How to Choose Skateboard Shoes – Ultimate Buying Guide

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

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 vs Cupsoles

skateboard shoes cupsole vs vulcanized sole

First thing you need to consider if you want to wear vulcanized or supsole 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 Soles

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

I recently bought a pair of Vans Pros (Vulc) that have all the comfort of a cupsole shoe and have decent shock absorption. I wish I got these sooner, it’s like walking on clouds. The suede will mean they’ll last for a while and the shock sole is exactly what I need. 

vans vulc shoes

Cupsoles

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
  • Protective
  • 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 for Freedom of Movement

If you need freedom of movement, go for low top skate shoes.  These are pretty standard and weigh less compared to mid and high tops, which really doesn’t matter.

The downside is that the lack of padding exposes your ankles, making them more vulnerable. My board hits my ankles occasionally and I always curse myself for not skating high tops. I should try them out sometime.

Mid-Tops for Slight Ankle Protection and Movement

Mid-tops as suspected, are in the middle. They offer a bit more support and stability in the ankle area compared to low-tops, but less freedom of movement.

You don’t have your ankles exposed like low-tops and you won’t feel restricted (if that’s your preference) like high-tops. They still provide protection against your deck hitting your ankles!

High Tops for Ankle Protection

High tops offer less freedom of movement but provide some ankle protection. They won’t stop you from spraining an ankle but absorbs some of the impacts when your board decides to go after your ankles. Some hight tops (like the Vans hk8 high) have some extra cushioning to increase impact absorption.

Guaranteed soggy and sweaty feet because they don’t allow your feet to breathe very well. You can get some runner socks to combat that, but from my experience skate shoes always cause sweaty feet. This could be just me though, my wife doesn’t allow me to store them in my house because they smell “disgusting!”.

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!

Cushioning

vans pro insoles heel suppor

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.

Insole

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.

Heel 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.

skate shoe insole heel support

Outsole Tread Pattern and Grip

shoe sole tread waffle pattern

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

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.

Stitching

skate shoe with stitches vs without

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.

Laces and Lace Protectors

reinforced lace hole to protect laces

Laces are often one of the first to break, there are a couple of skate shoes out there who tackle this problem by having a longer noes and reinforced lace holes.

The Vans pro series feature metal lace holes on top for example. aAces usually rip at the corner edges (bottom and top) so you could try to reinforce them with shoe goo. You almost always get a pair of extra laces though.

There is a brand out there called Immortal Laces who offer reinforced laces, I haven’t tried this myself but they guarantee a replacement pair if you break them within 14 days.

Lace protectors are somewhat old school but they’re still around. Some shoes have them built in which keeps them from snapping all the time.

You can also consider buying a few or alternatively glue them so they won’t tear as fast. The downside of gluing to your shoes them is that you can’t adjust their tightness anymore. Flauge produces lace protectors and they really work.

We used to have something called lace protectors, it died in the in the early nineties and shoes with four lace holes made an appearance.

Since laces may suffer from friction, think about where the laces are and where your flips are tearing down your shoes. Take them to your local skateboard shop and the staff can hopefully recommend you the shoes you need.

Shoe Materials and Why It Matters

Technical skaters need suede shoes. It lasts the longest and provides great board feel. Canvas is the weakest material and should only be considered when you only cruise or do transition skating without ollies or flips. There are leather shoes out there but they are usually bulky and take away board feel.

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 down at some point. The downside is that they attract dust and get dirty quicker, but you’ll destroy them anyway, skateboarding is not a fashion show.

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

So this is where personal preference comes in and I can help you to narrow down what exactly is the right type of skate shoe for you.

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.  

This way your feet are able to move back and forward when you are shredding and it helps to avoid pain because the ide of your feet and your toes constantly are pushing against the inner side of your shoes. It’s hard to explain but I hope you catch my drift.

shoe sole size

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.

Wide Feet

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. 

Narrow Feet

Get narrow shoes, wide shoes will 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.

Small Feet

Hey small feet, yup that’s me, but I also have wide feet. The most important thing here is to go with how your shoes feel. That’s right, don’t shop them online!

Go to your shop and feeeeeeeeeeeeel. Don’t just walk around, jump, lean back and forward, sprint, stop and feel your shoes. No blog post is going to tell you which shoes are best for you. Consider low-top shoes but any shoe will do.

Large Feet

In general, large feet are relatively narrow so go for a narrow fit if that’s the case. You won’t have any problem finding the right shoe, unless you have extremely large feet.

Flat Feet

If you have flat feet you run more risk of cramps near the area your arch should be, 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

skate shoes on a skateboard

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:

  • eS
  • DC
  • Lakai
  • Adio
  • Emerica (Reynolds)
  • Etnies (Maranas)
  • Emerica (Romeros)
  • DVS
  • Adidas
  • Nike
  • New Balance

All of these brands produce top quality skate shoes and most of them have been doing it for decades.

How Long Do Skateboarding Shoes Last

How long skate shoes last depends on how often you skate and what type of tricks you do. Another factor that comes into play is the state of your decks’ grip tape.

If you’re a street skate, wear bad shoes and have new deck grip, you’re shoes can deteriorate in a week. Ollies and flips will wear down the fabric so take that into consideration when you get new shoes. To sum it up, skateboard shoes wear down because:

  • You have a new deck grip.
  • You ollie and kickflip all day long.
  • The sturdiness of your shoes’ fabric

Do You Really Need Skateboarding Shoes?

Yes, skateboard shoes are necessary when you skate often. There is some nuance here, just like you can run for miles in any shoe it still is very uncomfortable and bad for your knees in the long run. I’m sure there are pros out there than can kickflip a board with pumps but I guess that’s a little extreme.

Cheap shoes are an option, for about a week. You’ll shred them in days and when you ollie stairs I just hope your feet will survive. If you manage to get $30 skate shoes in a sale and use them for 6 months all the better!

Do Skateboard Shoes Make a Difference?

Skateboarding shoes make a difference, but not all skate shoes are equal. Skateboarding is more mainstream than it used to be so bigger brands started to sell skate shoes.

I’m not saying all of them are bad but some of them or more like a fashion statement and not functional. When I injured my heel I found shoes designed for skateboarding from a brand, turns out they were horrible for skateboarding.

The best skateboard shoe provides protection, comfort and can take a beating

This post is not meant as the best skateboard shoe review post from someone who has never touched a skateboard before. This is to help you pick the right shoes that offer you comfort and support for your feet.  The best type of skateboard shoe never really crossed my mind before I messed up my heel.

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.

Is board feel important or not and have you injured your heel in the past? Make sure you get the most out of your shoe and get the best price! What shoes to skateboard in depends on your style

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

If you do a lot of technical skating you’ll probably better off with Vulcanized shoes that provide more board feel. Make sure you get shoes that have proper cushioning, especially if you’re jumping stairs. Another option is to go with more sturdy cupsole shoes. Less board feel but they absorb more impact compared to vulc shoes.

Shoes for Transition Skateboarding

If you’re going to be doing a lot of sliding on your knee pads when you have to bail get shoes with rubber toe pads.

Skate Shoes for Cruising

You guys are lucky, no worries about durability, cupsoles, vulcanized, heck you can even use runners to cruise. Still, even if you love to cruise and don’t care about all the stuff I mentioned, make sure to get shoes that are comfy.

Cupsoles are fine, canvas vulcanized shoes are probably the best as long as you have proper cushioning! Long rides will impact your performance, you’ll need shoes that are sturdy and some comfy insoles.

Buy Them on Sale

Often you can get skate shoes very cheap on sale. If you have a pair you really like consider buying 2 of them, they might not come back.

You can get a pair for around $30 if you’re lucky. If you found the perfect shoe, get them again the next time. I’ve had many shoes that just didn’t quite skate like my previous pair and regretted buying them.

Sometimes paying a little bit more makes a big difference in durability. Make sure to read the reviews online from people who actually skated them. Depending on the brand, some shoes aren’t really suitable for wearing day to day. Cheaper shoes often lack proper cushioning which don’t provide enough support.

Heavy Skaters and Cushioning

make sure to buy shoes that have a lot of heel support. When you’re a little bit heavier heel bruises are more common and they can last weeks or even months before they heal.

If you are heavy, don’t go for flat thing soles, you can also consider buying a pair of footprint insoles like KingFoam insoles. They offer great support and will prevent injuries. They won’t last forever and when you skate regularly they stop functioning after 3 months.

I’d advise spending a little extra on shoes that provide more heel support or get the mentioned insoles. Heel bruises are one of the most common injuries and very annoying because it takes a long time before the heal.

Why Skateboarding Hurts Your Feet

I still get foot cramps sometimes even after all those years, your feet might feel sore and that’s pretty normal actually. It has to do with your shoes and the shape of your feet. I have wider feet and really need shoes that give me some room.

Even more so when you have new shoes, they need a while to break in. If you have flat feet you really should get shoes with proper arch insoles or get some insoles to support your feet. It will make a difference!

If you get cramps make sure to stay hydrated and try to relax your stance.

Make Skate Last Longer

Shoe goo your shoes’ stitches to make m last twice as long. No jokes, this works and If you’re on a tight budget you can consider buying shoe goo and apply it to your shoes’ stitches right of the shelf.

I used to glue a chunk of rubber on my shoes to make them last a little longer once holes started to appear! This may sound great but it only helped for a week or two before it started to get worn down.

I’m no Mcguyver. So there’s a couple of options you have here, there are some patchworks and glues which help your shoe last a couple of weeks more. Read my 10 tips to make your shoes last longer.

Board Feel and Freedom of Movement

In general sturdy cupsoles shoes provide less board feel than vulcanized shoes. Not everybody has a problem with this but it’s very important that you can still feel your board. Thick soles will reduce the feeling which makes it harder to pull off technical tricks.

Socks to Absorb Sweat

You can use runner socks or skateboarding sucks to deal with sweaty and soggy feet. The won’t help absorb shocks but they offer extra comfort. It’s not really necessary but if you hate sweaty feet it’s something to consider.

Try them on in the afternoon

This may sound crazy but your feet swell during the day. the best time to fit shoes is in the afternoon. Your feet also swell during skating so fitting shoes at that time will help you decide on the exact right size.

Protect Your Ankles With High Tops

Once you start learning shovits and flips, sooner or later the sidewall of your board is going to hit your ankles. Heel tops provide a bit of protection.

The first time you hit your shins or ankles you’re usually okay, after a couple of times the pain becomes unbearable. You get these lovely discolorations on your shins and ankles.  Be aware that they won’t protect you from spraining your ankles! There’s no cure for that and braces are out of the question.

If you have weak ankles consider high tops. They offer more stability than low and mid tops but like I said before, it won’t prevent you from rolling your ankle.

It’s fair enough to say that skating high tops will remind you of your weak ankles and prevent you doing stuff out of your abilities. It’s just a thought, but when you get in the zone, you sometimes overestimate your abilities.

Can I Use Running Shoes for Skateboarding?

No! Would you wear pumps to run a marathon? I did wear runners for a while because all my other shoes were painful due to my heel injury.

I loved my runners because they made me feel safe, but I lost all board control. My feet were all over the place and I couldn’t pop anything.

They are great for running but highly uncomfortable on a skateboard.  My feet moved inside the shoes and the sole was too thick, I couldn’t hardly feel my skateboard.

I worried about my ankles, but it was better than going back to my thin soled shoes. Great support for my painful heel but that’s about it. Don’t wear runners, period!

Breaking Them In

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.

Patching up Your Shoes With Shoe Goo

To get the most out of your shoes consider getting a tube of Shoe Goo. Shoo Goo is used to patch holes and reinforce the stitching. If you treat them before you start skateboarding they will last you twice as long. Once they start to show cracks, tears and holes, grab your old shoes and cut out some suede to patch them up.

If you don’t have an old pair of skate shoes laying around you can try to get some suede in your local shop of by suede patches.

Skate Your Old Shoes First

Before you start skating your new shoes make sure your old ones are completely destroyed. This way you can still wear them while they look good. I usually start skating shoes once they start to get ugly.

Prevent Heel Bruises

About 2 years ago I couldn’t find my skate shoes and used a pair of old sneakers, I’m a scatterbrain and am often surprised I’m able to find my house (where are my keys??!!). Usually, it’s perfectly fine to use old skate shoes, but not this time. I was skating a mini ramp and bailed my skateboard.

While I rolled (instead of sliding down) my right leg somehow made a swing resulting in my heel hitting the mini ramp. All the energy impacted my heel and it was painful, like really painful. Basically, I French fried when I should have pizza’d,

This isn’t the first time this happened so I figured I would be alright, I was very wrong. My heel was swollen and bruised I had to go to the hospital and get some X-rays.

Nothing was broken but I could barely walk for 2 weeks. It took another 6 months to recover and I could have prevented this by wearing proper shoes. This was by far the worst heel bruise ever.

The shoes I used turned out to have a sole that was very thin and couldn’t withstand an impact. If I had worn a pair with a thick sole that absorbs shocks I would have been fine, maybe a slight inconvenience at most.

Because of this, I decided to look for some proper skate shoes, preferably shoes that absorb impact. I found them but couldn’t wear them for almost a year, it took ages before my heal returned to ’normal’. I can actually still feel my heel today.

Don’t overthink but pay attention to the details and you’ll have the perfect shoes. I hope this ridiculous long article has helped you to pick the right skateboarding hoes.

 

 

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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. Insta @skateboardershq

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