The life of a skate shoe is brutal. Big stunts delegate heavy impact on the shoe and on top of that, grip tape constantly grinds away at the exterior. Skate shoes are designed for abuse and certain features will protect them from rapid degradation so your sessions can last long into the night without fear of going home barefoot. This guide will help you learn how to choose the best skate shoes for your needs.
Style: Skate shoes come in two main styles, which are geared toward either heavier defense against the impact of aerials or greater board control for technical tricks.
Vulcanized: Skate shoes that are slimmer and more comparable to casual shoes are vulcanized. With less weight, greater flexibility, and thinner soles, vulcanized, or “vulcs,” offer ideal maneuverability and board feel for performing technical flip tricks. What these shoes gain in control, they lose in cushioning, so skaters with consistent heel bruising might opt for a heavier shoe.
Cupsoles: Skaters hooked on bucking themselves off large drop-offs and down flights of stairs expose themselves to severe impact, especially on the heels. Bulkier shoes with thicker soles and heavily padded tongues provide cushioning needed for more arduous skateboarding, but sacrifice the control of vulcanized shoes.
Protection: Street skating can take its toll on feet, from repetitive pushing against concrete to landing (or not) aerials.
Midsole: Midsoles are most commonly lightweight and flexible EVA foam—comprised of thousands of gas bubbles—which releases on impact then refills when the foot leaves the ground again. An alternative to the popular EVA midsole is PU foam, which is denser and heavier, but doesn’t break down as quickly as EVA.
Dual Heel Cushioning: Some shoes incorporate an extra heel cushion in shoes for greater heel protection. Many manufacturers of vulcanized shoes are including dual cushioning, most commonly G2 Cushioning, to offer more impact comfort in an otherwise thin-soled shoe.
Heel Collar: Skate shoes often have thick padding around the heel that acts as a collar. The functionality is to trap the foot in to prevent losing the shoe during maneuvers.
Durability: While hard landings take a toll on feet, constant exposure to concrete and grip tape wear away on shoes. Certain design features reduce wear and tear so that exterior materials don’t degrade well before the interior features.
Lace Guards: The foot sliding necessary to perform ollies and flip tricks inevitably causes contact between grip tape and shoelaces, which quickly eats up vulnerable laces. To combat splitting of laces, some shoes tuck lace loops down between the tongue and outer lip to provide a barrier from grip. Other shoes start the tongue higher up to keep laces away from where contact typically occurs.
Upper Material: For greater longevity in upper material, many skate shoes will have added layers of materials where contact with grip often occurs. Triple stitching also protects against seams splitting prematurely.
Outer Sole: The outer sole is the critical contact point between skater and board. Since Vans first introduced the flat-soled waffle grip, most shoes have stuck with the flat profile and sticky gum rubber. The flat outsole equals maximum contact area for grip and gum rubber grips better and lasts longer than other rubbers laden with more PVC.