How To Buy Skate Shoes

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.