High Top vs. Low Top: Everything You Need To Know
There are two kinds of people in this world. Those that wear sneakers for function and comfort and those that view footwear as a fashion statement and nothing else. Comfort be damned! Lucky for all of us sneakers wearers, they do tend to be pretty darn cozy by default. Let’s take a look at wearing high tops vs. low tops, both for the athlete and the dapper male and female fashionista.
Main Difference Between High Tops and Low Tops
The answer is unfortunately not very profound. A high top sneaker has a higher collar that covers the ankle and a low top has a lower collar that does not cover the ankle. There will be a quiz later and I expect all of you to get 100%.
Pros and Cons of Both Styles
Literally, everything has pros and cons. Find something that doesn’t. I dare you. And the height of your shoes is not different. Some people prefer one over the other whether it’s in regard to comfort or style.
- Responsive and lightweight cushioning
- Flexibility and no foot restrictions
- More general control of movements
- Huge market selection
- Cushioning is usually sturdy, minimal impact protection
- Usually less durable because of loose/soft materials
- No ankle lock-in
- Ankle lock-in
- Soft & bouncy cushioning with good impact protection
- Usually more durable
- Movement restrictions due to materials and ankle collar
- Reasonably heavy
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The Difference for Athletes
In general, when referencing basketball shoes that used to exclusively mean high tops. It was believed that the higher cut provided support from sprains. However, after years of vigorous testing and lots of science-y experiments, it has been determined that sprains are caused when a player lands or twists their foot in such a way. Regardless of whether the player is wearing a high or low top sneaker, no shoe can stop a sprain from happening.
At the high levels of basketball – college and NBA – all players undergo incredibly rigorous strength and balance training to prevent injuries. Most athletes also wrap their ankles. In fact, the coaches at UCLA require it during both games and practice. As many as 80% of NBA players use tape during games, although taping doesn’t work exactly the way you would think, by remaining tight to keep the ankle from bending.
Instead, after a few minutes of action, the tape tends to loosen, and therefore, no longer offers the structural support you would want. However, according to experts, the benefit of taping is mainly proactive in nature. This means the mere contact of the tape on the skin induces the muscles to respond better and prevent injury.
According to the senior curator for the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada, high top sneakers were made because ankle boots were the norm in the 19th century and basketball shoes reflected that style. It was only a coincidence that it was also thought this style of kick also protected the athlete from injury as well.
Research helps designers understand the importance of traction, sole stiffness, heel height, and stability in the side-to-side motion of the foot. These factors are considered when designing new sneakers specifically marketed for athletes. You will notice collar height is not one of these factors, and these days it is very common to see almost as many low tops as high tops on the court.
Over the years, basketball shoes have gone from just a simple piece of canvas footwear to what they are today – an array of high-tech gadgetry, bold colors, and styles, and for some, an expensive hobby that results in sneakers having a resale value worth more than some cars.
Fashion and Function
As sneaker culture has flourished – manifesting as a complex intersection of fashion, capitalism, politics, culture, race, and society – basketball shoes continue to be at the forefront of footwear technology. Whether it’s cushioning air cells in the sole, new types of rubber for better traction, lighter materials, or even the self-lacing Nike Adapt BB’s, the basketball shoe has always been a marriage of form and function.
Iconic High Top Sneakers
Certain high tops have become icons in the sneaker culture community.
High Top Nike Air Force 1’s
These are a classic for a reason – they are the first pair of Nike’s to feature the iconic air cushioning system. Named after the aircraft used exclusively by the President of the United States, the Air Force 1 sneakers are the most popular Nike’s of all time. These legendary sneakers have non-marking rubber outsoles for traction, padding at the collar, and perforations to provide ventilation.
Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG
This model was worn by Michael Jordan in his rookie season. The shoes are made with leather and synthetic leather uppers, rubber soles with pivot circles, and Nike Air cushioning in the heel for comfort.
Iconic Low Top Sneakers
For every ying, there is a yang. And for every classic high top, there is an equally classic low top.
Adidas Originals Stan Smiths
Named after the tennis legend, the Stan Smith has evolved into one of the most beloved shoes in sneaker history. The simplicity of the design has played a major role in the sneaker’s sustained longevity. New releases, partnerships, and redesigns are always being added to the Stan Smith family. The white leather with hints of green has literally never gone out of style, ensuring that you can wear these sneakers today, in two years, always, and forever.
Low Top Nike Air Force 1’s
Whether you prefer the high top or low top version of this infamous sneaker, there’s something about the Air Force 1 that speaks to so many people. Though there are unlimited choices, the OG white-on-white is the best and most versatile colorway. The red Nike Swoosh on the pair above adds just enough twist to the classic, but keeps them still clean and simple and worn with literally anything.
Choose Your Player
When it comes to shoes, experts recommend wearing whatever feels the most comfortable and supportive. Perhaps you like a low top better but the latest drop only comes in a high top. You still buy it, obviously. No matter which style you prefer, there are exceptions to every rule, even the weird fashion rules we make for ourselves.
Even as an athlete, you have the freedom to choose which style of shoe you prefer when you run out on the court. So, regardless of which style you choose, rock them with confidence and no one will say a word to you except perhaps, “cool kicks, bro,” and frankly, who doesn’t like to be complimented?
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