From Etnies and Vans to Nike SB and DC, you’re never going to be left short when it comes to buying a pair of skateboarding shoes. We’ve compiled a list of the best and most iconic skate shoes over the years from the best skate shoe brands.
As far as trainers are concerned, skate shoes only really surfaced in the mid Sixties. Sure skaters were wearing brands like Converse to skate in, but in 1965 The Randolph Rubber Company was the first brand to put out proper made-for-skating shoes. At this point skateboards didn’t have grip tape and so all the grip had to come from the shoes. The shoes used Randyprene rubber and this was enough to keep the grip.
The company fizzled out though, but two employees thought there was still room for improvement against competitors like Converse, Randy’s and Keds. Jim and Paul Van Doren started manufacturing skate shoes under the name Vans (Van Doren Rubber Company) in 1965. Vans offered one style of shoe which was known as the #44 Vans Deck Shoe and came in four colors – navy, white, red and loden green. The company began taking orders for custom shoes after it sold 16 pairs of shoes on its first day.
Fastforward to 1975 and Vans had been adopted by skateboarding trainer fans as the go-to brand. The Z-boys, fronted by Tony Alva and Stacey Peralta, were the most famous faces to wear Vans. By 1977 other brands had began to take notice, with the likes of Makaha and Hobie selling their Vans skater’s shoes as appropriate skateboard trainers. Then came Nike and people began to see its All-Court, Blazer and Bruin styles as suitable for skating. Meanwhile in Britain and Europe people were using Dunlop’s shoes and Adidas for skating. Despite this, Vans remained the most popular choice.
By the late Seventies brands like Airwalk and Vision Street Wear had begun manufacturing skate shoes. By the 1980s Converse had re-emerged after a brief stint away with a new style – the Chuck Taylor. 1993 saw the emergence of Etnies which brought a new spin on the high-top skate shoe – they introduced the low-top and the Es Koston is an example of this. During the 1990s Adidas, Converse and Nike all became specialist skate shoe brands, with skateboarding becoming a legitimate sport.
Nowadays skaters are spoiled for choice – brands such as DC, Supra, Emerika and Lakai sit alongside Nike, Vans and Adidas. Here’s our pick of the best skater shoes out there for those looking to buy good skate shoes.
6. DC Flawless
Rob Dyderk was an original rider for DC and the DC Flawless is one of his 29 signature styles, and most likely the best and most acclaimed. Made with durable suede and featuring a foam padded tongue, the trainers came with a welcome change to typical skate shoes. They featured new thinner laces, rather than the classic thick ones seen on most skate shoes. The sole too featured a unique design and was split into three for extra flexibility.
5. Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski
By 1998 Skateboarding was seen as a legitimate sport and brands like Nike tried to cash in on it. Skaters were unimpressed however and decided to boycott Nike and other brands like Adidas’ efforts. In 2001 Nike came back with the Nike SB and the trainer has just gone from strength to strength.
4. Vans Sk8 Hi
In the Eighties the Vans Sk8 Hi became popular when people began to get tired of the Nike Air Jordans. It was introduced in 1978 as ‘Style 78’ and used the side stripe that is now so well-known (it originally started as a doodle from founder Paul Van Doren). These were so popular that people began to customise their Sk8 Hi shoes and cut the tops off – this led to the creation of the mid top once Vans got wind of it. The Vans Sk8 Hi is definitely one of the best Vans shoes.
3. Air Jordan 1
Nike didn’t initially try to get into skateboarding and only accidentally got involved. The Air Jordan 1 was originally released as a shoe for Michael Jordan, created by Peter C. Moore. The Air Jordan was invented as a result of the NBA’s strict uniforms and Moore wanted to reverse this. Skaters liked this, as skating was seen as an outcast sport, and they adopted the Air Jordan as their own, once price points dropped a little.
2. Nike Dunk Low Pro SB
Released in 1985, the Nike Dunk has become a firm skater favourite. It originally began life as a basketball shoe, but was picked up by skaters due to its versatility and movement when skating. The Nike Dunk SB was released in 2002 and is a skate specific design.
1. Vans Half Cab
It has been agreed by most that the Vans Half Cab is the ultimate skater shoe. The trainer was Steve Cabellero’s second offering for Vans after he and Vans noticed that fans were after a mid top version of their original hi top. It has now been in the Vans family for over twenty years and its design has been copied by many brands. The Half Cab was slightly altered and the Cabellero patch on the side was taken off and replaced with the words ‘Half Cab’ and a picture of Cabellero performing a half cab.
The 6 best skate shoes ever
- DC Flawless
- Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski
- Vans Sk8 Hi
- Air Jordan 1
- Nike Dunk Low Pro SB
- Vans Half Cab
On That Note
At one time or another most sports brands have tried to get in on the skateboarding trend, especially since it became a certified sport. The standout brands are Nike, DC and Vans and have been forerunners in creating what skate shoes are today.