that horizontal momentum upwards.
Focus on the material used to construct the bottom of the shoe, and test it out to see if provides just the right amount of traction that makes you feel comfortable.
I also recommend wiping down the underside of your shoes now and then to remove any dust or dirt that may be reducing your shoes’ traction.
I think this one is pretty obvious, but I’ll mention it either way to stress its importance.
From top to bottom, you want your sneakers to fit nicely and have a good lockdown on your feet, and this important for a few reasons.
It can be dangerous to run around with a floppy shoe that can cause you to get caught on it and fall, and could just as easily fly off at any given point and hurt someone else. Injury prevention is a major component to take into consideration, and by using a loose pair while playing, you run the risk of injuring yourself and others.
When a shoe is too big your foot is gonna end up sliding around; this affects the positioning of your feet and hampers your ability to properly push off the floor without losing some of your vertical force. That heavily impacts both your momentum and stability while running, largely hampering your jump height.
It’s also pretty annoying to have to keep readjusting yourself every time you jump, derailing your focus. Blister and calluses can become a common concern, and from experience, I can tell you, it’s not fun to have to deal with them.
This doesn’t mean get shoes so tight they’ll cut off your circulation; you want to aim for pair that have a relatively snug fit.
Cushioning can affect in large part the total force absorbed when taking off and landing on the ground, so it’s important to get it just right when it comes to your selection.
It acts much like a buffer between your feet and the floor and helps to reduce the impact of explosive movements such as jumping up and coming back down, thereby minimizing injury.
Recent examples of cushioning systems include the Nike Air, Zoom, and React, as well as the Puma Ignite, Adidas Boost, and many others.
Each of these systems uses a variety of different configurations to produce a certain level of cushioning, so be sure to choose one that suits your needs.
In your case, you want something that complements your ability to jump as high as possible, which would put you somewhere in between in terms of the amount of protection you get; not too much, not too little.
If you’ve ever tried out LeBron’s heavily cushioned shoes for big men, you know what too much feels like.
Remember, it’s important to have a decent amount of protection, but that comes at the cost of suppressing the momentum generated by your lower body and hampering your reach.
Comfort is a much more subjective element, making it a preferential choice, but it can be thought of as an amalgamation of everything we’ve covered so far.
To optimize your vertical jump, you want to have the right traction, support, cushioning, and even weight to a lesser degree, all of which work together to give you the flexibility to maneuver on the court and jump with ease.
These are all objective features that you can adjust to suit your own needs by choosing a shoe that uses high-quality materials, balances the right amount of cushioning, has an excellent fit, and is light.
Shoes that are weak in these areas can work against you by worsening your performance, decreasing the momentum translated into your jump, and reducing your vertical.
Here are examples of sneakers that do well in meeting the criteria:
That being said, a good pair of sneakers only allows you to jump as high as you can without restrictions, which means that your maximum reach will remain the same regardless of whether you put springs in the soles or use any other kind of gimmick.
The reason why is because the science behind jumping higher, which is the amount of force your lower body generates in a given time, is determined in large part by your athletic ability, not by your selection of footwear.
As we’ve previously touched on, all of these separate features rightfully hold importance and sway in decision making as they have an indirect influence on your ability to jump, but even that has a ceiling.
How to Jump Higher
Unfortunately, shoes aren’t the secret piece missing from the puzzle that’ll automatically transform into a high-flying beast.
As we’ve established, your maximum vertical jump is the cap on your reach, and nothing is gonna get you that shortcut you’re hoping for. Whether it’s playing volleyball or participating in the long jump, you know that the only way to increase your vertical jump is through training.
That especially holds for basketball players looking to get their first dunk, a feat that requires a decent amount of explosiveness and athleticism.
For most people, there’s untapped potential to be discovered in increasing that maximum and getting more hang time. Fortunately, today there are vertical jump training programs that comprise of tested training methods backed by science which have been carefully designed to facilitate the best results possible.
They’ve been proven to be effective for thousands of athletes worldwide, allowing you to make progressive gains n a safe manner. Not every program is effective, which is why it’s important to weed out the trash so that you’re left with only the truly good ones.
So if you’re serious about increasing your vertical jump, especially if you want to learn how to dunk, then instead of searching for gimmicks that don’t work, let me recommend the two best vertical leap training programs that I’ve found to be worthwhile.
Vert Shock is one of the more recent vertical jump training programs that has garnered heaps amounts of attention over the years, becoming a very popular choice in the jumping community.
It was made by Adam Folker, a professional basketball player, and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), and Justin “Jus Fly” Darlington, a professional dunker who has been widely regarded as the #1 dunker in the world for his high-flying capabilities.
The two have plenty of experience not only in the realm of dunking but more importantly on how to effectively increase your vertical, and their collaboration led to a product that gets results without requiring a gym or equipment.
Being a plyometrics-oriented program, Vert Shock has proven itself in its ability to deliver results thanks in part to the sheer number of users that have seen overwhelming success in improving their vertical and becoming dunkers.
What’s truly unique about it is the approach it takes to training, lasting only two months total to complete it, and using a careful selection of plyometric exercises in low-interval high-intensity workout sessions to essentially “shock” your muscle into activation and develop their explosiveness.
All of this is given to you without the restraint on location or equipment, which allows the program to be followed just as easily from at home in your garage or bedroom, to even the local park, all the while saving you money.
The Jump Manual
The Jump Manual is a slightly older program, but the fact that its approach to vertical jump training still holds up after more than ten years is a testament to how well it works.
This program can be considered as the godfather of vertical jump training that revolutionized this space, having built a strong reputation amongst athletes as a proven system based on science.
Before it, the scene was largely shrouded in mystery as to how to go about jumping higher, with harmful programs like Air Alert that capitalized on the market’s needs.
Thankfully there are now clear blueprints that outline the exact process to improving your jump height, all while maintaining a level of transparency with background information explaining how the workouts function and why they manage to get such great results.
However, even though the program is nicely laid out for you so that you’re never left guessing what’s next, it’s very strict requiring a large dedication of both your time and energy.
The creator, Jacob Hiller, an athletic performance coach, and professional trainer, was very meticulous in structuring The Jump Manual to cover practically everything you need to know.
This includes using both plyometric and weight training exercises to maximize your vertical, following a rest day routine to boost your recovery, and abiding by a proper diet to make sure you’re eating properly.
There’s a lot that goes into it, not to mention the extensive collection of background knowledge that provides a detailed understanding of the different aspects that affect your vertical jump.
It can seem overwhelming, which stresses my point that it’s not for everyone, but those that have taken the time to follow through with it have seen impressive results, with some adding up to ten inches to their vertical.
Basketball shoes can be a contributing factor to our ability to jump since they can pave the way by offering benefits such as greater traction on the court and better control when running and jumping.
If you don’t feel particularly comfortable or stable with a pair of sneakers, that can derail both your performance and focus, leave you with a much lower vertical jump.
However, regardless of what some shoe brands and companies may tell you, your selection of footwear is not the determining factor that will transform you into a high-soaring leaper.
Quite honestly, a regular pair of sneakers can work just as good and provide much the same advantage as long as they meet your criteria.
So instead of spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on heavily marketed shoes, you’re much better off investing that money into a proven vertical jump training program.
If you’re able to put in the time and energy to follow a solid program through to completion, then you’ll have improved your vertical jump and received the ability to dunk regardless of the type of shoes you use.