Before jumping into this list, consider watching Connor’s Tengu part (if you haven’t already). It’ll give you all the reference points you’ll need to understand the reasoning behind this list.
“I put together this write-up of the shoes that I used in the Tengu part. It’s hard to know where to draw the line with supporting skate companies. I definitely feel an obligation to support skateboarder-owned companies that make skateboards, trucks and wheels. And I think it’s important to support companies whose production factories are connected in some way to skateboarding. If there were a Chinese skateboard company whose factory was staffed by skaters in China, I would back it wholly. The trend of everything being produced abroad by workers who are taken advantage of for their cheap labor is disconcerting. Of course this problem is bigger than the skateboarding industry, but skateboard companies have become a part of it. Luckily, somehow, many good deck, wheel and truck companies still produce everything in the US despite the smaller profit margin. We should support them.
I don’t feel any obligation to support skate clothing companies. I doubt anyone really does. Consolidated isn’t going to come out with a smear campaign against Dickies. If skater-owned companies make nice clothes and do well, I’m really happy for them as a fellow skateboarder, but it’s not my duty to buy their products.
Skate shoes lie somewhere between the board and clothing. Literally, they’re directly between them. The only thing that makes them lean to one side is the fact that they’re all produced in factories abroad (China, Vietnam, etc) because the labor is cheap. Whether they’re Nike or Lakai, I’m pretty sure they were actually hand-made by someone who couldn’t care less about skateboarding. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge the factory workers or the companies for doing what they have to in order to produce competitively-priced shoes. But I don’t know if I feel an obligation to support the skater-owned shoe companies either. Would I rather Mike Carroll and Rick Howard turn a profit off skate shoes made in China than Mark Parker? Certainly. Am I going to let that stop me from buying some $10 Nikes at Goodwill if they look good for skating? Probably not. Skaters have been trying out all kinds of shoes since skating started and there’s nothing wrong with that.
And if Vans is going to do this with my money, I’d rather give it to someone else anyway.”
These shoes were hands-down the worst of the bunch. The soles were felt, the footbed was cardboard and the glue came apart after a few days of skating in them. They were $19, but weren’t worth it. After this shoe’s trial and error, I should have known better.
Asics also have a pretty long history as adopted skate shoes. The first person I saw skating in them was Alex Hansen, but I’m sure people have been using them a long time. Japanese God Takahiro Morita is even sponsored by them, and has been for years. I heard that they were working on a skate team in Japan, but I also heard it went off the tracks somewhere. Most people I know who skate Asics in Japan use the Fabre BL-S. As far as vulcanized shoes go, they’re amazing. The suede upper lasts long, the rubber is perfect and strangely long-lasting and the sole takes a long time to wear out. The Fabre DC-S is the cupsole version and they’re also great.
I got these at Unique on Fulton street in Brooklyn for 8 dollars. Apparently they were a horrible flop for Airwalk and Payless when they came out, but I don’t understand why. They were cheap and felt the same as the original Airwalk Ones, which are classics. A few years ago you could buy all-black Ones at Payless for $20, but those were terrible. They suffered from the worst thing you can come across when looking for cheap skate shoes, felt soles. This is what keeps Converse at Target, Polo shoes and many others from being decent skate shoes. It seems that the reason cheap shoes have felt soles is so they can be categorized as slippers and save companies on import taxes. Airwalk has reissued a lot of shoes now separate from Payless and they’re great. I hope that goes well for them and one day they reissue the Jason Lee’s or Tony Hawk’s.
Another pair of shoes not to be messed with unless you find them on sale since they retail new for about 90 dollars. I found them for 40 at Marshalls or something. They felt great and lasted long. The laces are up high and never rip, the rubber is grippy and thick, and wingtips are coincidentally perfectly suited for toe and ollie area protection. The only downside is that there is no padding at all in the collar.
I got these at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. It’s a place where they sell everything collected from airline luggage that’s never claimed. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there, including the Hoggle puppet/suit from Labyrinth. Someone must have checked a bag with these shoes in it and never picked it up. They’re about as durable as vulcanized shoes get. There are rubber caps all over, and anything that’s not rubber is thick suede. They’re heavy, but have good board feel typical of vulcanized shoes and the sole will go before anything else.
I got a lot of use out of these shoes not because they were very durable, but because they felt great. There’s a slight rubber toecap that’s really grippy and makes it so the toe area doesn’t blow out fast. You’ll probably have to superglue a patch of suede to the side because the canvas in the ollie area goes quickly. The sole went kind of quickly too comparable to Vans vulcanized shoes. The soles are also really thin, so you may need to switch out the insoles.
If I had to rate one pair of shoes the best it would be these. People have been skating in them for a long time, and they’re almost on the Adidas Superstar level of classic adopted skate shoes. The upper is durable suede, the rubber is grippy and they have a nice, thick cupsole. Those used to vulcanized shoes might think the sole is too thick, but the support is nice. Also, you can find them really cheap at discount stores all over.
If you haven’t already, buy a limited hard copy of Tengu.