Wearing proper skateboard shoes can make all the difference. It’s important to wear skateboarding shoes because good skate shoes will increase your grip, board feel, absorb shocks and prevent injuries. Not all feet are the same and there’s a lot to consider picking the right skate shoe for you. so how do you choose the right skateboard shoes?
The best skateboarding shoe should feel comfortable, fit your skateboarding style and offers support without sacrificing board feel. Suede shoes are recommended, but the type of shoe comes down to your personal preference.
I never gave skate shoes much thought so I decided to dive into it and this turned out to be a lengthy post, let’s dive into what to look for when buying the best skateboard shoes.
- What Makes a Good Skateboarding Shoe
- Vulcanized Soles or Cupsoles?
- Suede Shoes Are Recommended
- Avoid Canvas Skate Shoes
- Type of Feet and Skate Shoes
- Good Skateboarding Shoe Brands
- A Few More Tips When Buying Skate Shoes
- Breaking in Skate Shoes
What Makes a Good Skateboarding Shoe
In general, try to look for a shoe that has a little bit of everything. Suede material, heel support, toe caps, laces out of grip range, soles that can absorb shocks, and decent stitch work.
It took me some time before I found good shoes that were perfect for my situation. In order to know what good skate shoes are you need to look for these features.
Good skateboarding shoes can take an impact, are sturdy but still allow you to feel your skateboard. The nose design needs to be a bit longer than the average sneaker.
This will prevent your laces from tearing apart due to friction. Broken laces are very annoying but if you pick the right shoes that won’t be a problem. Think about how you skate, where is the wear and tear and go from there.
Vulcanized Soles or Cupsoles?
First thing you need to consider if you want to wear vulcanized or cupsole shoes. The difference between cupsoles and vulcanized soles is durability and board feel. What it comes down to is that cupsoles are sturdier than
Vulcanized soles and offer more heel support and protection. The downside is that cupsoles provide less board feel (though this is debatable). So which one should you get? The one that feels right for you, there is no best choice. It all comes down to personal preference.
Vulcanized shoes are taped around the body of the shoe. A vulcanized shoe consists of 2 separate pieces around the shoe which often starts to fall off after extensive use. Vulcanized feels slightly lighter and are a bit slimmer and offer more board feel.
Vulcanized skate shoes are great for skaters that prefer a lot of boardfeel. The thinner sole and flexibility of the shoes are better suited for skaters that like technical tricks. This doesn’t mean you can’t do any technical wearing cupsoles. Some don’t even feel any difference.
Vulc shoes offer less impact protection because of the lack of heel support and thinner soles. They are less durable than cupsoles but this also depends on what type of skateboarding you prefer.
You can often recognize them by the thin foxing tape at the edge. Best way to know is to check online or by bending them when you’re in your local skate store.
They are a bit cheaper on average, but the downside is they wear down sooner compared to cupsoles. Great if you don’t jump down stair a lot, like pool skating and vert/ mini ramp.
Also great if you are an aggressive skater, but you’ll lose out on feeling your deck a bit. I’m perfectly fine with that, but I’m not a street skater anymore.
- Provide better board feel
- Easy to break in
- Insole makes the difference
- Slightly lighter
- Often cheaper
Cupsoles are designed for skateboarding after skaters started to complain about bruised heels. The sole consists of multiple layers, a solid layer, some cushioning and a rubber layer sprinkling.
Cupsoles use EVA or TPR cushioning foam which is placed inside a rubber ‘cup’. Cupsoles are a bit bigger which means there’s more space between you and your board, so less board feel.
If you need shoes that will last you a while you could consider buying cupsole shoes. These are more durable compared to vulc shoes but provide less board feel.
They aren’t as flexible but recommended if you often get heel bruises. They won’t prevent injuries but can absorb much more impact reducing the damage.
Cupsoles are stitched to the top part of the shoe and the shoe is embedded inside. Perfect to take an impact and way more durable than vulcanized shoes.
If you’re into huge rails, big stairs or over manly jumps, cupsoles is what you’re looking for. Great choice if you’re just looking for something reliable which can take a beating.
- Offer more support
- More durable
- Offer less board feel
- Usually more expensive
High Tops, Mid Tops and Low Tops
What’s the difference? Ankle protection and freedom of movement. If you get a lot of anklers (hit by your board in the ankles) you need these. They are extra padded and provide extra protection. There’s low tops, mid-tops, and high tops.
Low tops are more comfortable and easier to move in but high tops provide protection and some ankle support. They won’t prevent you from rolling your ankle but wearing low tops will offer no protection against razor tails.
- Low Tops: Ideal for freedom of movement, low tops are standard and lightweight. However, they offer less ankle protection, leaving ankles vulnerable to impacts from the skateboard.
- Mid-Tops: Offering a balance, mid-tops provide more ankle support and protection than low tops, yet allow for more movement compared to high tops. They offer a decent compromise between protection and freedom.
- High Tops: Best for ankle protection, high tops restrict movement somewhat but are effective in absorbing impacts to the ankles. Some high-top models feature extra cushioning for increased protection. However, they tend to cause feet to become sweaty, an issue that may be partially alleviated with runner socks.
Skate Shoe Soles
A sole consists of different parts and depending on the type of shoe. Some feature heel support, have special insoles and usually a herringbone or waffle tread pattern for extra grip.
A thin soul will feel like your low to the ground which makes it easier to feel your skateboard. Better board control. great for technical tricks!
BUT you’ll need something that can absorb impacts and doesn’t hurt your feet. So go for the middle ground, a shoe that allows you to feel your board but can take an impact. Make sure you have some padding if you go for a thinner sole!
Not only do they prevent blisters, but the most important feature of cushioning is also preventing heel bruises and other feet injuries. Shoes that hardly have any cushioning should be avoided. Make sure you buy shoes that allow you to take the insoles out, you might need to replace them.
Outsole and Midsole
Skate shoe soles consist of an outsole and insole which are compressed and glues together offering maximum support. Most skate soles are made of lightweight and flexible foam. Midsoles are often made of more durable foam or polyurethane.
Look for shoes with a removable insole that offers support. Cheaper insoles are made of thin foam and higher quality insoles offer more comfort using gel, air pockets, foam and or a combination.
Thicker insoles will sacrifice a bit of board feel but it entirely depends on the design of the shoe. You can buy insoles separately if you need more support.
Some shoes offer extra support near the heels. It helps to reduce the shocks from impacts and they are often made of gel, rubber or air pockets. Recommended for heavy skaters or if you had heel injuries in the past. It makes a huge difference and offers extra comfort.
Outsole Tread Pattern and Grip
Skate shoes have a bit of a flatter sole and a different profile than regular sneakers. Most of the shoes have either a herringbone tread, a waffle sole tread, or a bit of both.
These patterns provide more grip which you’ll need to stay on your board. Your feet slipping of your deck can cause nasty injuries and too much grip also can be annoying.
Toe caps are the rubbery material wrapped around the nose to prevent holes. Perfect if you do a lot of kickflips! If you’re more of a heelflip skater you don’t have to worry about this too much.
Toe caps make your shoes last longer as they withstand the friction of your grip better. not everyone likes them though, mainly because it provides less board feel and slides different than suede. If you skate transition and slide on your knee pads and feet a lot, you could consider toe caps.
Single stitches will be destroyed in an instance. Look for double or even triple stitches especially on the spots most likely to wear down.
Areas around the nose, your kickflip and heelflip side should have extra stitching. Consider applying Shoe Goo at the areas likely to wear out. Some shoes don’t have any stitching on the outside.
Suede Shoes Are Recommended
The number one skateboarders agree on is suede skate shoes. Skate shoes that’ll last you the longest are made out of suede. They can take much more than canvas shoes. At least make sure the parts when your ollie, kickflip or heelflip are covered with suede.
Suede is also the easiest to repair once you get holes in them from wear and tear. No matter what shoe you buy, they will wear at some point.
Avoid Canvas Skate Shoes
Canvas shoes usually are cheaper but they won’t very last long when you do technical stuff. The canvas layer can start to rip and tear after just an hour of skateboarding.
If you’re more into cruising or like to take long rides on a longboard you can go for canvas shoes. The pros of canvas are that they cause less sweaty feet. Canvas material allows your feet to breath a little bit better.
Also, if you just skate transition like mini ramps, bowls, and verts, canvas is fine. If you like to do flips and ollies go with suede shoes.
Type of Feet and Skate Shoes
Just a reminder, you really need to go to your local skate shop and put them on. Buying them online is only advised if you are familiar with the brand an know exactly which type of skate shoe you need.
Not all skate shoes fit every type of feet. Make sure to buy shoes that aren’t too big or too narrow. Just like running shoes, you’ll need a bit of extra room in front and the side of the shoe shouldn’t feel claustrophobic, but don’t overdo it.
To much room will leave you with a very unstable feeling, sort of like your shoes will roll over, that’s bad.
Pay attention to the cut of the shoe. Wider means less tight around your feet arches, great for wide feet. Go for a narrow cut if you have narrow feet. Too narrow will cause cramps.
I’ll start with my own type of feet. If you have wide feet you obviously need a wider shoe. If your shoes are too narrow your feet will start to hurt.
Make sure you don’t feel the inside of the shoe pushing against your foot, it should feel comfortable and to only way to see what’s right for you is by trying them on. Check out my post about skate shoes for wide feet, I know of a few shoes that might solve your problem.
Get narrow shoes like Vans or Nike, wide shoes can cause instability and your feet will be all over the place. Consider getting some insoles if you have a hard time picking the right shoe. Make sure to have some space left in front so the insoles can actually fit.
If you have flat feet you run more risk of cramps near the arch area, some people even complain about lower back pain. Try to find shoes that provide extra support like cupsoles or consider insoles.
Good Skateboarding Shoe Brands
There’s a lot of debate about brands and which one has the best skate shoe. Everyone has their favorite brand depending on personal preference. In general, go with brands like:
- Emerica (Reynolds)
- Etnies (Maranas)
- Emerica (Romeros)
- New Balance
All of these brands produce top quality skate shoes and most of them have been doing it for decades. Check out our finding, we tested lots of these and here’s a growing list of the best skate shoes.
A Few More Tips When Buying Skate Shoes
There are a couple of other things to consider when you go out there buying new skate shoes. You can save money on sale and need to think about your type of feet (wide, small, flat etc). Think about your body type, your weight and what type of skater you are.
What makes a great skate shoe is its ability to withstand wear and tear while you can still feel your skateboard. It depends on your style, how often do you hit the streets how many kickflips do pop or are you more like a heelflip skater? You see this stuff matters. If you master the kickflip your shoes will wear down differently from someone who heelflips all day.
- Shoes for Street Skateboarding: For technical skating, vulcanized shoes are preferable for better board feel, though they should have adequate cushioning for jumping stairs. Cupsole shoes offer less board feel but better impact absorption.
- Shoes for Transition Skateboarding: Shoes with rubber toe pads are recommended for those frequently sliding on knee pads during bails.
- Skate Shoes for Cruising: Durability is less of a concern for cruisers. Comfort is key, with canvas vulcanized shoes being a good option. Ensure they have proper cushioning for long rides.
- Buying Shoes on Sale: Look for sales and consider buying multiple pairs of a favored shoe. Pay attention to reviews for skate suitability and durability. Cheaper shoes may lack necessary support and cushioning.
- Advice for Heavier Skaters: Opt for shoes with significant heel support to avoid heel bruises. Footprint insoles like King Foam can be beneficial. Heel bruises are a common issue and take time to heal.
- Making Skate Shoes Last Longer: Use shoe goo on stitches to extend shoe life. Adding rubber chunks to worn areas can provide a short-term fix. Read my tips on how to make your shoes last longer.
- Board Feel vs. Durability: Sturdy cupsole shoes offer less board feel compared to vulcanized shoes, which can affect performance in technical tricks.
- Socks: Runner or skateboarding socks can be used to manage sweat and provide extra comfort, though they don’t offer shock absorption.
- Trying on Shoes: Fit shoes in the afternoon when feet are typically swollen, similar to their state during skating, for a more accurate fit.
Breaking in Skate Shoes
Most skate shoes need some time to break in. This means you need to skate them for a couple of hours or days before they start to grow on you. The material is usually a bit stiff but after a few sessions, they’ll start behaving differently.
It’s not a huge difference but something to keep in mind when you’re at your local skate shop trying out new shoes. If they don’t feel like they break in, you bought the wrong skate shoes. It sucks but it takes time to find the perfect skate shoe.