Here at Supereight, if we know about one thing, it’s skate shoes. Sam and I both worked in the skate footwear industry for companies like Adio, DVS and Lakai for well over a decade each before starting Supereight back in late 2014. That’s over 40 years of combined experience in skate footwear. Yikes.
With this in mind, we have decided to do an annual round-up of some of the best shoes of the year. Some are new styles, and some are old faithfuls’ that aren’t just some of the best shoes of the year, they are probably some of the best ever.
You’ll notice Nike isn’t on this list. That’s for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we don’t stock them. We never planned to. We watched the industry fall to pieces on their entry into the market. We saw 100s of friends and colleagues lose their jobs in the industry we love, witnessed marketing budgets of endemic brands get slashed and thus watched the mags and media die out, starved of advertising budget. One Nike ad doesn’t replace the advertising cash of 15 endemic brands… that are now confined to history. How they broke into skateboarding after being rejected as corporate interlopers is a long and complicated story for another time but involved naivety from the skate industry, flowing almost anyone of note in the skate media and skate retail community Dunks and bizarrely, skate shop golf tournaments….
Secondly, the styles from Nike that might make it onto this list are not actually designed as skate shoes. They are uprated mainline shoes, given better suedes and insoles. Dunks are an absolute classic, no doubt, but a ludicrous colourway, purchased on a raffle to be displayed or sold on eBay or whatever doesn’t feel like skateboarding to us.
So why are Adidas and NB included in this list, hypocritical right? Well not really (maybe a bit), firstly they didn’t come into the industry in such a destructive manner. They don’t dictate to retailers what shoes they have to stock. They don’t push styles onto the market in order to affect mass market trends. They just act kind of like skate shoe brands always have.
Are we biased toward endemic skate brands? Yes. Absolutely. As young skaters, we were born into amazing Global skate tours like the DC Super Tour, and blockbuster skate shoe videos like Menikmati, The Storm, One Step Beyond, Skate More, and Fully Flared to name a few. Skateboarders like us, spend money on skateboarding, giving skaters the opportunity to do great things in the industry and furthering what is possible on a skateboard. Not least getting us hyped to skate!
So, this is our list for 2023, coming from our unique position as industry veterans, skate shop owners and most importantly, lifelong skaters. Enjoy and let us know what we missed, there are so many rad shoes out there!
Table of Contents
Best Skate Shoe Collaboration
I’ll be honest. Often collabs are simply marketing exercises in which two brands are trying to hit each other’s demographics and expand their own popularity. Most are utter poppycock and there are too many. Sometimes, however, something comes along with real meaning and just makes sense.
For me, Josh Kalis’ DC Truth x Thrasher collab takes this easily. An amazing colourway that works perfectly with the two collaborating partners. Black, Camo and a glaring pop of yellow tie in perfectly with Kalis’ baggy Cargo pants and OG Philly skate style, at the same time as representing Thrasher’s more hesh approach to skating. Fresh meets hesh. Nice.
What a way to celebrate Kalis’ 25-year anniversary with DC shoes. The whole capsule, including the new DC Kalynx style, camo hoody and basketball vest flew off the shelves. We sold out in 24 hours and had to restock as fast as we could.
I must give a runner-up prize to the Emerica x Dinosaur Jr Omen Hi. Again, this just made sense. There aren’t many musicians who have had their music in skate videos since the early nineties and have been so involved with skateboarding. Classic Dinosaur Jr artistry on the side on a black Omen high looks amazing. It’s an Omen Hi, so it skates great (just ask Winkoski) but it’s also slim enough for hitting those guitar pedals on stage. Win!
Winner : DC x Thrasher Truth OG
Runner-Up: Emerica x Dinosaur Jr Omen Hi
Best All-round Skate Shoe
The Adidas Busenitz Vulc II is the perfect place to start if you are looking for a great all-round skate shoe.
The vulcanised sole is solid but allows great board feel. The suede is reinforced, high quality and relatively thick, meaning it’s not going through after a couple of skates. The silhouette is straightforward without being boring, retaining many features of the original Adidas Busenitz which must be one of Adidas’ best-selling skate shoes ever.
It’s not too high around the ankle and not too low (don’t want all those sensitive inside ankle nerves too exposed to a board bash do we?). The vulcanised foxing is strong and well glued, so it doesn’t peel off leaving with a flappy sole mid-skate.
Adidas always do great, classic colourways which some brands should be paying attention to. Less on the mad colourway side, Adidas leans to wardrobe-friendly grey/gums, navy/whites, brown/gums, and black/whites. Add to this a £69.99 price tag and you have a great all-round winner at an excellent price.
As a bonus, a notable runner-up for me must be the ever-popular Lakai Cambridge. It’s the same price point as the Adidas Busenitz Vulc but with classic Lakai flare, giving great colour block options on the vulc sole which has amazing board feel. We have stocked the Lakai Cambridge since it first came available, but it has really hit its stride this year with consistently great colourways. It is probably our most popular Lakai shoe right now.
Winner: Adidas Busenitz Vulc II
Runner-Up: Lakai Cambridge
Best Value Skate Shoe
How do you judge best value in a year where inflation has run rife to the point where people reference the oil shocks of the 1970s and the 3-day working week to save power? Skate shoes have certainly gone up in price in recent years, but this has been incredibly restrained considering the massive international pressures from materials costs, worker’s wages, shipping fees increasing from $2000 per 40ft container to $16000, plus a myriad of other factors… Brexit customs duties for instance.
Shoes are certainly £5 – £10 more than they were say 5 years ago but it is incredible how brands and retailers have worked together to keep these prices down. Skate shoes are actually still cheaper now or about equal to where they were in the late nineties before production moved completely to the Far East. That’s 30 years in which wages have gone up, house prices have more than quadrupled and petrol has tripled. By that logic, skate shoes should be far more expensive than they are. So, thank you globalisation, for all your faults, you have made skate shoes more affordable than ever.
So, without further ado, I give you the DC Manteca 4.
DC shoes are always well-priced, and the Manteca is only £64.99 (at the time of writing). That would have been a bargain in 2001, let alone in 2023. It’s a classic DC-style cup sole, with panels where you need them and not where you don’t. This is a great shoe and the one all the DC riders were wearing at the DC x Supereight Tramline Spot opening jam we did with Skate Nottingham in April this year. If the team are all rocking them, you know it’s a great shoe.
As a side note, Etnies and Emerica both have some amazing value shoes coming through for Spring 2024 that will hit the £60 – £65 price point. These brands know you need great-value shoes, and they are coming through soon!
Winner: DC Manteca 4
Best Skate Shoe for Board Feel
When the topic of board feel comes up, it is impossible to avoid the cup sole (rubber poured into a mould) vs vulcanised sole (a slab of rubber wrapped with foxing and baked in an oven) debate.
We will get into this subject in another article but for now, let’s assume vulcanised shoes are going to give you the best ‘board feel’, meaning you can really feel that concave of your skateboard underneath your feet.
For us, the clear winner here this year has been the Vans Half Cab. 2023 has seen several amazing Half Cab iterations including a Bruce Lee black/yellow and an amazing brown/gum colourway. Reminding us that the OG skate shoes are often still the best. It’s a classic vulcanised sole, paired with soft suede that gives instant board feel straight out of the box.
New colours aside, you can beat the classic look of this shoe and feel the history of the black/white colourway. Not to mention, the man behind the shoe is still pushing skating in his mid-fifties. Steve Caballero, I salute you!
Winner: Vans Half Cab
Best Reissue Skate Shoe
Skate shoes as a category of footwear have been around long enough now that brands are constantly being asked to reissue shoes from their back catalogue. This sounds like a simple request – just make it again, right? Wrong.
Over the decades, brands move factories, leaving sole unit moulds behind, loose spec sheets and end contracts with riders who often own the rights to the design. Redoing moulds, revisiting designs, and arranging contracts with ex-riders is very expensive and challenging.
Then there is the cost factor. Airbags, stash pockets, uprated materials and detailing all add costs to designs that were doable when Chinese factories were trying to win skate brand’s business. These days they have a huge domestic market and demand much higher minimums (total pairs to be made of a style), pushing the price up past what the brands feel their customers will pay.
However, this year’s winner tested price elasticity and won. I give you the éS Chad Muska at £130. éS footwear did an amazing job with this banger of a reissue, keenly overseen by Chad himself who managed to peel himself away from Ground Hogs and farm life to give us some brilliant OG colours of his only éS shoe and some awesome social posts to back it up.
The shoe is just like the original, with the addition of a nice lace toggle and of course the inclusion of the legendary stash pocket in the tongue. So far, we have had black/red, grey/blue and white/navy colourways, all of which sold out in a day.
Chad is the man and I hope we get more colourways out of this project in 2024. Where is the navy/white éS???
As a notable mention, the 25 years of Kalis celebrations by DC Shoes also give us the original DC Truth in navy/white. This is one hell of a reissue and a personal fav of mine and Sam’s. It would have won top reissue for me if éS hadn’t cleaned up this Fall 23 with the OG Muska.
Finally, I must mention Emerica’s OG 1. This is a perfect remake of the MJ 1 from Marc Johnson’s tenure at Emerica. Sadly, without Marc’s signature on the shoe, it’s missing a little something, but that won’t stop me from skating a pair when my éS Quattros finally die.
Winner: éS Muska
Runner-Up: Emerica OG-1
Best Skate Shoe for Durability
This is an important award and an aspect of skate shoes that is often overlooked by skaters as style collides headlong with function.
However, in our eyes, it still must be the Etnies Marana. This year saw the original 4 colour ways released as a 10-year celebration of Ryan Sheckler’s mighty pro shoe. That’s one hell of an achievement and it is almost entirely down to this shoe’s durability.
In recent years the already great 400 NBS cup sole was replaced with a new Michelin rubber sole unit. The car tyre manufacturer makes these soles in their factories and ships these to Etnies, and the result is an extra durable and extra grippy sole unit.
A rubber toe cap also adorns the Marana, still the best way to protect your shoes from the ravages of endless ollies and flips.
Not one for the board feel brigade I am afraid, but if you want a long-lasting shoe, the Marana is well worth the investment. Knowing it’s still a favourite of both Ryan Sheckler and Chris Joslin means your quest for durability is in good company. If it’s good enough for the technical gnarliness of these guys, it’s good enough for you.
Heads up – Emerica has a contender for the top durability slot in 2024 with the slimmed-down rebirth of their most popular shoe the Heretic.
Winner: Etnies Marana
Best Skate Shoe Colourway
The best colourways are usually the simple ones, black/white, white/gum, navy/white, triple black etc.
Many brave designers have strayed from this path and succeeded in bringing us some absolute aberrations, especially in 2023. I’m looking at you Sole Tech…
However, some shoes can carry a more varied colour palette with more aplomb than others. None more so than New Balance’s new 480 shoe. Their first outing was in rust/white which looks great and coordinates with a surprising number of trouser options given that it is a less-than-conventional colour palette.
This was followed up by our pick of 2023, the Andrew Reynolds colourway. Now, I’ve always been under the impression that Brown and Black should be kept well away from each other. You know those rules, like blue and green should never be seen, etc. Well, the Boss has pulled it off with his signature chocolate and tan colourway (the sole is black). Our Tom was out skating these the day they were released, putting them through a ton of slappy variations of course.
Another amazing colourway came in the form of DC’s Josh Kalis Truth in navy/white, can you tell I love this shoe…? It has a semi-translucent sole, white lace with hiker-style navy flecks, and a navy and white leather upper with light grey accents. A delight!
Winner: New Balance Numeric Andrew Reynolds 480
Runner-Up: DC Truth OG – Navy/White
An honourable mention must go to the new kid on the block, Last Resort. Firmly part of the ‘board feel’ gang, these vulcanised connoisseurs have given us massively uprated insoles, a new cup sole style, great quality materials and a Spitfire Wheels collab including Spitfire graphic-styled ridged foxing. Their Chris Milic VM004 has one of my favourite design features on a skate shoe – wing tips on the toe box a sure-fire honourable mention winner for 2023.
On the other side of the spectrum, New Balance gave us Tiago 808 this year which is the perfect blend of lightweight, slim cup soles and technical upper, definitely worthy of an honourable, honourable mention.
2023 has been a great year for skate shoes with a clear move towards more technical shoes, whilst continuing to give us a great selection of slimmer vulcanised options.
See you in 2024…..
Runner-Up: Last Resort Chris Milic VM004
Runner-Up: New Balance Numeric Tiago 808