First Skate Shoes: History and Development

This article will examine the history and development of skateboard shoes, from barefoot to the first skate shoes and today’s advanced skateboard shoes.

Most modern sports today are governed by rules and regulations. They have mapped outlines and borders, officials and introduced laws that cannot be broken. Skateboarding, on the other hand, is a different sport based on breaking the rules, taking chances, and skating beyond the lines.

Many believe it has more to do with the community than the sport. For some people, it serves as an additional means of transportation. What started as small activity took to the streets and developed into a cultural phenomenon. As it increased in popularity, many companies began investing in sports and producing shoes that became pivotal in shaping sports.

Suddenly, it became easier for people to perform tricks. What started as a sport with barefoot transitioned into the sports we know today.

Do you want to know more about skateboard shoes? Join us as we go into more detail on the history and development of skateboard shoes.

First Skate Shoes: History and Development of Skateboarding Shoes

The History of Skateboarding Shoes

mounted roller skate wheels to wooden boards
They mounted roller skate wheels to wooden boards

Skateboarding originated in the 1950s and 1960s when surfers in California and Hawaii started mounting wheels on short surfboards and riding them through the streets. The idea was to take the seas to the streets. They needed a way to create a wave when no aquatic ones were available, and everyone loved the idea of creating a concrete wave. 

During this time, they mounted roller skate wheels to wooden boards for sidewalk surfing. As surfers, they followed their instincts. They pretended to surf barefoot across the streets like they would in the sea.

However, going barefoot when surfing the street had certain drawbacks. People got tired of inflicting pain associated with injuries and infections in their bodies. So, there was a need for footwear designed for skateboarding. 

One of the first footwear skaters wore was Converse’s Chuck Taylor shoe. It was a canvas shoe designed for basketball, but skaters loved its soft sole and how it seemed almost like they could feel the board beneath them. It was created with a vulcanized rubber outsole, which was excellent for traction because grip tape wasn’t around then. 

It was made to give basketball players extra grip so they could run faster and avoid falling as much. Skaters converted this feature into a language they could understand, so to prevent these skaters from flying off their boards, the outsole and sole were a vital development for skaters both then and now.

By 1965, we had the first televised skateboarding championship in Anaheim, California, with many competitors wearing the Keds or the Converse Chuck Taylor shoe. Due to this popularity, the Randolph Rubber company decided to create their own Keds boat-style shoe, resulting in the development of the Randy 720. It was made with a “Tuff Toe’ n Heel,” a strong rubber outsole that was more durable than the Keds.

Randy-720
Randy 720

Although it wasn’t enough to keep the business alive, it signaled the beginning of the race to create the best skate shoe and opened the door for another company, Vans, to try the canvas and rubber combination.

Vans

To most skateboarders, Vans was the first skateboarding shoe. The company was established in 1966 by two brothers, Jim and Paul Van Doren. At that time, they had been in the shoe business for 20 years and collaborated with two other people to build a shoe factory in Anaheim. 

The factory could create several styles of canvas and leather shoes. The idea was to develop premium footwear and sell them to the public. They opened different stores in California and discovered that people liked their sneakers. By 1974, they had around 80 stores in California and had a lot of success with their retail shoe shops.

When skateboarding experienced its second wave and Vans began to acquire popularity among surfers, the company was prepared to shift its marketing and sales attention to skaters. 

In 1976, Vans teamed up with Stacey Peralta and Tony Alva to create the first skateboarding shoe. They created the first shoe made specifically for skateboarding. Initially, Vans were only available in three plain colors, but this design included a two-tone appearance, had more padding for additional comfort, and offered four different styles. It was known as the “Off Wall Model” and became very popular with skaters.

In the late 70s, many skateboard manufacturers began to make skate shoes. At this time, many rubber firms and other shoe manufacturers began to show interest in skate shoes. Many skaters started wearing shoes from manufacturers like Converse, Adidas, and Nike.

Finally, Alan Gelfand created the ollie in 1978, revolutionizing the skate shoe industry forever. It redefined what was considered an essential feature of a skate shoe and what materials were required to support them. This is because most skaters who attempted to pull off an ollie ended up wrecking their shoes and developing tiny holes known as pitted keratolysis around their toes. 

Many shoe manufacturers responded to this problem by adding more thick materials into the toe box and other high-wear areas. Not only do such precautions extend the lifetime of your shoe, but they also assist in protecting your feet from abrasions.

The Development of Skateboarding Shoes

The Development of Skateboarding Shoes
The Development of Skateboarding Shoes

The 80s

During the 80s, skateboarding progressed, so skaters had to keep growing. Pool skating started wearing off, and street skating became the new popular activity. In the early 80s, Rodney Mullen invented flips and tricks, adding a new reason to have durable skate shoes. 

In 1986, Etnies and Airwalk introduced their footwear company to the public. This was a significant turning point in the history of skate shoes because these brands were the first skate shoe manufacturers other companies like Vans diverted into making skateboard footwear.

In 1987, the Powell Peralta search for “Animal Chin” video came out, which was such an iconic video. In the beginning, all the skaters wore Jordan 1 except for Tony Hawk, who was wearing his Vans SK8-His. 

This was popular because these men were celebrities in the skateboard world. Steve Caballero said he sold over 200,000 of his pro model boards that year, yet none of these skaters had a pro shoe sponsor. After the video’s release, it was a big deal in the world that so many skaters started wearing Jordan 1.

In the late 80s, Converse saw some professionals and started sponsoring people with Chuck Taylors. After some time, brands like Vision and Santa Cruz began to compete in the shoe industry, but they had a very similar silhouette to Chuck Taylor. 

Also, in the late 80s, men like Tommy Guerrero, Mark Gonzales, and Nataz were spotted skating through the streets, marking the beginning of street skateboarding growth. 

Furthermore, Natas and Etnies released the world’s first pro skate shoes. This was a significant accomplishment because only the top stars in each sport, like Michael Jordan, would have their names stitched on a pair of shoes, but now Nataz was one of these men.

The 90s

The 90s timeline
The 90s Timeline

In the 1990s, there was a change in skateboarding. Vertical skating, and freestyle skating, all started to die down as street skating gained popularity. It became the main thing that people were about in skateboarding. The demands and preferences of skaters at that time changed as skateboarding advanced and street skating gained popularity. 

So, skateboarding shoe companies needed to adapt. Someone jumping downstairs won’t need the same shoes as someone launching on a vertical ramp. 

In the early 90s, Steve Cabarello noticed that many people were chopping off the tops of his cabarello high tops. They cut down the top part to be a little bit lower and covered it with stickers to keep the foam intact. Realizing this, he collaborates with Vans to create a mid-top version of the same shoe. They released the Half-Cab shoe, and it blew up immediately. 

After this, in June 1994, Damon Way and Ken Block shifted the clothing company toward the footwear industry. They took the name Droors clothing and changed it to DCShoes.

They used professional skaters to launch the brand and were interested in a launch plan that involved flooding the market with a variety of pro model shoes at a period when they were hard to find. There were only a few in the market. 

In 1995, Tony Hawk and the famous actor Jason Lee, a professional skater, received pro model shoes from Airwalk before becoming an actor. Also, In that year, eS footwear, a sister company to Etnies, launched as well, and they produced two classic shoes that were the top-selling footwear at the time. It was the eS excel shoe and the Sal 23 shoes, which they pulled over from Etnies.

Due to the industry’s expansion, you can see a lot of new skateboard footwear firms emerging in the late 90s. You can choose from brands like Emerica, Sheep shoes, Hook-ups shoes, Globe footwear, DVS, Osiris, and more. 

In 1996, Nike made its first attempt at skateboard shoes, among all the other brands that were entering the market. However, skateboarding didn’t favor large corporations like Nike, so Nike’s attempts were unsuccessful. 

In 1999, Vans created the first women’s skate shoe, and in that same year, Osiris dropped the iconic chunky D3 Davemayhew shoe.

Most people wore it, but they disliked it because the large gap between the shoe sole and the board made it difficult for them to control the board.

The 2000s

The 2000s timeline
The 2000s timeline

As we move into the 2000s, skateboarding has undergone some profound transformation. The skateboard shoe companies had to adjust because there were many new tricks, and skaters were leaping down huge stuff. 

The skate shoes needed to be more durable, comfortable and can handle more impact. This brought about the Chunky shoe era. The shoe industry recognized the need to develop footwear that could withstand more impact, leading to the development of the D-3s, eS McCrank, eS Tribo, and other models. 

In the early 2000s, skateboarding popularity was rising. People had more eyes on skateboarding. So we saw people who knew nothing about skateboarding wearing eS, Vans, Etnies, and other brands. They were wearing skate shoes because it was a cool thing to do. 

In 2001, Osiris launched the D32001, and many people wore it. However, it didn’t last long because most skaters realized that these new models did not help skate. They were too heavy and big, which made skating more difficult. 

In 2002, Nike made another attempt into the skateboarding shoe line by launching Nike SB, and that attempt was successful. That is why we see Nike in skateboarding today.

The mid-2000s marked the start of the most significant era for skateboarding and other footwear. As the game progressed, people started looking for shoes that were more comfortable on the inside. The exterior technology started fading, and manufacturers focused on the interior parts of the shoe. Due to this, footwear experienced a rapid progression, demonstrating that technology has always been a part of skateboard footwear.

In 2009, Gravis entered the shoe industry, and Dylan Rieder released his first pro model shoe with them. This caused another change in skateboarding shoes because people moved away from big shoes but hadn’t found their identity. So, this Dylan Rieder shoe showed them a better side to things, that you could look good in a basic shoe and that you didn’t have to wear a big shoe to skate. 

Also, in 2009, Nike SB released the Stefan Janoski pro model. This shoe broke the internet, making it on Nike’s top 100 best-selling shoes and the best-selling skateboarding shoes of all time.

The 2010s and Beyond

By this time, skateboarding was blowing up, it was becoming mainstream, and the trick lists were getting higher. 

Although shoe designs were getting slimmer, the technology was advancing quickly. Skateboarding shoes were becoming increasingly popular, and sportswear companies like Adidas, New Balance, and Nike SB were also introducing new technologies. The odd companies had to catch up, so they began developing their technologies, which improved the shoes’ durability and other aspects that kept the feet comfortable.

Final Thought

Skateboarding shoes transformed the shoe industry into what we know today. Due to the demand for durable and quality footwear with the competition to produce the best skate shoes, manufacturing companies were forced to develop new technologies and improve existing ones to satisfy the public, paving the way for modern shoe designs.

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