The World of Vegan Skate Shoes, and Why They Matter

To a skateboarder, shoes are like gloves to a sculptor’s hands. No other clothing component is more important to a skateboarder. Skaters’ feet are the connection to their craft – the art of how they skateboard. Skating in a shoe that is too padded and bulky, is like trying to grab detailed things with a mitten on. Skating in a shoe that is too thin, is like wearing a rubber glove to protect one’s self from the elements, or to grab that hot vegan dinner you have in the oven – you’re going to get burned, and you’re going to feel it too much. Then there’s the dreaded cupsole vs. vulc shoe battle – it just never ends! So just how how do we compromise? And how do vegan skateboarders fit into this equation? Through my next few blog posts I may be able to help you find those answers… but first, we must ask another more serious and important question:

Why are todays vegan skate shoes so expensive?

Do you ever wonder why a canvas skate shoe cost the same or more than a shoe made out of leather? It’s like getting a Veggie Delite at Subway for the same price as the next guy’s cold cut sub that has the same amount of veggies on it. You’re paying the same price for something that has meat, when there is no meat in yours at all! You’re basically paying for a condiment sandwich. In todays skate shoe world with canvas or synthetic shoes vs. leather shoes, you are paying for a condiment on your feet, as most all skate shoes have canvas or syn. textiles in them anyways – on the inside or outside. So the question here is, why?

Ripped canvas Vans, an all too familiar occurrence to the vegan skater.

Are the corporate companies trying to target the same stereotypical vegan consumers they think we all are? The fallacy in todays society is that being vegan and buying solely organic is expensive, so a vegan must have a good income to afford to eat and live that way. But this is not the case for alot of us, especially us skateboarders. We are usually the starving artists, and I mean literally, starving! In today’s economy and struggling way of life many of us skaters cannot afford to go out and spend more than about $30-$50 on a skate shoe, and no more than maybe twice a year for those of us on a fixed income. This can be a big problem as skate shoes are being made to be destroyed and disposed of quickly, making way for another pair to be purchased. The skateboarding shoe industry is evil in that way – but afterall, today’s skateboarding world is mostly now a corporate business, so what else do we expect?

Vegan Old Skool – Vans only marketed and labeled vegan specific shoe in their whole lineup. Come on Vans try a little harder w/ the word vegan, it won’t kill ya!

It is much like chewing gum. If gum never lost it’s flavor, how would any gum company stay in business? Nobody would need to buy a second pack! This same very idea applies to today’s disposable skate shoe world.  There are canvas and/or synthetic vegan skate shoes out there ranging in average from $70-$120. This is very sad when they are just made from a few dollars or cents in canvas fabric, glue and some brittle, non abrasion resistant rubber, so why so much?  Seeing these expensive vegan skate shoes that companies are making, makes me feel like I am shopping at a Whole Foods, and reminds me why – as an organic vegan on a small budget – I don’t shop there, nor could I afford to.  So what can a vegan skater do on a tight budget? Where do we turn?

As alot of us know, skating in the less expensive canvas vegan skate shoes like Chuck Taylors, Vans Eras and Authentics can be a costly and foot-murdering affair in the long run, as those shoes don’t last skaters very long, and with today’s style of skating, they can really make your feet hurt really fast.  I have been skating in vegan skate shoes longer than I have actually been a vegan, and honestly, I can say no single shoe company has gotten the design right yet: an inexpensive, durable, and comfortable skate shoe. Nobody! It’s a fact.

The Zero Two vegan high top, the 1st attempt at a vegan skate shoe. At least they came w/ replaceable rubber ollie pads.

I’ve been wearing skate shoes for 25 years. I’ve seen it all, worn it all, and destroyed them all. From the wacky 80’s Airwalk days, the 90’s tech moon shoes, through the poorly-designed vegan synthetic shoes of the early 2000s, and up to the ever-growing, money-making schemes of the skateboarding shoe industry in the present day. In all that I’ve seen through the years, I’ve noticed this one thing more than anything – the quality has gone down and the cost has gone up.

Vans Rowley originals, why are they even reissuing this shoe in 2013? These shoes ripped at the toe in a day. After a week they looked months old. Massive design flaws, although they looked cool and felt good.
Vans Rowley XLT, one of the most comfortable, light vegan skate shoes of all time. But with all that stitching in the ollie and flip areas it made the shoe a waist in days. More design flaws. Skate shoe design flaws and toe stitching go hand and hand.
Another early vegan skate shoe. The Circa JT301, Jamie Thomas’s first shoe w/ Circa. Good attempt at a nice vegan cupsole. The laces never ripped, but the toe sure did blowout fast, even though they were coated. Too much stitching. More design flaws. Are design flaws good for business afterall? What is the saying, “one mans trash is another mans met sales quota”? hmmm…

If I had the finances and ways and means to design a cruelty-free, durable, comfortable, and affordable vegan skate shoe, I would do it in a second! From my own personal experiences, understanding and communicating with other skaters over the last almost 3 decades, I think I know what works, what can work, and what doesn’t work in a skate shoe. (For example – putting stitching anywhere on the toes of shoes or anywhere around the ollie or flip areas is the most money-making design conspiracy in skateboarding, and always has been – but we will talk about this and other design flaws in skate shoes and specifically vegan skate shoes more in the future).

Vegan skaters, does this look familiar?

In closing for my first post here on Vegan Kicks, and until I find a way to create my own “ultimate vegan skate shoe”, I’d like to share some links to a few of the more durable and affordable vegan skate shoes available today, that I have searched long & hard to find the best deals on. These sale shoes are all around $40 or under. And if you’re wondering why there are less and less vegan Pro-model skate shoes on the market, be sure to check out this article from Transworld:

Transworld Skateboarding Feb. 2003 “SOLES WITHOUT SOULS” –

Links to a few of the more durable, somewhat affordable Vegan skate shoes on Sale right now –

Archive photos used in this posting are from various places on the web including Skately.com, if one of your photos has been used above and you would like photo credit please let Vegan Kicks know.

8 thoughts on “The World of Vegan Skate Shoes, and Why They Matter”

  1. Thank you Chega. I made the change.
    Not sure if the suede on the tongue was actually real or synthetic, but either way I took it off the sale list.

    Thanks and enjoy! : )

  2. Excellent article!

    The upper of most of the shoe is really not that relevant (as long as it’s vegan) – it can be canvas. The solution would have to be a durable AND grippy material for the toe cap (flip area)/ollie area/and maybe below the ankle (heel flips, or maybe that’s just me;). “Traditionally” this has been “solved” with rubber caps (or at least hidden rubber caps). But rubber caps aren’t cool anymore it seems.

    Synthetic (microfiber) suede or leather isn’t as tough as animal suede, but other synthetic materials surely can be. Vans once did a series called “ballistic series”, which I think was all vegan, using kevlar (I think).

    The best quality vegan skate shoes have probably been the Ed Templeton models by Emerica. But sometimes there was an issue with the shoes being sweaty/not breathable. So breathable materials like heavy canvas/cordura/nylon would be ideal for all the parts that do not need to be reinforced (like the tongue and the sides).

    (an older post of mine with some vegan skate shoes http://www.christiankoeder.com/2011/12/vegetarianism-in-skateboard-scen.html)

  3. Thank you Christian, I have seen your post before and I really like it. You did a great job putting all of it together.
    Truly excellent!

    I’m going to try and get the next part of this vegan skate shoe “expose” up pretty soon. Stay tuned! 🙂

  4. Maybe the solution is to change what we grip our boards with?
    well, not maybe but yes!
    Sounds impossible right.
    I’ve used an old pair of denim jeans and spray glued it to my deck.It worked surprisingly well.And guess what ?My shoes outlasted my deck and remained in new condition the entire time(about two months before i needed a new deck.)Even the bottom lasted longer by not shifting around constantly on gritty ass griptape.
    People thought I was crazy at the park but thats how I knew I was on to something.The shoe shops hate this idea obviously.But from a vegan perspective this could save a lot of wasted animal lives and save skaters alot of money to maybe buy bearings decks etc.
    I thought about using burlap or hemp ….the list of alternative griptape materials is endless.
    I’m a vegan /skateshop owner who cares little about making unnecessary amounts of money and so…theres my idea that works,take it & have it greedy corporate souls.

  5. Whoa, I’ve never seen that before. Can you send us a pic? You can either email it to us (vegankicks@gmail.com) or post it to our Facebook page or tweet it to us. I’m really curious to see how it looks. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Cheers, but I think you’re being unrealistic a little. I find skate shoes to last me ages if I don’t skate in them they last longer than any shoe I have worn. The problem is skate boards. See when doing tricks using a board that has a sandpaper like top, your shoes are going to be mashed pretty fast. What you need to do is find some kind of grip that isn’t like sandpaper, that grips when stood on but glides over the fabric of the shoe. Maybe something with a rubber top. That would be a lot better for your shoes long term. I do understand businesses do make crappy quality stuff when they feel the customer is looking for a brand name or the company is just starting out. So you probably are better off looking for a brand that isn’t really well known but has been going a while. Or actually complaining to the company and getting money back so they stop taking the piss. A lot of companies will take the piss if no one says anything, either because they’re unaware and new people are making the shoes, or because they think their brand is so well known and established in shops that it doesn’t matter. But I do think that skate shoes tend to be good quality. I think it’s the boards that cause a lot of the damage on shoes.

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