Which Company Really Brought Back The Rubber Toe?

It's been awhile since 1 brand swung at another... *grabs popcorn

It’s been awhile since one brand swung at another…

Rubber toe caps became the must-have feature of shoes throughout the course of 2014-2015. A precise timeframe of the recent up-rise entered muddy waters once HUF put out this ad (above). Regardless of which company you think brought back the rubber toe, HUF’s ad calls back to the times of the 90’s: a seemingly legitimate whistle-blower of an ad that turns out to be humorous. But, here’s a question worth asking: does HUF really have the right to claim the toecap as their own?

Here at RL, we feel the need to throw our hat into the ring and figure this out. The list of rubber toe caps in skateboarding goes back a little further than one would think, and there are a few unreleased gems we discovered in our search of skate shoe history. The rubber toe remains distinguished as a shoe trend because it comes up a few times and dies back down, as trends do, but every time it resurges, it’s seen as an original design. But, such is the irony of fashion. What really needs to be further inquired is whether or not this is just companies trying to make a quick cash-grab, or are we seeing stronger competition in the footwear industry?

Aside from the two big leads (Cory Kennedy’s pro model from Nike and our subject, the HUF Classic) for rubber toes this season, we have a slew of other models that feature toe caps in ways that distinguish companies’ models from other companies. Take the Evan Smith pro model from DC for instance: there’s the convenient pull-tab on the heel, with a padded collar to provide a little more protection overall for your foot. Then, there’s the Adidas’ Matchcourt mid-top, one of the few rubber toe models to offer protection above the ankle. For the first time in a long time, the current state of skating has developed a calling for a trend like the rubber toe that companies are taking and forming into their own style. Just about all of these upcoming models feature a distinct attribute that isn’t found on other shoes. A lot of skaters, myself included, want to label this as a case of lazy design, but it is actually indicative of competition.

This photo proves that timing is EVERYTHING. Emerica released this model back in 2011 and it never made it past sample form. A couple of years later, HUF comes out with the Classic and it worked out perfectly.

This photo proves that timing is EVERYTHING. Emerica released this model back in 2011 and it never made it past sample form due to a low amount of orders. A couple of years later, HUF comes out with the Classic and it worked out perfectly.

Bearing all of this in mind, let’s look at the offending shoe in HUF’s eyes, the Sumner. The Sumner has a slimmer toecap than a lot of other shoes similar to this. When you observe the All Court’s toe, it has a much more rounded shape than the Sumner. But, not many people remember the Nike 6.0 line, never mind the fact that this line also provided an All-Court that time forgot. Nike pulled the plug on the 6.0 branch a number of years ago, but it just proves that the Swoosh has a deep, deep bag of deceased models to pull from on a whim. Although these are the most popular contemporary shoes with rubber toes, there are some deep cuts from companies you know and love.

While éS entertains us with the highly tech “Swift” model, we all know what really needs to happen: release the Kellen James model that never was officially into their catalog. The Kellen James pro model that never saw public release has a rubber toe like the rest of the shoes on this list, but has a distinct design that separates them from the rest. This model’s stitching is reminiscent of an Adidas shoe, which makes it surprising that Adidas hasn’t looked at this shoe as inspiration for their newer ADV models, such as the Boost and the Adorado. James was just a few years too early with his model – yes, the toe cap increases the shoe’s durability, but in this case, it throws a spin on the shoe that makes it stand out, in a good way. This shoe may be one of the most popular unreleased shoes to lie under the microscope of skateboarding, and we can thank it’s toe cap for possibly initiating the discussion for reviving toe caps in our industry.

You may not know this, but Tim Tim's model, to our recollection, set off the #ReturnOfTheRubberToe

You may not know this, but Tim Tim’s model, to our recollection, set off the #ReturnOfTheRubberToe back in 2012.

What few know is the actual shoe that started off the rubber toe trend that is today. While these shoes were released, unlike the Kellen James model, they weren’t received nearly as well as those models that followed. The shoe we’re referring to is the Chad Tim Tim pro model from Dekline. Back in 2012, when we first witnessed the #ReturnOfTheRubberToe in its infancy, Dekline debuted his model at Agenda. During the end of 2012, companies like Etnies and Dekline were brave enough to change the stride of a one piece toe cap industry with these retro’d designs but, sadly, they aren’t necessarily the brands you’d think of today when noting who really brought back this now mandatory feature. Even more unfortunate, with Dekline closing its doors, it shows what can happen to a company that releases product and campaigns just a tad too far ahead of their time.

What we’ve come to learn when thinking of the rubber toe, or any trend for that matter, is timing is everything.

For example, Emerica released the “Indicator Lo” in fall of 2011, but it never reached the production stage. As a way of reinforcing how timing matters, consider how similar this model is to the HUF Classic. The toe doesn’t creep too far up near the laces and the toe panel near the end of the laces remains open for both models. There have been more than a few of these Chuck Taylor rip-offs in skateboarding, but Emerica had a good thing going here. The low profile of the shoe parallels Chucks, but the toe makes it look like the shoe was previously sold by Keds for 40 years. Going even further back in time, Zero made a few pairs of shoes which were basically Chuck Taylor’s with a skull on the tongue. Droors even made a shoe, for Christ’s sake, that had a rubber toe. Then, of course, there is Salman Agah’s Vans shoe from 1994. But, the first shoe with a rubber toe you ask? It wasn’t Agah’s shoe, or Jack Purcell’s shoe, but it was the Chuck Taylor. Marty McFly rode them in 1955 when he skitched away from Biff and his crew and Rodney was wearing them when he skated free-styling competitions. But in all seriousness, the Chuck came first. That’s why Chuck Taylor’s design remains such a classic, considering people will continue to wear them even when rubber toes are not popular.

When you think about it, the rubber toe increases the durability of the shoe, but it also protects your toes. The one piece toe take-over of late sacrifices protecting your foot and the toecap salvages toes without having to sacrifice the overall function of the shoe. However, the more rubber on the shoe, the heaver it becomes. Consider the Chuck Taylor: a typical Chuck has the most breathable material, canvas, as the dominant material on the shoe. The Chuck also has a substantial amount of more rubber than most shoes, which explains why its weight is unusually heavy. Maybe we’re seeing this #ReturnOfTheRubberToe trend so heavily because the last MAJOR trend in skating were the lightest shoes a company could create. Now, the rubber toe is on the trajectory to become the biggest thing in skating if more than a few of these models take off. So, what do you think? Are you on board with the rubber toe?

Written by: Jeffrey Adams Martin
Ask him why he can’t stop skating slip-on’s and other important questions via social media.


  1. Chris

    December 9, 2015 4:33pm

    I hate this rubber toe stuff. I cant skate them, feels like im wearing clown shoes. Gonna stick to the suede with hyperscreen or something thin protecting to shoe area. The ES swift is the perfect example.

    • Jeff

      December 11, 2015 12:54am

      Yeah, it is easy to make a shoe with a rubber toe look like a clown shoe. The Swift from éS looks so clean and light, that I find myself agreeing with you wanting that shoe. Thanks for reading!

  2. matt pm

    December 9, 2015 5:46pm

    I love the return of the rubber toe but I kinda agree with Chris… The way they’re putting them on the Huf or Nike shoe looks goofy as fuck, like the skate shoes they tried to make in the 60’s-70’s

    • Jeff

      December 11, 2015 12:58am

      The All Courts’ do have a toe that creeps up high on the shoe. But, that’s why I love that Emerica shoe we mentioned in the article. . .it looks cohesive and all the pieces of the shoe fit together and compliment each other very well. Thanks for reading!

  3. Colin

    December 9, 2015 6:27pm

    Not that it fits the skate shoe category exactly, but Vans produced the “happy daze” a fair while back as well. Marketed as a surf shoe but seen on the feet of Dan Lu on several of occasions.

    • Jeff

      December 11, 2015 1:04am

      Yeah, the shoe looks good, but that sole looks so thin! That would be a good shoe for the beach or a night out with your buds, but I’m not so sure about skating in them. That’s also coming from a dude who loves skating in his slip-ons. Thanks for reading!

  4. Jake

    December 9, 2015 10:31pm

    Wasn’t pf flyers before converse?

    • Jeff

      December 11, 2015 1:10am

      Not exactly, the pf flyers, according to the PF Flyers website, were made in 1937, whereas the link in our article points to 1917 as the origin of the Chucks. Thanks for reading!

  5. Jake

    December 9, 2015 10:34pm

    And yes on board for style, but haven’t skated in them enough to really know.

  6. dav

    December 10, 2015 1:18am

    what about the BAKU emerica francis or the shoe Darren navarrette had ads with around this is skateboarding times

    • Jeff

      December 11, 2015 1:16am

      That BAKU Emerica shoe definitely gets you some skate nerd cred for the mention alone, but the rubber piece goes up only for a panel that is more like an ollie patch, not an enveloping piece. Thanks for reading!

  7. Dino

    December 10, 2015 6:24am

    Marty didn’t skitch away from Buff, but rather Biff

    • Jeff

      December 12, 2015 10:48pm

      I cchecked out the clip from Fandago’s Youtube channel and it turns out we are both right. . .he skitches away from Biff and his crew before they get into their black car, then later on he skitches Biff’s car. Good call, hope you enjoyed the article, Dino!

    • Jeff

      December 12, 2015 10:48pm

      I checked out the clip from Fandago’s Youtube channel and it turns out we are both right. . .he skitches away from Biff and his crew before they get into their black car, then later on he skitches Biff’s car. Good call, hope you enjoyed the article, Dino!

  8. Prof oak

    December 10, 2015 10:02pm

    They should make rubber toes the same color of the shoe

    • Jeff

      December 11, 2015 1:19am

      That’s such a good idea Professor Oak! Maybe the upcoming seasons where the rubber toe can really take off will hold different colorways other than black and white base colors for the shoes. Thanks for reading!

    • Odin

      December 13, 2015 10:08pm

      Adidas and welcome has actually already done this for theor newest collaboration that is coming soon

  9. chip van slam

    December 11, 2015 2:42am

    All I know is those eS Creagers from back in the day were pretty fucking perfect for a kickflip. And those Emerica Reynolds too…#sameasiteverwas

    • Jeff

      December 12, 2015 10:55pm

      One of my favorite shoes I’ve ever had was the all-brown reissue of Reynold’s first shoe called The Boss and I would skate them today if I could get my hands on a pair. Is the puffy tongue the next rubber toe? Who knows, hope you enjoyed the article!

  10. Cody

    December 11, 2015 5:57am

    I back the rubber toe. I have been skating in Chucks long before it was trendy, and I have no plans of stopping anytime soon

    • Jeff

      December 12, 2015 10:58pm

      I remember when I was wrapping up 6th grade in 2007 and I got a pair of black and white Chuck’s that were my first mids. I knew then that they would always look good when I first skated down the street with them on my feet. Thanks for reading, Cody!

  11. Chris

    December 11, 2015 3:04pm

    I feel like HUF is the only company to have it right, out of the rubber toe shoes the classic lo/Hi feels like the thinest and best material. Dont even get me started on the CK1, feels like a rubbertoe nail on my shoe… They all take some getting use to thats for sure.

    • Jeff

      December 12, 2015 11:00pm

      Yeah, I remember when I first skated Chuck’s that it took a while to break in and even longer to get used to. Huf seems to have their reign on skate-shoe fashion for the long run. Thanks for reading, Chris!

  12. dav

    December 11, 2015 9:37pm

    do americans know Dunlop volley? they actually made skate ones around 07 but the brand failed for whatever reason

    • Grant Fiero

      December 12, 2015 3:51am

      Was it Australian?

    • Jeff

      December 12, 2015 11:04pm

      Hey Dav, I never heard of the company before you mentioned it. I checked out a few of their shoes via Google images and I didn’t know if they were wrestling shoes or shoes for taking it easy. Thanks for the mention, dude, hope you liked the article!

  13. Hickspanic

    December 13, 2015 6:39am

    Take a look into Colchester Rubber Co. There are samples of theirs from the late 1800’s that basically set the stage for the Chuck Taylor. For some reason they are a forgotten piece of history.

    • Jeff

      December 15, 2015 1:12am

      I think a reason you do not hear anything about Colchester is that sometimes, the earliest incarnation of something isn’t the best. When you read a list about the greatest board designs of all time, you don’t always hear about the kids who made their own boards even though those boards are iconic for their time. Thanks for reading!

  14. allaner

    December 14, 2015 5:36pm

    i got nothing against huff, but going after nike/converse is like an april fools joke.

    • Jeff

      December 15, 2015 1:15am

      I think that might be the appeal to the ad. Companies don’t have the same spirit as they did in the 90’s, but if a company has the pair to take on the giant that is Nike/Converse, I’d put my money on Huf. Thanks for reading!

  15. Huf Tinfoil fagbag

    December 17, 2015 12:04pm

    Please, Huf is just a weak marketing ploy…selling weed and beer socks is corny not to mention they do a collab with four different subpar “brands” a week. After chucks i remember vision street wear and Adidas having rubber toes though. Huf isn’t first at ANYTHING. if you look at their entire collection it’s pretty much all bites and redos, collaborations and exploiting skater kids and promoting drugs and alcohol. Sounds great.

  16. me

    December 24, 2015 10:16pm

    do a review on the ck or even a comparison to some other toecap models

  17. Aren

    January 13, 2016 8:00am

    Worked at Sole Tech around the time of the Emerica Indicator. Was really excited for the hi-top version but like the lows they never made it past samples. Also, during the last couple season’s of eS, they had the Keswicks. Right before they went under, I remember seeing sample versions with an added rubber toe. Bummer those never got released cause they looked good!

    Just realized that during my time there, a lot of shoes I liked only lasted a couple seasons or didn’t make it past the sample stage: Emerica Indicators, Trenton’s and Shifter Hi’s/Lows as well as etnies RSS and Sal Slims. Lots of gems in the vaults!

  18. Tyler Dombrowski

    January 31, 2016 9:38pm

    Ya know, for all you guys who skated in the 90’s and early 2000’s, you should be ashamed for not remembering the C1rca 205’s! They had the ankle strap, solid ass rubber toe(which I realize was on most special models of the 205, and you have to admit the Destroyer with its airbag was the illest) and incredible grip. The 205 was rocked by Chris Cole and Jamie Thomas in the pro world, and if you managed to somehow wear through the rubber all you had to do was put a small touch of hot glue on the abraided area and voila, since it stuck to the porous/worn suede or leather and partially melted the top layer of rubber, you were good as new. Just don’t forget the extra pair of insoles 😉
    If they still made ’em, they would sell great bc now I can afford to buy shoes when wanted

    • Ian

      February 4, 2016 2:25am

      In the late 90’s and early 00’s, half the skate shoes had rubber toes so it wasn’t part of a “bringback” yet.
      Actually, if you want to get into that brand and era, Jamie Thomas had the 204 as a pro model shoe. Circa kept it in the line after Jamie moved on from it, some minor tweaks, and it became the 205 team shoe. I think the team model 203 actually skated better with its suede/leather toe cap and some lace protection. My favorite of that period was Mark Appleyard’s first pro shoe on Circa, the 402! It had a suede toe cap but with silicone bumps injected underneath for some more protection.

  19. MASON

    March 8, 2016 6:29pm

    Good article on rubber toes. I would just like to throw out the Vans Native American, basically a sk8-hi with a rubber toe. I think they were in the early 90’s… I remember having a black / grey color way. Thanks for the good read!

  20. tomisrad

    July 10, 2016 6:37am

    The Emerica indicators are back and the NB# 212 are really, really good and have a matching rubber toe with the color of the shoe. PS hypersceen sucks!!!! DC Evan Smiths are pretty good as well.

  21. Lolo Ginabrigida

    September 16, 2016 9:37am

    Ipath Dazed

  22. seb

    October 9, 2016 11:22pm

    evan smith matchcourt mid


    October 12, 2016 3:57pm

    I’ve skated the Vans “La Cripta ligero” in 2012, and I didn’t even saw that shoe in any kind of ad or anything (I mean: no recognition at all). Those are the only rubber toe cap thing shoes i’ve had and I really liked them because of the classic looks… but seeing a “rubber toe cap battle” between brands makes it lame, I even felt uncomfortable when I saw Huf making that joke, pretending (half joke, half true imo) that they’re the pioneers. Good article.


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