What makes the perfect skateboarding shoe? It may seem like a simple question, but there are actually several different things to consider.
So, before you purchase your first (or next) pair of skateboard shoes, take a look at this guide.
How to Choose the Best Skateboarding Shoes
A skate shoe is not simply an urban footwear brand that looks cool. The fashion aspect is certainly important, but the following factors are arguably just as important (if not more so) when buying skateboarding shoes.
Elvis made a pretty big deal about people stepping on his blue suede shoes, but The King need not have worried, as suede is a very durable and hard-wearing material.
The most durable skate shoes are often made from suede. It’s thin, it’s breathable, it’s stylish, and it’s highly resistant to abrasions and tears. Suede shoes do a tendency to hold water, though, and your feet may get a little soggy after extended sessions.
Other skate shoe materials to consider include leather, which is even tougher but also even more prone to overheating, and canvas, which is more common but also less durable.
Some of the best skate shoes actually use a blend of different materials, aiming to create something that is durable, light, breathable, and strong.
The difference in materials is one of the reasons why it’s so important to get shoes that are actually designed for skaters. If not, you may end up with some flimsy material that falls apart as soon as you perform a heel brake.
- Leather Shoes: Strong, durable, hard-wearing, but also very rigid and not breathable.
- Suede Shoes: Very durable and cost-effective but not very breathable.
- Canvas Shoes: Breathable, lightweight, but not very durable.
- Textile/Mixture Shoes: Varied benefits. Could cost a lot more.
A high-quality, sought-after fashion sneaker can cost upwards of $200. If you’re buying limited editions, you could pay 2x or even 3x that amount.
With skate shoes, however, you shouldn’t need to pay that much.
Many of the best skateboard shoes retail at around $50 and if you stretch your budget to $100, you’ll have your pick of the best shoes on the market.
Heel and Toe Protection (Toe Caps)
Most skate shoes now use top caps to protect high-wear areas of the shoe. These rubber strips are placed over or under the shoe and provide some additional protection.
Not only does it cushion the blow, but if the cap is placed underneath, it means your foot is not exposed in the event that the material wears away.
Heel support is also important, if not more so. It’s an area that the best skate shoe brands have focused on more than any other, creating their own proprietary blends or cushions to deliver extra comfort.
A heel support will prolong the life of the shoe when you perform heel brakes and it’ll also take some of the shock away when you land.
Grip and Support
Grip is a basic function and one that you can find on most skateboard shoes. It helps you to stick to the board and gives you more control.
Comfort and Style
Although the best skateboard shoes are designed for practicality, you also need to think about comfort and aesthetics.
After all, no one wants to wear a pair of skateboard shoes that look drab and feel like ill-fitting clogs.
Cushions inside the shoes can offer some of these comforts, as can the material used to construct the shoe in the first place.
Height and Style
Skateboarding shoes are available as low-tops and high-tops, as well as shoes that sit somewhere in the middle.
High-tops offer some ankle protection, but they may also feel more rigid. Low-tops are more common and provide additional mobility, but your ankles won’t be protected.
Slip-ons should also be considered. They tend to provide a better board-feel as they are very thin and light, but the result is that you will lose some protection.
Some of the best skate shoes are slip-ons, but as with everything else, it all comes down to what you prefer.
Do I Need Skateboard Shoes?
Skate shoes are not necessarily essential, and it is possible to ride freely and comfortably without them.
However, normal shoes tend to lack ankle support, thick soles, top caps, heel protection, and extra cushioning. They won’t protect you as much and they will break down very quickly, potentially leaving your feet exposed. At the very least, you’ll destroy those casual sneakers.
If you’re going to be skating a lot, we recommend looking into purchasing some new skate shoes. If you’re a skater who needs new sneakers, you should also look for some skating shoes.
But if you’re just looking to pull a few tricks or cruise for a few miles and you have some old sneakers lying around, just use them.
Summary: What is the Best Skate Shoe?
If we take all of the above into account, the best skateboarding shoes are probably skate-specific sneakers made by brands like Vans, Adidas, Emerica, Nike, Converse, and DC Shoes. But it’s a broad spectrum and everyone’s needs are different.
Your budget, preference, and skating style will ultimately determine the best skateboard shoes for you. Just keep the above recommendations in mind to make sure you get some good skate shoes that will actually last, and not crumble to dust like so many fashionable sneakers.