The Best Skate Shoes Will Trick You Out in More Ways Than One

Skate shoes have come a long way. No longer are they devoted to those that can kickflip and axle stall, and have every version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. They are now a huge category for behemoth footwear brands; names like Adidas, Nike, Converse, and Vans have virtually covered the market, creating new styles and reissuing classics regularly for pros and sideliners alike. Hell, I have skate shoes. And this is coming from a fella whose only experiences with the skateboarding subculture comes in the form of an Avril Lavigne song and Dior Homme’s fall 2016 runway show.

For those that read Thrasher religiously, however, the best skate shoes aren’t about fashion week and bopping to “Sk8er Boi.” They are about maximizing performance. To minimize the impact of landing huge ollies and to withstand the wear and tear that comes with doing tricks, designs need to be lightweight, durable, and comfortable. Some cushioning, particularly in the tongue and ankle, goes a long way, as do reinforced toes and lace savers. Vulcanized rubber soles that mitigate heat generated from friction are also key. And most importantly, flat, arch-less silhouettes are a requisite; they help with balance, allowing riders to feel the movement of the deck better.

Skateboarding is a sport—an Olympic one as of 2020—that pretty much 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 kind of shoes are equipped to defy gravity. The slightest deviation in design can make or break a trick, which is why brands partner with the biggest names in the biz, gathering their experience and notoriety to create and promote product that are for grade-A winners.

Looking to reach the top of podium? From an OG to modern-day classics, we have 12 medal-worthy options that’ll have you gliding along ramps like Tony Hawk, or, if you’re like me, just emulating the style of a skater boy authentically.

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SK8-Hi Shoe

To paraphrase ​​Tony Hawk in Stalefish, real skateboarders in the 1980s wore Vans. The brand was founded in 1966, but it really took hold of the skateboarding community when it introduced the Sk8-Hi (née “Style 38”) a decade later. This is because the shoe included features specifically made for the sport, including padding in the ankle guards and a patented waffle sole for a better grip. Different variations in colors and materials have been introduced throughout the years, but its construction and unmissable jazz stripe have remained intact. And as of 2020, Hawk is back at it, once again becoming the ambassador of the storied brand.

Louie Lopez Pro OX Shoe

Long before skateboarding even existed, Converse was around, outfitting guys for a variety of sports—particularly basketball with the Chuck Taylor All-Star.  Indeed, the style has all the makings of an ideal skate shoe. But relatively recently, 2019 to be exact, skateboarding pro Louie Lopez, with the help of  the Converse CONS team, made it better. Building upon the Chuck Taylor All-Star outsole, Lopez added a perforated tongue for breathability, a collar that maximizes heel lock down, and molded Ortho Lithe sock liners for extra comfort.  

Lynx Zero Skate Shoe

High-tops were the name of the skateboarding game back in the day. But all that changed when DC (along with other brands) began producing low-cut styles around the early ’90s, leading to the introduction of the celebrated Lynx sneaker in 1998. Designed by Sung Choi, the style skyrocketed to fame from the go, in large part thanks to pros like Brian Wenning and Josh Kalis who wore them frequently at tournaments. Several anniversaries later, the OG version still holds up. 

Marana Low-Top Skate Shoe

Etnies was founded in 1986 with the goal of producing the most efficient, high-performing skate shoes. And it did so with the Marana, a sneaker that features Pro Foam 1 for impact absorption and STI Evolution Foam for durability. But the pièce de résistance in the Michelin rubber outsole—yeah, like the rubber found on the wheels of most cars—so you know that it’s gonna be tough. Not to outdone is the material of the upper, a technical fiber that is known to last the long haul.   

Busenitz Shoe

When it comes to idiosyncratic skateboarders, Dennis Busenitz tops most lists. It should come as no surprise, then, that the shoes he has designed with Adidas, a partnership that began almost two decades ago, fit the same bill. The German pro skater and German label have released many variations of the sneakers that bear the Busenitz name, but what ties them all together are the molded Adiprene sockliner, anti-slip GEOFIT collar, and abrasion-resistant toe boxes—features that allow for greater agility and durability.

Tyshawn Shoe

Adidas’s team of skateboarders is one to beat; along with a legend like Busenitz, the brand also has one of the hottest newcomers, Tyshawn Jones, in its arsenal. The Three Stripes scooped up the Bronx-born Jones back in 2014, four years before he was named Skater of the Year by Thrasher at 19 years old. And, his shoes, as is often the case with most Gen Zers, place style front and center. Along with the components that are ideal for skateboarding—including Adituff toe reinforcements and high-grade EVA midsoles—his designs often feature perforated vamps, insole detailing, and his signature stitched in gold. 

Catiba Pro Shoe

Cariuma didn’t set out to be a skateboarding brand when it launched in 2018. The goal of founders David Python and Fernando Porto was to create sneakers that were made from ethically-sourced, eco-friendly materials. But skaters started taking to the styles rapidly, 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 as luck would have it, each of them were Olympic finalists, instantly skyrocketing the sustainably minded label onto the global stage. 

Bruin React Skate Shoe

Marty McFly zooming past Burger King, skitching from one car to the next on his way to school is a scene that skateboarders will never forget. Indeed, the angst-fueled character from Back to the Future and subsequent sequels is widely credited for spurring the sport on in the ’80s. And his sneakers so happened to be the Nike Bruin in an unmissable red and white colorway. It was originally a low-top basketball shoe, first released in 1972, but its lightness and flexibility made it ideal for skateboarding, too. And thanks to McFly, it is fixed in the firmament 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 prize money than any other pro in the sport’s history. Capitalizing on this notoriety is Nike, scooping up Houston and introducing his signature skate shoe in 2018. The Nyjah sneaker features a rubber upper with mesh panels for breathability, and rubber outsoles with deep grooves that expand and contract with movement. 

Numeric Tiago Lemos 1010 Shoes

New Balance

The ultimate dad shoe ain’t just for Boomers. In 2012, New Balance released Numeric, a full line of sneakers specifically geared toward sprightly 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 cup outsoles, and lace 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 holds claim to what is perhaps the best skate shoes in cinema (see the Bruin), but the brand was admittedly slow to the skateboarding sphere. The Swoosh began wooing skateboarders in 1997, but the label really garnered attention when it introduced the Nike SB line, with the first model being Dunk Low. The sneaker featured a Poron foam bed, padded collar, and tongue. The style took off like gangbusters, and now, several decades later, it has a resale value up to 300 percent over retail.

Ball Star Leather Sneaker

Golden Goose

Golden Goose and skateboarding didn’t initially go hand in hand. But the brand beloved by fashion insiders for its distressed sneakers is trying to change that. In 2021, GG partnered with Cory Juneau, a pro that won the first Olympic bronze medal in skateboarding. And throughout the tournament and on the podium, he wore the Ball Star, a shoe that features a ​​cushioned insole and tongue. What’s more, the label erected a skate park on the banks of Venice, Italy, letting the skateboarding community know that it’s here to play with the big boys. 

Barry Samaha is the style commerce editor at Esquire, where he covers all things fashion and grooming.

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Source : Esquire