Table of Content
- 1 Jump Higher Shoes: Fact or Fiction?
- 2 Can Shoes Really Make You Jump Higher?
- 3 Vertical Jump Shoe Types
- 4 How to Choose the Best Shoe for Maximizing Your Vertical Leap
- 5 How to Really Jump Higher
- 6 Summary
What if I told you, you could add inches to your vertical jump INSTANTLY without having to do any work…
Would you believe me?
Well, that’s what some shoe brands promise.
Companies like APL (Athletic Propulsion Labs) claim that their shoes can add up to 3.5 inches to your vertical.
But does their shoe technology really give you such an edge?
In 2010 the NBA banned APL shoes!
The reason for the ban, according to the NBA, was that the shoes provided athletes with an unfair advantage.
This got me wondering…
Can shoes really make such a big difference in your ability to jump…?
Can you instantly add 3-4 inches to your vertical just by putting on a different pair of sneakers?
Read on, and I’ll spill the beans on everything you need to know about shoes that make you jump higher.
Jump Higher Shoes: Fact or Fiction?
Since the Jordan-era, and probably even before that, ballers of all ages have been fascinated with sneakers.
Growing up in the ’80s, I still remember those black & white TV commercials that made every kid on the block dream of owning a pair of Jordan’s.
“Wanna fly like Mike? Gotta wear Mike’s shoes.”
…this was the idea Nike was trying to “sell” with these commercials.
And it worked… Jordan’s were a massive hit from the moment they hit the shelves at 1984, even though Nike never said anything about a shoe making you jump higher (at least not explicitly).
Fast forward to today, and we actually HAVE companies that claim their shoes make you jump higher.
But to me, the idea that a shoe can increase your vertical is something that I always had a hard time swallowing.
Then, six years ago, I decided to put an end to the debate by testing the theory myself.
Can Shoes Really Make You Jump Higher?
Many of the best dunkers in the world swear by the sneakers that they wear.
In fact, some of the biggest superstars in the NBA have their own signature lines that they usually take part in developing.
Each of them has different characteristics and qualities that they emphasize.
For example, some shoes will focus on being as light as possible, some will concentrate on maximum security, and some try to deliver the best traction possible.
In truth, all of these features are important, and you’ll understand why in a minute… but trust me, being comfortable with your shoes goes a long way when you’re pushing for that extra inch.
With that being said, shoes have a limited influence on how much higher you will jump, and here’s why…
The most important aspect of vertical jumping is still the amount of force you can generate in the least amount of time.
Yes, how much force in how much time—that’s the equation… and that’s almost entirely determined by your athletic ability, NOT by what shoes you wear.
Vertical Jump Shoe Types
In general, vertical jump shoes can be categorized into two types:
- Jump Training Shoes – These are shoes that help you jump higher by training the muscles related to jumping, i.e., Jumpsoles/Strength Shoes.
- Performance Enhancing Shoes – Shoes that provide an instant boost to your vertical by increasing the force you generate when you jump.
In this article we will we will focus on the latter, i.e., the Performance Enhancing Shoes.
And since APL is the ONLY company that explicitly claims its shoes will make you jump higher (and run faster), we’ll focus on those.
So let’s find out what the APL shoes are all about.
APL – The Shoes That Were Banned by the NBA for Making You Jump Higher
Athletic Propulsion Labs shoes have really exploded in the past few years and have become a popular option for casual basketball players.
What really helped APL take off was the ban imposed by the NBA in 2010 due to APL’s claim that their shoes INSTANTLY make you jump higher by adding 3-4 inches to your vertical jump.
While there’s a lot of questions about the legitimacy of this claim, the ban is in fact true, and it has helped APL create an image of a shoe that can instantly provide athletes with an unfair advantage.
Can APL Shoes Really Add Inches to Your Vertical?
In my experience, and as far as real, credible reviews have proven, the answer is no.
Numerous tests have shown that they don’t have an advantage over other basketball shoes, and if there was one, it’s definitely NOT in the range of 3.5 inches as advertised.
That being said, it doesn’t take away from the fact that these shoes are quite comfortable and could compete with the most leading basketball shoes of today.
The APL Concepts are one of the best-cushioned shoes you will find!
The extra material helps to prevent injury and makes you feel more stable, which is something that most lightweight shoes simply can’t offer.
And while they aren’t the lightest shoes available, it’s not a huge drawback because the shoe design is solid and doesn’t feel bulky.
The APL Concept 3 also come with extensive ankle support… and while there are still questions of whether high-top sneakers are good for basketball, some ballers, especially bigmen and guys with a lot of ankle issues, swear by them.
So if you’re one of those guys who want ankle support in their sneaker, the APL shoes can be a great fit.
APL Shoes – The Verdict
To summarize, this shoe is built like a tank – it’s big, it’s quite heavy, and it’s also quite wide, meaning that the sole covers a lot of ground.
But how much does it influence your vertical jump…? In the end, that’s the only question that matters.
And the answer is – not by a lot.
Personally, if you asked me, APL’s 8-spring Load ‘N Launch technology is nothing more than an advertising gimmick, just as the ban by the NBA.
How do I know this?
I bought the Concept 3 a few years ago and tried them for a while… didn’t do a damn thing to my vertical.
But it’s not just me…
Countless other athletes have conducted full tests on the APLs, and almost all of them showed no improvement when compared to regular sneakers.
Check out this review by Kick Genius. It thoroughly breaks down what the APL shoes are all about, revealing the TRUTH about them.
Do you notice any increase in his vertical?
Anyway, the answer that he finds is clear as day – the shoes won’t turn you into a dunker!
Interestingly, some athletes reported marginal gains when jumping off two feet.
My guess is that maybe the combined forces from both shoes working together equals a little more bounce.
Either way, if you’re looking for a magical shoe that will instantly add 3+ inches to your vertical, hate to break it to you – it doesn’t exist.
How to Choose the Best Shoe for Maximizing Your Vertical Leap
While it’s quite clear sneakers won’t magically turn you into a high-flying bird, there’s a reason why big shoe companies like Nike and Adidas are able to charge a premium for their shoes.
The technology behind basketball shoes of today is miles ahead of where it was only a few decades back.
These days, shoes are designed to provide maximum stability without reducing mobility, as well as ease the wear and tear that landing on the feet can cause.
But what are the most important features in a basketball shoe from a vertical jump standpoint?
I’ve boiled it down to five categories:
In order to feel comfortable exerting maximum force with each jump, you have to trust your shoes to provide flawless traction and give you the stability you need when taking off and landing.
That’s why shoes that have good traction are crucial for maximizing your bounce.
Think of it like this…
Just as an F1 car needs top-notch tires to grip the road, you need quality rubber to reach high on the court.
If you’re slipping on every change of direction you make, you can’t feel safe with a shoe.
So if there’s one aspect you should prioritize, it’s traction—without it, you’ll never be able to reach your full jumping potential.
I’ve put this feature 2nd on my list because in my opinion, from heel to forefoot, if you don’t have good lockdown, you’re asking for trouble.
First of all, if a shoe has poor lockdown, it’s unsafe to play with!
Secondly, if your foot is sliding inside the shoe with every move you make, you’re wasting precious energy inside the shoe, energy which could otherwise be used for going up.
And thirdly, when blisters and calluses become your 2nd best friend (due to poor lockdown), the last thing you’d be worrying about is jumping higher.
Another feature that plays a big role in how high you jump is the comfort of the shoe. A shoe that feels like a brick on your foot will limit your ankle mobility and reduce your vertical.
For me, comfort is a combination of all the elements together. It starts with a good fit, continues with a good balance between cushioning and court-feel, and ends with high-quality materials.
Obviously, comfort is subjective to each player’s preference and taste, therefore…
Always make sure you go with a shoe that feels comfortable to YOU.
A big part of jumping is being able to absorb force as you take off and land.
Cushioning is what helps to protect your feet from direct impact – it reduces the damage your feet have to endure during explosive movements, especially jumping and landing.
A few popular cushion systems nowadays would be the Nike Zoom, Nike Air Max, Adidas Bounce/Boost, etc…
Each of these technologies can be implemented in different setups and configurations to produce varying levels of cushioning.
For jumping, you need something that’s in the sweet spot between good cushioning and good responsiveness.
Here are a few kicks that meet these requirements:
One of the biggest fads today in the world of sneakers is super-light shoes.
Leading manufacturers like Nike and Adidas have been able to reduce the weight of a sneaker to as little as 9 ounces, which gives the shoe an extra “light” feel when wearing it.
However, the weight itself doesn’t really matter, as the extra few ounces won’t really impact how high you jump.
Don’t believe me?
Check out this video by Kicks on Court.
It makes some excellent points about the strong placebo effect of lightweight shoes.
The verdict at the end sums up everything you need to know about these shoes, so check it out.
If there’s one takeaway from the video, it’s this:
The weight of the shoe does not matter.
However, you shouldn’t dismiss the other features that we discussed above… shoes that lack them can decrease your vertical by working against your momentum instead of enhancing it—but the key word here is decrease.
To put it simply, your max vertical is what it is, and it’s not going to improve with springs in the sole or any other gimmick for that matter.
That being said, shoes have an indirect effect on how high you can jump, so you should definitely take the time to find the ones that are right for you, as a good shoe will enable you to reach your full jumping potential.
How to Really Jump Higher
So it’s pretty clear that shoes are not the magic formula for becoming a highflying dunker.
As the famous saying goes, “There are no shortcuts to success.”
The same goes for dunking – if you don’t have the athleticism and explosiveness to dunk, no shoe is gonna change that.
But cheer up, ’cause that doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself in the gym in order to get more hang time.
In fact, there are proven and tested methods for training your body to jump higher that’s brought kick-ass results to thousands of athletes all across the globe.
Today, there are vertical jump training programs that were carefully designed to provide safe and effective ways to make steady gains on your vertical, transforming your basketball game in the process.
So, if you really want to learn how to dunk, instead of looking for quick-fix solutions that obviously don’t exist, here are a couple of vertical leap training programs I’ve found to be very effective:
The Jump Manual
The Jump Manual was the original program that revolutionized the way everyday basketball players approached their training.
Before this program, aspiring dunkers had to rely on word-of-mouth or even dangerous programs like Air Alert when trying to improve their vertical.
Nowadays, young basketball players have a clear, step-by-step blueprint of the exact process they can use to go from where they are today to becoming an explosive dunker in just a few months.
But keep in mind – this program is not easy!
You’ll have to change your entire lifestyle to follow it correctly – I’m talking rigorous training sessions in the gym, stretching and exercising even on off days, and a strict diet.
Suffice to say, the program is not for everyone.
But those that have the time and resources to follow through on it, usually end up adding 6-10 inches to their vertical.
So while it does require quite a lot of dedication, in the end, it’s well worth it.
A more recent program that has become just as popular as The Jump Manual is Vert Shock.
It was created by pro basketball player Adam Folker and dunking celebrity Justin Darlington, who’s been named the #1 dunker in the world and has even trained NBA players like Demar DeRozan on how to dunk.
They developed a vertical jump training formula that delivers results without requiring any equipment.
To get an idea of just how insanely athletic Jus Fly is, check out this EPIC battle he had against dunk god, Jordan Kilganon.
Can anyone explain to me how this video hasn’t gone viral yet??? RIP NBA Dunk Contest!
True, he lost that fight, but did you see how ferocious he was? Only a few people in the world can hold like that against the alien Jordan Kilganon.
Anyway, his program delivers, and that’s easily proven by the sheer amount of young dunkers that have greatly improved their verticals thanks to Vert Shock.
But how is it different from The Jump Manual, which has been around for longer?
Well, the main difference is the amount of time and resources it takes to see results.
Vert Shock’s unique way of exercising “shocks” your muscles into becoming more explosive, dramatically cutting down the time it takes to do the workouts and allowing you to see results in as little as two weeks.
What’s more, Vert Shock is entirely plyometrics-based, so you don’t need weights or any special equipment to do the exercises.
This is great if you don’t have access to a gym – you can just do the exercises in your back porch, your garage, or even your bedroom, reaping all the benefits that the program offers.
Basketball shoes can be a contributing factor to your ability to jump, because if you don’t feel comfortable and stable in your sneakers, you won’t be able to jump as high.
However, no matter what some of the shoe brands might promise, a shoe will not turn you into a highflying leaper.
Truth be told, shoes won’t even provide you with any significant advantage over regular sneakers, even if they came with wings like these:
As Kelly Baggett, renowned vertical leap expert writes in his book The Vert Jump Bible:
Without fail, the one common theme I’ve noticed in 20 years of coaching is that athletes who get the best gains base their routines on basic exercises, not gimmicks. I’ve yet to see an exception to that.
So instead of spending hundreds of dollars on heavily promoted shoes that promise you nothing but CRAP, you’re much better off investing in a proven vertical jump training program.
If you put in the work and follow a solid program ’till the end, you will improve your vertical and be able to dunk no matter the shoes you wear.
Hell, train long enough and you’ll probably be able to dunk in your socks.
Born and raised in sunny Florida, Jesse Parker grew up spending most of his days outdoors playing hoops and honing his basketball skills. He has a huge love for the game and is always striving to get better at it. His latest obsession is the subject of vertical jumping and dunking.