There are quite some differences between skate shoes. Some are great for street skating, others work well for transition skateboarding like half pipe or bowl skating. Some shoes are extremely durable, where others can be binned after 2 weeks.
Finding the right balance between performance, budget, durability and flexibility are some key factors to consider. A highly technical skateboarder will prefer a flexible shoe with thin out soles over a bulky durable shoe. Transition skaters often like shoes that offer a bit of everything depending on their preferred style of skating.
Lets look at some different types of skate shoes and what makes them great for specific skateboarding styles. Just remember, there is no shoe that rules them all, it all depends on what you need.
In general there are 2 types of skate shoes which can be further divided into different subcategories.
Skate Shoe Type 1: Cupsole
A cupsole skate shoe features a thick, reinforced rubber sole that is shaped like a cup and provides extra support and durability. Cupsoles are more comfortable on the foot while performing high impact skateboarding tricks.
The cupsole design also helps to absorb smaller impacts and provide more stability at the expense of board feel. Cupsole soles are often a bit stiffer and more durable compared to vulcs. These types of shoes are usually made with a durable upper and heavy-duty stitching to withstand the wear and tear of Skateboarding.
Skate Shoe Type 2: Vulcanized
A vulcanized skate shoe is a type of skate shoe that has been constructed by using a special production method. The rubber rubber gets treated in a way which makes it more durable. The vulcanization process is used to bond the rubber sole of the shoe to the upper, creating a strong and flexible shoe.
A flexible shoe makes it easier to perform tricks and offers more board feel because of the thinner sole. Technical skaters often pick this type of skate shoe because the offer more connection to a skateboard. Compared to cupsoles they offer less impact protection and support but more flexibility.
The Different Types of Skate Shoe Models
So basically there are 2 types of skate shoes (cupsoles and vulcanized) that come in different models. There are 4 types of models available these days, Low tops, mid tops, high tops, and arguably slip-ons. You could also say that slip-ons are just vulcanized low tops and that wouldn’t be wrong.
Because they don’t come with laces and are a bit different I decided to assign them to their own category. Low tops, High tops and mid tops are undisputed. Let’s go from high to low:
High Top Skate Shoes
High Top Skate Shoes are a type of skate shoe that have a high ankle collar that provides additional support and protection for the ankle while skateboarding. They can feel a bit a bit constraining if you’re not used to them and offer less freedom of movement.
Many high tops have features such as reinforced toe caps and durable soles. High Top Skate Shoes are popular among skateboarders who want extra support and stability around the ankle area.
Don’t be fooled though, high tops won’t prevent your ankle from rolling, but do offer protection against shark bite (sharp nose/tail impact).
Example of High top skate shoes:
- Vans Skate Sk8-Hi
- New Balance Numeric 440H
- Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Pro High
- Lakai Telford
Mid Top Skate Shoes
Mid top skate shoes are skateboarding shoes that provide a moderate level of ankle support and coverage.
They typically reach just above the ankle and provide a balance between high and low top shoes. You’ll have more freedom of movement compared to a high top, but less ankle protection and support.
Mid top skate shoes are a popular as they offer a good balance between support and flexibility. There is some degree of ankle protection which doesn’t affect the range of motion of your feet.
Examples of mid top skate shoes:
- Adidas Tyshawn Pro
- Lakai Trudger
- Converse Louie Lopez Pro
- Emerica The Pillar G6
Low Top Skate Shoes
A low top skate shoe is a type of shoe that’s great for technical skateboarding. It has a low cut design that sits below the ankle which offers a geat motion for your feet.
They often have reinforced areas (such as extra stitches, suede ollie patches, etc) to make them more durable and grippy soles for better traction. Honestly most skate shoes have this, including high tops and mid tops.
The most important aspect is that you have an easier time doing flick tricks because your feet are less constrained.
Slip-Ons Skate Shoes
These shoes have no laces and are designed to slip on and off easily. They are lightweight and flexible, making them ideal for street and park skating. They offer less ventilation compared to most skate shoes and are typically less durable.
Skaters love them because they are easy to put on and have no laces (which some find awesome). it also means you can’t tighten or loosen your shoe to your liking.
They typically feature a stretchy upper material that allows the foot to slip into the shoe, and a rubber sole for grip and traction on the skateboard. You could say Slip-ons are a minimalist, low-profile style skate shoe.
What Type of Shoe Is Best for Skateboarding?
It’s not about the type of skate shoe, it’s about flexibility, quality, and boosting your confidence. There certainly are shoes that are terrible for skateboarding, I wouldn’t recommend skating in high heels.
In general it’s best to pick a skate shoe that’s made of quality suede, offers reinforcement on the flick areas and decent board feel to keep control of your skateboard.
Skateboarders who mainly do technical tricks should pick vulcanized skate shoes. These type of shoes are highly flexible and offer the most control and board feel.
What Is Special About Skateboard Shoes?
Skate shoes are often viewed as sneaker. While you can walk and skate on skate shoes, you don’t want to skateboard wearing sneakers. From a layman’s perspective there aren’t many differences between skate shoes. Heck, even sneakers look like skate shoes so why bother picking shoes specifically for skateboarding?
Skate shoes are specifically designed to withstand wear and tear from grip tape (sand paper like stuff on top of a skateboard deck).
Skate shoes are often more flexible to assist in performing tricks and have thin soles to be able to feel connected to your skateboard. They also come with insoles that offer some degree of impact protection though most of the standard insoles suck.
Skate Shoe Material and Purpose
Suede is the most typical material used skate shoes, especially on the areas that come into contact with grip tape. Suede is a type of leather that is known for its durability and flexibility. It is often used in the upper area wear and tear from skating.
A strong and lightweight material that is often used in areas where you need some ventilation. It is breathable and flexible, but wears fast if it touches grip tape. Make sure not to buy canvas skate shoes that don’t have suede near the flick areas, like classic canvas Converse and Vans shoes.
A strong and durable material that is often used in the upper portion of Skate shoes. It is resistant to wear and tear and provides good support. You don’t want the flick areas to consist of leather as it doesn’t have a consistent flick but feels rather choppy.
Many Skate shoes use synthetic materials such as nylon, mesh, and neoprene in the upper portion of the shoe. These materials are lightweight, breathable, and flexible, making them a good choice for skate shoes.
A durable and flexible material that is often used in the sole of Skate shoes. It provides good grip and traction for skating, and is resistant to wear and tear.
Some Skate shoes use foam in the midsole for added cushioning and support. This can help to absorb impact and provide a more comfortable fit.
Some skate shoes use gel in the heel area or insoles. This helps to absorb impacts and ads cushioning and support.
Type of Feet and Skate Shoes
Because not everyone has the same feet, it’s best to go to a local skate shop and see if the shoe you want actually fits. Not all shoes are true to size, Nike and Adidas are notorious for being narrow, and not just their skateboard shoes.
You don’t want too much wiggle room, when your shoes break in they gradually become looser. At some point a shoe will lose its shape and then it’s time to replace your skate shoes.
Your feet shouldn’t shift back and forward in a shoe when skateboarding, at least not too much. Make sure to inspect the cut of the shoe; a narrow cut is great for those with narrow feet, and those who have wide feet, should look for a wide cut and wide toe box skate shoe.
Basically there are only 2 types of skate shoes; cupsoles and vulcs. Which one is right for you depends on your personal preference and your style of skateboarding. While cupsoles offer less board feel, they feel more comfortable are also great skate shoes for daily use.
Vulcs offer the most board feel but offer less impact protection, they also offer less support and aren’t great skate shoes for walking all day.
Whether you go with high, mid, or low skate shoes. Make sure that they fit properly and offer enough board feel to help you skate with confidence. Finding the right skate shoe for you is really important, it can mean the difference between having a great sesh or a frustrating day.
Keep in mind that most shoes require some time to break in, cupsoles take longer to break in than vulcs.