When you hear the term “skate shoes” what comes to mind? Is it a certain brand? Or a certain look? What really separates a regular shoe from a shoe that is intended to skate is technology. A good skate shoe is built in a specific way to work the way that a skater needs it to. Just like a running shoe or a hiking boot, skate shoes are specifically made for the support that you need when skating. Protection, strength, reinforcement in the right places, all these things play a key part in building a proper skate shoe. In this article we will break down what all the various terms mean and what you need to look for the next time you venture out to find a new pair of kicks.
Materials play a huge part in the potential life of a skate shoe. Materials like canvas and hemp will not have the power to hold up like suede or leather but may offer other benefits like light in weight and breathable. You have to decide what you need based on how hard you are skating. If you are just pushing around town, canvas or hemp will work just fine. If you are doing more technical street skating, go for suede or leather. These tougher materials will hold up better to wear and tear from griptape and concrete.
The stitching in your shoes is essentially the reinforcement. Thorough stitching will help keep your shoes from blowing out quickly and will offer extra support in key zones. Most skate shoes will offer double or triple stitching around the toe box and into the kick flip zones. These high impact zones will interact with rough materials frequently so this extra support is key.
Profile (low – mid – high)
This category relies pretty heavily on personal preference but we will out line some key benefits to each. A classic “low top” shoe will offer a ton of mobility and not restrict you in any way. Mid’s are also a popular choice because they offer a little more support than a low top but are not as bulky or restrictive as a full high top shoe. High tops will offer the most protection around your ankles but can also feel bulky. The best thing you can do is give each option a shot and see what works best for you.
Sole Construction – Vulcanized vs Cupsole
These are two terms that you will hear tossed around quite a bit in skateboarding and generally speaking, you side with one or the other. This is definitely a personal preference category. Don’t just trust what your friend tells you to skate, get out there and find out for yourself. Each has major benefits and since we all have different feet, chances are one will work better for you than the other.
Vulcanized soles will offer the best in board feel and flexibility thanks to their gummy, pliable feel. The downside of a vulc sole is they lack in heel support due to their super flat shape. For ground tricks and technical street skating, vulc soles will excel. If you are hurling yourself down a 15 stair, you might want to look into cupsoles. The process of making a vulc shoe is fairly simple. The rubber bottom of the shoe is heated, which creates elasticity and strength, then adhered to the top part of the shoe. This process is stronger than traditional glues an since there is nothing but a rubber sole between you and the skateboard creating the feeling of ‘better board feel’ that everyone talks about. Again, the downside is not much support, and that’s the reason some people prefer cupsoles.
Cupsole construction is also very popular among many skaters. The easiest way to remember the difference is a cupsole “cups” your foot in a way that offers more protections than traditional vulc soles. Cupsole construction is generally harder feeling, offering more foot and ankle support by creating a thicker barrier between you and your board. The downside of this is obviously less board feel. When cupsole shoes are made, the bottom and top part of the shoe are two separate pieces that get sewn together. This process allows various companies to add all sorts of features to the lower part of the shoe before application. You could see airbags, heel support, arch support and other various features in these shoes, as appose to a traditional vulc sole that can only offer the classic rubber bottom. Again, the benefit of a cupsole is much more support and protection, the downside is less board feel.
This part varies from brand to brand so we won’t get too specific but skateboarders being the creative geniuses that they are, add a lot of random, fun features to their shoes. This can range from elastic reinforcement in the tongue so you don’t actually have to tie your shoes, ‘sock liners’ that coat the inside of the shoe giving you a smooth feeling when you are not wearing socks and maybe stash pockets built into the tongue of the shoe for your, um, important things. Check out the specific shoe that you are interested in for any special features.
We have a wide range of skate shoes here at Windward so be sure to check out our current selection of skate shoes and let us know if we can help you find the perfect pair.