If you’re just starting off skateboarding, we’d like to give you some tips on how to choose skate shoes. Obviously, there’s a lot of variety when it comes to picking skate shoes. Different skate shoes suit different types of skateboarders. Whether you’re a high impact skateboarder who likes to jump off things or someone who likes to skate flatground or ledges, there are different things to look for in a skate shoe. Durability, boardfeel, comfort, cushioning, grip, and bang for your buck are just a few. Additionally, another crucial aspect is aesthetics. In fact, skateboarders put huge emphasis on style as a way to express themselves, which is why looks can play such a big role in the shoes they buy. However, skate fashion is constantly evolving which is individual preference dictates style more than anything else. With this in mind, let’s find out how to choose skate shoes today!

How to Choose Skate Shoes

 

Vulcanized or Cupsole?

Are you in the vulcanized rubber camp or the cupsole camp? Essentially, this is referring to the outsole and all skate shoes either comes in one or the other. Both soles skate differently and so serve different purposes. It’s all a matter of personal preference in what you choose.

  • Vulcanized – The rubber is heated in high temperatures and pressed a lot quicker. While it’s gummy and very soft, it gets applied directly to the sole of the shoes. As a result, vulcanized soles are a lot softer and provide amazing boardfeel and grip. They are also more flexible as well. The trade-off, however, is impact protection as it is softer than the rubber used for cupsoles.
  • Cupsole – Cupsole construction is where the sole is either stitched, glued, or a combination of both. Cupsoles are unique in that they offer more protection in regards to foot/ankle support and impact absorption. Of course, the downside is less boardfeel, though some shoe companies are greatly improving on the feel of cupsoles.

 

Vulcanized vs Cupsole - How to Choose Skate Shoes

 

Boardfeel

When you ask someone how to choose skate shoes, a good number of people will talk about boardfeel. Boardfeel refers to how sensitive your shoes are in feeling your board underneath you (as you may have guessed). This allows for better flick, catch, feeling, and all in all a better bond with your skateboard. As we’ve discussed, vulcanized soles have more boardfeel than cupsoles, but offer less cushioning and support. Many shoes have a thinner toe area to increase boardfeel while leaving the heels thicker for more protection. If you’re more into flatground, technical, or ledge skating, you’ll appreciate skate shoes with lots of boardfeel.

Top Picks Based on Boardfeel

1. Adidas Suciu ADV
2. Vans Gilbert Crockett Pro
3. HUF Classic Hi

 

Grip

Equally important as boardfeel is grip, or, how well your shoes can stay on your skateboard without any slippage occurring. Grip is directly correlated to the type of rubber a shoe uses. Stiffer rubbers don’t provide very good grip while very soft rubbers can make it hard to flick. You’ll want a happy medium between the two consistencies. Ultimately, vulcanized shoes provide better grip than cupsoles because of its softer nature.

 

Cushioning

Also when learning how to choose skates shoes, you’ll need to know about cushioning. Cushioning refers to how well your shoes can handle high impacts. Most of the cushioning you’ll find lies in the midsole, insole, and the heel. Typically, skate shoes with more cushioning will have less boardfeel, although that’s slowly changing. If you like chucking yourself down flights of stairs or gaps, skating large handrails or hubbas, or catching huge airs, you’ll need a pair of skate shoes with superb cushioning to absorb impact and prevent heel bruises.

  • Midsole – Most often made of EVA foam which is lightweight and flexible, midsoles lie just above the outsole and provide a good amount of cushioning. Other materials used include PU foam (lasts longer) or polyurethane.
  • Insole – The insole lies on top of the midsole and is often made of foam, gel, or a combination of both. For shoes that feature a removable insole, you can take them out if they’re not providing good enough cushioning and drop in another pair that does. If the insole is thin enough, you can even add a second insole although boardfeel will be sacrificed. There are even companies that specialize in making skate insoles (Footprint, Remind, and Etcetera).
  • Heel cushioning – Some shoes feature extra cushioning in the heel in the form of gel inserts or airbags.

Top Picks Based on Cushioning

1. Emerica Herman G6
2. Etnies Marana
3. Emerica Reynolds Low

 

Low-tops, Mid-tops, & High-tops

Based largely on personal preference, there are some pros and cons to each.

  • Low-tops – More freedom of movement but less ankle support and security.
  • Mid-tops – More support than low-tops but not as bulky or restrictive as high-tops.
  • High-tops – Offers the most protection for your ankles but can hinder your mobility.

 

Profile - Low-tops vs Mid-tops vs High-tops - How to Choose Skate Shoes - Athlete Audit

 

Comfort / Fit

Undoubtedly, a shoe’s comfort and fit are crucial when learning how to choose skate shoes. If a pair of shoes aren’t comfortable, how will you be able to skate in them? However, it’s important to note that you need to break in some shoes before they’ll start feeling cozy. So don’t let first fittings fool you! In regards to fit, this is more of a personal preference. Some people like their shoes to fit snug for better stability, support, and flick. Others may like theirs a little roomy for breathability and freedom of movement.

Top Picks Based on Comfort

1. Adidas Busenitz Pro
2. Emerica Figueroa
3. Adidas Suciu ADV

 

Materials

This is mostly referring to the upper material used for skate shoes as it makes the most contact with a board. Consider the skateboarding you’ll be doing to find the right material for you. Material plays a huge part in durability and a good amount for feel and flick.

  • Suede – Possibly the best material for skate shoes. It is durable, can handle a good amount of abuse, and flick wonderfully. The skateboarding gods graced the skateboarding world when they introduced suede.
  • Pig Suede – Pig suede is a lot softer than regular suede producing better flick and feel. However, durability is the trade-off. It’s more expensive and rarer to see too.
  • Super suede (DC exclusive) – More durable than regular suede, their secret on how it’s made is guarded like the Coke recipe. Find this stuff on select DC shoes.
  • Canvas – Canvas is basically cloth that is lighter and more flexible. Not known for being very durable or proving good flick, its best uses are for transition skating and  casual cruising
  • Nubuck leather – Leather that’s buffed on the outside for a velvety feel. More durable than suede but doesn’t skate as well. It’s harder to find on skate shoes as well.
  • Full grain leather – Includes all layers of a side of leather. It’s the most durable material although it doesn’t provide very good flick or grip. Most skateboarders aren’t into it.
  • Action leather – As you may have guessed, it’s synthetic leather made to be more durable for action sports. Quite similar to full grain leather in regards to performance.
  • Synthetics – Essentially man made materials that simulate the look and feel of real leathers. Probably as good as the real thing. Also perfect for vegetarians and vegans.

 

Durability

Now then, durability is a huge factor when learning how to choose skate shoes. With all the exposure your shoes go through against concrete and abrasive grip tape, you’ll want a pair of shoes that can withstand the constant abuse. Generally speaking, durability is often tied with the type of material used for the upper as well as the rubber. However, additional features can be added to increase durability, such as eyelet guards to protect laces, additional layers of material underneath the main, rubber toe caps, etc.

Top Picks Based on Durability
1. Emerica Herman G6
2. DC Mike Mo Capaldi
3. DC Cole Lite 3

 

Other Essentials

  • Style – Obviously, you want your shoes to be an extension of who you are. Flaunt your style!
  • Extras – Airbags, gel inserts, elastic reinforcement, sock liners, stash pockets, there’s a whole list of add-ons.
  • Breathability – In hot climates, you’ll want a breathable shoe. Mesh and perforations will be your best friends.
  • Support – How much arch/foot/ankle support it there? You’ll want to prepare in case your board hits you.
  • Stability – Tongue-centering straps and a snug fitting heel will keep your foot from moving around.
  • Laces – Laces that rip easily are a hassle. Look for tough laces and how the eyelets protect them from abrasion.
  • Weight – Shoes shouldn’t be so heavy that they drag you down, or too light that you’re sacrificing on protection.
  • Stitching – Find where the most heavily worn areas will be on your shoes and make sure that the stitching is top-notch. This is essentially your reinforcement against blowouts. (Double or triple stitching is more durable than just single).

 

*** Tips on How to Choose Skate Shoes ***
  • Learn more about the different parts of a skate shoe first
  • Cupsoles for high impacts and protection; vulcanized for more technical skating and boardfeel.
  • Look at the tread pattern of the sole to determine how grippy it will be.
  • Check out the insole to determine how much cushioning it will provide. If it’s too thin, make sure it’s removable in order to add your own.
  • What’s the stitching like? It should be double or triple stitched in high wear areas.
  • Use Shoe goo to prevent tears and fix rips; adds more durability for a fraction of the cost of a new pair of shoes.
  • Consider how shoes will feel once broken in before deciding not to choose a pair.
  • Make sure your heel fits securely and your feet don’t wiggle around in the shoe.
  • Get shoes with mesh or perforations if your feet get sweaty often.
  • Durability = Leather > Action leather > Nubuck leather > Synthetics > Suede > Pig Suede > Canvas (rough measure).
  • Low-tops for mobility but less support, high-tops for more support but less mobility, and mid-tops for a little of both.
  • Consider gel inserts or airbags in the heel if you jump down high stuff often.