You’re researching skate shoe brands because you’ve caught the skating bug. I know. I was there a couple years back. Now, it’s time to grab the nicest pair of skate shoes in your range. But what are the best skate shoe brands out there, you ask.
To help you answer that question, I’ve spent an awful lot of time digging around the web. In this arduous process, I identified 7 of the best skating shoe brands .
I’ve even gone further and pinpointed a couple not-so-great brands to make your decision even easier. But who would have thought this popular brand wouldn’t make it to the ultimate list below?
And if you’re scouring the web for information on how to skate, I’ve written an article on how to skate for beginners. Or maybe you’re interested in roller skates, and would like to read reviews right away. This best roller skates for dancing article will help kick off your search
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7 Popular Skate Shoe Brands
Let’s right dive in
1. Vans Skate Shoes Review
In 1966, two brothers joined forces with two partners and founded a shoes company. Brothers Paul and Jim Van Doren and 2 entrepreneurial minds, Serge Delia and Gordon Lee, pooled resources and founded Vans. They’ve managed to build a business whose products have become insanely popular.
They set out to make different shoes — better shoes. The shoes featured outsoles that were ‘twice as thick” as those offered by the competition, in one of the founder’s son’s words. They favored a different business model where they sold directly to end users. And isn’t that what’s happening pretty much everywhere these days?
Everyone from teens, toddlers, and skateboarders to fashion-enthusiasts and celebrities loves Vans skate shoes. These products are now a staple of American footwear culture, competing with leviathans such as Nike. And with old, Iconic brands such as Converse.
The brand’s star started really shining when Vans hired Rian Pozzebon in 2002. Pozzebon came in and transformed the then ailing skate shoe program at the shoe company. The turnaround magician tinkered with Van’s 5 classic styles, designing revitalized products that have defied all odds to remain culturally relevant.
The 5 classics are Old Skool, Era, Authentic, SK8, and Slip-on. Van’s style #44 (now Authentic), the first of the 5 classics, offered considerably more grip and durability than its competitors. And the skateboard community noted that. Add Van’s signature waffle soles, and this classic has become an all-time winner.
Van’s shoes typically feature the Waffle outsole design as opposed to the Herringbone design.
In the survey I mentioned above, consumers gave Vans skate shoes 293 upvotes vs 141 downvotes. For every person who doesn’t think too highly of Vans skate shoes, there are at least 2 (66%) who feel they’re terrific.
The results from the survey show Vans to be the number one skate shoe brand today.
But why are Vans skate shoes so expensive? Maybe they’re better quality shoes than the rest. Or, maybe the company targets a certain category of consumers. Or whatever. I buy them, but that’s because I just love them rather than because they outlast everything else I’ve owned.
But I think they’re skinnier and more stylish than any other products I’ve seen out there. I love them, particularly the Vans Slip-on. They’re cool and comfortable. And I’m not the only who thinks they’re perfect for skateboarding. We’re a whole army of Vans lovers. Vans focuses on 2 vitally important aspects: grip and boardfeel. In my opinion, Vans skate shoes win hands down in these two areas.
2. Adidas Skate Shoes Review
Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Germany, Adidas employs over 55,000 people from across the world. The business boasts two well-known core brands — Adidas and Reebok. Innovation and creativity buoyed by the company’s unwavering belief in the power of sports in a person’s life drive Adidas. In 2018, for instance, about 74 percent of the company’s brand sales emanated from launched-in-the-year products.
While it’s run from Germany, the company’s impact is global. Anyone who’s been wearing sneakers and skateboard shoes for any length of time knows this brand. Adidas offers almost 100 skateboarding products, and everyone can easily find something they’ll like. Every product the company pumps out is a renewed commitment to the athletic lifestyle. Everything there stays rooted in sports.
So, do Adidas skate shoes last? It depends. If you’re ollieing the whole freaking time, you’ll need a new pair every 3 to 6 months. Or even sooner if you’re a real fiend.
Fortunately, you can add longevity to skate shoes. Just put some shoe goo or hot glue on the kickflip and ollie spots after 2 or 3 uses. Believe me, the shoes will last longer. I prefer hot glue over shoe goo as it gives a somewhat better grip.
Of 323 people who voted for Adidas skate shoes, 197 or 60% said they loved them while 126 or 40% didn’t praise them. They’re popular. Actually, they’re better than most other brands in various respects.
In my assessment, Adidas uses high-quality materials to make truly great products. Many people even say Adidas offers the most comfort and the best boardfeel. I’m a Vans fan, you know, so I really don’t know what to think or feel about that.
3. Etnies Skate Shoes Review
Etnies aren’t exactly budget skate shoes, but for some reason, they’ve become quite popular. If you’d like to support a brand that’s founded and run by a skateboarder like you, Etnies it is.
Pierre-André Senizergues formed the California-based company in 1986. And he later gave the skateboarding community the first ever pro model skate shoe. By the way, the founder is a world champion freestyle skateboarder.
The company has pioneered various technological advances, and it remains committed to excellence. It focuses on creating innovative products that deliver maximum comfort, protection, and style.
I also love that Etnies is big when it comes to giving. The company sponsors quite a few sport-loving communities such as skateboarders, snowboarders, BMX and Moto-X riders.
Fully 60% of those who voted for this brand felt positive about the products while 40% didn’t prefer the brand. But as you can see, more people love Etnies skate shoes than loathe them.
4. Emerica Skate Shoes Review
Have you ever wondered who owns Emerica? About time you found out. Emerica is yet another company owned by a skateboarder. Guess who? It’s Pierre-André Senizergues again!
And that’s a good thing.
Why should we always buy skate shoes from folks who make them because they’re profitable rather than because they’re passionate skaters?
A member of the Sole Tech Inc.’s skateboard shoe brand, Emerica came onto the scene in 1996. Sole Tech Inc. also houses the Sole Technology Institute Lab. STI Lab is an R&D facility that focuses on biomechanical skate shoe research. Small wonder that the company has earned recognition several times for its continued technological advancements in footwear production.
Some of the inventions STI is known for include System G2, a gel cushion that increases the shoes’ ability to take impact. There’s also Flo2, a tongue designed to reduce heat, and the STI Foam footbed, an insole added to minimize pressure.
Emerica views itself as a “raw, simple, straight-ahead” skate shoes brand. You probably don’t care who the hell owns the company that makes the products you own. But wouldn’t it be nice to support one of our own?
Back to the survey. Out of 220 votes, 62% said they loved the brand while the rest preferred other shoe skate companies. If you’re in the buy America support America bandwagon and wouldn’t mind supporting a fellow skateboarder, choose Emerica. Or Etnies. Or whatever other brand you like.
But Emerica, just like Lakai and Etnies, ins’t a large company. Certainly, these brands aren’t the most visible. That’s probably because they don’t have bottomless advertising budgets. The numbers show they crank out great products, though.
5. Lakai Skate Shoes Review
Founded in 1999, the Torrance-based American skate shoe brand is another company founded and operated by skateboarding professionals. The duo, Rick Howard and Mike Carroll, also happen to be co-founders of Girl Skateboards.
The company forms part of Crailtap Distribution, the company that owns Girl Skateboards, Royal Trucks, Chocolate Skateboards, and Fourstar Clothing. The company’s offerings target the skateboarding community in general, and they’ve seen considerable success in the market.
And did you see the news in 2017 when the skateboarding legend, Tony Hawk, joined Lakai?. His son, Riley, also rides for Lakai. When you have Tony Hawk speaking well of your products all over the place, it’s not very hard to supercharge your sales numbers.
In the survey, 132 (about 59%) out of 225 participants favored Lakai skate shoes while 41% reported they’d go for competing brands. Evidently, Lakais are popular with skateboarders. And with the legend saying all kinds of good things about the brand, things can only get better. I’ve bought several Lakai Models in the past, and I must say they work. They’re also true to size and affordable as well. But y’all know where my heart is when it comes to skating shoes.
6. Nike Skate Shoes Review
I’m yet to meet a skateboarder (at least older skaters) who’s never won a Nike. Well, quite a few Nike skate shoes are premium products. But they’re comfortable and demonstrate great performance. Luckily, you can still get affordable options. When it comes to quality, board feel, comfort, style, and even pricing, Nike’s done it!
But for some reason, many young skaters seem to prefer Vans over Nike. I don’t know why that’s the case considering Vans aren’t the cheapest skate shoes out there. I think it’s because Vans are the coolest skate shoes ever made. But, hey, that’s just my opinion.
When a passionate coach and an entrepreneurial student decide to work together, they achieve great things. And things weren’t any different when one track-and-field coach, Bill Bowerman, and one of his former students, Phi Knight decided to build a retail outlet for sports goods in 1964.
The duo would launch the now ubiquitous Nike brand 6 six years later in 1972. But the company became Nike Inc. in 1978, going public in 1980. The brand’s seen steady growth over the years, winning just like the athletes who wear its great sneakers and skate shoes.
Nike goes all out when it comes to marketing. Everyone with a smattering of marketing knowledge is familiar with the brand’s slogan, Just Do it as well as the insanely famous logo, the Swoosh. Between 1971 and 1985, the Swoosh always appeared alongside the name Nike. Today, the logo is shown alone, and everyone who’s not been living under a rock instantly recognizes it.
But did you know the Nike Swoosh was created by a student studying graphic design at Portland State University, Carolyn Davidson? She needed a bit of extra cash, and when assistant professor Phil Knight offered her a side job, she grabbed it. Believe it or not, she worked for $2 an hour then, earning just $35 for the entire project!
The name Nike itself comes from a Greek Goddess, Nike, who represents speed, strength, and victory. Maybe the company’s phenomenal success has something to do with the goddess, who knows. You, too, can have victory, speed, and power. Just pick the best Nike Skate shoes you can afford, and magic will happen.
About 56% of 312 voters chose Nike as their most preferred skate shoe brand, with 44% favoring other brands. I found this a little surprising, wondering what would make anyone not like this iconic brand.
Wasn’t Nike supposed to be everyone’s choice when it comes to sports shoes? Well, the survey suggests a moderate rather than a strong preference for the brand. It seems like smaller brands such as Vans and the rest of them have been nibbling away at Nike’s market share. Or, could it be that the days of brand loyalty are gone?
7. DC Shoes Review
Who says only Ivy League kids can achieve enormous success? Turns out community college grads, too, can become hugely successful in life. When other kids were (likely) partying all the time, Ken Block and Damon Way had other ideas — starting a business.
But before they launched DC shoes, the two buddies started several other businesses. They founded Eightball Clothing, Type A Snowboards, Blunt Magazine, and Droors Clothing, which later morphed into DC Shoes.
The brand was established in 1993, and it raked in $1.5 million that year. Fast forward to 2003, and the business garnered $100 million in sales for the first time. A year later, Quicksilver acquired the company, a behemoth that helped the company pull in a whopping $1 billion in sales!
DC skate shoes are quite popular these days. I keep seeing them everywhere I go skating. People naturally want to associate themselves with winners. It’s hardly surprising they’re increasingly choosing DC skate shoes. Nearly 58% of participants in the little survey expressed satisfaction with DC Shoes. The rest had their eyes set on different offerings.
Good But Not Excellent Skate Shoe Brands
Skate shoe brands including eS Footwear, Supra, Circa, DVS Shoes, Huf, Globe, and New Balance Numeric didn’t perform well in the survey. While each brand had more upvotes than downvotes, the difference was marginal.
But I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Converse in this crowd. I mean, everyone out there seems to vouch for Converse, right? Well, not really if the data I saw is anything to go by. Out of 219 votes, 54% represented a preference for other brands while just 46% upvoted Converse. That’s way, way below my expectations.
But things got worse when it came to Puma SE, Airwalk, Filament, owned-owned Reebok, and Osiris Shoes. The survey revealed that many people don’t find these brands appealing for some reason. I didn’t expect Adidas-owned Reebok to be in this category, did you?
I’d always thought these brands were popular, but all of them fared pretty badly. For Reebok, Puma SE, Filament, Airwalk, and Osiris Shoes, only 25%, 34%, 16%, 32%, and 41% respectively upvoted these brands.
You Seek Reliable Information
Pretty much everyone today asks around before shelling out for a product. And you likely are like everyone else when it comes to buying stuff online. You never want to toss your hard-earned dollars down the drain. Instead, you want to listen to someone who knows what they’re saying. And is there anyone better to listen to than someone who’s been skateboarding since forever?
I’m a random skateboard-riding girl, someone you just bumped into online. And why should you listen to me? Look, you don’t need to trust me or anything I have to say. Why? Because I didn’t actually select the best skate shoes companies I present here. Passionate skating souls — folks like you and I— did. More on this in the section that follows.
How I Picked the Best Skate Shoe Brands
A company called Ranker conducted a small survey where they asked skaters to state their preferences. They had a list of 20 well-known brands, including that one. You know, the one with that hard-to-miss tag line. Yes, the one that wants you to just do it., Nike.
But how great are their skate shoes?
That’s why I crafted this post. I needed you to interact with a few of the best skateboard shoes brands. I’d also like you to note down the brands whose products consumers felt weren’t so great.
Look, this isn’t a sponsored post. The views expressed above are my own. And my opinions are based on the survey I mentioned above and also on my own experiences. I’m focused on only one thing —providing you with reliable information so you can snag the best skate shoe deals.
How to Choose the Right Skate Shoes
Choosing the right skate shoes isn’t exactly rocket science. However, the selection process can be daunting because you have bazillions of options to consider. In the end, though, the best skate shoes for you are those that provide the most comfort, grip, and board feel. The best pair maximally supports your chosen lifestyle, and it’s not obscenely pricey.
It’s true that not all brands are created equal. But I feel selection should be less about specific brands and more about product performance and personal preference. But there are a couple things you should know about skate shoes before hitting the online streets to shop.
Here’s what you should know.
7 Factors to Consider When Choosing Skate Shoes
These 5 factors should help you immensely while shopping.
1. Shoe Soles/Layers
Examine the shoe you’re eyeing to know how many layers it features. A good outsole provides enough grip and boardfeel. It also comes with a tread pattern that promotes grip and boardfeel. The Waffle sole and Herringbone treads are arguably the most popular tread patterns out there. In fact, most skate shoes feature either one or the other, and neither is superior to the other. Vans skate shoes, as mentioned elsewhere, have the Waffle outsole.
Then there’s the midsole. This layer is designed to provide a certain level of cushion to the wearer’s feet. Typically, the midsole is made from EVA foam, a lightweight, flexible material. Polyurethane and PU foam are also suitable midsole materials. If durability is important to you, you’re better off with PU foam midsole skate shoes.
Sitting atop the midsole is the insole, usually made of gel or foam or both. Insoles may be fixed or removable. Removable insoles allow you to take them out and put better ones inside. This layer’s job, like the midsole, is to add cushioning.
But what’s better, a thinner or thicker insole/midsole? If boardfeel matters more to you than anything else, thinner ones are better. But if you’re always dropping from heights, you need a bit more cushioning. And that normally means thicker soles. I’ve explained elsewhere in this post how skate shoe companies are balancing between boardfeel and cushioning.
Finally, you may choose a pair with heel cushioning. This is another addition you’ll want to consider if you do lots of ollieing. In most cases, inclusion of this layer culminates in increased production costs, which translates to higher unit price. But do you really need it? I wouldn’t pay more to get just that.
The material used on a pair of skate shoes determines to some extent their longevity. Typically, full-grain leather skate shoes last the longest. But they’re not popular with skateboarders. That’s because they don’t offer much grip.
Plus, leather isn’t the most comfortable or flexible material out there. You can also choose Nobuck leather, a kind of leather that’s buffed and feels pretty much like velvet. But Nobuck leather skate shoes aren’t common because, truth be told, they don’t skate that well. But at least, this material outlasts suede. I’d go for suede any day, though.
Most skaters would agree that suede skate shoes are the finest offerings on the market. They last considerably long and are quite flexible. And if you want something softer that offers better feel and flexibility, go for shoes made of pig suede. But they’re expensive, and not many stores carry them.
Other common materials are canvas and synthetics. Canvas is light, much lighter than most materials. And not surprisingly, it delivers more flexibility. The downside is that canvas doesn’t last that long. At least, it’s not as durable as suede, synthetics, or leather. The good thing is that canvas skate shoes are quite affordable. Pick these for casual cruising. But understand they won’t take much abuse.
There are all kinds of technologies that help skate shoe manufacturers produce synthetic material that looks and feels like leather or suede. If you favor a more vegan lifestyle, get synthetic skate shoes.
Every skateboarder I know wears suede, though.
With the right fit, you feel no pain, discomfort, or reduced circulation. Also, you experience little to no heel-lift.
Now, tight or loose? You decide. It’s a personal preference thingy.
Here’s another VERY important question for you. Do I buy skate shoes in-store or online?
If you live near a store, then by all means buy in-store, as long as prices are right. Otherwise, it’s best to shop around (online). I mean, there are always great deals up for grabs.
But how do you size skate shoes if you wish to buy them online? It’s easy. Walk into a store and try the model you’re eyeing out for good fit. Afterward, whip out your card and buy your chosen product on Amazon or wherever if they’re cheaper there.
Here’s one more thing. Wear socks on when trying out the shoes for the best fit. And as you do all this, remember that every kind of skating shoe loosens up a bit after you break it in. So, keep that in mind as you shop.
The kind of skating you’re into largely determines how much boardfeel you need. If you’re a ledge skating guy, for instance, or do hours of flatground skating, pick options offering lots of boardfeel. Go for vulcanized shoes such as Vans. Also, pick models offering more cushioning. But remember, more cushioning typically means less boardfeel.
But remember, more cushioning typically means less boardfeel.
Here’s good news. Many skateboarding shoe brands today are striving to strike a balance between boardfeel and cushioning. They’re making skate shoes whose toe area is thinner than the rest of the shoe to boost boardfeel. And to increase impact-absorption capacity, manufacturers are adding more cushioning around the heels.
No one wants skate shoes that won’t help them stay on their skateboard without slippage. Grip is generally a function of what type of rubber the manufacturer uses. The stiffer the rubber, the less grip. On the other hand, the softer the rubber, the harder it is to flick. If grip is super important for you, buy vulcanized rather than cupsoles.
If grip is super important for you, buy vulcanized rather than cupsoles.
6. Overall Shoe Design
You want well-made skate shoes that are also easy on the eyes. You know, little things like stitching, silhouette, and general appearance matter.
You can choose either vulcanized or cupsole skate shoes. Cupsoles offer a more textured rubber finish. And they generally have a bit more stitching than vulcanized designs. Also, they’re somewhat stiffer, which means they’re less flexible than vulcanized options. And as you might expect, cupsoles take longer to break in.
Aside from that, cupsoles take impact better. In addition, the wearer gets more heel support, and the shoes last longer than their vulcanized counterparts. Plus, you’ll get less boardfeel with cupsoles. There’s one they’re less flexible than cupsoles and as you might expect take longer to break in. There’s one more thing: cupsoles come with a one-piece rubber sole.
Vulcanized shoes, on the other hand, feature a smoother rubber finish. Also, these shoes typically feature a foxing stripe covering the front part of the sole.
Here’s what’s great about vulcanized shoes. First off, they offer a lot more grip and boardfeel than cupsole shoes. What’s more, vulcanized options break in faster and provide a bit more flexibility. Maybe that’s why every great skateboarder wears these shoes even though they lack air pockets.
However, vulcanized shoes don’t provide as much heel support as cupsoles do. Plus, they don’t last as long. Another downside is that you’ll almost always need to obtain a high-quality insole.
I’m a vulcanized skate shoes girl, though. Pretty much all Vans are vulcanized.
Lastly, decide whether you want a low-top, mid-top, or high-top design. With a low-top design, you experience greater mobility but less protection. By contrast, a high-top design delivers more protection but less mobility than a low-top one. And then there’s mid-top designs that provide more mobility than high-top designs and more support than low-top styles.
Want your shoes to last longer? Grab a pair with a rubber toecap at the front. In fact, most brands add this durability-boosting feature.
When it comes to skate shoes, high prices don’t always translate to better quality. I know of a few models that cost a pretty penny yet get ruined (read get holes) in no time.
For me, $60 is about the most I’ll pay for a pair of skating shoes regardless the brand in question. Come to think of it. Actually, I rarely go past $40. But that doesn’t mean I’m a blinking cheapskate!
It’s just that I time my purchases with skate shoes clearance sales and get great items for cheap. I’ll let you in on another secret. Stay away from new models, that is, if you want to get more for your money. New models tend to be unjustifiably expensive. It’s best to wait a year or two before buying a new good pair.
Best Skate Shoe Brands: Final Thoughts
Admittedly, it’s a small survey. And it’s possible the numbers don’t reflect prevalent preferences in the skate shoe market. Still, I’m convinced the numbers are of some consequence.
Choosing seemingly popular brands such as Puma SE, Osiris, Airwalk, Reebok, and Converse may not always be the smartest decision. Maybe you’ll want to give smaller brands such as Etnies Shoes, Emerica, or Lakai a chance. They’re not bad at all. In fact, they offer some of the best skate shoes I’ve reviewed on this skating reviews website.
And of course, Vans, Nike, and Adidas sit solidly in the top spots. In the end, though, only skating a brand’s product can reveal whether it’s worth the money. Happy skateboarding!