Best Retro Basketball Shoes In 2021

best retro basketball shoes

While it’s common for brands to ‘re-release’ basketball silhouettes, few actually get the retro treatment from the public. 

These few great performance models are known for their on-court performance and are still regarded as high-quality even by today’s standards.

The history behind the shoe, design, on-court feel, and whether they’re the signature kicks of your favorite player can be compelling factors that make you want to cop a retro sneaker.

If you’re looking to go classic but have a hard time choosing, check out our list of the best retro basketball shoes to add to your collection.

Best Retro Basketball Shoes Review

1. AirJordan 3 Retro Se

Nike Air Jordan 3 Retro Basketball shoe

When it comes to iconic sneaker silhouettes, one of the first that comes to mind is the Air Jordan 3. Associated with Michael Jordan’s NBA Slam Dunk contest win in 1988, this silhouette was the first to feature a visible Air unit and the Jumpman logo.

The distinctive mid-cut silhouette and durable leather upper offer stability and support, while the elephant hides print detailing lends a visual appeal.

Sporting a bold red cement colorway, this take on the popular Air Jordan 3 is remastered for a more OG look. Nike revamped the tongue and toe as well as tweaked the collar, lining, and interior.

The Nike Air on the back looks great, and the Jumpman on the tongue lends a sporty appeal. You get three sets of laces—white, red, and black for a customizable fit

. Notable Features

  • Blend of full-grain, synthetic, and nubuck leather upper for durability
  • Max Air unit at the heel and encapsulated Air-sole unit at the forefoot for responsive cushioning
  • Removable Durapontex sockliner provides underfoot comfort
  • Solid rubber outsole with a modified circular traction pattern
  • Injected TPR heel counter keeps the foot locked in and provides optimal support

Pros

  • Extremely comfortable
  • Clean look and stylish design
  • Soft, high-quality leather
  • Snug fit
  • Great ankle support
  • Impressive heel-to-midfoot lockdown
  • True to size

Cons

  • Stiff midsole and poor impact protection
  • Not lightweight

Verdict

Its on-court history and distinctive look make the Air Jordan 3 Retro Se a trendy lifestyle sneaker for collectors and casual wearers. However, the stiff midsole might not fare well in competitive games.   

2. Air Jordan 5 Retro Raging Bull 2021 –Jordan Men’s

Air jordan 5 retro basketball shoe

Inspired by the World War 2 Mustang Fighter Jet, the Air Jordan 5 features a clear sole, reflective material, asymmetrical ankle collar, and molded foam.

This 2021 reissue of the Raging Bull features a sought-after fiery red colorway originally released as one-half of 2009’s Air Jordan Raging Bulls Pack.

The red-tipped shark tooth detailing accents, Jumpman-branded reflective silver tongue, and icy translucent outsole adds a trendy look. A second Jumpman logo on the heel overlay and an embroidered 23 on the lateral side complete the signature look.

In terms of cushioning, the Air Jordan 5 Retro uses Air cushioning on both the heel and forefoot for responsive comfort. The encapsulated forefoot air unit makes the forefoot lower to the ground, giving it a good court feel.

With its heavily padded asymmetrical collar, this retro sneaker provides great ankle support, and the sculpted heel counter molds to the shape of your heel, locking your foot in place.

Notable Features                   

  • Visible Air unit on the heel and encapsulated forefoot unit for responsive cushioning
  • Sculpted internal heel counter molds to the shape of your heel
  • Suede leather upper
  • Clear rubber nettings on the side panels and on the shoe tongue for ventilation
  • Polyurethane foam rubber midsole for durable comfort

Pros

  • Runs true to size
  • Great court feel
  • Nice aesthetic details
  • Stylish shoe for casual wear
  • Sturdy support
  • Reflective material on padded tongue lends a luxurious look

Pros

  • No herringbone pattern on some spots on the heel
  • The forefoot is a bit loose
  • Toe box creases easily
  • Not lightweight

Verdict

Its aesthetic detail and fiery colorway, along with the asymmetrical collar and molded midsole make the Air Jordan 5 Retro a great cop for collectors. Despite the thick cushioning, it offers a great court feel. However, like other retro Jordans, it is more of a lifestyle sneaker.

3. Jordan Air 1 Retro High OG

Air jordan 1 retro basketball shoe

This Air Jordan 2 Retro High OG lives up to its more than two decades of reputable status and influence.

The Air Jordan 1 brings a piece of history into your shoe collection as the basketball shoes that started MJ’s redefinition of urban, sport-induced youth culture. This Jordan’s first signature sneaker makes a great addition for any collector and looks good on foot.

The Jordan 1 Retro offers a commanding high-top silhouette and toe box covered on both sides with soft leather that hugs the feet. You get the standard rubber outsole and comfy insole. The high cut and sculpted heel provide good ankle support and protection, while the notch on the toe box offers flexibility.

 The Nike Swoosh and Air Jordan wing logo adorn the lid and topsides for a sporty vibe. However, the cushioning and support are minimal. If you’re getting the Jordan 1 for use on the court, you might want to swap the insole with one that has arch support.

Notable Features

·         Multidirectional circles along with soft and flexible rubber on the outsole

  • High cut silhouette and sculpted heel for enhanced support
  • Nike Swoosh and Air Jordan wing logo adorn the lid and top sides for a sporty vibe
  • Perforations on toebox add style and allow for ventilation

Pros

  • Excellent heel lockdown
  • Perforations on the toe box
  • Lots of colorways to choose from
  • Runs true to size
  • Good ankle support and protection
  • Great traction
  • Lightweight

Cons

·         Stiff upper needs breaking in

·         Average cushioning

Verdict

As far as being stylish and fresh go, the Air Jordan High OG ticks all boxes. Besides, it still has a court feel, offering great traction. The full leather uppers and a rubber midsole provide sturdiness and durability.

4. Air Jordan 11 Retro Low Concord Bred

Air Jordan 11 Retro basketball shoe

Popularly known as Concord Bred, the AirJodan 11 Retro Low combines the silhouette of the Air Jordan 11 Bred and Air Jordan 11 Concord.

A luxurious black leather mudguard wraps around the entire shoe, while white leather covers the mid-sized panel and collar, reminiscent of the iconic “Concord Edition”.

A semi-translucent University Red on the heel and tongue contrasts the white midsole. The Jumpman logo on the lateral side of the heel and on the mid outsole lends a sporty vibe.

As for shoe techs, the Air Jordan 11 Retro features a full-length Air cushion and Phylon foam on the midsole. The full-length airbag bends and flexes while providing enough support and stability.

You get clear and solid rubber on the outsole and a combination of ballistic mesh and patent leather on the upper. The stiff upper provides great lockdown, hugging the ankle tightly. For traction, this sneaker is suitable for both outdoor and indoor use.

Notable Features

  • Padded ballistic mesh and patent leather upper for breathability and durability
  • Full-length Air unit in the midsole
  • Herringbone pattern on the outsole for reliable traction
  • Nylon strips as lace loop for a secure and tight fit
  • Carbon fiber plank between the midsole and outsole for support

Pros

  • Runs true to size
  • Head-turning aesthetics
  • Great craftsmanship and high-quality
  • Breathable padded mesh
  • Good lockdown
  • Stiff upper provides great lockdown

Cons

  • Forefoot feels tight
  • Dust clings to the clear rubber on the outsole
  • Squeaky sounds on the hard floor

Verdict

Despite its non-flashy aesthetics, this low-cut Jordan XI is known for its nostalgic appeal. And though it performs well on the court, it is more popular as a collector’s item or casual wear.

5. Air Jordan 13 Retro

Air jordan 13 mens retro basketball shoe

 A nod to Michael Jordan’s dexterity and cat-like reflexes, the Air Jordan 11 celebrates the Jumpman’s sixth NBA title.

The sole includes a panther’s paw print. And by the ankle, you have holograms representing a cat’s glowing eyes. This 2020 ‘re-release features the beloved original colorway known as the Flint. 

This Air Jordan 13 features nubuck material on the mudguard, mid-panel, and heel for support. French Blue ballistic mesh with reflective detailing on the upper adds to the classic look. And an embroidered Jumpman branding on the white leather tongue completes the signature look.

The clean design makes the 13s a versatile wear for different outfits.  With this low to the ground cushioning setup, you get maximum responsiveness. The full-length Phylon midsole with encapsulated forefoot and heel Zoom Air bags provide plush cushioning.

 Notable Features

  • High-cut silhouette provides added support 
  • Low to the ground cushioning for responsiveness
  • Rubber outsole with strategically placed pods for flexibility and traction
  • A hidden lacing system locks the foot down
  • Carbon fiber midfoot shank plate for enhanced torsional rigidity

 Pros

  • Extremely comfortable
  • Attractive design
  • Good ankle support
  • Incredible on-court grip

Cons

  • Below average craftsmanship
  • Materials could be better
  • Creases easily
  • Cushioning setup not as good as other Air Jordan model’s
  • Not breathable

Verdict

The Air Jordan 13 ticks all the boxes in terms of performance. The major drawback is the minimal cushioning. However, it offers great traction lockdown and supports as well as a snug fit.

6. Nike Air 11 Retro Low – Legend Blue

Nike Air Jordan 11 XI Retro low basketball shoe

This ‘Legend Blue’ is a low-cut iteration of the OG colorway which Michael Jordan unveiled at the 1996 NBA All-Star Game.

The build retains the white leather upper with a tonal patent leather mudguard and ballistic mesh tongue.

In terms of design, you get a blue embroidered Jumpman at the heel, and a 25 stamped on the sock liner is a nod to the 25th anniversary of the shoe’s first release in 1995.

The forefoot is dressed with pristine patent leather overlays throughout, and the tongue features ultra-breathable mesh for air circulation. The black accents on the sock liner provide a pop of contrast, and the icy blue outsole completes the iconic look. 

With a mix of solid and clear rubber on the outsole, the rubber grips the floor when the sticky rubber attracts dust, giving you great traction.

Notable Features

  • Nike Air unit provides bounce and flexibility
  • Solid rubber outsole with herringbone pattern for traction
  • Nylon strips across the mesh upper act as lace loops for a secure fit
  • Classic padded ballistic mesh and patent leather for foot protection and breathability
  • Patent leather mudguard around the lower third of the shoe’s upper

Pros

  • Stylish aesthetics
  • Breathable upper
  • Upper delivers good lockdown
  • Stiff upper for foot support and stability

Cons

  • Tight fit in the forefoot area
  • Dust clings fast to the clear rubber on the outsole

Verdict

The Air Jordan XI Retro is both a solid performance and lifestyle shoe. It is stylish, good-looking, and comfortable. This Legend Blue colorway unites the iconic Air Jordan with an ice-cold color scheme for a trendy look. 

7. Jordan Air 11 XI Retro Bred

Jordan Air 11 XI Retro Bred Men's Basketball Shoes

The Bred XI features the typical setup for Air Jordan X1s. You get a full-length Air unit in the midsole, which bends and flexes. Nylon strips stretch across the midfoot upper, doubling as shoelaces.

This Varsity Red and black and white version combines premium tumbled leather with Microfiber suede for a timeless look.

The all-black upper features patent leather with an iridescent sheen at the base, along with a red Jumpman logo at the ankle. Adding to the classic look are the white midsole and red translucent outsole.

However, though this BredXI is comfortable, the upper is a bit stiff. Besides, the shape is not as sleek as Older XIs. The cut on the patent leather and a toe box shape is a bit different from its predecessors. Despite this, the shape seems to flatten out on foot and looks better than on the shelf.

Notable Features

  • Breathable padded mesh and leather upper provides stability and support
  • Carbon fiber shank plate
  • Huarache inner sleeve
  • Ballistic nylon uppers
  • Quick lacing system
  • Solid rubber outsole for traction

Pros

  • Rugged and thick material
  • Dark color palette masks dirt
  • Solid build and attractive design
  • Good quality

Cons

  • Not comfortable around the arch and midsole area
  • Tight fit in the forefoot area
  • A bit stiff

Verdict

The Bred XI offers a simple, non-flashy design in a classic silhouette. This Air Jordan 11 Retro pairs seamlessly with casual and active outfits, while delivering support, decent traction, and comfort.

8.  Jordan Air 5 Retro Fire Red Silver Tongue 2020

 Air jordan Mens 5 Retro basketball shoe

Originally released in 1990, this Air Jordan 5 Retro features its signature white, Fire Red, and black color palette. The upper consists of white leather with a Silver 3M Reflective tongue. On the lace lock, you have Fire Red, and the Jumpman adorns the black midsole and liner.

Like other Air Jordan 5 models, it offers an asymmetrical ankle collar and molded foam. Other nods to the OG include Nike Air branding on the heel in Fire Red and a translucent outsole.

With Nike Air cushioning on the heel and forefoot, this sneaker delivers responsive comfort. The encapsulated forefoot Air unit makes the forefoot lower to the ground for a great court feel.

The plastic lace locks add a pop of color while keeping the lace from loosening. For ventilation, the Air Jordan 5 offers clear rubber nettings that allow breathability.

The shark teeth feature accented by black speckled paint adorns the side of the shoe’s midsole, inspired by the World War 2 Mustang fighter jet.

Notable Features

  • Split-grain leather upper coated with a polyurethane layer for more structure and durability.
  • Nike Air cushioning in the heel and forefoot
  • The asymmetrical collar provides ankle support
  • Sculpted internal heel counter molds to the shape of the feet for a better lockdown
  • Plastic lace locks keep the lace from loosening and add style
  • Polyurethane foam rubber on the midsole for plush cushioning

Pros

  • True to size
  • Good court feel
  • Classic design
  • Stunning design
  • Study support
  • Breathable
  • Durable split-grain leather upper
  • Luxurious look

Cons

  • Loose fit in the forefoot area
  • Not lightweight

Verdict

Despite the enhancement in technology in basketball shoes, the Air Jordan 5 is one of those classics that still perform well on the court. This iconic fashion sneaker is breathable, well-cushioned, and supportive. Users love the details, such as the reflective tongue, lace locks, and shark teeth accent. No doubt, the design is a head-turner.

FAQs

What is a retro basketball shoe?

Retro basketball shoes are re-releases of some basketball shoes that make such a huge impact. Due to the demand for them, companies re-introduce these basketball shoes to the market. Examples are Nike Air Jordans and some signature shoes like Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose.

Are Jordan retros good for basketball?

Though most of Nike’s basketball retros retain their on-court performance, they are usually worn as lifestyle sneakers due to their impact on popular culture or kept as collector’s items.

What is the most sold basketball shoe of all time?

The top-selling basketball shoe of all time is the Nike Air Jordan 1. Since its release in 1985, Nike has released the Air Jordans in various colorways than fans could keep up with. This classic high top with tri-color is seen everywhere and is said to be one of the most desirable shoes to ever step on a court.

What was Michael Jordan’s favorite retro shoe?

The 3s were the first Jordans designed by Tinker Hatfield and the first to feature a visible Air Unit and incorporate elephant print on the upper for a classic design. Michael Jordan referred to the 3s and the 11s as his favorite, followed by the 11s, 12s, or 13s.

Why is Jordan 1s banned in the NBA?

The Air Jordan 1s are not currently banned in the NBA. However, they were once banned in the 1980s when Michael Jordan first created his first signature sneaker. The black and red colorway flouted the NBA’s rule of shoes that are mostly white and color-coordinated with teams’ uniforms. The league charged Jordan $5,000 every time he stepped onto the courts. However, Nike covered the cost while continuing its marketing efforts. The AirJordan 1 created a moment in history where basketball players got the freedom to rock whatever shoe colors they pleased.

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by Janice T. Strauss
Janice is fashion designer and model for 7 years. She is working as an outfit and fashion expert with various brands and fashions houses. She is a mom of 2 children and a lovely human being.

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