In 1966 Paul Van Doren introduced the first vulcanized rubber soled shoe specifically designed for skateboarding. Since the introduction of the cupsole design in the 1980s, a debate has roared within the skateboard community between the two styles. On the one hand vulc soles offer unparalleled board feel and grip with a minimal break-in period, but tend to wear down rather quickly leaving the wearer with little to protect their feet from harsh landings. Alternatively, the cupsole improves padding and durability, but greatly limits shoe flex and the all-important board feel. So, with more than 46 years of shoe making under its belt, Vans has released the first vulcanized cupsole skate shoe—the Stage 4 Wafflecup—in an effort to please both sides of the debate.
The construction process behind the Stage 4 involves wrapping the stitched-together upper in a soft, uncured layer of vulcanized rubber. The slimmed-down "wafflecup" cupsole is then applied to the bottom and fastened in place with a toe cap, also made of vulcanized rubber. Once heated, the rubbers naturally fuse together to create a vulcanized cupsole. To guide the shoe through the ideation and development process Vans enlisted four of its rawest team riders to push the protoypes through multiple stages of research and development, thus giving the style its name.
To really see if the hype surrounding the recently released shoe was warranted we got our hands—and feet—on a pair of the Andrew Allen pro models to see how they actually skate. After a handful of days pushing around the city the Stage 4 proved itself with proper flick and feel from the wrapped vulc toe cap and gum rubber sole, while the cupsole footbed provided proper support and protection.
Aside from a slightly exaggerated break-in period and a stiff heelcup, the Stage 4 with Wafflecup construction definitely hits its mark with a workable blend of support and board feel. The Stage 4 is available in both a mid- and low-top silhouette and sells directly from core Vans dealers and online from Tactics for around $60.