Life’s Burning Questions: Why Are These Things Not In All Skate Shoes?

Artwork done by Mike Chen

Artwork done by Mike Chen

Life is hard.

Regardless of what your beliefs on who we are or where we came from, one thing that is true is a large part of life is comprised of reacting and adapting to a never-ending series of unpredictable events. As a way of finding meaning in all of this uncertainty, we are often faced with questions that are so important and so pressing that they absorb the entirety of our consciousness for a period of time. Questions so meaningful that it feels like leaving them unanswered will burn a hole in your entire being, rendering a hollow and incomplete person inside.

Who am I? What is my purpose in this life? Why are so many people doing body varials right now? These are the big questions in life, and it is important to engage in an adequate period of introspection to find the answers to these mysteries.

Today’s burning question is a simple one. Why, in an age with such drastic advancements in performance athletic footwear, aren’t things like tongue stabilizers, padded heel counters, and arch support standard in all skate shoes? In other words, if the purpose of a skate shoe is to provide comfort and durability for skateboarding-specific movements and impacts, then why don’t we see more shoes with full-foot orthotic support? To unpack this concept a little more, let’s look at this question in regards to each feature.

Tongue slider

Tongue Stabilizers
These may not be the most important part of a shoe in terms of providing greater support while standing, walking, or skating, but there are definitely benefits to having the tongue of your shoe in the right place. One benefit, for instance, is preventing the excruciating pain of an errant board landing on the tops of your feet. It’s amazing how even a little bit of padding can soften the blow in those types of situations.

Aside from protecting your precious dorsals from being bludgeoned by your board, tongue stabilizers are really just a simple solution to an annoying problem. It’s such a simple fix that its absence seems inexcusable at this point. In most cases, they are just two elastic strips inside the shoe that anchor the tongue to the midsole and keep it from burrowing inside your shoe. Sure, sometimes the square footage within the shoe is a precious commodity to be saved for ventilation or added durability, and so the extra straps aren’t a viable option. But, we’ve recently seen shoes like the CONS CTAS Pro address their rage-inducing tongue problems by adding a gusseted tongue that connects to the upper rather than the midsole, so there are more than one option when it comes to alleviating this problem.

Heel counter

Padded Heel Counter
Again, this isn’t necessarily the most important part of a shoe when it comes to ergonomic design, but we think it’s important because of how shitty it is to get blisters from the counter digging into your heels. When the hard plastic of the heel counter isn’t covered by padding or a heel collar, it can make each insufferable step feel like another layer of your heel is being slowly shaved off by a dull razor. While this is something that goes away after a shoe is broken in, it’s another problem where the solution is simple enough for its continued presence to be indefensible.

Primos
Arch Support

You would assume that superior arch support would be a given for an activity where jumping down flights of stairs is considered common use, but there are surprisingly few skate shoes on the market that provide support for what many consider to be the most crucial part of the foot. This is a bit of a prickly issue to talk about, given that there are a lot of different professional opinions on whether or not adequate arch support is an effective means for lowering the risk of injury. What we do know, however, is that fallen arches are closely linked to back and knee pain, and one of the contributors to fallen arches is damage to the posterior tibial tendon from the repeated absorption of high impacts. In other words, there may not be enough compelling evidence to say that arch support is absolutely necessary to prevent certain injuries, but there are enough health concerns linked to an abnormal arch for us to take note – especially when considering the level of impact that skateboarders put on their feet in relation to any other activity.

So we can see that there are improvements that could be made to alleviate some common annoyances and provide more support, but what factors play into their absence from the skate shoe industry? When looking at performance shoes for any other sport or activity, many of the features we mentioned are not only present, but refined to a point where they don’t add any weight or bulk to the overall design. So, why do skate shoes seem to be behind the curve in this area?

One reasonable assumption would be cost. We must remember that footwear design is almost always guided by fashion and profitability, not health considerations. The concern of whether or not a shoe acts like a cheese grater to someone’s heel is far less important to skate shoe companies than if it will sell 400,000 units in a given timeframe. Even more so, we can often overlook the true cost of manufacturing a shoe, and even something as small as an elastic material to keep the tongue in place can add quite a bit to a shoe’s overall cost, which results in higher prices for the consumer. Skateboarders aren’t necessarily too keen on the idea of shoes being any more expensive than they already are, and most would likely choose the prospect of a cheaper shoe that is worse for their feet than an expensive shoe that provides a certain functionality.

Another likely reason is because feet come in all shapes and sizes, and designing a shoe that will fit each foot type is pretty much impossible. While a given shoe may feel perfectly comfortable to one person, it may feel like a little iron maiden for the next person. There is so much variance out there that it’s impossible to meet every need. With arches specifically, it’s difficult to gauge how much support is necessary. Too little can result in fallen arches, whereas too much can cause under-pronation and bring stress to the iliotibial band. Whatever the case, the unique purpose for which skate shoes are made to perform seems to demand an equally unique ergonomic design, and that design doesn’t seem to be largely available at the present time.

So where does this leave us? Should we start researching how to make DIY tongue stabilizers? Do we need to buy those little padded band-aids for the heels of our shoes? Should we all start ‘gellin’ with Dr. Scholls? Maybe we should plan on landing primo a couple times a week to keep our arches intact. Or maybe we should expect more from the skate shoe industry when it comes to advancements that promote the sustainability of our health as well as functionality. Who knows, maybe that will spark some change and we will start seeing people in their 40’s and 50’s who still have the ability to jump down big shit because they’re no longer wearing poorly evolved shoes.

As is the case with most of life’s burning questions, sometimes the answers lie in the asking of the question itself. There may not be a definitive action or lesson to walk away with, but the perspective of how things could be otherwise might be enough for now.

What are some other features that you think should be present in all skate shoes?

Comments

  1. Zane Hawnthorne

    May 31, 2016 3:58pm

    So true!!!!!!

    Reply
  2. Justin

    May 31, 2016 4:51pm

    Just make EVA or PU insoles a standard for any vulcanized shoe from here forward, and I’ll be a happy camper. I like board feel, but I also like being able to walk straight after spending a whole day skating.

    Reply
  3. Pedro cortez

    May 31, 2016 4:57pm

    It’s so essential to me to use a pair of fp insoles in every shoe I wear whether I’m skateboarding in them or just wearing them to work. Shoes like the Figueroa and the chris cole lite 3 are favorites of mine and any shoe I buy that isn’t either of those has to be light and offer a similar fit to them. I’ve always thought what this article stated. Awesome post.

    Reply
  4. Chris G

    May 31, 2016 5:27pm

    Little holes like vans chukka low or convers chuck taylor on inside quarter panel for breathability. Small centering straps connecting tounge to upper! Light padding around heel and tongue. Mesh preferred tongues would be lit too! Inside lacing system option like some throwbacks

    Reply
  5. dino coce

    May 31, 2016 7:59pm

    es accel og for life

    Reply
  6. Rob

    May 31, 2016 10:00pm

    I think the key thing is skate shoes are so much cheaper compared to top end athletic footwear. A pair of football boots can be up to £250 in the UK. Running shoes easily over £100. If you want top quality you’ve got to pay for it I guess

    Reply
    • G.A.

      July 23, 2016 7:45am

      True, but I think the point is people don’t want to pay over £100 for shoes that will get worn out so quickly. Of course running shoes wear out as well, but I doubt the running shoes of someone who runs regularly will wear out as quickly as the skate shoes of someone who skates regularly. Just a thought.

  7. jack

    May 31, 2016 10:15pm

    The arch of the foot is not a weight bearing structure. Evolution did not give us arch supporting shoes. But somehow, now that everyone is wearing them, people have flat feet.

    Reply
  8. nonickname

    June 1, 2016 1:06am

    I’m old (mid 40’s) so am past the trend phase in life (yep giant pants and mini wheels while nollie nosesliding in my past) so I don’t care too much about wearing flat boat shoes while skating and will put this out there: Marana e-lights. Best shoe since my DVS Wilson 5’s. covers all the bases mentioned in the article.

    Reply
  9. Mungercules

    June 1, 2016 1:49am

    They have all of those things in a lot of skate shoes, this actually looks like a product review for the og DC Cole lites. I guess they keep those from being standard so they can use those features as selling points, so their line has varied prices.

    Reply
  10. Tony Zhang

    June 1, 2016 11:58am

    My complaints of the skate shoe industry in a nutshell. First image is brilliant too.

    Reply
  11. lonechicken

    June 1, 2016 3:26pm

    Wide version of shoes, if we’re talking about comfort. Not everyone has feet shaped like baguettes like the guys from Huf apparently have, considering how skinny their shoes are.

    Reply
  12. @snapdragon_drop

    June 1, 2016 11:26pm

    #bringbacktheTREnikeSB in a nutshell.
    One just has to read the hidden challenge written on the mid foot primo shank to appreciate its legacy…”congratulations, you have just taken apart the most technologically advanced shoe ever made INNOVATE”
    My last pair of TreAD’s lasted in excess of 110 hours…110 HOURS!!!!
    Boardfeel via free tech outsole, mid sole shank & heel bruise aur bag protection. Forefoot toecap bumper to battle flick wear. Lightweight, BREATHABLE /BULLETPROOF toecap mesh with consistent grip that outlasts & outperforms canvas / suede 5 fold…..the latex memory foam achilles collar snugs around the ankle zone for stability & the low profile padded composite tongue is indeed locked in place…..DID I MENTION LACE PROTECTION?!!! My TreAD’s went the distance with the ORIGINAL LACES intact for the entire journey……
    The Zoom Tre legacy is unprecedented….it was designed to #OUTLASTandOUTPERFORM…..unforunately todays offerings are but tiny shadows of this giant step in the right direction….designed in the best interest of skateboarding…..

    Reply
  13. Anderson

    June 3, 2016 1:11am

    Actually, there was a specific time frame when athletic shoes in general got a lot more expensive and their quality went down. Notice that a couple of years ago, there was no flywire or other laminated plastic crap on shoes. All shoe uppers were stitched together, not baked, glued, or laminated together. There weren’t barefoot/minimalist running/training shoes around. Companies were selling real crosstrainers, shoes that you can actually wear for different sports like tennis and basketball and not just for CrossFit. Cupsole (not wafflecup, cupsole) skate shoes weren’t a rarity in companies like Vans and Lakai. Some shoes from that time period even had features like actual hidden lace loops (check out the DC Tribute S). And yeah, Airwalk was an existing brand that wasn’t on Payless. After quite some time, shoe prices just went up and all skate shoe companies’ catalogues were made up mostly of thin vulc shoes. It’s only fairly recently that brands have been bringing back thicker cupsole shoes with a variety of features. It sucks that it’s getting harder to consistently find quality shoes but such are the times we live in.

    Reply
  14. Fly Over Lifer

    June 8, 2016 10:56pm

    I’ve been skating off and on since the late 80’s and I honestly don’t know if my feet were always this flat, but they look like diving fins with toes now. The only skate shoes I can comfortably wear are Lakais, Vans, and Dunks, and I always use an after market insole (fp) to increase comfort and protection. Griffin XLKs are my current shoe of choice for the width and the cupsole. I can barely wedge my shit into Adidas, Hufs, and most Nikes, so wide versions would be sick.

    Reply
  15. Alastair Burke

    June 20, 2016 3:50am

    I have always thought it would be a good idea if FP insoles collaborated with a shoe brand to make the insoles standard within shoes. Fingers crossed.

    Reply
  16. Dr.Graffenberg

    July 6, 2016 2:25am

    Sad that 80% of skate shoes today are lame narrow flat vulc crap. I’m not saying we need Osiris d3’s but these vans clones that every company makes now suck. We need more eS accel like shoes with padding and protection.

    Reply
  17. KizashiAGP

    July 13, 2016 10:01am

    For these reasons = why I love Nike Zoom Tre (I still skate one pair after 10 years now)

    Reply
  18. G.A.

    July 23, 2016 7:40am

    So true. This article needs to get out to more people.

    Reply

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