When Vans opened their doors in 1966 (Van Doren back then), they weren’t really meant for skateboarding. At some point, Vans decided to dedicate themselves to skateboard shoes.
Vans shoes are great for skateboarding but you need to get the right type of shoe. Make sure you pick the pro model, these suede shoes offer great support, flexibility, and special insoles. They offer heel and arc support, absorb impacts, and last for a long time. Go with regular Vans shoes if you only ride cruisers or longboards.
Vans offer a lot of ‘skate’ shoes but not all of them are great for skateboarding. You need shoes that can withstand abuse and will last for a while. The cheaper shoes quickly get wear and tear and you might get holes in your shoes within days.
What Vans Shoes Are the Best for Skateboarding?
The best Vans skate shoes by far are the pro models. They look like beefed up Old Skool shoes and some even have a rubber toecap. They are sturdy, provide a lot of support and can take a beating. I love these shoes for their boardfeel and comfort plus it didn’t take me long to break them in.
The toe box is reinforced with double stitching which prevents the grip tape to eat through, at least for a while. This version has some leathery material on the toe box, I’ve also seen rubber used to reinforce the front of the shoe.
All pro models have DURACAP technology which is basically a rubber layer than reinforces the areas that are typically the first to wear. The DURACAP sits on the front of the shoe and helps to withstand abuse and provides extra grip.
The pro model in the image is a collaboration between Independent Trucks and Vans. These aren’t available anymore but the model itself is still for sale.
Even though these shoes are sturdy and offer a lot of heel support, they still feel very flexible.
Most of the pro models have an insole cushioning system called ULTRACUSH. It embeds your feet deep in the shoes which give more boardfeel. The most important feature is protection during a hard landing and you can take them out to replace them when needed.
I do have heel bruises that just won’t go away and I really love the extra support these insoles offer. If you want more support, go with the pro models that have these specialized insoles or buy them separately. It makes a huge difference and feels like you’re walking on clouds.
Vans is not the only brand that offers special insoles for skateboarding. I also like the ones Nike uses but their shoes are a bit tight for somewhat wider feet.
Vans were the ones to invent shoes with extra grip thanks to the waffle thread innovation. The pattern invented by the Van Doren family helps you to stick to your board, but also allows you to move around to correct your position.
Types of Vans Skate Shoes
Vans offers authentic classics, Old School, Sk8-Hi in all sorts of sizes and quality. You can go for cupsoles or Vulcanized shoes.
Cupsoles usually provide more arc support and are sturdier. The sole is made of a single piece stitched to the bottom of the shoe. They’re supposed to give less boardfeel compared to vulcanized shoes. Cupsoles are usually more expensive but last longer.
Vulcanized consists of a few layers which are baked and pressed together and glued to the sole. Vulcs offer less arc and heel support and are flat and go through a different manufacturing process. Many skateboarders prefer these shoes because of the thin sole. Some love the flat sole because it means your feet are really close to your skateboard deck.
Lows offer maximum freedom of movement and are lighter compared to the mids- and high-tops. If you suffer from anklers often (skateboard hitting your ankles) you should avoid the lows.
I skate the low TNT pro model (cupsole) occasionally and I love them. Pretty sturdy shoe and the insole is able to absorb a lot of impacts. Not all lows are equal!
Vans mids are in between lows and highs. They feel a bit more stable around the ankles, provide a bit of protection from anklers and still offer enough freedom of movement.
Not all mids are equal, go for the pro models if you skate often. I personally have no experience riding mids, but I’m sure they are fine shoes.
I recently got some Oldschool highs and I love how they feel. Even though the model I picked isn’t suitable for street skating, they are fine for skating transition. As long as I don’t ollie too often they should hold up for a while.
I like how they feel around my ankles and love the boardfeel, don’t think they prevent rolled ankles though but they do help to prevent razor tails taking a chuck out of your ankles or Achilles. On hot days my feet get sweaty because there isn’t much ventilation but this happens with most skate shoes.
I hated them at first because it took me ages to put them on. I just want to quickly get my shoes and get outside. It was just a matter of adjusting the tightness of the laces, things are better now.
How Long do Vans Last?
I wish I had the answer but it depends on how often, where and your style of skateboarding. Heels, soles, the side and top of your shoe typically wear the fastest.
Typically skate shoes deteriorate fast on new grip tape when you do a lot of tricks that involve sliding your feet. The grip tapes just eat up your shoes so sand it down a bit using old grip if you just applied new tape. You can apply some shoe goo or patch up the holes to make them last a bit longer.
I can say for sure that you can destroy Vans canvas shoes in half an hour if you ollie new grip tape, so suede is the answer. Let’s just say that the non-pro models won’t last very long.
Some skateboarders need to replace their shoes every month. In this case, it would be wise to check for anything on sale and buy in bulk. If you only skate transition and don’t do a lot of flips, they can last for a year. And if you only cruise a little, they can last for a couple of years.
Are They Good for Longboarding?
Vans are great for longboarding, because of their flexy nature they feel very comfortable. The difference here is that you don’t ollie or kickflip on a longboard so the material stays intact. You can even pick canvas shoes though I would suggest buying Vans with a sturdy sole and proper cushioning after 30 minutes of pushing your feet might hurt.
Should You Buy Them?
That’s up to you, the pro models are typically more expensive than other skate shoe brands, but if you can grab them on sale you can get a sweet deal. They are great looking shoes and there is no denying Vans played a significant role in the evolution of skateboard shoes and skateboarding history.
They definitely have a cool factor and that Cali feel to them though some might disagree because nonskaters wear them. I say whatever. My advice would be that if you like a shoe, you stick with it. Not all feet are the same and it can take a while before you find the model and brand that’s right for you.
Vans offer a wide range of skate shoes but not all of them are great for skateboarding. If you want Vans go for the pro models but there many other brands you could consider.
A great skate shoe shouldn’t fit too tight or loose. Check the following features before you buy:
- Decent stitching
- Heel support
- Lace protectors
- Cushioning and insoles
- Board feel
- Extra padding around the toe box
- Grippy soles
Make sure to fit skate shoes at the end of the day when your feet are at their maximum size. Your feet swell when you ride a skateboard and it could make a bit of a difference.