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What are Skate Shoes?

By Trent Burkholder
Updated May 23, 2024
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Skate shoes are athletic footwear designed specifically for use in the sport of skateboarding. Design modifications in skate shoes are intended to minimize impact injuries to the feet, allow skateboarders to have increased control of their board, and provide improved durability in the materials that comprise the shoe itself. Designs vary greatly between manufacturers, but general features usually include a flat rubber or polyurethane sole, double or triple stitching in the connection areas, and tough material comprising the upper shoe area.

Skateboarding often generates large impact forces to the underside of the foot, which can lead to stress injuries in the heel, arch, and ankle. Skate shoes are designed with this fact in mind, often containing highly-absorbent padding in areas of the sole where impacts are greatest on the foot. Special cushioning sections or air pockets in the rear help to prevent heel bruises, while mid-foot support structures can reduce the incidence of arch strains. Designs also usually include heel and toe cups to help keep the foot stationary to minimize blisters from repetitive rubbing. Differences between the many manufactured designs of these shoes make it important for each person to find a shoe that fits his or her foot and riding style well.

Design features of skate shoes also aim to improve a rider’s ability to grip and control the skateboard. The soles of the shoes are wide and flat, allowing a large area to contact the surface of the skateboard. The tread typically provides deep sole patterns and many contact points where the shoe can gain friction against the grip tape found on top of the skateboard. The soles are usually made of vulcanized material, allowing strength and elasticity while providing what riders commonly refer to as good "board feel." Cup soles are slightly thicker than vulcanized soles, and are usually glued onto the shoe. They tend to be more comfortable, but can also be more bulky, and the glue can weaken over time. Choice of different soles is largely a personal preference for each rider.

Skate shoes must be strong and durable to resist the constant wear and tear associated with the sport of skateboarding. The soles generally must have dependable construction in order to last in the face of constant abrasiveness from the skateboard’s grip tape. Lace loops and other protectors are commonly used to help limit the contact of the laces with the abrasive surface of the board to minimize shredding of the material. Thicker threads with double or triple stitching can better prevent the seams from coming apart when exposed to enormous pressure. Better manufacturers also make the shoes out of strong materials such as leather or suede to allow comfortable support areas for the upper foot while minimizing stretching and ripping of the material with continued use.

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