(Written for the Vegan Skate Blog but not published)
There is an absence of female skaters with their name on a shoe in modern day skateboarding and even fewer that have helped design those shoes. Vans has a better track record than most when it comes to not only having female pro model shoes but also shoes designed by women who skate (the rest of the industry is pretty abysmal when it comes to female representation in the bigger brands so the bare minimum that Vans does puts them ahead of everyone else, so keep in mind it’s a very low bar right now). Vans premiered Cara Beth Burnside’s pro shoe in 1994 and that was officially the first female pro skate shoe, Cons put out a One Star colorway with Alexis Sablone’s name on them, but other than that the skate shoe world has been surprisingly lacking with a female presence. Though I know more than a few people skated Adidas shell toes because of Elissa Steamer’s part in Welcome to Hell. Which is just another way women have influenced skating without the industry supporting them the way they probably should have in the past. Kids will always back what’s cool even if the industry is lagging.
So, in 2022 we got a lot more alternative skateboarding getting the shine and women skaters are in the mix with everyone else pushing this thing we love along into a better future, hopefully. Lizzie Armanto has been a skateboarder I’ve always enjoyed watching despite the fact that I gravitate more towards the crusty street side of things. I always appreciate someone that has a lush bouquet of style, creativity and gnarliness regardless of the terrain they skate and Lizzie has that in spades. She also seems like an extremely genuine person that’s very down to earth in a world of similar “vert/contest” type skateboarders that have egos that are about as big as a blackhole. Her vibe is so legit that even after getting a boost in notoriety for taking one of the worst slams on the mega ramp (it rivals Jake Brown’s X Games slam IMO) she embraced it and talked openly about it in some of the most honest and vulnerable skater interviews to have come out in recent memory. She recovered from the slam and kept going, not letting it get in her head it would seem. The point I’m trying to get across in this overly long intro to a shoe review is that it seems that Lizzie Armanto has the heart and soul of a skater that I can get behind.
When I heard Lizzie was putting out a shoe, I was curious so I peeped the Vans site to see what they were about. A few clicks and I saw that she had made a vegan friendly version of her shoe so that’s when I knew I’d be buying a pair. I asked around to see if anyone had any or if anyone had an opinion on them and the main thing I heard was that they were sort of narrow and had a slimmed down toe box so I bought a half size larger than normal for me. My first impression of the shoe was that they looked like a Vans take on the Nike Blazer and the white material they have that flaps over the heel cuff sort of gives this shoe the appearance of a Blazer. I’ve never skated a pair of Nike’s so I can’t say how close they are in feel. The hi-top cuff of the shoe has a decent amount of padding without being as puffy as a Halfcab. After putting them on I felt I probably could have just bought my usual size but the extra room didn’t really bother me too much.
The vegan version of the shoe is made of canvas and a sort of rubber faux patent leather upper that’s really durable but has a lot of flex to it. By the end of the first session in Lizzie’s shoe they felt pretty broken in. I’ve been skating them for a month and I usually skate 3-5 days a week and they’re holding up well. No holes in the usual places from flipping my board. I hope that this rubber faux leather becomes more common in vegan skate shoe manufacturing because it’s way more durable than the usual canvas that companies have been offering since the price hike for synthetic nubuck leather.
When it came to colorways, they had a few options but for the vegan version they only had a basic black and white or a grey/white/purple and I went for the latter because I love purple. I do wish they would have put Lizzie’s name on the shoe a little more distinctly, it’s hidden under the heel cuff flap. It had me wondering if that was Lizzie’s idea or one of the designers at Vans as all the marketing for this shoe is saying that she had a big hand in designing the features of the shoe.
My only real complaint about these shoes is the sole. While they have a nice flick to them they aren’t as grippy as I would like. I would come off my board a lot if I was jamming into a crusty ledge real hard for example. The texture of the sole is a sort of scaled down waffle texture that Vans is known for but in my opinion doesn’t quite work as well as the OG waffle sole. The next thing is that Vans makes a good insole usually but for some reason the insole in this shoe did not keep my feet from hurting after a long session. I’m not one who hucks. You will not see me doing big gaps or anything like that but after skating a DIY and a few ledge spots one day filming my feet were toast and that’s not usually an issue with other pairs of Vans I’ve had in recent memory.
Another thing I wondered is why this shoe has a vegan version? As far as I know Lizzie isn’t vegan and from what I gathered from Van’s website they aren’t really pushing the vegan thing in the marketing as hard as they could be. My memory might be failing me but I could have sworn that Vans pushed the vegan angle on the old pre-bloodmouth Rowley XLT’s. I could just be misremembering though because back in the olden days of the vegan skate community if a company made a vegan shoe word spread fast even if the company never mentioned that the shoe was vegan safe. Looking into it further I found out about Vans’ “V3 Checkerboard Globe” stamp of approval as part of Vans initiative to reduce waste and carbon emissions by 2030. What the V3 certification is amounts to Vans certifying that products with this V3 Checkerboard Globe stamp are made of at least 30% more sustainable of their four main manufacturing materials (cotton, rubber, leather and polyester). My first thought is that it’s kind of fishy that this sustainability certification comes from within Vans and not from a third party so there’s a lack of accountability there for me that doesn’t quite sit. The other thing is when I tried to look up more information about this V3 thing all I found was a lot of vague corporate jargon without a lot of actual numbers for me to look at and to me that just makes me feel that this commitment to lessening Vans’ impact on the environment might just all be for show.
As a skater that’s been vegan for over half of my life, I’ve gotten used to never feeling 100% confident that a skate shoe aligns with my ethics but it’d be a lot easier to know just how far off the mark a company is when they aren’t being transparent about what they are doing to try to lessen skateboarding’s impact on the eco system. Despite these criticisms and unanswered questions, I do like this shoe and I’d recommend it as one of the longer lasting vegan skate shoes. If you’ve been waiting for a good hi-top the Lizzie Armanto is about as good as it gets in the current era of skate shoes. I’m hoping that this shoe becomes a staple much like the XLT was.