Basketball shoes were made for basketball, so most consumers assume that sport-specific models are the only option. However, there are sneakers in other categories that can translate well to the game depending on what is needed from the shoes.
In fact, John Stockton famously wore an Agassi model, the Nike Air Zoom Challenge, during the 1997 NBA season. Stockton's not alone in bringing non-hoops shoes to the league. Both Andray Blatche and Amar'e Stoudemire have worn Nike cross trainers in game play. Nate Robinson famously wore Yeezys. And, the always entertaining Gilbert Arenas once sported a pair of Dolce and Gabbana high tops. We're not that crazy. But we are invested in searching far and wide for the shoes that perform most admirably, regardless of original intended use.
Instead of doing the usual performance review on a shoes made for hoops, we broke down three non-basketball shoes and assessed the potential of each. The Jordan Trunner Dominate Pro (Cross Trainer), Prince T22 (Tennis) and the Under Armour Cam Trainer (Football/ Trainer) were all taken on on-court to see which performed best. Specifically, we tested each shoe for three variables: comfort, ventilation, and traction. When all was said and done, we learned that Stockton might have been on to something.
When it comes down to ventilation, its importance can be a hit or miss. If the shoe contains your foot properly and the materials are strong enough, lack of ventilation usually becomes a non-issue. The Cam Trainer used great suede along the upper but when moist it becomes malleable which ends up creating a sloppy and insecure forefoot fit. This wasn't too great when it came down to lateral movements. Meanwhile, the Jordan Trunner and Prince T22 both featured very well-ventilated uppers and they both had pretty supportive uppers overall which was interesting seeing as how both shoes utilized a lot of mesh throughout. When all is said and done, lack of ventilation can hurt a shoes performance and it was pretty noticeable in the Cam Trainer.
Materials are great among all three models. The Jordan Trunner uses mesh and Fuse; ventilated, lightweight and supportive. Under Armour's Cam Trainers went the premium route providing us with rich suede for a majority of the upper with a few synthetic overlays for structure and support. Meanwhile, the Prince T22 puts to use a wide variety of materials; mesh, synthetic leather, TPU and rubberized leather. Between the three, the Prince T22 uses construction that is more common with basketball shoes and materials that will last while supporting the wearer during in-game movements. The forefoot's rubberized toe rand will protect the shoe (great for outdoor hoopers) while the TPU cage locks the foot into place perfectly while providing quick Guards with plenty of support. All three are capable of on-court usage but if you were looking for something that will last then the Prince T22 blows away the competition.
Comfort/ cushion might be one aspect that most look for when they're in the market for a new pair of sneakers. Luckily, all three are extremely comfortable and well cushioned. The Jordan Trunner features Jordan Brand's Flight Plate which is something basketball players are already familiar with. Its used in a way that wont jeopardize the Zoom Air that's in place while still providing you with ample cushion, however, their Cushlon midsole is pretty soft and high off the ground in the heel which could result in a roll over upon certain movements. Under Armour's Cam Trainer features full length Micro G... otherwise known as one of the best foam cushion systems of all time. The Micro G is utilized through the full length of the sole and the midsole itself is fairly low profile so that will increase stability, thus increasing support all the while protecting you with each strike... doesn't really get any better than that. Prince's T22 was the surprise out of the three, as we already expect premium cushion with Under Armour & Jordan Brand, and Prince actually provides with the perfect blend between cushion and support. There is a really great EVA foam midsole in place with an additional crash pad in the heel. Along with the extremely comfortable midsole, there is a PU insole which was a huge bonus and just adds to their comfort level. Usually with a hoop shoe, you want enough firmness to allow for quick movements and enough cushion to protect upon impact... the Prince T22 did just that.
Traction is the most important aspect when looking for a new hoop shoe as the traction is the shoes foundation. If the foundation fails to provide the wearer with excellent performance then nothing else within the shoes build will matter as it basically renders the shoe worthless. This is where there was one clear winner between the three. Under Armour's Cam Trainer doesn't really feature a true traction pattern... and they played that way. Jordan Brand's Trunner uses a pattern that is best utilized for turf or track surfaces... not basketball courts. The Prince T22... that's a tennis shoe. Tennis shoes are technically court shoes and the traction pattern in place - while not perfect - worked much better than the rest. They were designed with outdoor courts in mind and they excel when taken outside. Indoors, the courts should be moderately well-kept or clean. If there is a lot of dust present then it'll clog up the pattern in place and you'll wind up skating rather than playing basketball.
While each model from the three selected brands provides you with certain attributes that hoopers look for in their shoes, the Prince T22 (Tennis shoe) was the one that can clearly be used with either sport. It's a court shoe and it plays that way. Both sports rely on traction, firm yet protective cushion and lockdown support for lateral movements. Add in the fact that the Prince T22 was meant for outdoor surfaces and you'll find yourself with a shoe that will not only perform well for you on-court but also last for a while.
There are shoes out there that are less costly and easily obtainable that can offer you with a powerful performance punch. If you've been wanting to switch things up a bit then try out a Tennis shoe on-court... you won't be disappointed and your wallet will thank you.
Final note: All three shoes tested fit true to size for those interested.
Nightwing2303 is the owner / publisher of KicksOnCourt and contributor to Sneaker Report. He hoops on the regular and loves sneaker tech as much as he loves food, and he really loves his food. You can keep up with Nightwing2303′s on and off court adventures on Twitter and Instagram.