The best skate shoes to buy in 2021

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We’ve all been there: 13-year-olds, a skateboard folded under their arm, and a pair of baggy jeans hanging precariously around their buttocks. To tie the look together, two sneakers so puffy they would make a pair of Ugg boots look positively aerodynamic. Skate shoes. Unless you’re one of the 0.000001 percent of people who have made the transition from a gangly misfit teenager to a pro skateboarder, chances are the only skate shoes you’ve considered are models. Classic vans, like the Old Skool and Authentic, which have been popular outside of the halfpipe for decades. Other designs, especially the puffy and bubbly ’90s styles, were last spotted when your voice broke. Don’t be too quick to dismiss them, however. Skateboarding shoes have come a long way in the past ten or two years. Silhouettes have been refined, simplicity reigns supreme again and what remains of oversized models have been given new legitimacy thanks to the fashion world ‘s fixation on chunky sneakers. At the same time, skate brands have been all the rage for a few years as retro styles and informality dominate men’s clothing.

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What makes skate shoes?

If you don’t already know what we’re talking about here, the clue is in the name. These are shoes designed for skateboarding. It all started in the late 1960s in Anaheim, California, when a small brand by the name of Vans began designing shoes for SoCal’s most popular new hobby. Skateboarding was developing rapidly, and as four-wheeled boards went global, so did footwear designed to ride them. In the time since the 60s, skate shoes got stronger, shrunken, got very technical and then again openly minimalist.

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Throughout, however, there have remained several constants that have become key identifiers for this breed of performance footwear. Grippy flat soles, reinforced stress points to resist grip abrasions, strategically placed padding to prevent ankle injuries and the enduring popularity of the “pro model”. Previously, most of the brands selling skate shoes were small brands owned by riders. However, with the skate clothing itself and the sport’s growing popularity – 2020 marks the sport’s first appearance at the Olympics – many leading sports companies have managed to make their mark. Here we take a look at the most dominant brands in the scene, and why they deserve your hard-earned money.

The best brands of skate shoes

Nike SB

When Nike SB first appeared in 1997, it was greeted with disdain by the skateboarding community. A global sports conglomerate trying to capitalize on a sport defined by its anti-establishment philosophy was never going to be an overnight success, right? Decades later, however, Nike SB has proven to be useful in bringing skateboarding to a wider audience. Plus, with some of the sport’s most iconic pro models – Stafan Janoski, we’re watching you – it’s not hard to see why the brand has earned the respect of the community. Buy now

Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski RM

Vans

It would be impossible to overstate the impact of Californian brand Vans on skate shoes. After all, he single-handedly spawned the whole concept. Key styles like the Sk8 Hi and the Authentic have become icons of skate culture; as popular today as they were revolutionary in the 60s and 70s. Elsewhere, models like the Old Skool and the Slip-On have taken over the fashion world, opening up the Vans brand to a new audience and making these models. Simplistic skate shoes a global footwear phenomenon. Buy now

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VANS OLD SKOOL PORK SUEDE

Converse

You know this best as a brand that has been making the best canvas basketball sneakers in the game for over 100 years, but over the past decade Converse has also made inroads into the skateboarding world. Cons is the skate arm of the label, with an impressive roster of pro skateboarders. At its head, a crack team of sneaker designers tasked with reworking classic styles like the Chuck Taylor All Star and the One Star for the skateboard market. But these aren’t all updates on the classics, Cons-exclusive models like the Alexis Pro have also become icons in their own right. Buy now

A pro Alexis Sablone star

New balance

Another sneaker brand specializing in skateboarding is Boston heavy hitter New Balance. The brand’s ‘Numeric’ imprint aims to do for skate shoes what its older brother did for running shoes. That is to say, make the best leave. The Numeric brand has been around since 2013 and offers pro-approved skateboarding shoes with the comfort, quality and reliability of the New Balance brand. Look for the brand’s pro models like Jamie Foy and innovative technologies like seamless uppers and ultra-light cushioning. Buy now

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Adidas Skateboarding

What? You thought adidas was just going to sit back and look like their big rival Nike monopolized the skate shoe market on its own? Think again. Adidas Skateboarding is the Three Stripes’ attempt to take a piece of the skate shoe pie, merging classic Adidas style with technical and skater-friendly features. Expect a simple style, lots of suede, and even a familiar silhouette or two, but with a few skateboard-centric tweaks. Buy now

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Huf

Founded by pro skater Keith Hufnagel in 2002, Huf was one of the labels that contributed to the thinning of skate shoes. A cult favorite among connoisseurs, Huf’s shoes, many of which feature a large “H” on the side, appear simple and stripped-down on the surface, but packed with technical features. In addition to shoes, there is also a whole range of streetwear clothing. Look for the iconic ‘Plantlife’ socks – a staple in any self-respecting skater’s underwear drawer. Buy now

HUF GALAXY

CC

You don’t have to be an avid skateboarder to know DC. The shoe brand, created by Ken Block and Damon Way, is a go-to brand not only in skating, but snowboarding, BMX and all kinds of other extreme sports as well. In the late 90s and early 2000s, DC had the whole thing of puffy skate shoes on lockdown. A pair of DCs was the holy grail of oversized shoes, something that brought the brand back into the limelight with the resurgence of bulky shoes. Buy now

T-Funk Hi S - Skate shoes

Supra

Founded by a collective of renowned skateboarding pros, including legendary Chad Muska, Supra is an American brand that inadvertently redefined skate shoes. The brand’s most famous style, the Skytop, was and still is a high-top sneaker that could just as easily have come from the latest Maison Margiela collection. It became a huge hit with celebrities and skateboarders in the mid-2000s, making Supra one of the leading names in forward-thinking skate shoes. Buy now

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