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Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Vans Stage 4 team models

By Keith Hamm
ESPN.com

Vans Stage 4 mid, Chris Pfanner's black colorway.

There's something to be said for skate shoes that feel broken in right out of the box: comfortable, flexible, ready for the ol' flick-and-catch. Then again, a deep heel bruise can be the bane of any skater's existence, so your shoes better provide durable foot protection as the stair-set sessions gain altitude. Skateboarders have long looked to vulcanized shoe soles for the former, and to cup soles for the latter. Along the way, they've tried to tap the best of both. You might spot some skaters toting around a few pairs of shoes, a vulcanized set for park-time tech training, and some cup soles for those critical schoolyard drops. Or they'll run a pair of vulcanized with some fancy cup sole-esque inserts. Either way, sounds high-maintenance and really just a feeble attempt to create something that does not exist. Until now. Enter the Vans Stage 4.

WHAT IT IS:
It's skateboarding's first-ever vulcanized cup sole, that's what. Featuring the company's new Waffle Cup technology, the Stage 4 combines the support of a cup cole and the board feel of vulcanzied, and was designed from the ground up by Vans pros Gilbert Crockett, Chima Ferguson, Andrew Allen and Chris Pfanner.

"The Vans team riders and design group worked extremely close together for over a year with the goal of creating the ideal skateboarding shoe," according to Head Designer Nathan Iott. "No technology or material was considered off limits and we were able to create a shoe and a new construction that does not compromise control, feel, support, or durability."

Prototypes went through four stages of testing -- hence the name -- which will be spotlighted as Vans rolls out the marketing machine in the coming months.

Vans Stage 4 low, Chima Ferguson's burgundy colorway.

WHY IT RULES:
When it comes to board feel and foot protection, the Stage 4 claims the best of both worlds. And when it's birthed from more than four decades worth of Vans style and innovation, you know you're lacing up a purebred descendant.

"The inspiration for the Stage 4 came from classic Vans shoes like the Half Cab, Era and Chukka Boot," says Vans pro Chris Pfanner. "I like the fact that there is no stitching in the toe areas! It helps avoid bruising and provides more wearing comfort. Less stitching also equals more durability! The vulcanized/cupsole combination allows for incredible board feel and flexibility in the forefoot area, but also gives stability and durability in the heel area."

WHERE TO FIND IT:
Check the Vans website to buy online, or find a Vans retailer near you.