In the 60s, Vans took the lead in skateboard shoe design by introducing a vulcanized shoe. To secure the upper and sole stayed together a rubber sole was cooked onto the body of the shoe. A sneaker with attitude. Soon many other small companies were competing for the growing popularity of thrashing.
In the 80s Airwalk took over as market leaders when they introduced an oversized shoe that combined an inflated tongue, thick sole, suede exterior and air pockets to cushion the foot. Airwalk shoes were keen to enhance the design and promote an underground fashion statement but when the company tried to expand beyond skate shoes, Sk8r’s shunned the company products causing the company to fold. Success of skateboard shoes depended on niche markets catering for a culture which ignored mainstream shoe outlets. Some companies operated a segmentation strategy where core distributors (small surf shops) were given cutting edge technical shoes and the mainstream fashion skateboard shoe was sold through major retail outlets. Only when Airwalk switched its distribution strategy and gave the same shoes to malls and specialty shops did they really come a cropper. Skaters being brand loyal resented seeing their shoes being sold from the same emporia as Nikes and Adidas and hence withdrew their patronage. Airwalk a company with sales equating to $175 million in 1996 almost went under. The company diversified their product range to include to include BMX footwear and snowboarding shoes
When in the 90s, DC Shoes made their footwear from stronger fabrics, including multi-density rubber soles, gel pockets, and plastic eyelets that encased exposed shoelaces, thrashers took note. As soon as it was established DC soles gave better grip for foot-to-board traction then DC Shoes ruled supreme. By now skate shoes resembled tiny battleships for feet. By the mid 90s, skate shoes went mainstream and the loud; buttress skate shoe became passé as hip-hop faded. A slimmer more conservative shoe emerged based on retro punk rock and Grunge styles. Many features of the modern skateboard shoe started as genuine benefits to the Sk8r, but as fashion crossover has overtaken shoes now contain add ons’ to benefit general sartoria of the professional skateboarders who avidly promote their use. Nike, Adidas and Reebok are companies traditionally shunned by thrashers but in recent years have seen the potential market and have spent millions to make a popular skate shoe. In the States, San Diego County became the cradle of skateboarding and the skate shoe capital of the world, with many companies based in the San Diego area:
DC Shoes ,
Tony Hawk Shoes ,
Vox Footwear ,
Adio Footwear ,
Fallen Footwear ,
Osiris Shoes and
All these companies dedicate their R&D to developing the next skate shoe. Despite the decline in the number of skateboarders, skate shoes sales have surged and outpaced all other athletic footwear sales. This was confirmed by the NPD Group , a marketing research firm in their report which found whilst demand for running shoes grew by less than 2 percent, sales of skate shoes (boarders) increased by more than 19 percent over the same period. According to Board-Trac , skateboarding peaked in popularity in 2003 with almost 13 million skaters in the US, estimates today indicate there are about 12 million skaters. In 2004 skate shoe sales reached $1.5 billion, with 24 million pairs sold. The popularity of boarders is thought to relate to people wanting to look as if they are hip hoppers but not necessarily ever having seen a skateboard in their life. For decades trainers suffered the same fate as the sport shoe crossed over into mainstream Ath Leisure fashion. By comparison running shoes now are typically bought by people who actually run. The popular trend for boarders has caused the industry to reshape the way skate shoe companies develop and market their products.