Vulcanized VS Cupsole Skate Shoes Explained

Skate shoes are about the most important part of skateboarding (or maybe a skateboard), and probably the most expensive stuff as well. I remember not paying much attention to skate shoes back in my days, I just went for the cheapest stuff available.

The subject of cupsoles vs vulcanized is interesting because both have their advantages and some downsides. Cups offer much more comfort and support and vulcs offer lots of flexibility and boardfeel. The production process is also quite different, but more about that later.

Nowadays there are also cupsole-vulcanized hybrid skate shoes, for those that really can’t pick a side. Let’s look at the pros and cons of both types of skate shoes and what would be a better choice for your style of skateboarding.

Vulcanized Skate Shoes Explained

Vulcanized shoes are produced by chemically heating the outsole, which molds the rubber and makes it more durable. Once the outsole is attached to the shoe a second heating procedure takes place. After that foxing tape (a thick rubber band) is added to the shoe to hold it together.

This process is called vulcanization, hence the name Vulc. If soles aren’t treated by the process of vulcanization, you’ll be left with a non-flexible outsole which would make it a terrible skate shoe. By vulcanizing the rubber, the sole becomes more durable and flexible.

Foxing tape is added later because the outsole don’t bond very well without the extra thick rubber band. The fox tape is easy to spot and a strong visual cue that you’re looking at a vulcanized skate shoe.

Vulc shoes have many advantages over cups, but also a few downsides that are hard to ignore. They wear faster than cupsoles, offer less support and are less suitable skate shoes for long walks.

What makes vulcanized skate shoes the preferred shoe of technical skaters is the boardfeel and flexibility. Some cups feel like bricks and make it harder to perform trick flips, for example. The thin sole of vulcs makes it easier to feel your skateboard deck.

Last, there is more surrounding rubber around crucial areas like your flick spot. This will make these areas last longer and your flicks more consistent.

What Are Cupsole Skate Shoes?

Cupsoles are easy to spot. Usually you can see the seams on the upper port of the sole. Cups are made with a U-shaped rubber sole which is sewn into the upper part of the shoe. Cupsoles offer more comfort because of the increased cushioning, arch support, and heel support, which helps to prevent injuries from impacts.

Cupsole outsoles don’t go through a heating process like vulcs which makes them more sturdy, but less elastic. Because of this, more layers can be added which offers the much needed impact protection, at the cost of boardfeel.

In our experience, cupsoles last longer than vulcanized shoes depending on the brand, and the amount of rubber around the sole. They also require a longer time to break in, use cupsole skate shoes for walking before skateboarding. It will speed up the process.

Cupsole Vulcanized Hybrid Skate Shoes

There are a couple of shoes that sit right in between a cupsole and a vulcanized skate shoe. These hybrid skate shoes offer more impact support than a regular vulc, and more flexibility than a cupsole.

While the impact reduction is noticable compared to a regular vulc, the flexibility is a huge improvement compared to a pure cupsole.

Nike SB Ishod Wair

The Nike SB Ishod Wair is a skate shoe with a vulcanized cupsole construction. The React cushioning for the insole helps to prevent heelbruises and is a bit thicker near the heel area. It offers great boardfeel and cushioning in one sole construction.

Cupsole VS Vulcanized Skate Shoes Compared

Because vulcs offer more boardfeel, it’s often preferred by technical skateboarders (street and park). Cupsoles offer more support and are great for skating bigger features.

Vulcs and cups aren’t better than one another, it really depends on your style and what works for you.

If you often have sore feet or heel bruises, try a cupsole skate shoe. A cupsole has more cushioning, more arch support, and more heel support. Because a cupsole is stiffer and often has a thicker sole, it reduces boardfeel. Cupsole skate shoes are the best shoes for high impact skateboarding.

Benefits of Cupsole Skate Shoes:

  • More comfort when you ollie large drops or stairs.
  • A wise choice if you often grind rails and ledges near drops.
  • Extra impact support for your feet, or suffer from heelbruise.
  • great for flat feet and those who need more arch support.
  • A good choice if you skate half pipe or bowl

For those who are in doubt about vulcanized skate shoes, how much boardfeel do you need? If you do lots of flatground tricks, hit the park often, or shred the streets, vulcs would be a good choice. If your feet hurt when jumping bigger drops you can always consider a different insole.

Benefits of Vulcanized Skate Shoes:

  • Vulcs offer consistency and a predictable flick.
  • If there is no need for arch or heel support.
  • great for skate flat ground, skate parks, or street.
  • A must have for those that need the most boardfeel.

To summarize this post, this table should suffice:

Cupsole ShoesVulcanized Shoes
Advantages– Durable shoe
– More heel and arch support
– Sturdy, keep their shape longer
– Can still offer enough board feel– Fewer injuries
– Offers the most board feel
– Flexible shoe, great for flick tricks
– Break-in rather quickly
– Often cheaper
– Less board feel– Can be more expensive
– Take longer to break in
– Less support and protection
– Looses its shape sooner
Best ForCups are great for those who ride half pipe, bowl, drops and stairs. Offers more protection and foot support.Vulcs are great for street skating, skate parks, and flat ground and offer the most boardfeel

So now the diffferences should be clear, and there will always be preference. I skate cupsoles because I often get heelbruises and my feet aren’t what they used to be anymore

I do switch to vulcanized skate shoes occasionally when I do some flatground or park skateboarding, I just feel more connected to my board this way.

How To Tell If Your Shoes Are Vulcanized Or Cupsoles

This one is pretty simple, and I briefly mentioned this already. Let’s look at a couple of examples to help you recognize a vulc or cupsole.

Vulcanized shoes are easy to recognize by the foxing tape, which is the rubber band around the outer sole. Second is the lack of stitches. If you hold a vulcanized shoe, you’ll notice it’s quite flexible and easy to bend in all directions.

Cupsoles are easy to spot by inspecting the outsole which is one piece of rubber. Secondly, sometimes you can see a seams on the side of the outsole. In most cases, cupsoles also have less rubber around the toe box.

Here’s an example of a cupsole skate shoe where you can clearly see the outsole which is one piece of rubber.

Recommended Vulcanized Skate Shoes

Nike offers great Vulcanized skate shoes that offer extreme board feel, great for those who want to up their technical skating abilities. Not all Nike vulcs are great, but one that really stands out is the Janoski. Check our vulcanized skate shoes article

There is a good reason this shoe is very popular among technical skateboarders. It just offers lots of flexibility, board feel and can last between 60 and 80 hours.

Recommended Cupsole Skate Shoes

If there is one cupsole to recommend, it’s the Adidas 3ST. One of the most surprising things about the shoe is how flexible the shoe feels. Quite remarkable for a cupsoles. Second is its extreme durability. If you treat this shoe right, you can skate it between 150 and 180 hours.

The toe area comprises high-quality suede that takes grip tape a long time to chew though. Obviously, this shoe offers the much needed impact protection and comfort for big drops. There are more options though, check our cupsole skate shoes article.

Recommended Cupsole/Vulc Skate Shoes

I would definately recommend the Nike SB Ishoid Wair that was briefly mentioned before. It’s a great shoe that offers a lot of boardfeel but also feel very comfortable, in my opinion one of the most comfortable skate shoes you can get,


So I hope this sheds some light on what cups and vulcs exactly are and their purpose when it comes to skateboarding. I must admit when I was younger that I didn’t know the difference and just bought shoes on sale.

Anyway, if you love a shoe, it’s probably best to stick to it. Going from vulcanized skate shoes to cupsoles might be a challenge, unless you need the extra support.

Cupsole skaters probably need less time adjusting to vulcanized skate shoes, you could give it a try some day.

Photo of author

Ruben Vee

I love skateboarding but my age is catching up. I decided to use my experience to skate less and write more. 20 years of skateboarding allows me to offer original and unique insights for many styles of skateboarding.