How to choose and buy skate shoes

September 3, 2021 | Skateboarding
Skate shoes: a type of footwear specifically designed and manufactured for use in skateboarding | Photo: Shutterstock

Skate shoes can make you a better skateboarder. Learn how to choose and buy the right skateboard footwear for your feet and riding needs.

One of the great things about skateboarding is that you don't need to spend a lot of money to start riding on four wheels.

With $100, you can easily find a complete skateboard that is ready to roll on tarmac, asphalt, concrete, or any other rideable surface.

When we compare it to surfing, BMX, snowboarding, or any other extreme sport, skateboarding is actually inexpensive and accessible to everyone.

If you don't have $100, you can always buy a low price skateboard for one-third of the investment.

But there's one piece of equipment that is as almost as important as the deck, the trucks, and the wheels - shoes.

Skate shoes: available in high-top, mid-top, and low-top models | Photo: Shutterstock

No Shoes, No Ollies

Skate shoes are an essential part of every skateboarder's riding life.

They're a special type of footwear designed and manufactured for skateboarding activities. But why are they different from other sports shoes?

The main reason is that the skater's shoes are constantly scraping against the board's grip tape.

The sandpaper-like texture is extremely abrasive and, when you're doing an ollie, it is causing wear and tear on the soles and on all upper shoe materials.

Most skate shoes are made using rubber and gum soles and suede, patent leather, canvas, and other textile materials on the upper section, lining, and sock.

The best and most popular skate shoe brands are Adidas, Converse, DC Shoes, DVS, Element, Emerica, Etnies, Globe, New Balance, Nike SB, Reebok, and Vans.

Are you buying a new pair of skateboarder sneakers?

Whether you're into shoelaces or slip-on models, take a look at all the variables you should check before making a final decision.

Skateboard footwear: upper materials and soles matter | Photo: Shutterstock

Types of Skate Shoes

There are three main types of skateboard shoes:

High-Top Skate Shoes

It's a skate shoe model that traditionally ends slightly above the ankle. Its higher cut offers additional padding and cushioning and extra stability. They're warmer and might be a good pick for winter skating.

Mid-Top Skate Shoes

It's a balanced model for those who need a little bit of protection and comfort but also demand freedom of movement and versatility. It's a transitional, all-year-round pick for all skaters.

Low-Top Skate Shoes

It's the flat and most used skate shoe model on the planet. These sneakers feature a really low cut - below the ankle - and are often extremely light. It's the perfect pick for the summer days.

Mid-top skate shoes: a model that provides protection and freedom of movement | Photo: Vans

Skate Shoe Soles

Soles are critical skate shoe components.

From a construction perspective, there are two different designs: the vulcanized sole and the cup sole.

The vulcanized sole features a thin layer and provides maximum flexibility and agility. It delivers a great board feel and doesn't feature seams - all parts are glued to each other.

The cup sole is heavier and less flexible, but it is sewn into the shoe, making it sturdier and long-lasting. It often displays three different layers and materials.

When it comes to sole construction, there are three different aspects that should be taken into consideration:

The Outsole

The outsole is the skate shoe component that is in constant contact with all types of surfaces, including grip tape, terrain, soil, water, and concrete.

As a result, it must be made of durable components and should provide maximum flexibility and grip.

The outsole often displays high-tech shock-absorbing patterns and innovative air pad designs.

The Midsole

The midsole is the intermediate layer located between the inner sole and the outer sole.

It is made from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and a heat-resistant plastic called phylon with more or less advanced dampening characteristics.

The design, technology, and construction vary from company to company.

The Insole

The insole is increasingly an interchangeable and removable feature that can be chosen according to each skater's preferences.

Insoles can be replaced easily and provide extra cushioning. Their footbed is often made from EVA and is highly breathable and comfortable.

Vulcanized skate shoes: footwear with maximum flexibility and great board feel | Photo: Adidas

Types of Upper Materials

The upper section of a skate shoe is also extremely relevant. It provides warmth, breathability, ventilation, comfort, and cushioning.

There are four primary types of materials used:

Suede

Suede is the most popular outer material used in skateboarder shoes. It is strong, durable, resistant but also smooth and flexible.

Coated/Patent Leather

Coated leather, also known as patent leather, is a thin layer, is a cheaper, thinner, and less durable material.

Canvas

Canvas is one of the finest alternatives to animal-sourced materials. It is light, highly breathable, and a quite durable textile-bassed option.

Vegan

The future of skate shoes will probably include materials that do not use animal hide. It's a growing niche with an increasingly larger market share.

Suede skate shoes: the most popular outer material used in skateboarder footwear | Photo: Nike

Skate Shoe Sizes

Everyone's different, so each skater will have its perfect fit that is not too tight and not too loose.

As a general rule of thumb, there should be an inch of space between your big toe and the tip of the shoe.

Finally, keep in mind that US, EU, and UK sizes differ, so you may need to double-check your selection using a conversion table or chart.

Larger vs. Smaller Feet, Narrower vs. Wider Feet

Oftentimes, larger feet are narrower than smaller feet, and vice versa.

As a result, make sure you get the right size skate shoes and check whether you feel comfortable with their narrower or wide cut.

Remember that when landing a trick, the sole of your feet will be pressed against the deck of the board.

Therefore, your favorite skateboard shoes should be wide enough to allow room for the skin, muscles, and tendons of the feet to relax inside your footwear.

Slip on skate shoes: no shoelaces needed | Photo: DC Shoes

Skate Shoe Features

There are several details and features that make skate shoes a specialized type of footwear.

Seams

The quality of the seams is one of the most important attributes that must be considered when buying a new pair of high-end skate shoes.

Seams are reinforcements and must be impact-resistant.

A well-sewn shoe should have additional seams in the areas that are in close contact with grip tape like the heel and toecap zones.

However, you could also consider a seamless toecap if you think it increases the riding experience.

Padding

Only a skater knows how padding is important in a skate shoe.

If you're landing consecutive tricks, you're putting a lot of stress on your feet, legs, and knees.

A good padding structure will not only increase comfort but may very well prevent injuries.

Ventilation

Breathability is a major variable in skate shoe construction.

During summer, and with high air temperatures and heated concrete, small and smart perforations will allow maximum ventilation and minimize sweaty feet.

Shoe Laces

Shoelaces are also under constant stress, so make sure to choose quality leather or waxed shoelaces.

Skate shoes: learn how to make them last longer | Photo: Converse

Choosing the Right Pair of Skate Shoes

So, what skate shoes should you buy? Which ones are the best? How should male and female riders choose a new pair of skate shoes?

The best skate shoes in the world tick the following boxes and should be good for walking and even wear at work.

Comfort

Skate shoes must be comfortable to wear. Period.

This is the main requirement. If it feels good and allows you to stay connected to the board, then it suits your basic needs.

Quality of Materials

If you found a comfortable skate shoe model, pay attention to the materials.

Are they high-end or cheap?

Ask for advice, get additional information online on the manufacturer's website, and read a few reviews from customers.

Quality of Construction

The materials may be good, but they could be useless if the construction is not robust and sturdy.

Analyze the seams and the connections between layers and components. Everything should look and feel resistant.

Durability

There's only one way of knowing if a skate shoe is durable - you're either buying an exactly identical model or know the model's track record.

Ask skate shop managers and skaters what are their favorite sneakers and, once again, take a look at a few reviews from happy or unhappy customers.

Fitting

The greatest and most durable skate shoe model of all time will not suit you if it doesn't fit.

So, make sure to try several sizes and designs before making a buying decision. Walk, jump, and press your feet against the ground and, if possible, push on a skateboard.

You can always try them out at your local skate shop.

Skateboard shoes: they must be comfortable, durable, and fit your feet nicely | Photo: Creative Commons

How to Make Your Skate Shoes Last Longer

Skate shoes and sneakers could be expensive, so you should do whatever you can to maximize your investment.

In other others, make your skater footwear last longer. How do you increase their lifetime? It's not complicated.

Make sure your shoelaces are always tied up neatly and tightly.

If you can, apply waterproofing spray and adhesives in high-risk, wear-and-tear areas, use special glue and patches to fix holes.

Air out your favorite skate shoes after each skate session, and never put them in the washing machine or use detergents to clean them.

Use a damp cloth, wet wipes, and toothbrush to gently remove dirt, if needed.