While 2016 was big on innovative design (to mostly successful ends), 2017 saw a trend toward getting back to focusing on skateability.
Despite a notable lack of shoes that “pop”, the most difficult part about determining this year’s list lied in the fact that pretty much every shoe was at least decent. Of the better ones, it was damn near impossible to quantify the “best”. We ended up revisiting our notes a lot and getting more contributor input than usual, really trying to narrow down why each model is here.
Rather than pontificate on the merits of one shoe versus another, we opted to cut to the chase and condense all our notes into “pros” and “cons” again.
As always, the criteria for this list is the model had to be an original release in 2017.
Notable retoolings of prior releases are under consideration, but not reissues.
Pros: A classic Lakai look made better by a very simple panel retooling. Higher sidewalls than the Manchester, a longer toe and more breathability make for a simple yet solid vulc addition to the year. A less stiff insole makes for a perfect, basic shoe that skates very comfortably.
Cons: This is a basic shoe. There’s nothing particularly exciting about it at all. Depending on how much that matters to you…
Pros: If what you’re looking for is an extremely durable, low cost, clean, minimal shoe with perfect colorways, you can’t do much better than these. The side paneling is particularly strong for those of us who tend to land with a lot of sideways pressure, and you’ve got to have a pretty weird ollie to rip these laces. Add to that a super grippy outsole that takes a lot of abrasion to get through.
Cons: Unless you want zero support and boardfeel akin to the Rowley 1, take the time to peel off, scrape out and replace the stock insole on these. Otherwise, you’re icing your feet daily. This is also a very minimal shoe, so if you prefer anything remotely bulky, these may not be for you.
Pros: If you’re gonna fuck with the Dunk Hi, this is the way to do it. Regardless of how you may feel about the aesthetic, it functions even better than expected, in every area. The fit feels more conforming to your foot, while the rubber elements allow more stability throughout and take away very little of the ability for the shoe to bend as needed away. More ventilated, longer lasting, technical improvements galore.
Cons: If you’re used to Dunks, these feel different enough and look different enough when you look down that it’ll throw you off. Depending on your ollie method, these may wear quicker than the standard Dunk Hi. The bootie, if you’re not used to it, takes a few hours to adjust to (and you may end up cutting it off).
Pros: The silhouette of this shoe is honestly it’s most impressive attribute, taking a cue from boat shoes as much as the CTAS. That said, the rubber moon works exceedingly well (we still haven’t gotten through it), especially coupled with the double-wrapped vulc. For an all-canvas upper, these are just as, if not more stable than most minimal models. Right out-of-the-box skateable, zero adjustment period.
Cons: Stock insole is only ok, collar height is somewhere between low and mid, which may throw off certain people.
Pros: Holds shape throughout the entire life of the shoe. Looks and feels like a lot of similar, older models while setting itself apart. More or less like skating the Busenitz Pro without the issues it has, as far as feel goes. Can take some impact.
Cons: Toe wears somewhat quickly. If you don’t like the shape you’re shit out of luck. Heel sits a little high. Takes a couple hours to get fully comfortable in.
Pros: A nod to the ’90s, the Tiago has the bulk and airbag to match the aesthetic of the man himself while still living in the now. Comfort for days, there’s enough padding and support here to have you jumping down way bigger shit than you should. Additional props for just how long these fuckers last.
Cons: A less than exciting colorway selection, good-but-not-great boardfeel, takes a little while to adjust unless you’re used to skating bulkier cupsoles.
Pros: Where to start? It says something when you have a lot of non-skate shoes in your rotation and these are the most comfortable to wear all day. As much or more support than anything else out there, all the while maintaining tons of feel. Can withstand inordinate amounts of skating before any real wear is noticeable. The even wider sidewalls around the toe give you hundreds more flip tricks before wearing through. Heritage design without feeling dated.
Cons: Only if certain aspects don’t align with your personal preferences; there’s nothing inherently “wrong” to be found anywhere. The thicker sidewalls may take a little to get used to, looking down and with flick, as may the short toe.
Pros: Obviously, the classic Reynolds design. Past that, these have all the marks of a legendary shoe and damn near nothing to gripe about. Even the vamp is set up for the stitching to maintain longer than usual. This is only a throwback in the technical sense of the word; everything else is thought out to modern specs. Stays comfy all day.
Cons: Again, only personal preference. The toe lies very flat, which some don’t like for flip tricks.
Pros: This is unequivocally the strongest vulc option of the year. Everything is right about it, all the way down to the stock insole. The double wrap for stability and grip functions even better than it should and the one-piece toe with inverted stitching can take a hell of a beating. We did a 10-hour weartest and didn’t publish it because we didn’t think anyone would believe it held up that well. Dustin Deardorff knows a thing or two about shoe design.
Cons: This isn’t a very exciting-looking design – strictly functional. If you’re the type who’s concerned about flair… well, you’re probably not skating vulcs, anyway.
Pros: This is a fucking skate shoe. It’s traditional but it’s modern & it’s on its way to becoming a classic – we’ve been hard-pressed to come up with anything better to say about it. Everything you want, nothing you don’t, Wafflecup… A+ across the board.
Cons: If you can find something valid to gripe about, please send it our way – we couldn’t.