Dan is a budget-savvy, young professional looking for quality picks at good prices.
Price and Where to By
In typical Vans “off the wall” style, the 1978 founded SK8-Hi line are subtle but fun, and almost pair with suit as much as the do some shorts. While they may be designed for and preferred amongst skaters (I have no clue, I’m not one and don’t know any), their cushioning, fit, and durability make them one of my favorite—not just sneakers but—all time shoes. You can find them on Amazon, straight from Vans, or on Zappos.
Read on to find out why, though might be a little pricier than most in this category, I continue to wear Vans’s SK8-Hi year round and year after year.
While the exact blend of materials may vary from version to version of the SK8-Hi, most of the uppers (quite literally the upper portion of the shoe) area a combination of suede and textile. The soles are made in Vans iconic waffle pattern (I dig this pattern so much I bought a pair of motorcycle grips in this pattern). The highest eyelets are made of metal, and there’s a heel stiffener which I’ve found to help keep your foot in place, even while running. The suede that covers the toe box area of the shoe is robust—I’ve had the same pair of grey and white vans for 2 years and with a wipe down every once and awhile, that portion still looks barely used. The fabric material on the back 2/3rds of the shoe has also held up very well, except for the area immediately behind the heel where the years have started to where it down. But even there, it is not so bad that it’s terribly noticeable unless closely inspected.
The same, however cannot be said for the white (though periodically black or brown depending of what editions are out) rubber of the sole that circumnavigates the shoe. It stays nice for about .73 seconds after you step out of the house. And while the white gives a iconic and snappy look to them, a dingy yellow/dirty off-white pulls the whole aesthetic down. There are straightforward ways of keeping that part clean (I use a generic “magic eraser”), it is one of the few pains of ownership to have to keep wiping that portion down every so often. There’s not much to say about the soles other than that they were designed for the abusive of urban pavement and hold their own. After two years of sustained use, they are only now getting to the point of wearing through the heel. Basically, the soles will blow out on these before the rest of the shoe does (if you take care of it).
Fit and Feel
The familiar casualness of the outside of the shoe feels as good as it looks. The inside of the shoe has fit my 8.5in feet frankly, like no shoe ever quite has. I have never blistered or even had soreness after walking miles and being on my feet all day. While I definitely prefer zero-drop, minimalist shoes (particularly in running contexts [insert link to other article]), these are a close second. They have some padding inside (which you could take out) but reasonable amount of sole to where you can still feel gravel when you are walking on it but the whole foot is still on one plane. I’m not sure what wizardry went into the lacing structure but I only ever have to loosen/tighten the top two and half laces making taking the shoes on or off a breeze—particularly for high tops. The tongue of the shoe sits in place and rarely folds or contorts in some way that begins to be uncomfortable.
There is definitely a break-in period with them. That said, they adapt to life with you pretty quickly and settled into a comfortable rhythm with you and stay there. I’ve literally jogged to my car from work because I was running late in these and nearly forgot that I wasn’t in my running shoes. While they are certainly warm in the summer time and you will still have sweaty feet, the material breathes well and never seems to get completely saturated, keeping things pretty comfortable. Vans has a sizing tutorial online if you want to be extra sure but others agree with me—they fit true to size. Simply put, once you settle into them, you forget they’re there, which is one of the highest compliments I can give a piece of fabric and rubber.
Verdict and Rating
SK8-Hi have endured for decades as Vans’ staple high-top sneaker and for good reason—they look good, the hold up well, and they feel good to wear. The downsides (e.g., how easily the white rubber at the base gets dirty) might be reason enough to walk from them (though this is not a problem exclusive to Vans), but it’s not been frustrating enough for me to look elsewhere for a shoe. If one could have a friendship with a shoe, the SK8-Hi would be a bud for life.