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Vertical Jump Shoes: Do They Make You Jump Higher?

Daniel Brady | April 25, 2013 in Equipment
Basketball Shoes

Adding inches to your vertical jump instantly sounds too good to be true. Well actually, it’s not.

It’s definitely hard to distinguish the effective from the ineffective though, so that’s what we will do in this article. Read on to learn what doesn’t work, and then what does.

What Doesn’t Work

Strength Shoes™

Strength Shoes
The product claims that the platform at the front of the shoes will make your calves work more and increase your vertical jump. It’s true that your calf muscles will increase in size, but research shows that training with Strength Shoes™ is not more effective then regular shoes for increasing vertical jump, and if anything, increase injury frequency.[1]

High Top Basketball Shoes

High Top Basketball Shoes
High top basketball shoes impair jumping height and running speed by 2-3%.[2] High-top shoes (along with ankle taping) can reduce ankle injury frequency though, so it is a trade-off of performance for increased safety.[3]

What Works

Shoe Inclination Angle

This one is surprisingly effective. The chart below shows running vertical jump height depending on foot inclination angle.[4] As you can see, one group increased their jumps by 5cm (10%) while the other increased their jumps by 3cm (6%) by changing from an incline (heels above toes) to decline foot angle (toes above heels). That is an instant 6-10% increase in vertical jump. The research doesn’t say whether the decline angle is safe or equally effective for running, but it does deliver impressive results for vertical jumping. Clearly this deserves further research.

Foot Angle Jump Height

I don’t know of any basketball shoes with a decline foot angle. If you know of any, leave the name in the comments. One possible way to test this is to buy a front-of-shoe insole and do a vertical jump test with and without it. If the test works perfectly, your vertical jump should be 5-10% higher with the insole.

Light Weight Shoes

Strength and power relative to body weight is what defines your vertical jump.[5] So it makes sense that reducing the weight of your shoes (and clothes) will increase your vertical jump. I don’t have any experimental reference to back up the hypothesis, but hopefully you agree that the idea is valid.

Preferably, you will have shoes and clothes that are both light weight and breathe, since you don’t want sweat being retained to add excess weight. The Nike Hyperize, coming in at 13 oz or the Adidas adiZero Crazy Light coming in at 9.5 oz compare favorably to the Fila Men’s DLS Game Basketball Shoe coming in at 22 oz. That 9-12.5 oz decrease in total body weight is roughly 0.4% for a 75kg player. Combine that with a reduction in clothes weight and retained sweat through wearing suitable clothing and you could add 1% or more to your vertical jump. Not an amazing increase, but it’s something.

Cutting Body Fat

While not related to shoes, cutting some body fat can have a significant effect on your vertical jump. Physics tells us that the same force applied to a lower mass results in a greater velocity. That is the same as saying that ‘Strength and power relative to body weight is what defines your vertical jump.‘. So your goal has to be to minimize your fat without impairing your strength. This means eating a small calorie deficit diet, as opposed to a large calorie deficit which will result in reduced muscle mass. If the 75kg player mentioned above loses 2kg of fat, his vertical jump could increase by 3%. That could be an inch on top of your current vertical jump. Not bad.

Increasing Strength and Power

Strength and power is the other half of the physics equation: your strength and power need to be increasing faster than your body weight. That should not be an issue for most people, since it’s a slow process putting on muscle. It’s much faster to increase your strength. So get in the gym and lift heavy (relative to your current strength level) and do plyometric exercises or power cleans for power. 3 sets of 5 repetitions is a good rule of thumb when lifting weights for strength and power. 3 sets of 10 is recommended for plyometrics.


Equipment can play a small part in your jumping, but training is the biggest factor. If you are ready to train seriously, then doing strength and power exercises at 80-90% of your maximum ability will give you great results.

  1. Effects of Training in Strength Shoes on 40,Yard Dash Time, Jumping Ability, and Calf Girth. Porcari, John P.; Pethan, Scott M.; Ward, Kevin; Fater, Dennis; Terry, Larry []
  2. The influence of basketball shoes with increased ankle support on shock attenuation and performance in running and jumping. G. Brizuela , S. Llana , R. Ferrandis & A. C. Garcia-Belenguer []
  3. Role of external support in the prevention of ankle sprains. JG Garrick, RK Requa []
  4. Positive versus negative foot inclination for maximum height two-leg vertical jumps. Clifford Larkins, Thomas E Snabb []
  5. How Strong is Strong Enough? Professor Mike Stone, Gavin Moir []

Daniel has a strong interest in evidence supported fitness training, preparation and supplementation. His goal is to provide clear information that simply works. He's currently 16 kg of muscle above his starting weight (7kg in the past 12 months), and targeting a continued growth rate of 5kg+ per year.
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