As skateboarding and street culture has gained popularity in recent years so have skate shoes. They have gone so mainstream that is not uncommon to see skateboard-style shoes worn regularly by people who have never ridden a skateboard in their lives. With so many large conventional shoe brands and remote underground skateboard brands in the market today there is a lot of noise and it’s hard to pick the winners and losers of the year. The purpose of this guide is to first explain what to look for and the factors to consider when choosing the best skate shoe for you, and then my list for the top skate shoes of the upcoming year. This list is made with actual skateboarders in mind, however many of the brands listed (especially Nike SB, Vans, and Adidas) are also very popular in streetwear and “sneakerhead” circles.
Importance of Wearing Skateboard Specific Shoes
Before we dive into what specific skateboard shoes and brands are the best for the year, I want to explain why you need skate shoes if you are skateboarding.
Why not just save some money and use whatever running or tennis shoes you already have?
The main issue with regular running shoes and other styles is the sole of the sneaker is uneven and usually segmented, which can get caught on the edge of a skateboard deck. Running shoes are meant to support the foot while a person is moving forward, and not the lateral movement that happens when you’re skateboarding. This difference can lead to an increased risk of ankle sprains and other knee injuries. Regular sneakers are also not equipped to handle the frequent rubbing against rough skateboard grip tape, so they are much more prone to tearing than reinforced and specially designed skate shoes. If these reasons weren’t enough, athletic shoes typically have thick foam soles that will allow for absolutely no board feel and may even add additional instability when skateboarding.
Top Skate Shoe Comparison Chart
Best Skate Shoes +Reviews
Inspired by pro skater Stefan Janoski, the Nike SB Janoski was the first boat shoe inspired skate shoe that lived up to the hype. A simple shoe with a vulcanized sole that both look and skate great. A great minimalist shoe that will definitely get compliments and attention wherever you go, especially if you choose one of the more vibrant colors. Janoski’s really excel when it comes to the level of board feel and comfort they provide as the sole will begin to “mold” to your feet over time due to the vulcanized construction method. This shoe is available in a wide range of colors and limited editions, and there are suede, canvas, and leather options available. Due to the sleek style of this shoe, the one aspect it lacks is durability. If you skate aggressively, you can’t expect this shoe to last for years like some of the older and bulkier shoe options. One common complaint about this shoe is that it runs pretty narrow, which can cause significant discomfort if you have wide feet. They tend to loosen up after being worn for a week or so, but some can’t stand the discomfort and order a half size larger or a different shoe entirely. Overall a very stylish and comfortable shoe, that I’d recommend to skaters at any skill level as long as your feet aren’t super wide or you are looking for an indestructible bulky shoe that will last for years.
The Adidas Adi-Ease Skate shoe is a re-engineered version of Adidas’ legendary indoor soccer shoes made for skateboarder’s. This shoe offers the clean and classic look that Adidas is known for but has an added seamless toecap for smooth flip tricks, a vulcanized heel for increased board feel, and a heavy duty leather heel cap to increase the durability of the shoe. The insoles in this shoe are also removable so they can be replaced if they get worn down or upgraded if you want more padding or a higher level of heel support. The Adi-Ease is available in both suede and canvas variations and features a grippy gum designed with skateboarding in mind. Definitely a great shoe for skaters of any skill level, who wants a shoe that looks great both on and off the skateboard.
Although Fallen is technically out of business, the Spirits are still readily available online and in local skate shops around the country. These shoes are a slim mid-top skate shoe that offers just enough ankle protection and support without immobilizing your ankle and restricting the foot’s movement like some high top shoes. These are 100% leather so while leather may not always be the best material for all shoes in every situation, we like it in the skate shoe since there are no readily obvious downsides to leather, but leather does have a feel about it that screams quality, comfort and (usually) high price!
The streamlined upper also includes a one-piece construction around the toe area, with a molded rubber underlay for increased toughness. The impact foam insole rounds out the notable features of this shoe as it provides impact cushioning for the toughest jumps and landings. Oh, and did we mention the vulcanized outsole! That’s for toughness too. All around, a good buy for which you very likely will not be sorry.
The HUF Galaxy is a great looking and clean shoe from the premium shoe and apparel company, HUF. This shoe is available in many colorways and made with either canvas, suede, or leather depending on the color or collaboration you chose. The Galaxy have a flexible vulcanized sole and offers a triple stitched top cap for added protection and durability. The tongue of this shoe is moderately padded to allow for some upper foot protection, but not too puffy that it keeps the minimalist and streamlined look. The sole has a consistent pattern in a gum material to give the wearer the maximum amount of grip possible. There have been reports of this shoe running a little small so you may consider buying a pair that is a half size larger than you usually wear.
As with most Lakai skate shoes, the Griffin is a sleek and simple design with a low profile and vulcanized sole. This shoe is priced very reasonably and is made from suede and canvas. Many colors and styles of the Griffin are available depending on your personal preferences. The streamlined and reinforced top cap of this shoe prevents damages from being targeted at a specific point which is the primary reason you see so many skate shoes with holes around the toe from repeatedly sliding against the grip tape during flip tricks. This shoe also features a removable insole that can be customized and replaced based on your skating style and board preferences. Overall the Lakai Griffin is perfect for any skateboarder who wants to support a grassroots skateboard brand, but still wants a clean shoe that performs extremely well.
The Globe Motley mid-top skate shoe is a durable, heavy hitter in the skateboard shoe market. It’s a great mid top option for those who are tired of bruised ankles and want a little more protection. The Motley Mid is available in both canvas and suede varieties, and also offers a vulcanized gum sole that street skaters love. With its fair price point and long lifespan, this shoe has quickly become a favorite among casual and hardcore skateboarders alike. Although the insole of this sole is not technically made to be removable, it can be removed manually without too much damage to the shoe and replaced if you want more heel support and protection due to the vulcanized sole. They have a moderate width and run pretty true to size from what I have seen with Globe skate shoes in the past.
The Nike SB Dunk high is one of the most sought-after shoes by both skateboarder and streetwear collector. It gained a lot of popularity in the early 2000’s when “Quickstrike” limited edition colors were being released and sold in a very small number of select locations. This exclusively created a culture when shoe collectors who pay very high premiums for certain limited colorways and people would camp out for hours or even days to get their hands on the newest release to quickly resell for a profit or hold as an investment for the future. Depending on the shoe color and specific theme the SB dunks are made from leather, suede, canvas, and even mesh and some other unique materials in a few of their limited edition collaborations. Besides becoming a social and cultural icon, the Nike SB Dunk High is loved by skateboarders for this unprecedented comfort and protection with its “Zoom Air” insoles and high padded sides. This shoe offers a very supportive and sturdy cup sole, rather than the vulcanized construction that is beginning to be more popular today. The downside to all of this additional protection and support is the lack of board feel and the bulkiness of the shoe. For this reason, many technical street skaters prefer the low version of the shoe, whereas guys who frequently throw themselves down large gaps and stairs appreciate the protection this shoe provides. Whether you are a sneakerhead who wants to wear the most exclusive and expensive Nike shoes to the club or a hardcore skate rat, the Nike SB Dunk High is a great choice.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This statement sums up the idea behind the popularity of the Vans Sk8-Hi. This shoe has literally been around for decades and is still loved by skateboarders of all ages today. This shoe is all about function, plain and simple. It has high top sides to protect a skater’s ankles. The great thing about this shoe is the amount of ankle support and padding can be easily controlled by how high and tightly you lace up the shoes. Many street skaters who typically find such high shoes too restricting, simply wear the Van Sk8-Hi’s shoes loosely and leave the last three eyelets empty to allow for a wider range of ankle movement. This Vans shoe is classic and timeless with a simple logo and design. The shoe is made entirely from suede or canvas depending on the color you choose and the waffle textured gum provides a ton of grip and support. Overall the Vans Sk8-Hi offers a legendary style and level of performance that has made this shoe popular among street, vert, and casual skaters for many, many years.
The Adidas Originals Seeley Skate shoe is similar to the Adidas Adi-Ease in the fact that they both are based on the extremely popular Adidas indoor soccer shoe, The Gazelle. The Seeley’s are another classic looking Adidas shoe that has been redesigned for skateboarding. However, this shoe has an abrasion resistant canvas upper to prevent the shoe from tearing as easily as other models. Like many of the other shoes on this list and the current trend, this shoe is also vulcanized and allows you to feel and control your skateboard on a level that shoes with cup sole construction don’t allow. There is a colorway of this shoe for every style and this shoe is priced fairly making the Adidas Originals Seeley shoe a solid choice for a skater of any level.
The Globe Tilt is a perfect example of the old school bulky skate shoe style I reference throughout this article. Ten years ago, the vast majority of skate shoes all looked very similar to this. They had a very thick, overstuffed tongue and triple stitched toecaps with multiple layers. It was not uncommon for skater’s back in the day wearing this style of shoe to have two colored shoelaces and they would replace broken laces with the extras that came with the shoes. While it is easy to write this style of shoe off today by saying it isn’t stylish or modern, there is something to be said for how long this style of shoe lasts and the cushion and protection a heavy cup sole provides. On this specific shoe, the heel is more than 2 inches thick, which can easily withstand even the harshest of landings. Overall, the Globe Tilt is a great shoe for someone who doesn’t care much about style, but instead wants a study and functional skate shoe that will outlast the slimmer, trendier shoes.
Like many of the Nike SB’s on this list, the Supra Skytop has bridged the gap from only being known in the hardcore skateboarding community, to becoming mainstream and being referenced in pop culture and by social media influencers. Besides an eye-catching look and limited edition designs, the Supra Skytop is built to handle skateboarding. It features a vulcanized sole for the highest level of board feel and a leather-padded interior made to keep your feet and ankles comfortable and secure. There are over 100 different styles and colorways of the Skytop to chose from and these shoes will definitely get some attention when either walking around or skating. The one downside to this shoe used to be the very high price, but in recent years the price has become much more reasonable on many of the older colors, making it a great skate shoe for any budget and any skateboarding skill level.
For those who want the look and style of that Supra shoe are known to offer but want a more functional and hardcore skate shoe, the Stacks Vulc II is a great choice. It has the same flexible vulcanized sole as a Skytop that allows for an optimal amount of control and precision when performing complex flip tricks but doesn’t have the high top design with many skaters claim limits their ankle mobility. The Vulc II fits as expected, so just get the size you normally wear in similar shoes. The rubber sole of the shoe also has a uniform grip pattern to allow for the best possible grip which is perfect for gritty street skaters who may be skating with dirty or old grip tape. This shoe is available in leather, canvas, and suede depending on your preferences and the colorway you choose.
Another classic style skate shoe for those who want the bulkier look and want to low cost shoe that will last stand the test of time. This shoe features a cup sole that gives you additional heel support and padding that is perfect for skaters who regularly skate large ramps and handrails. This shoe is available in both leather and suede depending on your preferences and offers a double stitched toe cap for added protection and reinforcement in the commonly-ripped toe area. This shoe is very stiff, so you won’t have much board feel, which may be an issue with some street skateboarders. You may want to buy a half size larger than you usually wear with these shoes, as they are known to run slightly small. Also, it’s important to note that with the leather versions even if it feels too small when you first wear them, the show will typically stretch out and form to the shape of your foot after about one week of use. Overall, the Osiris Relic is a great option for someone looking for an affordable and long-lasting shoe that is not too concerned with keeping up with all the newest shoe trends and styles.
The trend of large global shoe brands entering the skate shoe market continues, and the Numeric is New Balance’s skate inspired shoe line. The New Balance Quincy 254 offers a redesign of the classic New Balance sneaker, with a vulcanized shoe and quadruple stitched toe cap for added durability and protection. I really like the outsole of this shoe as it features a consistent waffle design made of grippy gum material is made to outlast the competition and provide an unparalleled level of grip. A great thing about New Balance compared to many of the other large shoe companies is the fact that they produce a large portion of their shoes in the United States instead of outsourcing to countries with lower labor costs and standards. Although this may make the price slightly higher, it adds to the construction and quality of the shoe and supports more ethical labor practices.
If you are a fan of the Globe brand and are fan of their sponsored professional skaters, but want a more sleek and modern look, then the Globe Mahalo is a great choice for you. This shoe is available in a ton of different colors and materials including canvas, leather, suede, tweed, and even a jean material. This shoe features a low profile and a vulcanized sole that allows for a flexible and lightweight sole that places an emphasis on board feel and performance. Although it may not be the best shoe for high impact skaters, this style is very popular now in street skateboarding and even not skaters who are are fans of streetwear. The interesting thing with this shoe is despite its slim and sleek appearance, it incorporates a surprisingly thick and padded tongue. This makes this shoe perfect for street skaters have existing foot injuries or just want some extra protection for the top of their foot as a preventative measure.
Designed and created by professional skater Andrew Reynolds, the Reynolds collection of shoes has been an iconic part of Emerica’s brand for many years. This shoe offers a sleek low profile and a sole that integrates vulcanized construction that allows the flexibility and board feel that street skaters love. The Reynolds Low Vulc is available in a large variety of colors and is constructed from either canvas, suede, or leather depending on the edition you buy. This shoe encompasses Emerica’s brand identity that they make simple products made with skateboarders in mind. One thing I loved about these shoes is the insole. They are very comfortable right out of the box, but I did notice they got worn down after a few months of heavy skating. Overall an excellent choice for any skater who wants to support an honest, grassroots skate shoe company and shoes with a clean, low profile and functional design.
Etnies was the original skate shoe, but they have since improved their look and shoe construction and the Marana is a great example of this. This shoe is much less bulky than original Etnies models, and it still offers the tried and true cup sole construction method for the maximum amount of foot and heel protection. Usually this sole is much heavier than vulcanized soles, however, the Marana features lightweight foam side panel construction which keeps the shoe a reasonable weight. The pattern on the sole of this shoe is modeled after long lasting tire trend and is built to last even the wear from the most serious skateboarders. The insole of this shoe features Pro Foam 1 Polyurethane material which is some of the longest lasting and best insoles in the industry today. Finally, the top cap is actually heavy duty rubber that infused onto the shoe to increase durability and longevity of the toe area.
As the signature shoe of pro skater Adrian Lopez, the C1rca AL50 is another classic looking shoe, although with a modern vulcanized shoe for increased foot flexibility and mobility. These shoes feature many unique color options including camo and denim, so there’s a color for everyone no matter their style preferences. The C1rca AL50 Adrian Lopez also features a breathable mesh style tongue to prevent your feet from sweating and overheating. The top cap on this shoe is triple stitched and adds a second layer of material for added protection and durability. This shoe fits true to size and its low price makes it a very attractive option for a beginner skate shoe.
The DC Pure Action sport shoe is one of the most popular skate shoes on the market in the past decade. This is partly due to the fact that the shoe is frequently used in other extreme sports including BMX and scootering. I want to warn you though, a significant number of people feel that this shoe runs slightly small, so if you are on the edge about what size to get I would recommend the larger size. This shoe has a cup sole to offer extra support and the toe cap is triple stitched and reenforced to added durability and minimize the risk of tears or holes. The majority of the editions of the DC Pure Action Sport shoes are made mostly of a durable leather, with a few colors featuring parts made from suede and canvas. The side of this shoe features two distinct air holes to allow for air flow and breathability to the foot when being worn. I’m a big fan of this feature as it greatly reduces the buildup of sweat and foot odor when skating on a hot day. Overall the DC Pure Action Sport shoe is a classic skate shoe that I would recommend to any beginner or intermediate skater looking for a sturdy and durable option.
Created and inspired by pro skater Dennis Busenitz, the Busenitz Pro features a cup sole and a long thin tongue similar to the well known indoor soccer shoes, the Samba and the Spezial. The majority of the colorways of this shoe are almost completely made of suede, however a few leather options are also available. While this shoe may sometimes feel slightly narrow, it generally runs pretty true to size. This shoe is very stylish and modern, and yet still features a cup sole for additional heel and foot support. This makes it a very attractive choice for skaters who want the look of a modern shoe, but still have the classic protection and padding that classic cup soled skate shoes provided.
Despite eS going on a 2 year hiatus from 2012-2014, they have started rereleasing their most iconic and popular models including the eS Accel. This shoe is completely suede and features a sturdy cup sole and an insole that utilizes Foam Lite 1 technology that provides a comfortable fit and protection against heel bruises. This eS shoe was loved by many due to its simplicity of design and consistently high level of functionality and performance. The shoe features an overstuffed tongue for extra top of foot protection and internal straps made from elastic that secures your foot to the tongue and shoes, even if the laces are untied loosely and tucked in. The shoes have a lot of leeway in the width department which makes them favorites of bigger guys or people with particularly wide feet.
The second Etnies shoe on this list, the Jameson 2 is Etnies most modern and low profile shoe to date. This shoe is unique in the fact that is a “faux vulc” shoe which appears to be a vulcanized shoe upon first glance, however it is actually a cup sole. This makes this shoe perfect for skaters who want the modern vulcanized look, but wants the extra heel support and padding of a cup sole due to a very high impact skating style. The Etinies Jameson 2 features a multi-color sole with a uniform pattern for maximum grip and the shoe is available in suede, canvas, denim, and leather variations. The shoe also has a padded collar to protect the ankle and foot of the skater.
The DC Anvil is a slimmer version of the incredibly popular DC Pure shoe. This shoe features a vulcanized sole and an abrasion resistant toe cap that increases the shoe’s lifespan and durability. The the majority of this shoe’s versions are made from leather that tend to outlast the few suede versions available. There is double stitching on the side of the toe cap to prevent tearing and holes after frequent ollies and kickflips. I really like the multiple small holes on top of the top cap that allow for airflow and breathability similarly to the large holes in the side of the DC Anvils. The bottom of the sole on this shoe also utilized DC’s patented “Pill” pattern style of tread to provide maximum grip and anti-slip functionality. This is an excellent skate shoe for someone looking for a slightly more streamlined and modern version of past popular DC Shoes, but keep the same level of comfort and breathability the brand is know for in their shoes.
The Nike SB Janoski Max is an interesting upgrade from the original Nike SB Janoski listed earlier on this list. With this version Nike added the Air Max technology and sole from classic Nike sneakers to this skate shoe. The air pocket sole has been rarely seen in skate shoes in the past, so it was a surprise to many to see this combination. The first thing people assume is that the air bubble would limited board feel, when actually it’s the opposite in this case. Due to the bubble slanting your foot slightly downward couple with the flexible you are able to feel and control the sides of a skateboard like no other skate shoe on the market today. This shoe all looks similar to a running or sporty sneaker which makes it a more attractive option to wear casually when compared to other bulky and more flat traditional skate shoe models.
Converse recognized the popularity of their original Chuck Taylor high top basketball shoe with skateboard and decided to design a shoe specifically for skateboarding with the Converse KA-II. This shoe includes Converse Flex midsole construction and a sup style sole to provide for a high level of board feet and flexibility while still protecting your heel. The many small holes throughout the suede upper allow your feet to breathe and reduces foot sweating and odour problems. As an insole, this shoe features a “Lunarlon” footbed to provide cushion and support for even the hardest landings.
What to Look For in a Skate Shoe (Buyer’s Guide)
Sole Thickness (Board Feel)
Deciding whether you want to have a thick or thin sole depends on your personal preference and skating style as there are advantages and disadvantages to both. A thicker sole is more durable and offers added protection against harsh landings and painful foot bruising, but limits how well you can control and feel the skateboard beneath you.
Typically a gum sole with a consistent pattern provides the most traction to grip tape and helps the rider stay on the skateboard and ride away cleanly from tricks. Typically shoes with an inconsistent sole pattern are considered casual or lifestyle shoes rather than hardcore performance skate shoes. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and skating style if you want a shoe with more or less grip.
The toe and lancelet area are usually the parts of the skate shoe that takes the brunt of the damage from repeatedly being rubbed against rough grip tape and even run over by wheels after failed tricks. Most skate shoes today have either a suede or leather toecap with multiple layers to prevent unsightly holes from forming in the toe of your shoe. Many shoes also have a built-in lace covers and eyelets to prevent the common issue of broken laces from repeated abrasion against grip tape. In recent years as skate shoes tend to be slimmer and lower, they sometimes sacrifice in the number of layers and the quality of toecap construction. If you are looking for an extremely durable toecap and don’t care about the style, you may want to look for an older, and more tried and true shoe model.
Heel & Tongue Padding
Skateboarding is considered an extreme sport, so obviously, there are risks involved and the potential for injury. And since your feet are in closest contact with the skateboard, they are using the first to get hurt. Skateboarding companies realized this, and as a result that engineered skate shoes to protect these common injuries. The two most common skateboarding-related injuries are bruised heels and broken feet from half of the wheels landing on one foot and the other on the skateboard. To address these issues many shoe manufacturers are adding impact reducing technology in the shoe’s heel and extra padded tongues to minimize painful impacts to the top of the foot. I have noticed the most padding in shoes in the early 2000’s and today many companies have transitioned to a more sleek shoe with less padding and bulk.
Shoe Height (High, Mid, Low)
The types of shoe heights are pretty self-explanatory as there are shoes with high, medium, and low sides around the ankle. The advantages of the high and mid shoes are the protection they offer from your skateboard hitting your ankles, as well as an increased ankle stability to limit the risk of sprains. However, a lower shoe tends to be better for ankle mobility and tends to keep your feet and ankle cooler than if it was covered by a mid or high top leather shoe. Styles and trends change and there are pros and cons of any choice.
Sole Types (Vulcanized vs. Cup Soles)
You may have heard the terms vulcanized and cup soles on skateboard shoes…but what does that mean to you? Before we get the definitions of each, it’s important to note that both soles can work well and that it really comes down to personal preference of what you prefer.
Vulcanized shoes are when the soles of the shoe are glued or attached to the body of the shoe with no stitching. Vulcanized shoes not technically not glued, but instead superheated and bound to the body of the shoe. The benefit to this style of sole is the amount of board feel and flexibility it provides to the skater making it ideal for technical flat ground tricks. The downside to vulcanized shoes is the lack of heel support and padding they provide, so I would recommend them to people who skate large sets of stairs or handrails regularly.
You can tell a certain skate shoe has a cup sole if you see visible stitching that attaches the sole to the sides of the shoe. This type of sole will “cup” your heel and provide a level of support and sole hardness that will not be found with a vulcanized shoe. The obvious downside to cupsoles is the lack of board feel and the rigidity of the shoe which limits the precision you can control your skateboard. While street skaters who value board control and feel may not like the hardness of a cup sole, skaters who regularly throw themselves down large gaps and stairs will appreciate the support and cushion a cup sole skate shoe will provide.
Skate Shoe Brands
Let’s face it, brand recognition means a lot in this day and age and you would be lying to yourself if you said you didn’t care about the brand of skate shoes you were looking to buy. Each brand has a slightly different history and reputation and I feel that it’s very helpful to understand how each brand is perceived and what they are known for before making a buying decision. Note: These are just opinions that I have gathered from many years of skateboarding and talking to friends who are still very in touch with skateboard culture.
Initially, when Nike announced their entry into the skate shoe market, they were met with criticism and even boycotted by some who were against the large shoe company taking from small, local skateboard brands. Nike responded to such criticisms by creating the “SB” line of shoes specifically designed for skateboarders. To gain respect and legitimacy in the eyes of skateboarders Nike SB only allowed real skate shops to carry their brand and by sponsored many of the top skateboarders and skateboarding events in the industry. They put out skate videos and produced high-quality content on a regular basis and grew a very loyal following. Another pivotal move that spurred Nike SB’s popularity is the monthly “quick-strike” shoe colorways that would be released in very limited quantities and locations. This practice attracted many streetwear “hypebeasts” and sneakerheads who loved to have rare shoes that few others have. This exclusivity created a reseller culture similar to what we see with limited brands like Jordan and Yeezy today, and the high prices and perceived status attracted rappers and social media influencers alike. All these factors combined with diverse product offering, high-quality shoes, and frequent innovation has made Nike SB into one of the most popular and best skate shoe brands on the market today.
One of the most iconic and well-known skate/surf brands still around today. Vans were introduced in California in the 1960’s as casual boat and deck shoes. From the start, Vans gained popularity in the skateboard community due to their flat bottoms and minimalist style that naturally lent itself to skateboarding. Vans quickly recognized this opportunity and created a line dedicated to skateboarders with reinforced toecaps and padded soles. They also began to sponsor pros and skateboard events as it grew into the household surf and skate brand it is today. You’re not going to get the most technical and flashy shoe when you buy a pair of vans, but instead, a timeless classic that looks great whether you are skateboarding or not.
Diamond Supply Co
Created by Nick Diamond in the 1990’s, Diamond Supply Co. made a name for themselves with premium t-shirts with a diamond logo that streetwear fans and skateboarders couldn’t get enough of. Diamond has collaborated with dozens of brands and artists over the years and has recently started making both skate and lifestyle shoes. Diamond shoes feature a premium look in a variety of light pastel colors. Their skate line of shoes has a minimalistic look similar to Vans, and feature leather, swede, and nubuck options. If you are a less aggressive skater and just prefer the skate shoe look, then Diamond’s lifestyle line offers many unique mid top and even flip-flop options. Diamond is definitely continuing to grow and is typically known as a premium streetwear brand among the people I interviewed for this article.
Dekline (Tum Keto)
Dekline is a classic skate shoe brand that is part of the Tum Keto distribution company that also owns and distributes popular brands like Toy Machine, Pig skateboard wheel company, and Habitat Skateboards. Many Dekline shoes feature a low profile and vulcanized soles which make them an attractive choice to many street skaters who value board feel and performance over the durability and lifespan of the traditional bulking skate shoe. Although not embraced by streetwear fanatics and sneakerheads like the large brands Nike SB, Adidas, and New Balance; Dekline has a very stylish and sleek look at a very reasonable price.
Similar to Nike, Adidas initially faced criticism for being too “mainstream” and profit-driven when they started making skate shoes. The difference is that classic Adidas indoor soccer had been used by skateboarders for years and it was a relatively smooth transition to modify traditional models for skateboarding. Adidas added a vulcanized gum sole and reinforced top cap to classics like the Samba and Superstar and was able to keep the classic look skaters loved with added durability and performance. While Adidas never attracted the hype or cult following that Nike did with their limited releases, Adidas has solidified themselves in the skate shoe market clean, durable, and classic option.
A grassroots skate shoe company most famous for sponsoring Chad Muska, a world famous professional skater. These shoes were built by skateboarders for skateboarders and this shows in the attention to detail in the shoes vulcanized soles, shoelace protection, and padded shoe tongues. While many Circa shoes have the more “old school” skate shoe look with the very puffy tongue and bulky look, they have recently added many more sleek and modern models. While not the fastest growing skate shoe company on the market today, C1rca has definitely has carved out a niche as a classic skate shoe company made for real skateboarders.
One of the most popular and iconic sneaker in the past century is the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star basketball shoe. You know exactly the shoe I’m talking about, chances are you even have had a pair yourself. Old school skateboarders in the 70’s loved the flat bottoms of the shoes and the ankle support the high top shoe provided. The trend of skateboarders wearing Converse continued until the mid-2000’s when Converse launched their first official line of shoes made specifically for skateboarding. Along with this shoe release was the sponsorship of high profile pro skaters including Kenny Anderson, Anthony Pappalardo, and Nick Trapasso which legitimized the brand as a skateboarding company. Converse even went a step further and partnered with Pappalardo and skateboard blog Crailtap to release a RED edition shoe and gave part of the profits to HIV/ AIDS research. Converse is a traditional shoe brand with both great quality and social values.
DC, originally representing “Droor’s Clothing”, has been a cornerstone of skateboarding since 1993 when it was founded. DC is now owned by surf/skate/snow giant Quiksilver and is well know for many worldwide sponsored pro skaters and skatepark renovation projects. DC has recently undergone a “brand renovation” that has included sponsoring new riders and adding new sleek shoe designs. Despite these changes, I still feel that many DC shoes have the “bulky” look that was popular in the early 2000’s. This makes them a great choice for durability and foot protection for hardcore skaters, but not the best for people looking for streetwear style or casual use.
DVS was founded in 1995 and named after the adjective “devious”. DVS was a grassroots skateboard brand will a loyal following until the mid-2000’s when they filed for bankruptcy due to the global financial crisis and increased material costs in China. It then went from being owned by Podium (who also owned Lakai) to being bought by a large sports and fitness conglomerate that also owns Heely’s and a few women’s fitness brands. The original founder of DVS, Tim Gavin, has since gone on to create a new skate shoe brand, Filament, which is also on this list. For the hardcore skaters who know this, it doesn’t sit well. Many skaters feel like the new ownership of DVS is too profit driven and isn’t a legitimate skateboard brand that gives back to the local skateboard community. Despite this stigma, DVS continues to sponsor pro skaters and events and tries to appeal to the action sports crowd. It will be interesting to see how these actions are perceived in the next 3-5 years. All the politics and ownership issues aside, DVS is known for no-frills, quality, and durable skate shoes that many skaters swear by.
Sole Technology (Emerica, eS, & Etnies)
While you probably haven’t heard of Sole Technology, you probably have heard of Emerica, eS, and Etnies as they are three major skate shoe brands. While not as popular today, Etnies was once the largest and most popular of the Sole Technology lines. It spilled over into biking, motocross, surfing, and other action sports and the iconic “E” that faces the ground like an “m” was everywhere in the early 2000’s. Etnies has definitely seen a decline since this time period as customer tastes have shifted to a less bulky shoe style and Sole Technology started putting more money and support behind their other shoe brands.
eS was the next brand in the Sole Technology portfolio that took the spotlight after the hype from Etnies began to die down. eS is known for reasonably priced, reliable shoes and an impressive team of passed sponsored skaters including PJ Ladd, Eric Koston, Paul Rodriguez, and Nyjah Huston. eS never became a household name, but it was very popular among skater’s and was commonly seen in popular skateboard magazines and media. In 2012, eS announced a “hiatus” and then only rereleased a few class designs in 2014. The future of eS remains uncertain, but it’s definitely a brand to look for in the coming years.
Today, Emerica is Sole Technology’s clear leader and most popular brand. Emerica is known for their simple and consistent message and commitment to skateboarding and the grassroots, local skate shops. It also sponsors one of the most impressive teams in skateboarding including pro skaters Andrew Reynolds, Jerry Hsu, and Kevin “Spanky” Long. There is a lot of overlap with the Emerica brand and brands like Baker, Deathwish, and Altamont which leads to many collaborations and unique brand partnerships. I’ve personally skated both the Herman’s and Reynold’s and I found both to hold up extremely well skated, especially the toecaps. In both cases, the soles were the first to wear out and only after 6 months of heavy use, so I can attest to Emerica’s construction and shoe quality.
Filament is one of the newest brands on this list and in the skateboard industry. As discussed previously, the founder of DVS Tim Gavin, started Filament when DVS was bought after experiencing financial troubles and filing for bankruptcy. Unlike the classic DVS branded shoes which had an old-school suede bulky look, Filament shoes are suede, pastel-colored, and minimalist. They are super light and grippy and all the designs have vulcanized shoes which are great for flip tricks and board feel. The designs and look of these shoes are unique, but classy and may definitely turn a few heads in a sneakerhead crowd. If you looking to try a new brand that makes simple and affordable shoes, Filament is definitely a brand to keep on your radar as it grows into a more popular and established brand.
Today Globe is a huge skateboard brand conglomerate that has distribution rights and brand ownership across the world. But it didn’t start out that way. Globe was started in the 1980’s by a few brothers who were professional skateboarders who recognized the lack of high-quality skate products in the Australian market at the time. They started by importing existing brands from the US and reselling them in Australia, but they quickly expanded from this business model into creating their own shoe and deck brands including Almost, Darkstar, Blind, Enjoi, and Speed Demons bearings. As for Globe shoes, the thing that stands out to me most is the very large selection of styles. They have the old school clunky durable style with the RMS3, Fusion, and Scribe lines. Then there are also many more models that have the slimmer and more modern lifestyle sport. And very recently Globe has introduced the “Lyt” line with looks more like an athletic shoe like the very popular Nike Roshes. Definitely a popular brand with a style of shoe for everyone and it’s likely that you already purchased a Globe product, but didn’t know it due to their many successful proprietary brands.
Huf is unique compared to many of brands on this list as it started as a singular premium streetwear and skate shop created by Keith Hufnagel, a retired professional skateboarder, who wanted to give back to the sport and community that gave him success and opportunity in his life. Initially, Huf was just a retail store that sold other brands, but soon Huf saw an opportunity to create their own line of premium streetwear and skate appeal and sneakers. Huf is also known for many premium limited edition collaboration releases with other popular brands like Nike SB and Adidas which gathered a lot of hype and it’s not uncommon to see these limited shoes selling for hundreds of dollars above their original retail price today. Huf is a very popular brand in street style circle and their sleek design definitely shoe it. Huf may not be the best choice if you’re looking for a bulky durable shoe that will last forever, but if you want a great looking shoe that also skates well then Huf is a great brand to look at.
Lakai is another grassroots skateboard shoe brand made by professional skaters Mike Carroll and Rick Howard in 1999 and is now currently a member of the Crailtap DIstribution network that hosts a very popular skateboard blog and also distributes large brands such as Girl and Chocolate. Most Lakai shoes have a vulc sole that makes Lakai shoes excellent for street skating and board feel for complex flip tricks. Lakai shoes tend to be sleek and keep a very low profile on your foot similar to Vans’s “Authentic” model of shoe. While this style is very popular today and looks great with jeans, it does leave your ankles vulnerable to painful impacts from your deck or trucks during failed flip tricks. Don’t let this deter you from trying a pair of Lakai’s. In fact, they were one of my favorite brands for street skateboarding back in my teenage years when I was focused on technical tricks.
Fallen was created in the 1990’s by Jamie Thomas for the hardcore underground skateboard community. Fallen is a part of Black Box Distribution which also owned the large skateboard deck brands Zero and Mystery. The brand peaked in sales and popularity in 2006 and 2007 but then experienced hardship during the global financial crisis due to manufacturing price and order quantity requirement increases. Fallen never really recovered from this downturn in part due to the entrance of major shoe companies like Nike SB and Adidas and they officially shut down in June 2015. I included Fallen in this list because it was a major player in the skateboarding shoe industry for decades and there is still an abundance of Fallen shoes floating around different skate shops and online shoe sites. If you are looking for a hardcore vintage brand, definitely take a look at Fallen shoes if you can find a pair.
I see Airwalk as the bargain brand of shoes for skateboarding as they are priced much lower than every other brand on this list and can be commonly found in big box stores, mall, and outlets throughout the country. Although they are not a hardcore skateboard brand, there is definitely a place for an inexpensive skate shoe. I think Airwalk shoes would be a solid choice for a beginner who just wants to try skateboarding and is not sure if they want to fully dive in. With such low-cost shoes, buying a second pair of “real” skate shoes would be in the budget if they really want to take their skateboarding to the next level. Overall, Airwalk makes decent skate shoes for beginners and anyone on a very limited budget. However, I wouldn’t recommend this brand to any serious skaters who are attempting complex tricks for skating stairs or handrails.
Adio is a skate shoe brand that is part of the K2 mega snowboard and ski conglomerate. Throughout the years Adio has sponsored an incredible lineup of professional skateboarders including Tony Hawk, Bam Margera, and snowboarder Shaun White. When I think of Adio, I think of a bulky cup sole leather shoe that will last forever, but look pretty ugly in my opinion. While they have added a few newer designs that are sleeker and have vulcanized soles, the majority of Adio shoes still look like the early 2000’s. There’s nothing really wrong with Adio, I just feel as though there are better brand options for a comparable price.
New Balance makes skate shoes? I too asked myself this question when I kept seeing New Balance shoes appearing during my research. In 2013, the world-famous shoe brand New Balance entered into a partnership with Black Box Distribution (Zero, Mystery, Fallen, etc) and created a skate shoe called “NB Numeric”. My initial impression was that the shoes would be clunky and ugly as I’m not a big fan of New Balance’s traditional shoe line, however, the Numeric line surprised me. This line offers many designs that remind me of a combination of Nike SB and Vans. The prices seem very reasonable and NB offers a combination of both cup and vulcanized soled shoes depending on your skating style and preferences. I’m very impressed with New Balance’s entry into the skateboard shoe market and expect their offerings to expand and get better over time. The addition and early success of New Balance’s skate shoes is a signal to me that the trend of large mainstream shoe brands taking over the skate shoe market and grassroots skateboard shoe brands will struggle to complete.
Osiris is a class skate shoe brand that has been around for decades. They are known for their flashy colored mid and high tops and and non-traditional patterns. Like Airwalk, this brand can sometimes be found in malls and places like TJ Maxx and Journey’s. However, Osiris is meant for a more advanced skater than Airwalk and is durable enough to handle falls from large sets of stairs, ramps, rails, and ledges. I’m a fan of Osiris’s “Slappy VLC” and “SD” styles as they are priced very reasonably, have a sleek low profile, and have vulcanized soles that are perfect for aggressive street skaters or just cruising around town. While I won’t consider Osiris to be a grassroots skateboard brand and many hardcore skateboarders may say Osiris is too corporate or mainstream, I still feel like they make solid shoes at an attractive price and are definitely a brand to consider if you are a beginner or intermediate skater.
Reef started as a casual “thong” sandal company marketed to California surfers and beach bums in the 1980’s. Since that time Reef has expanded into skateboard and casual shoes as well as skate and surf-inspired apparel. Reef skate shoes have a very modern look and remind me of many early Vans styles that have a classic low profile and vulcanized, grippy sole. The downsides to this style of skate shoe are the lack of ankle protection and support and the thin toecap that is prone to breakage if you are doing repeated flip tricks. This style tends to leave your shoelaces exposed, so there is also the annoyance of repeatedly ripping and having to replace your shoelaces. Overall Reef is a great surf/skate lifestyle brand that’s perfect for the beach and cruising along the boardwalk. And if you are a more aggressive, die-hard street skater, Reef even has a few styles perfect for you.
Despite the current trend of large multinational shoe companies gaining control of the skate shoe market and small grassroots companies closing, State Footwear was established is early 2016 by Kevin Furtado who was the director of brand management at shoe company Dekline previously. The mission behind the brand is simple and honorable. State Footwear offers simple, high-quality shoes at an affordable price that supports the skateboarding community more than the large corporations like Nike SB, Adidas, and New Balance. State shoes are available from many online retailers, local skate shops, and larger mall brands like Zumiez. I’m a big fan of the style of these shoes and the company’s commitment to skateboarding. Definitely, keep an eye out for State Footwear in the coming years.
Famous for their premium high top “Skytop” shoes and distinctive crown logo, Supra has expanded its reach outside the skateboarding community and is loved by many from city-living streetwear lovers to world-famous rappers including Lil Wayne and Jay Z and electronic music DJ Steve Aoki. Supra was founded in 2006 and has stores and an online presence in cities worldwide. K-Swiss recently acquired Supra in June 2015 but has kept the brands separated and public perception of Supra’s brand hasn’t really changed. Supra also sponsors high profile skaters such as Chad Muska, Erik Ellington, and Stevie Williams. Supra shoes tend to be priced at a premium, but recently Supra has expanded their offering to more aggressively priced simple shoe for die-hard skaters. Supra has also started a line of trainers that appeals to the streetwear crowd and has a similar look to Kayne’s Yeezy. Supra has solidified themselves as a premium skate-inspired sneaker and I expect their reach to increase in the next few years, especially as they continue to collaborate with popular DJ’s, rappers, and social media influencers. Overall it’s no question that Supra has many high-quality shoes for both streetwear style and skateboarding, it really just comes down to your budget and shoe style preferences.