In the world of skating, there are many footwear heavyweights. Out of all these options, Vans skate shoes are some of the most popular and best selling. Many fashion experts are calling Vans skate shoes the latest footwear trend for non-skaters. Instead of just making an appearance at the skate park, these shoes are also adorning the feet of fashionistas and preppy university students.

It's obvious that these shoes are making fashion waves, but do they still live up to their reputation on a board? While Vans skate shoes are the current leader in sales, the skating industry is a competitive one. If Vans loses its competitive edge, there will be another company ready to swoop in and take its place at a moment's notice. So how do these trendy shoes compare with other skating footwear?

The History of Vans

At over 50 years old, Vans is one of today's largest footwear companies. Vans started as The Van Doren Rubber Company. They quickly switched to manufacturing shoes when they saw an opening in the market. But it was their rubber that would make their shoes so popular among skateboarders. No other shoes at the time stuck to the board quite like a pair of Vans.

The company rose to fame in the 1970s, when they chose to sponsor competitive skateboarders of the time. The next step in Vans rise to stardom was their inclusion in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The cast wore the iconic checkered Vans, and suddenly the company was selling millions of shoes to mainstream youth. Today, Vans skate shoes are once again one of the best-selling shoes around.

Vans Skate Shoes: Our Review

While Vans is an iconic brand in the skating world, are they really the best shoes for the job? Well, that's what we set out to discover. With so many skating footwear brands out there, shopping for your first or even your 100th pair of skate shoes is a daunting task. Our review and comparison will help you get started.

How we reviewed

For our review of Vans skate shoes, we began by looking at the top three Vans shoe models currently available and three of their main competitors. While we touched a little bit on the overall look of each shoe style, our main concern was how the Vans skate shoes performed on the board versus other brands. We compared the construction and material of each shoe and any special built-in features. We also looked at performance and fit notes made by skaters and casual wearers. While our main concern was the quality of the shoes we reviewed, pricing information also plays a small role in our final comparison.

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4.6 of 5 stars

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The Vans Old Skool skate shoes are the shoe of the moment. Yes, avid skaters are helping bring these classic shoes back. But step onto any high school or university campus, and you'll also find countless young adults wearing these shoes. These Vans skate shoes are available in over a dozen colorways, but the most popular is the black exterior with white accents. Their understated design makes these shoes a perfect addition to any wardrobe, but how do they hold up on a board?

The Vans Old Skool skate shoes have a canvas and suede upper with a rubber sole. The toe bumper and structural stitching are sturdy enough to stand up to the wear-and-tear of skating, kicking, and flipping. Vans' trademark waffle tread offers a strong grip when on a board. And the rubber's slightly sticky texture is great for super smooth or wet surfaces. While these Vans skate shoes are a versatile choice for most skaters, their unsupportive construction means flat-footed skaters should look at other options.

Vans Old Skool skate shoes are rated 4.6 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Positive reviews mentioned the Vans Old Skool shoes' comfort, long-term durability, and aesthetic when on a board. Negative reviewers were unhappy that the shoes are not 100-percent canvas, cause blisters, and squeak. Some reviewers recommended going up a half-size when ordering these shoes.

The basic Vans Old Skool skate shoes run between $50 and $80. Rare or limited edition colorways vary in price, but they are usually more expensive than the basic Vans Old Skool shoes. These Vans skate shoes are available from Vans retail stores, the Vans website, Amazon, Zumiez, and Journey's.

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4.6 of 5 stars

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Vans Sk8-Hi skate shoes take inspiration from the Old Skool design. But as the name implies, these shoes have a higher, more structured upper than their low-top counterpart. While the Sk8-Hi shoes don't come in quite as many colorways as the Old Skool model, there are quite a few options apart from the classic black and white.

The Vans Sk8-Hi shoes have the same canvas and suede upper as the Vans Old Skool shoes. But the upper extends into a high-top ankle with padding and extra support. High-top skate shoes aren't as popular as they were, but they are a great option for skaters looking for a little more ankle stability from their footwear. This shape also protects your ankle bone and shin from painful collisions with your board. These Vans skate shoes have the brand's classic waffle outsole.

The Vans Sk8-Hi shoes are rated 4.6 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Positive reviews referenced these Vans skate shoes' extreme comfort, board grip, and skate-to-street versatility. Negative reviews complained about the shoes' exterior color transferring and lack of arch support. Unlike the Vans Old Skool shoes, some customers recommend going down a half-size.

The standard Vans Sk8-Hi shoes retail for $55 to $85. Limited or rare colorways often retail for a higher price. These high-top Vans skate shoes are available from Vans retail stores, the Vans website, Amazon, Zumiez, and Journey's.

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4.4 of 5 stars

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Vans Authentic Pro skate shoes aren't quite as fashion-forward as the Old Skool or Sk8-Hi styles. But while you might not see these shoes on very many non-skaters, they're tried-and-true in the skating world. The Authentic Pro shoes come in all-black and all-white, with occasional special colorway releases.

These Vans skate shoes have a 100-percent canvas upper with Duracap reinforcements in areas prone to wear-and-tear. The Authentic Pro shoes' construction uses single-wrap foxing tape, which is the strip of rubber connecting the outsole to the upper. One of the unique features of these Vans skate shoes is the UltraCush HD sockliner. These built-in insoles help ground your feet to the board and give you more control. As usual, these shoes feature Vans' standard waffle outsole.

The Vans Authentic Pro shoes are rated 4.4 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Positive reviews listed the shoes' comfort and fit and sturdy construction. Negative reviews brought up the shoes' thinner canvas upper and deterioration of the sole.

Vans Authentic Pro shoes retail for $45 to $65. Again, limited release colorways will sometimes retail for a higher price, especially if they are rare. These Vans skate shoes are available from Vans retail stores, the Vans website, Amazon, Zumiez, and Journey's.

The Competition

Even though Vans are a heavyweight in the world of skate shoes, they're not the end-all-be-all. There are countless established and up-and-coming footwear brands competing with the most popular Vans skate shoes.

To really compare our three chosen Vans skate shoes above, we also chose three major competitors. For our comparison, we chose the Supra Stacks II, DC Pure SE, and Etnies Marana Michelin shoes. We looked at factors likes construction, customer reviews, and pricing to determine the overall quality of each pair of shoes.

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4.5 of 5 stars

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The Supra Stacks II might not be as iconic as the Vans Old Skool shoes, but they are just as versatile both on and off the board. The classic low-profile design pairs with a wide array of outfits.

Most of the available Supra Stacks II are 100-percent canvas and rubber, but some do contain leather as well. If this is a concern for you, make sure to double-check your chosen style before making a purchase. These shoes have a gummy rubber outsole that readily grips your board or the ground. The insole features SupraFoam, which protects the foot and joints from hard impacts when skating.

Supra Stacks II shoes are rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Positive reviewers praised the shoes' fit, high quality, and short break-in time. Negative reviewers mentioned that the shoes ran small.

The Supra Stacks II shoes retail for $24 to $129. These shoes are available at Supra, Amazon, Journey's, and Zumiez.

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4.4 of 5 stars

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DC Pure SE shoes look distinctly like skate shoes. For streetwear, these shoes can look overly clunky and juvenile compared to the Supra and Vans skate shoes. But how they perform on a board is what really matters.

The exterior of these shoes uses nubuck, a type of cowhide that is treated to give the texture of suede. There are several ventilation holes in the upper material. The tongue and collar offer extra padding and support for kicks and jumps. These DC skate shoes offer strong board grip and a supportive insole. However, they do feature a cupsole, which sacrifices some board feel for extra support.

DC Pure SE shoes are rated 4.4 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Positive reviews mentioned day-long comfort, durability, and cushioned soles. Negative reviews brought up the shoes' poor construction quality, lackluster comfort, and bulky appearance.

DC Pure SE shoes retail for $45 to $60. These skate shoes are available at DC Shoes, Amazon, Journey's, and Zumiez.

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4.5 of 5 stars

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Etnies Marana Michelin shoes have a solid appearance without the clunky look of the DC skate shoes. They are available in several colorways, each of which is very understated and classy. These shoes are a great option if you're looking for a stylish shoe to go from the street to the board, and back.

These shoes feature a leather and canvas upper with a rubber toe cap for extra protection and durability. Like DC Pure SE shoes, Etnies Marana Michelin shoes' construction features a cupsole for extra stability. The midsole includes a layer of STI Evolution Foam. The rubber sole takes inspiration from car tires and features deep grooves for added flexibility.

Etnies Marana Michelin shoes are rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Positive reviews cited the shoes' extremely grippy sole, high-quality construction, and on-board performance. Negative reviewers were unhappy with cases of faulty construction, narrow fit, and long break-in period.

Etnies Marana Michelin shoes retail for $39 to $184. These skate shoes are available at Etnies, Amazon, and Zumiez.

Pros & Cons

After comparing the most popular Vans skate shoes and their competitors, some key advantages to Vans Old Skool, Sk8-Hi, and Authentic Pro shoes are apparent. Some of the main pros of Vans skate shoes include:

Pros

  • Vans Old Skool and Sk8-Hi shoes come in a diverse range of colorways
  • All Vans skate shoes feature the signature waffle bottom sole, which aids in grip on all surfaces
  • Vans skate shoes are sleek and stylish enough to wear with a variety of outfits
  • Vans Authentic Pro shoes offer additional features like the sockliner and reinforcements
  • Despite huge brand recognition, Vans skate shoes are comparable in price to other skating footwear

Cons

  • Since the Vans Old Skool, and by extension the Sk8-Hi, shoes are so trendy right now they could look dated soon
  • Only the Vans Authentic Pro shoes are 100-percent vegan-friendly, the others are not
  • None of the Vans skate shoes in our review provided enough support for flat-footed individuals
  • If you aren't able to try on shoes in-store, sizing can be unpredictable and inconsistent

However, there are also some areas where the competition outshines Vans shoes. Or where Vans skate shoes simply need to improve upon their current designs and step up their game. Some cons of the Vans skate shoes in our review.

Our Verdict

Depending on what you're shopping for, we could recommend any of the Vans skate shoes we reviewed. For the more fashion-forward individuals, the Old Skool shoes are likely the top choice. These are also the best option for casual skaters who don't want to invest in a pair of shoes they're just going to use on their board. Or students and others who use their longboard to commute and need to transition their shoes to streetwear easily. Since the Sk8-Hi are so similar in style and construction to the Old Skool shoes, we recommend them for those who like the Old Skool design but prefer a high-top. Finally, if you're more interested in a pair of dedicated skate shoes, the Authentic Pro shoes are the winners.

If none of the Vans shoes strike your fancy, our favorite competitor is Etnies' Marana Michelin shoes. Their classic aesthetic paired with unique outsole technology make them excellent for fashion or skating. And while they retail for slightly more than Vans skate shoes on average, the difference is small. But regardless of what pair you choose, it's clear that skateboarding and the fashion that surrounds it will continue to be cool for years to come.

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