Do You Really need Skate Shoes when Skateboarding?


If you’re thinking about skateboarding on regular shoes, runners or basketball shoes, think again. To get the most out of your skateboarding session you should really consider skate shoes.

Do you really need skate shoes to skateboard? You need skate shoes when you ride a board often and want to learn tricks. The sole, insole, cushioning and waffle patterns provide maximum grip to handle and feel your skateboard. Regular shoes won’t give you as much ‘board feel’ and give you less control over your skateboard. 

Now there are a couple of exceptions here, it also depends on what and where you plan to ride. It’s fine to use regular shoes for cruising but it will be less comfortable. Once you want to take on tricks you really should consider shoes.

The difference between skate shoes and normal shoes

I once was forced to use running shoes because of a bad heel bruise. It hurt so bad that the only way to feel less pain was by using my running shoes. I was able to do most of my tricks but I had way less control over my board because of the thick sole.

It was actually a bit scary not feeling your board and I started looking for shoes that could provide me more comfort while still being able to skate. I tried many shoes but a couple really stood out, if you want the best shoes on a budget, check out my recommended shoes.

Skateboard shoes are designed for skateboarding and are more durable, provide more grip but often not designed for every day walks. Vans, for example, came up with the waffle pattern sole to provide maximum grip.

Skate soles are thinner compared to regular shoes to provide maximum board feel and some shoes have insole technology that can withstand a lot of impacts. You’ll feel the difference right away. This also explains a bit why runners and basketball shoes take away a lot of board feel.

The thick soles make handling a board very difficult. Only experienced skates are able to deal with the cons of regular shoes, but why would you ride a board on normal shoes anyways (unless you only plan to commute).

So what makes a great skate shoe?

While the best skate shoe also depends on the shape of your feet there are a couple of things that you should look for. Not all skate shoes are equal and some are utter trash. I already wrote a very detailed post about what makes a great skate shoe and I suggest reading that one if you want to educate yourself before you buy. Anyway here’s what to look for when buying skate shoes.

  • First of all look for suede skate shoes, this material deals much better with friction (grip tape) than other material such as canvas.
  • Make sure the shoe provides some heel support, the less risk on a heel bruise the better
  • Look closely at the seams, some shoes don’t even have seams on the nose of the shoe. This will make you shoes last longer and they won’t fall apart as easily.
  • If you have the budget get insoles that can absorb shocks. These are very comfy shoes and it feels like you’re walking on could.
  • Lace hole protection. Some shoes have metal or plastic rings that support prevent the lace holes from tearing.
  • Toe caps when you like transition skateboarding and wear knee pads. It will protect wear and tear when sliding on your knees.
  • High-tops for ankle protection. If your board has a bit of razor tail, high-tops protect your ankles and heels from sharp edges. Low-tops for more freedom of movement and mid-tops for something in between.

Cupsole or vulcanized?

skateboard shoes cupsole vs vulcanized sole

Cupsoles are stronger than vulcanized shoes but feel a bit stiffer (less board feel in general). Go for Vulcs if you want maximum board feel and cups if you want the most durable skate shoe. It’s a trade-off but some don’t even notice the difference.

I really like Vulcs and the boardfeel they provide but they wear down sooner. I also like cups because they last longer and provide more support. It’s something you have to find out for yourself, personal preference and all that. Phatmanboardshop did a great piece on this subject if you’re interested.

There’s one shoe that really stands out

If there’s one shoe I really recommend it would be the Emerica Reynolds, I’m actually wearing them as I write this post. The Reynolds are very durable and maybe the name rings a bell. Andrew Reynolds is considered one of the best skateboarders of all time and he also helped to design this shoe.

Emerica Reynolds blue best skateboard shoes.

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

So what makes this shoe so great? Well, a number of reasons which I’ll list here.

  • Very flexible shoes (Vulcs), they don’t feel restraining but somehow fit really well on most feel.
  • Waffle pattern soles that offer the optimal grip.
  • I don’t feel like I had to break them in, they felt great from the first time I used them.
  • Even though it’s very flexible and lightweight, it’s still a very durable shoe because of the quality suede.
  • Lace hole protectors, the top lace hole has an embedded plastic ring.
  • Even though the soles are flat, they last longer than most skate shoes. Wear and tear on skate shoe soles is often a problem for many skaters.

So there’s the sales pitch but I really love these shoes and there not even that expensive. I got mine on a sales for 35 bucks (I got lucky). More details can be found here.

These are Vulcanized skate shoes which are probably the best you can get in that category. A great cupsole alternative I like to wear are the Etnies Maranas. They come with toe caps, are really strong end pretty flexible for cups. Not as flexible as the Reynolds but a bit more durable.

How to get the most out of your skate shoe

One of the things that worried me when I was a bit younger was the durability of my shoes. When you’re on a tight budget you don’t want to pay a new pair every month. While skateboarding isn’t the most expensive hobby, at a young age getting the most out of your equipment makes a huge difference.

There are a lot of ways to make your skate shoes last longer. Shoe goo, trick tape or even a different kind of grip tape help you to get the most out of your shoes. I came up with a few surprising hacks which you can read about  here.

How to get cheap skate shoes

You’re probably here because you don’t want to spend too much money on shoes or maybe you think your normal shoes are fine. While the latter is true when you ride a skateboard just once every while, the former takes a bit of patience. Check your local skate shop and wait for a sale but don’t buy shoes that are too tight. Your toes need a bit of breathing room or you’re seriously going to regret buying them.

If the shoe you want is out of stock try to find them online. Make a list of shops and sites that sell them and wait for the season to end. Check prices regularly and use a tool like camelcamelcamel.com. It notifies you on a price drop!

Related questions

Are skate shoes bad for your feet? They used to be but nowadays you can get skate shoes that offer a lot of support. They still aren’t made for long walks but wearing different shoes is something that’s always recommended.

Why do my feet hurt when skating? This usually has to do with either wearing shoes that don’t fit your feet properly. It can also be that you just need to get used to the shoes and movements. I sometimes still have painful feet after not skating for a while, usually at the beginning of the new season.

My feet have to get used to all the twisting, shocks and unusual movements you make on a skateboard. Nothing to worry about. If it keeps persisting try to change the insoles or buy different shoes next time. Your shoes might be a bit too narrow.

Can I use running or basketball shoes when skateboarding? While it sure is possible to use these types of shoes, it will feel really uncomfortable. The offer less stability and makes it harder to improve your skills. It’s actually a bit more risky as you won’t feel how your board responds resulting in eating shit more often.

Ruben Vee

I 'm an aged skateboarder, but I still shred responsibly. I started skateboarding 25 years ago and I'm out there whenever I can.

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