Whether we like it or not, we’re living in the age of the customer review. Almost every purchase decision – online and offline – is influenced by reviews and ratings created by people on the internet.
To a point where 91% of people read online reviews before shopping and 84% even trust online reviews as much as recommendations from their friends.
Now, there are a few problems with this state of affairs. First of all, online reviews are increasingly manipulated by companies – as in: paying armies of pawns to write positive reviews for crap products – in their favor.
And second, most of the people writing these reviews are complete amateurs, yet consumers trust them as much as their friends.
But what do these folks know about products as specialized as, say… skateboarding shoes?
Absolutely nothing, Lebowski.
That’s exactly where dedicated professional reviewers come in. Someone like skateboard lifer Ioannis Ntousias from Greece, who has been offering unbiased and highly involved skateboard footwear reviews on the SkateshoeGuru website.
Over the years, the 32-year-old has skated, trashed, and rated countless skateboard shoes and built an impressive repository of online information in the process. He’s also built partnerships with brands sending him shoes for reviews but has managed to retain his integrity, also by backing up his skate knowledge with a degree in materials science. Here’s his take on what makes a perfect skate shoe and where things are at in the skateboard kicks segment in our ILLUMINATED PAPER interview.
Hi Ioannis! Please provide a quick overview of your background in skateboarding and where you grew up skating.
First of all, I would like to thank you personally and your magazine for having me. I grew up in a small city in Greece called Preveza where skateboarding wasn’t big at all. Around the age of 13, I saw a friend playing with a tech deck on a school excursion and then some days later saw him trying to ollie – and that was it. From that moment skateboarding became my passion!
And as you know, things in those years were far slower than now. For example, we were trying to understand how to ollie from the magazines, so progression was too slow and another negative was that we didn’t have anyone else to see and understand how we should try each trick. In any case, I believe that if you really want to skate you will be patient until the moment you start learning tricks and start having fun.
My best years were when I was a student at the University of Patras studying Materials Science where I met skaters from all around Greece and some of them are my best friends till today. Really good times! Today I’m 32 years old and still trying to skate every day after work, still with the same passion and love for skateboarding.
I believe that if you really want to skate you will be patient until the moment you start learning tricks and start having fun.
What role did skate shoes play in your scene when you grew up?
In the early 2000s people used to skate their shoes as long as they could make them last before they moved on to buying the next pair. So I remember being one of those guys who always liked the shoes with airbags and in general with technology. I also remember myself always wanting to spend my money on shoes that at least would offer something from the technical point of view.
Where you already conducting your own tests at that point?
At that stage, I wasn’t so much into being able to check and test shoes, but I remember that in every skate magazine, the skate shoe advertisements have always been an eye catcher for me. Then, around the year 2007, the internet became more involved in my life, so things changed a lot for me and my passion for shoes.
So to sum up and answer your question: Skate shoes have always played the biggest role in my skating and the way I feel. Even today when I wear a shoe, it affects the way I skate, as the fit, the shape, the tech aspects, even the color can really lift up your psychology.
Do you remember some favorite shoe models you always wanted when you first started skating?
Yes, I remember how I always wanted to buy the DC Williams from 2001 and the DC Kalis Proof from 2003. Also the éS K3 and the éS Penny from 2003. And of course there have been some really nice Lakai shoes I liked back in the day but I cannot remember the model names now as the years have passed…
No worries. Was it hard getting a hold of these shoes where you lived?
Yes. It was so difficult to get these shoes back in those days as the only way was to travel to Athens to get to one of the few shops – and if you were lucky you could find them.
Even today when I wear a shoe, it affects the way I skate, as the fit, the shape, the tech aspects, even the color can really lift up your psychology.
You’re still hunting for new shoes today. What was the inspiration to start SkateShoeGuru?
I always wanted to share my experience with other skateboarders and in a way. Even to help them or suggest what to buy when they wanted a good skate shoe. Three years ago, I moved from Greece to Malta and my life changed 100 percent. I was already a follower of the two other famous skate shoe review websites, but in many instances, I found myself holding a different opinion than what I was reading on both these sites, especially about the fit.
What led to your disagreements with these review sites?
I buy my shoes online 90 percent of the time and there were many times that I considered their suggestions size wise before ordering – and many times this wasn’t accurate at all for me. I mean, when I will tell you that this shoe fits true to size, it means there is no extra room for your feet and at the same time your feet are secured and comfortable inside the shoes. Otherwise this is not ‘true to size’ in my opinion!
The differences can be severe between companies, and even between models from the same brand. Sometimes you need to go an entire size up. What else did you find missing from online skate shoe reviews other than size information?
Another point which led me to build my own website was that the updates on the new models were so slow. So I said, ‘Ok, I can start writing my own reviews on my own website – which I will try to update more often.’ Of course, I cannot add a new review every week, but I’m trying my best to have the newest models so people can have this little extra information that they might need before buying.
How do you go about selecting the shoes you test?
I’m a big fan of cupsoles. I don’t like vulcanized shoes that much because the fit for me plays the biggest role in a shoe, right along with the board feel. Although you hear a lot that vulcanized shoes have great board feel, I believe that board feel also means that when you place your foot in a kickflip position for instance, you want your front foot to be in your normal kickflip position but with the vulcanized outsole it feels like your toes have an extra 2cm of sole in front, which I really don’t like.
Although I have to admit that I have skated in some pretty good vulcanized shoes like the Lakai Bristol for example and some Fallen shoes in the past. Also, I don’t know why – but most of the vulcanized shoes look very similar in my eyes. So I prefer my shoes to be cupsole and then I choose the ones that, from the aesthetic and from the tech point of view, catch my eye and seem to have potential of being a good skate shoe.
I cannot add a new review every week, but I’m trying my best to have the newest models so people can have this little extra information that they might need before buying.
What is your process for testing the shoes?
There is not a specific process to be honest. I just put them on and go skate as always. I’m not the type of skater who jumps from big stuff. At 32 years I’m trying to skate every day after my job shift finishes, so I usually skate flat, ledges, banks and manuals. So this is where my shoes are tested, which I believe is fair enough (laughs).
What makes SkateShoeGuru reviews different from other shoe reviews?
As I said previously, Skateshoeguru.com is just an individual skate shoe review website where I express my opinion. I have some people sending me free skate shoes to test but I am not going write good things if I don’t like the shoes. Also, it has happened that they have sent me a vulcanized model that I would never skate in – and I ended up never skating it and never had a review for it. I have always been honest in my life so I will never write something that is not something that I truly believe.
Words to live by. Who are some brands that support you?
I have tried to contact a lot of brands that I am interested in skating and reviewing their shoes and of course some of them told me to contact the manager, blah, blah, blah… Others never replied, but luckily some of them did. Soletech (éS, etnies, Emerica) and Fp Footwear are sending me samples to skate and review and I really appreciate their help because for me, it is a big help. A big thanks to Shark Energy (Malta) for their support as well. At that point I would like to thank Don Brown who replied directly to me after I messaged him on Instagram, and also Bas Jaansen and Mathias Noderer.
We featured Don Brown in one of our first interviews dropping knowledge about the history of skateboard shoes and the 1990s tech skate shoe trend. What are your top 3 Skate shoes right now? What are your top 3 of all time and why?
This one is a really hard one, but I will give it a go.
Top 5 Skate Shoes:
- Etnies Marana Michelin
- DC Shoes Legacy Slim 98
- adidas 3st.003
- éS Accel slim
- DC Tiago
1. Nike SB P-Rod 2
2. Fallen Seventy Six
3. C1RCA Talon
4. Adidas Silas ii
5. DC Landau
That’s an eclectic mix. From your perspective, how has skate shoe design evolved in the past years and what are the best new developments?
Skate shoes in the past were bulky with air bags which I really liked, to be honest. But we all have to admit that board feel was not at the best level. Then we moved into a slimmer skate shoe style era and now we are moving to a ‘slimmed bulky’ style, without compromising the board feel and with offering more comfort and cushion specs. Nowadays there are shoes that you might consider as bulky when you see them from photos but when you wear them and skate with them, they feel better than any other slim shoe.
I like this new era of skate shoes right now where some brands are trying to bring back updated versions of older models and also that brands seem to care more about the secure fit on their models. Without a doubt, durability has increased in the newer models without ruining the design though the years.
I have some people sending me free skate shoes to test but I am not going write good things if I don’t like the shoes.
In your opinion as the Skate Shoe Guru, what are the ingredients for a perfect skate shoe?
Cupsole construction, secured fit, flexibility, grip, board feel, cushion, and comfort.
Taking a step back and looking at it from an industry perspective, how do you see the current situation on the shoe market?
The shoe market seems to be reborn with lots of new models to come. What I don’t really like is that there are some brands which really have the potential to be the brands they used to be in the past, but all their skate shoe line is full of five to six lookalike vulcanized models and one cupsole model. I wonder why do you need five to six vulcanized models in your line when your cupsole model is your best-selling one??
Especially at a time when there are three corporate brands fully involved in skateboarding, I believe that the ‘smaller’ brands have to offer something different to skaters. Not just another vulcanized shoe. Not similar models all the time without at least improving the design and especially at the same high price. They have to offer more competitive prices because simply skaters will think why should I pay $90 for this brand when I know that I can pay the same and buy something with more tech, more impact absorption and more comfort?
I know it is hard for the non-corporate companies and from my point of view I am trying to support the smaller brands as well. But at some point, when you see similar models with other names and nothing else changed, you wonder why they don’t at least try to make something different. Although this is just my point of view as a skater and it doesn’t mean that it’s correct or wrong. It’s just the way I see it.
That’s exactly what this magazine is for, Ioannis and we’re happy to have you. Finally, how can readers follow and get in touch with Skateshoeguru?
They can always get in touch through the contact form on my website and through my email. Also through the social media pages where they can just message me for anything they might need to ask me. Thanks again to Soletech and Fp Footwear and to you Dirk once again for having me. Much appreciated!
Thanks for the interview and please keep up the great work.
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