When buying shoes for basketball in the past, I have always thought to go with the high top shoe. I have a history of ankle sprains and a few breaks, so I figured I would play it safe and go with more support, but I may have been wrong in my decision. Could high top shoes provide no benefits over low top shoes, or even make the chances of getting injured higher? I know these sound like outlandish statements, but they could be correct according to a few studies. For years now high top shoes have been thought to be safer than low top shoes and a way to prevent ankle injuries, but this idea might be flawed.
The University of Oklahoma did a comprehensive study on sneakers in 1993. The Study examined high top sneakers, high top sneakers with air compression, and low top sneakers randomized among 622 college students during intramural basketball. The students were split equally into three groups and assigned sneakers to wear during games, which were checked in and out before the games. Trainers reported the injuries, and the players themselves were free to participate freely in their games. The study showed that there was no benefit to wearing high top shoes. 15 players sustained ankle injuries during their playing, 7 sustained injuries in high tops, and 4 sustained injuries in each of the other groups. The rate at which injuries were sustained per player per minute were nearly identical, and the p-value showed no difference in the three types of shoe. The Study found that, if you are buying shoes for support, you shouldn’t necessarily go high top because it makes no difference with ankle injuries.
An article by breakingmuscle.com examined the study done by Oklahoma among other studies and found a similar result. The article stated that many doctors concurred that low top shoes help to strengthen ankles and improve range of motion, which in the long run, will help to prevent injuries. The doctors also stated that high top sneakers restricted range of motion, which lead to further injury and that their primary purpose has evolved to style rather than protection. As kids wear high top shoes everyday, their ankles get weaker says the articles author Jeanne Goodes: “With high-top shoes becoming an everyday shoe for youth, there is a significant decrease in their ankle function. Because the lacing and extra material of these shoes act as a brace, the ankle suffers from a decrease in flexibility and strength.” Other doctors agree with this statement including Martin Kuban: “If the ankle joint, tendons, ligaments, and muscles are not actively worked in their intended full range of motion, then mobility is greatly decreased.” So, not even on the court, but just wearing shoes everyday, high tops could be working against their intended purpose of protecting your ankles.
In conclusion, while the study was mostly observational, the random allocation of college kids made it an experimental study. This study found no difference in wearing high top shoes compared to wearing low top shoes when it came to injuries, in other words the study failed to reject the null hypothesis. I suppose this study could suffer form the file drawer problem, with other studies not being published, but I find it unlikely because of how much the shoe companies have at stake here. Reverse causation is also a possibility here. Ankle sprains become more common after more injuries, so if you have an ankle injury then wear high top shoes to prevent it and get injured again that could make sense, but the study was well developed so this should not have been an issue. All things considered, should you wear high top sneakers? or are you better off with low top ones; the answer is: it doesn’t seem to matter. It is your choice high tops sneakers are often more money, so maybe low tops are a better option, but if you plan to wear high top sneakers everyday be careful you may be hurting your ankles. When it comes to sports it doesn’t matter, but when it comes to fashion, you may want to go low.