Skateboard Shoes Buyers Guide
If you are starting out and want to learn in your existing trainers it is of course possible. You would ideally want some with a supportive collar, a flat sole and not too much of an arch. They will be fine when starting to push around but you will soon want to consider something else.
You may have noticed when looking at the skate shoes we sell that established sports brands like Nike, adidas, Converse and New Balance. All of these well known companies also make skate shoes and have a company division dedicated to skateboarding. These companies offer some iconic shoe styles from their back catalogue you may well be familiar with. Nike SB have shoes like the Dunk and the Blazer in their catalogue, adidas include the Superstar, and the Chuck Taylor All Star is an important part of each season for Converse. It is worth noting however that the shoe which appears in the skateboarding line is not the shoe you would find in a sports shop. Each of these well established shoes have been reappropriated and improved to meet the demands of skateboarding for optimum performance. Even all of the shoes we stock from Vans have Pro upgrades that aren’t found on regular styles. In short, you are definitely at an advantage buying skate shoes instead of trainers for many reasons.
Skate shoes are specifically designed with skateboarding in mind, they are informed by and built to the specifications of the best skateboarders in the world. Skate shoes have added cushioning where it is needed for impact support. They are built to be more durable, lasting longer than other shoes because of added layers, stitching and materials. They offer better grip and enhanced boardfeel which is of paramount importance to skateboarders when designing shoes. Skate shoes also offer a snugger and more supportive fit to keep those ankles happy. Here are some things you will want to consider when looking at skate shoes as well as the explanation of some terms you may not be familiar with.
Low, Mid or High TopsLike all things in skateboarding a huge amount of decision making eventually comes down to personal preference. One of the decisions you will have to make when selecting what skate shoe is right for you is the height of the shoe. The three options available to you are low top, mid top or high top.
Low Top shoes are the most popular, they are lighter and the collar of the shoe sits below the ankle which means your foot has the most mobility. Technical skaters favour Low Tops for this reason, when you are working on flip tricks having that ankle as free as possible to flick them is an advantage. One downside of having your ankle exposed when you’re learning is it isn’t protected from inevitable dings from flip tricks gone wrong.
Mid Top shoes can be your saviour in this regard, they are built up around the ankles, protecting them from errant boards and adding further support and stability. The Vans Half Cab is the most famous Mid Top skate shoe because it was the first of it’s kind and is still a favourite today. Skateboarders craving the best mobility but looking for that extra ankle support will often choose Mid Tops. They are a great in between option.
High Top shoes have the highest collar which can be laced above the ankle. This means your foot is as strapped in as it can be, your ankles are fully protected, stable and supported. High Tops are slightly less breathable than Low Tops and don’t offer the same mobility a Low Top does. They have a solid fan base though and are often favoured by transition skaters.
Vulcanised vs Cupsole
The longer you are skateboarding the more inevitable it is you will find the merits of two types of shoe construction under debate. Again this is a matter of personal preference and there is no right or wrong. As you will see the words Vulcanised and Cupsole in many product descriptions so we thought we would tell you what they both mean and take you through the pros and cons of each.
VULCANISED SOLESShoes with a Vulcanised sole are easily spotted, the sole is seamlessly attached to the upper of the shoe. Vans Old Skools are a good example of this type of shoe construction. To create a Vulcanised shoe requires a flat rubber sole unit and rubber foxing strips which surround it. The foxing surrounds the sole and is baked in an oven, this heat treatment constricts the foxing tape and bonds it to the shoe as one piece. The nature of this construction means lots of cushioning can’t be included in the sole itself. Vulcanised shoes rely on advanced cushioning being added to the insole.
PROSSkateboarders worldwide swear by Vulcanised soles for many different reasons. It’s a construction skaters fell in love with in the 70s that still serves our community today. This is because that two piece construction is very flexible and the shoes require no time to break in. They offer good grip and the thinner sole means amazing board feel, that superior board feel is the main reason this construction is so popular. The solid rubber toe gives a great flick on kickflips too.
CONSThis simpler construction can be flimsier which means it may lose shape quicker than a Cupsole. The downside of great board feel is less impact protection because of the thinner sole. This is always taken into account and extra cushioning is added in the insole, it will still always be less sturdy in this regard than a Cupsole. From staff experience Vulcanised shoes are less of a switch heelflip machine than a Cupsole.
CUPSOLESCupsole construction differs from Vulcanised, the sole unit is made of one piece of rubber. This is a U shaped cup which attaches to the upper using glue instead of being heat treated. It is also often additionally stitched to the upper. Because of how it is attached further cushioning technology can be added to that rubber cup to offer more support in the shoe itself. This differs from company to company but airbags and heel support are often incorporated. Cupsolesles are often the refuge of older skaters and those with rails and stairs on their agenda.
PROSCupsole shoes are more supportive and protective. They are created to defeat heel bruises, increase comfort and be relied on to have your back when jumping down stairs. Cupsole shoes are highly durable and will be longer lasting. Wave goodbye to achey feet.
CONSThe downside of all of that support and added technology is that the sole takes slightly longer to break in and get used to. The added support of the construction also translates to slightly less boardfeel and flexibility.
We recommend trying different shoe brands and constructions to work out what best suits your skating. Ultimately it is down to you and what feels good for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else. Also if you decide you really like skating in Vulcanised shoes but are craving more support you could consider investing in some reusable insoles for the best of both worlds.
MATERIALSEveryone has their preference when it comes to what their skate shoes are made of too. Skate shoes are usually made of Canvas, Suede or Leather. Sometimes shoes are also made with synthetic materials which replicate how suede and leather perform. Each of these materials have their own advantages
CANVASCanvas shoes are lightweight, breathable and look great. Shoes like the Converse CTAS Pro are a staple skateboarding shoe often made with the canvas upper this shoe is famous for. While the canvas offers a lot of flexibility it doesn’t do so well in the durability stakes. Canvas will rip quicker than other materials when you start doing ollies and other tricks. Great for cruising around in the summer, not so great for relentlessly trying to learn flip tricks in a carpark in winter. Shopping around you will quickly see that many shoes combine canvas as a secondary material on the upper. It is common to see a shoe with a suede or leather toe and a canvas panel on the sidewall to shave off weight and aid breathability.
SUEDESuede is a favourite for many, they are durable, flexible and comfortable. Suede offers a consistent grip and flick and lasts much longer than canvas because it is highly resistant to abrasion. Suede shoes are the quickest to break in and are more breathable than leather. One thing you will notice when you have been skating for a while are the areas of your shoe which are worn most by your griptape. This is usually the toe of your shoe and the ollie area above the knuckle of your little toe. Most shoe companies add a layer beneath these areas to increase durability even more once the suede has been worn through. Stitching will be the first thing worn away by your griptape. Our top tip is a thin layer of super glue over the stitching in the every places it wears first. This will promote even wear.
LEATHERLeather shoes are a good choice if you’re looking for something which lasts. Leather is super durable and will stand up to griptape abrasion very well. Many skateboarders favour the flick a leather toe gives you above other materials. Leather shoes are supportive but require a longer break in period than materials like suede and canvas, they are also slightly less breathable. If you are looking for a tough shoe which holds it’s shape then definitely consider trying out a leather upper
ADVANTAGESWe hope that talking through style, construction and materials has left you more informed when choosing the right skate shoe for you. Choosing a skate shoe over a regular trainer has many advantages. They have advanced cushioning which has been developed specifically to withstand the impact skateboarding puts your feet through. Each shoe brand incorporate different cushioning technologies they have developed. Skate shoes are reinforced in the areas other shoes are not to enhance durability. They are designed with boardfeel in mind, from the insoles and cushioning through to the grip of the outsole. In short they are purpose built to perform and back up your learning process.
Skateboarding is a long journey, for many of us it has been a constant lifelong mission. Along that journey you will try out many different shoes, boards, wheels, trucks. This is the fun part, they all have their own advantages and fine tuning your personal preferences comes from trying out all there is to offer, don’t be afraid to try something new. If you can, we recommend visiting one of our shops to try on different shoes and get a feel of what fits best, feels most supportive and works for you.