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Are you an enthusiastic skater? The feeling of freedom that you get when you pull off an impressive stunt is like nothing else. It’s not easy and takes a lot of practice, but if skateboarding is in your blood, it’s worth it.

Naturally, of course, it helps if you have the right kicks to keep you stable on the board. But who produces the best skater shoe? Which model is best for developing some serious street cred?

Two serious contenders in this mix are the Nike SB range and Vans. Can the Nike SB range unseat the Vans as master of the skateboarding universe? In this ultimate showdown, we’ll try to settle that question.

Quick Comparison: Nike SB Vs Vans

#1. Nike SB
Our Best Pick

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Depends on the modelCan be used for other sportsRelative newcomer
#2. Vans

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Canvas and rubberPrimarily for skateboardersA solid, experienced player

The Brand Differences

Neither brand needs a long introduction, so let’s go through the primary differences.


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Vans has been providing skateboarding shoes for more than fifty years. That’s all that they do. They don’t offer a range of different athletic apparel as well. In our minds, this gives them a distinct advantage over Nike simply from an experience point of view.

The company doesn’t waste time with fancy new materials. You don’t need all of that. What you need is a good grip, a fresh look, and comfort. Their shoes are made with rubber soles and canvas uppers. They incorporate vintage designs and look funky and fresh. 

Their shoes last exceptionally well and are priced affordably. Vans are excellent for the up and coming skateboarder with less money to spend.


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Don’t count Nike out just yet, though. They started with their skateboarding line in the late nineties, but it’s never really caught on well. Skateboarders like the classics and Vans will always have a place in their hearts.

Nike then decided to up its game. It started to incorporate some of the features that made it’s brand famous, including the Zoom insoles. In 2002, this redesign got Nike’s foot in the door. They’ve opted for a line that incorporates the latest fashions and working on improving functionality.

As a result, their lines are easier to incorporate into your wardrobe. If you’re not a fan of the vintage look, the Nike’s will come out on top.

The Features that Matter

Now let’s go over the features that matter most.

Comfort and Functionality

A skateboard needs mobility above all else. The Vans offer a more straightforward design that features a well-cushioned insole and plenty of protection for your feet. They fit snugly to prevent your feet sloshing around in them when you’re on your board.

Nike has answered the challenge and added in their most comfortable insoles. Most of their models use an elasticated top to ensure that the shoes fit snugly.

In all fairness here, both shoes perform very well, so this one ends in a tie.

Board Feel

With skateboarding, you need to be able to feel every little movement. The better you’re able to feel the board beneath you, the better you can perform. At the same time, you need an outstanding grip.

Vans gives you the best of both worlds by using their classic waffle design on the soles. Nike tends to go another way they use a combination of curved threads and geometric shapes.

The grip is outstanding, but because the sole is quite a bit thicker, the board feel is impacted.

Score one point for Vans. They win this round.

Performing Tricks

The whole point of improving your skating ability is to perform awesome tricks.

That’s where flick and grip become exceptionally important. Flick refers to how much of your foot you need to keep planted on the board’s surface. The grip is how well your feet usually adhere.

The better the grip, the less flick there is and vice versa.

Van’s canvas uppers and waffle tread make it easier to balance the two. You get a good amount of flick, and you’re less likely to lose your grip.

Nike incorporates more modern tech that seems to give them the edge. Find a model using the Zoom Air insole, and you’ve got plenty of flicks to play with. The tread offers excellent grip as well.

Deciding on a clear winner here is difficult. Vans tend to be lighter, and that gives them the edge when it comes to flick. So, they get this point.

Ankle Support

As a skateboarder, you need outstanding ankle support because of the positions you contort yourself into.

Vans are built up around the ankle with extra padding. The insole provides ample cushioning and absorbs a lot of impact. It’s a simple principle, but one that works well.

Nike takes the high-tech route with its Zoom Air insoles. This leads to better responsiveness and a fair amount of bounce. Your feet and ankles are well protected here as well.

Which shoe wins this round? The Vans without a doubt. The ankle support is more than sufficient. With skateboarding, the high-tech approach can be a waste. The highly responsive Zoom insoles might even prove problematic when landing after a trick.

You want to land squarely on your board and stay put. The extra bounce in the Nikes could become problematic. 

Which Brand Do You Choose?

We think that you’re going to guess which brand is our favorite off the bat.

It’s hard to fault Vans for their robust offering, reasonable pricing, and vintage cool factor. If you’re out there every day pounding the pavement, the classically styled Vans are going to be the better bet.

From a versatility standpoint, Nikes tend to be the better option. The technology built into them allows you to use them effectively in other sports as well. The designs tend to be more current, and the shoes have a sleeker look to them.

In the final analysis, if you’re a serious skateboarder, there is only one choice – Vans. If you’re more of a casual enthusiast, the Nikes will serve you well.

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