The shank plate is one of the most importance features in a performance shoe. A shank plate is a rectangular strip of material that sits on the mid-foot of the shoe between the heel and the ball of your foot. Where the shank plate is placed differs between shoes depending on the design. For example the shank plate on the Jordan 11 is placed between the outsole and the midsole of the shoe. For other shoes such as the Kyrie 3, the shank plate is placed on top of the midsole. Where on the midsole shank plate is placed is not important as long as it is place on the mid-foot.
So why is the shank plate such an important feature in performance basketball shoes? The reason the shank plate exists is to prevent the shoe from over folding. Without a shank plate every time you are walking up and down the court, there is more strain on your foot as all the strain from the shoe bending is all loaded on to your plantar fascia. This will result in more foot related injuries such as plantar fasciitis and especially in a fast paced sport like basketball, the strain your foot will have to endure would be significant. So the role of the shank plate is to reduce the load on your foot which in return will reduce the risk of injury.
Recently we’ve seen Nike remove the shank plate from signature shoes such as the Kyrie 4, Zoom Freak 1 and the PG 4. There is a design reason for the shank plate being removed from these shoes. It is the fact that all three shoes have a full-length ground contact design. Like shown in the image below, a shoe with full-length ground contact doesn’t necessarily need a shank plate as it supports the arch during the weight-bearing phase of the gait.
A shank plate becomes more important in a performance shoe is when there is mid-foot rise in the shoe. For example the image of the Kyrie 2 shows that were is a small midfoot rise which means a shank place is needed for the shoe.
However it cannot be ignored that we have seen evidence that the PE versions of the Kyrie 4 did feature carbon shank plates. Which does mean that shank plates are needed despite full-length ground contact. It is worth considering the difference both force and weight between a average hooper and a professional player which maybe the reason why PEs have shank plates. So the level of concern for a lack of shank plate should be higher if you play basketball at a higher than average level and if you put large force into the shoes you are wearing when playing basketball.