Skateboarding shoes have come a long way. They are no longer dedicated to those who can kickflip and stall an axle, and have all versions of Tony Hawk’s professional skater. They are now a huge category for giant shoe brands; names like Adidas, Nike, Converse and Vans have practically covered the market, creating new styles and regularly reissuing classics for pros and sideliners. Damn, I have skate shoes. And it comes from a guy whose only experiences with the skate subculture came in the form of an Avril Lavigne song and Dior Homme’s fall 2016 runway show.
For those who read Mocker religiously, however, the best skate shoes aren’t about fashion week and the ‘Sk8er Boi’. They aim to maximize performance. To minimize the impact of landing huge ollies and to withstand the wear and tear that comes with tricks, designs need to be lightweight, durable and comfortable. Some padding, especially on the tongue and ankle, goes a long way, as do the reinforced toes and lace guards. Vulcanized rubber soles that reduce the heat generated by friction are also essential. And more importantly, flat, archless silhouettes are a requirement; they help with balance, allowing runners to better feel the movement of the bridge.
Skateboarding is a sport – an Olympic from 2020 – that goes against the laws of physics; it takes a lot of skill to grind and wallride. And, if you ask any pro, only the right types of shoes are equipped to defy gravity. Even the smallest deviation in design can make or break a trick, which is why brands partner with the biggest names in the industry, bringing together their experience and notoriety to create and promote products aimed at Category A winners.
Do you want to take the top step of the podium? From OGs to modern classics, we’ve got 12 medal-worthy options that will let you glide along ramps like Tony Hawk, or, if you’re like me, just emulate the style of a skater boy from authentic way.
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To paraphrase Tony Hawk in stale fish, the real skateboarders of the 80s wore Vans. The brand was founded in 1966, but it really made its mark in the skate community when it introduced the Sk8-Hi (née “Style 38”) a decade later. Indeed, the shoe included features specially designed for the sport, including padding in the ankle guards and a patented waffle sole for better grip. Various variations in colors and materials have been introduced over the years, but its construction and must-have jazz stripe have remained intact. And from 2020, Hawk is back, once again becoming the ambassador of the legendary brand.
Louie Lopez Pro OX Shoe
Long before skateboarding even existed, Converse was here, outfitting guys for a variety of sports, especially basketball with the Chuck Taylor All-Star. Indeed, style has all the assets of an ideal skate shoe. But relatively recently, 2019 to be exact, skateboarding pro Louie Lopez, with help from the Converse CONS team, made it better. Building on the Chuck Taylor All-Star outsole, Lopez has added a perforated tongue for breathability, a collar that maximizes heel lockdown, and molded Ortho Lithe sock liners for added comfort.
Lynx Zero Skate Shoe
High-top shoes were the name of the skate game at the time. But that all changed when DC (along with other brands) started producing low-cut styles around the early 90s, leading to the introduction of the famous Lynx sneaker in 1998. Designed by Sung Choi, the style became famous from the start, thanks in large part to pros like Brian Wenning and Josh Kalis wearing them frequently to tournaments. Several birthdays later, the OG version still holds up.
Marana low-cut skate shoe
Etnies was founded in 1986 with the goal of producing the most efficient and performing skate shoes. And that’s what he did with the Marana, a sneaker that features Pro 1 foam for shock absorption and STI Evolution foam for durability. But the resistance piece in the Michelin rubber outsole – yes, like the rubber found on the wheels of most cars – then you know it’s going to be tough. The material of the rod is not to be outdone, a technical fiber known to last a long time.
When it comes to idiosyncratic skateboarders, Dennis Busenitz tops most lists. So it’s no surprise that the shoes he designed with Adidas, a partnership that began almost two decades ago, fit the same bill. The German professional skater and the German label have released many variations of the sneakers that bear the Busenitz name, but what binds them all together is the molded Adiprene sockliner, the non-slip GEOFIT collar and the abrasion resistant toes – characteristics that allow greater agility and durability.
The Adidas skate team is to beat; with a legend like Busenitz, the brand also has one of the hottest newcomers, Tyshawn Jones, in its arsenal. The Three Stripes picked up Bronx-born Jones in 2014, four years before he was named Skater of the Year by Mocker at 19 years old. And, her shoes, as is often the case with most Gen Zers, put the style front and center. Along with the ideal components for skateboarding, including Adituff toe pads and high-quality EVA midsoles, its designs often feature perforated uppers, sockliner details and signature stitched in gold.
Catiba Pro shoe
Cariuma didn’t set out to be a skateboard brand when it launched in 2018. The goal of founders David Python and Fernando Porto was to create sneakers made from ethical and eco-friendly materials. But skateboarders quickly began to embrace the styles and Cariuma pivoted: the brand introduced its first skate shoe, the Catiba Pro, and formed its own team of pros, including Jagger Eaton, Chris Pierre and Tyler Jeremy, in 2020. And luckily would have it, each of them was an Olympic finalist, instantly propelling the sustainable-minded label onto the world stage.
Bruin React skate shoe
Marty McFly walking past Burger King, passing from car to car on the way to school is a scene skateboarders will never forget. Indeed, the character fueled by the anguish of Back to the future and subsequent sequels are widely credited with boosting the sport in the ’80s. And his sneakers were the Nike Bruins in a must-have red and white colourway. It was originally a low-top basketball shoe, first released in 1972, but its lightness and flexibility made it ideal for skateboarding as well. And thanks to McFly, he’s set in the sky of all-time great skate shoes.
Nyjah Free 2 skate shoe
Nyjah Huston is one of the biggest names in skateboarding today, winning more competitions and cash prizes than any other pro in the history of the sport. Capitalizing on this notoriety, Nike reclaimed Houston and presented its signature skate shoe in 2018. The Nyjah sneaker features a rubber upper with mesh panels for breathability and a rubber outsole with deep grooves. which expand and contract with movement.
Numeric Tiago Lemos 1010 shoes
The ultimate shoe for dad isn’t just for baby boomers. In 2012, New Balance launched Numeric, a full line of sneakers specially designed for playful skateboarders. There are many styles in the collection, but the best of them is the Tiago. Named after pro Tiago Lemos, the shoe features a FuelCell foam midsole, rubber outsoles and lace up closures for a secure fit. The real highlight, however, is the eye-catching interplay of suede and mesh on the upper.
Dunk Low Laser Blue Shoe
Yes, Nike claims what may be the best skate shoes in the cinema (see the Bruins), but the brand has admittedly been slow in the skateboarding arena. The Swoosh started to woo skateboarders in 1997, but the label really caught the eye when it introduced the Nike SB line, the first model being Dunk Low. The sneaker featured a Poron foam bed, padded collar, and pull tab. The style took off like a gangbuster, and now, decades later, it has a resale value of up to 300% compared to retail.
Ball Star leather trainers
Golden Goose and skateboarding didn’t go hand in hand at the start. But the brand beloved by fashion insiders for its distressed sneakers is trying to change that. In 2021, GG teamed up with Cory Juneau, a pro who won the first Olympic bronze medal in skateboarding. And throughout the tournament and on the podium, he wore the Ball Star, a shoe with a cushioned sockliner and tongue. Additionally, the label has erected a skate park on the shores of Venice, Italy, to let the skate community know he’s here to play with the grown-ups.
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