Within the realm of skateboard footwear, history has seen many pro-model shoes winced at and forgotten. Many have made their mark and sold just fine, and a few signature models have become famous, classic, and even legendary for a variety of reasons ranging from price, durability, marketing, color, design, style, and comfort to retail performance, luck, or the pro whose name is backing the shoe.
Because many manufacturers are unable to release or have lost access to specific sales information, it’s nearly impossible to rank the shoes in any precise, accurate, or specific order. However, here are some of the top-selling pro-model skateboarding shoes of all time.
One of the oldest skate-shoe companies, Airwalk got in the pro-shoe game early, right behind Etnies and Vans. According to Airwalk, “Much information has been lost in translation over the years,” and all they could offer was that the Tony Hawk and Jason Lee pro models were their top two pro models. Airwalk also mentioned that their famous “One” shoe sold over one-million pairs.
“Pro shoes were really rare in the early 90s,” says On Video Associate Producer Miki Vuckovich. “And who was more deserving at the time than Tony Hawk and Jason Lee? Pretty funny shoes in hindsight, but cup soles and blue suede was state-of-the-art at the time.”
Etnies, Emerica, and éS
“Once upon a time, skate shoes were simple and almost universally suede,” says Vuckovich. “The Sal 23 (Sal Barbier pro model) was one of those-a basic design can still be seen in current best-sellers. It’s almost as though we’ve come full-circle, design-wise.” The Sal 23 is hands down Etnies’ (their Natas Kaupas shoe was the first pro-model shoe ever) top-selling pro shoe.
Andrew Reynolds continues to give the other pros on the Emerica team a run for their money with the two best-selling pro shoes in the history of the brand. “Andrew’s first pro model was one of the most durable skate shoes to hit the market when it came out,” says Sole Technologies’ Public Relations Manager Timothy Nickloff, who also attributes the classic brown and red/bling colorways to the popularity of the shoe.
“With so many shoes out now, it’s difficult to put out a unique model that is also widely appealing,” says Vuckovich. “The original Reynolds was basic but somehow distinct. Plus it was backed by Andrew, whose name could sell a lanyard at a trade show.”
The more basic-looking Reynolds 2 hit shelves right before the release of the Emerica video This Is Skateboarding. This shoe quickly became the second top-seller for Emerica.
Eric Koston’s first shoe has sold more pairs than any other éS model. “It’s a great-looking, clean, durable, and super-comfortable skate shoe,” says Nickloff. “I don’t think you could ever want more than that from a shoe to skate in,” Nickoff continues.
“Like rock bands, sometimes the first album is the best,” says Vuckovich. “That’s probably why you see so many skaters’ first shoe still available. And they probably sell more than other shoes because they’re still available-a longer-selling window.”
DVS And Lakai
Under the Podium Distribution umbrella, DVS and Lakai have come on strong in the last few years. The Kerry Getz shoe is DVS’ top-selling pro model, most likely because it was a more basic shoe released during a time when “tech” was still going strong. Additionally, the launching of Habiat, the LOVE Park era, and Kerry’s name, ability, and up-and-coming status surely contributed to the sales of this shoe.
Lakai’s top-seller, the Rick Howard 2, debuted during the whole Osiris D3 craze but had a much more toned-down aesthetic. “It was a good low-key alternative for the ‘fat’ shoe consumer, plus Rick always seems to have pretty good luck with shoes” says Lakai Team Manager Kelly Bird.
The year 2000 was strong for DC pro models. The first pro models from Stevie Williams and Josh Kalis (both released in 2000) have been their top-sellers thus far. DC Owner Ken Block explains: “There’s a lot of power a professional skateboarder has in influencing skateboarders to buy a signature shoe, but the design must be tight for the shoe to sell, too. It also must perform well with great features that a skateboarder needs to skate. Stevie’s first shoe had great timing behind it-he had just become pro with us, he just came off a successful part in The Chocolate Tour video, and the shoe’s design was different than any skateboarder had seen.”
“DC clearly puts a lot into design and promotion,” says Vuckovich. “Each of their pros has a very distinct shoe style and a considerable campaign behind him. DC gives the impression that each of its products is planned in great detail from concept to finish. Then DC has its skate team to promote the line. Everything they do is big and bold-remember the lace-less shoe? They don’t hold back, and I think that’s been the key to their success over the years.”
Adrian Lopez’s AL202 has sold more than any other Circa pro model since its inception. “The Lopez was a simple yet solid shoe that would last and have a good pricepoint that kids could afford,” says Andrew Steelman, Fourstar Distribution’s skate team and marketing assistant.
Circa came out of the gate with a bang, signing Chad Muska and Jamie Thomas initially,” says Vuckovich. “Good clean designs that appealed to the range of hesh/mesh skaters in the late 90s put the young brand on the map. So it’s natural that the next set of team signings would be greatly anticipated. There was a lot of momentum leading up to the release of the (Lopez) shoe.”
In 2000 Geoff Rowley won Thrasher’s “Skater of the Year” award. The following year, the Rowley XLT was released and has become the top-selling Vans pro model shoe-more than a million pairs sold. “This was the first shoe that was super lightweight and still had cushioning that skaters needed, without the bulk,” says Chris Overhostler, public relations manager for Vans.
”The Rowley hit at the front end of the old-school curve we seem to be in the midst of, or on the tail end of now,” says Vuckovich. “It was basically a modified Vans Old Skool lowtop, using the original and time-tested vulcanized sole under a basic but modern synthetic upper. Kind of the best of both worlds. But it definitely feels like an old-school shoe, completely ignoring a decade of heel-cushion advancements.”
Globe’s top two pro models are the Chet Thomas IV and the Rodney Mullen III, respectively. “Globe has skillfully matched a line of technical sneakers to a team that one would think requires each and every stitch to be just right,” says Vuckovich. “It’s a great marketing mechanism that few companies have pulled off. Lots of air bags and a host of technical synthetic materials are the perfect complement to playground picnic tables, right?”
The Kenny Anderson V1 and the Bam V2 are Adio’s top two pro shoes. “These models hit when the Adio brand really started to mature and become a staple vendor to the majority of specialty retailers,” says Jeff Taylor, marketing manager at Atlas Distribution. “They were also both a good overall value as two of the first high-quality, mid-priced pro-model shoes on the market. They offered features many competitors couldn’t offer in the same price range, as well as endorsements from two very popular pros.”
”The D3 and D3 2001 are Osiris’ top-sellers, for obvious reasons-they were completely revolutionary for the time,” says Bryan Reid, owner and executive footwear designer for Alias Distribution. The D3 truly looked like no other skate shoe ever and was rumored to be the top-selling pro skate shoe of all time, and often sported by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. “Timing is everything,” remarks Vuckovich.
Surely all of these shoes won’t be top-ranked forever. The skateboard footwear industry is a temperamental one. This list would have been very different four years ago, before Jackass and the
Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom Huck Jam Tour, or four years prior to that-before the age of PlayStation, X-Games, PacSun, and a more worldwide distribution of skateboarding footwear.