Cupsole vs Vulcanized Outsoles

April 12, 2014

There are tons of options when it comes to skate shoes, and choosing the right pair can be quite overwhelming. While we can’t tell you exactly which pair is right for you, we can help you make a more informed decision based on the construction and features of different kicks. Here we explain the basic differences between the two most common forms of skate shoe outsole construction, vulcanized and cupsole. Shop the Skate Warehouse shoe section online for a huge selection of cups and vulcs.

Cupsole vs Vulcanized Outsoles

Vulcanized CupsoleVulcanized Cupsole-2

Vulcanized Vans (left) | Cupsole Emerica (right)

Vulcanized construction is when the flat rubber bottom is bonded to the shoes upper using a thin strip of slightly softer rubber wrapped around both pieces. Heat is applied during this process to create the bond and this process is called vulcanization. Alternatively, cupsole construction is when the sole of the shoe is molded as one piece of rubber to fit or “cup” the upper, which can then be sewn or glued the sole.

The general consensus on the functional differences between the two is that vulcanized soles have more board feel, more grip, shorter break-in period and more flexibility, whereas cupsole shoes have more durability and support. While vulcanized shoes may feel better right off the bat, impact protection is left primarily to the shoes insole. In some cases this will leave very little protection for your feet once the rubber sole has worn down, especially in thinner shoes. Cupsoles, however, can have impact protection built into the outsole itself, along with the shoes insole (this doesn’t mean ALL cupsole shoes have more impact protection).

Now, lets talk about grip. The softer rubber of a vulcanized sole allows the grit of your griptape to really dig into the sole, giving you that extra grippy feeling with a pair of vulc’s. But, the amount of grip in your shoes is also affected by the tread pattern (ex: Vans Waffle Grip, seen below) so “grippyness” will vary from brand to brand, even with the same construction. Therefore, you may feel more grip with a cupsole shoe with a certain tread pattern than with a vulcanized shoe with a different tread.

Vulcanized Cupsole-4Vulcanized Cupsole-3

Vulcanized on the Vans. Cupsole on the Emerica.

Durability is also a key factor in the differences between the two constructions. Given the slightly harder rubber, cupsole shoes are generally known to be more durable than vulcanized shoes. But because of the more intensive manufacturing process, cupsole shoes generally cost more than their vulcanized counterpart.

It is extremely important to keep in mind that these are just general differences between vulcanized and cupsole shoes, and there will be exceptions to the rule on a model-by-model basis. It’s up to you, the skater, to choose what suits you best.


  • Flat rubber bottom bonded to upper with thin strip of rubber
  • More board feel
  • More grip
  • Shorter break-in period
  • More flexibility
  • Impact protection at shoes insole
  • Easier to wear down
  • Extra grippy depending on tread pattern
  • Common examples are Vans Authentic, Cons CTAS Pro and Nike Janoski


  • One piece of molded rubber to “cup” upper, sewn or glued toegether
  • More impact protection
  • Grip depends on tread pattern
  • Harder rubber, more durability
  • More exspensive due to intensive manufacturing process
  • Common examples are Emerica Laced, eS Accelerate and Adidas Busenitz

All in all, each construction has its own place with positive and negative attributes. The best way to know what you like is to try out different brands, models and constructions so you can really feel the difference. You might find that you prefer a certain vulcanized shoe over a cupsole even if you’re a high-impact type skater. Or maybe you will find a cupsole with better board feel than your favorite pair of vulc’s. Pick whatever tickles your fancy, the important thing is to get out there, go skate and enjoy yourself!

We hope this blog post was helpful. Get all the answers to your skateboarding questions at the How To section on the Go Skate Blog. Send us your questions to or leave them in the comments below.

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