Converse vs Vans – Battle of The Classics

converse-vs-vans

Welcome to today’s epic battle of the giants, Converse vs Vans.

While there are tons of shoes out there that are intended to be the center of attention, Vans and Converse’s basic design is what has turned these shoes into must-have closet staples.

Here’s what I found out after years of wearing Converse and Vans:

  • One brand produces the best low tops
  • One brand produces the best high tops
  • One brand is more affordable & super versatile
  • One brand is noticeably more comfortable
  • One brand fits true to size & one fits bigger
  • One brand is more durable
  • One brand has a better leather version
  • One brand is better for skating
  • One brand is slightly better for lifting and squats
  • One brand has a better cultural impact

Without further ado, let’s dive right into it…

Converse vs Vans

You’re looking at inarguably two of America’s most iconic footwear brands. They’re a classic choice for skateboarding, they’re used in the gym, and they’re people’s go-to sneakers for looking superfly.

But the question is if I had to choose one, which one would I pick and why?

Related:

Which is more affordable?

When it comes to the price, both are fairly affordable at a price of $50-$60, but Converse is a little bit cheaper than Vans.

For example, the Vans Old Skools are going for $60 whereas the Converse All-Star Ox are going for $55.

Again, they do cost around the same price, which is pretty on the money for how long these shoes generally last. But even if they only last eight months to a year, it’s still fine.

Honestly, with the stability and versatility of the shoes, if you love how these fit and feel, then the price point is an awesome perk of having these shoes.

Obviously, the first round goes to Converse.

Related:

Sizing & Fit

Generally, you’re going to need to size down in Converse. For example, the Converse All Star Lows are made to fit wide and they fit a half size to a full size bigger than the Vans Old Skool which fits a bit more true to size.

The video jumps to how Chris finds his Chucks in terms of sizing.

So make sure you try them on in-store before buying them if possible.

So for fit, if you like your shoes to fit true to size, Vans are going to be a solid choice.

But if you like a little bit more of a relaxed fit and you don’t need the extra ankle support from the Vans Old Skool for your lifestyle needs, then you can’t go wrong with the Chuck Taylors.

In terms of fit, we’ve got a tie.

If you want to know whether other Vans sneakers run big or small, then this article is more in-depth. And to get the accurate size, make sure you check our Vans sizing charts

Next, who makes the comfiest sneakers?

Related:

Which is more comfortable?

Honestly, neither one of these shoes will be winning any comfort or walking awards from my wear test.

Their basic models have little cushioning and no arch support and they’re not the most comfortable shoes on the planet, which is pretty much well-known.

However, there is a better brand when it comes to comfort.

To cut to the chase, Vans are more comfortable than Converse. With Vans, you’re going to be able to walk or skate for hours, especially with the cushioning on the ankle of the Vans High Tops as they provide a more supportive and secure feel for skating.

vans-classic-skate-insoles

Vans do offer some support up the side of the foot that is basically non-existent with the Chuck Taylor Low Tops, for example.

The Chuck Taylor is flat and it offers very minimal arch support while the Vans offer some raised support from the thick rubber sole and a more comforting flex just behind the toe box offering some relief on extended walks.

Converse sneakers also fit comfortable as you’re also able to walk or skate in them for hours, but the Vans is more comfortable in general.

But don’t be put off just yet because both brands offer more comfortable options too with more arch support and more cushioning.

With Converse, you have the likes of the Chuck 70s and their Pro models and with Vans, you’ve got their Anaheim and Vault models and also sneakers with the ComfyCush insole technology.

Overall, there is certainly a noticeable difference in cushioning to Vans that’s missing in the Chuck Taylors.

Again, if we’re talking about the basic models of each shoe, I think Vans are much more comfortable than Converse, but you also pay a little bit more $.

vans-era-heel-padding

vans-classic-skate-checkered-inside

vans-slip-on-ankle-collar

Don’t forget, when you think of Converse or Vans, you’re really choosing these shoes for versatility and style over comfort because both brands aren’t known for their comfort.

The comfort round goes to Vans.

Next, there’s a brand that produces the best low tops and there’s a brand that produces the best high tops.

So, let’s start off with the brand that produces the best low tops…

Related:

Which brand makes the best low tops?

converse-low-tops-vs-vans-low-tops

For the low tops, the most popular models from Vans are probably the Authentics, the Old Skools, and the Slip-Ons. When it comes to Converse, their most popular models are their Chuck Taylors and the One Stars.

Comparing the Vans Authentic to the Converse Chuck Low Tops, the Chucks have that rubber protection over the front of the shoe.

converse-toe-cap-protection

My toes have made an appearance through the canvas on some of my Vans and so having that protection on the Converse is definitely good for me.

vans-old-skool-toe-cap

In my opinion, the brand that makes the best low tops has to be Vans. I prefer the Authentic Lows over the Chuck Lows and the Old Skool Lows over the One Star Lows. In terms of slip-on designs, the Converse Slip-On is nowhere near as popular as the Vans Slip-On.

I just feel the low tops from Vans give off a more sleek look and they fit my style a lot better.

The canvas is similar on both models, but where the Vans do shine is with that thick sole, which means Vans are going to be a lot more durable in that area.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the low tops from Converse, but I just feel that Vans have better options for me personally.

The Old Skool Low Top has a material combination of suede and canvas, which makes it a little bit more high quality which, again, explains why the Old Skool is a little bit higher priced at $60 compared to the Converse which is going to run you $50-$55.

When it comes to styling, which is probably one of the most important things for fashion guys, I’ve never liked the Low Top Converse.

So, stylistically, I’m definitely leaning towards the Vans low tops.

vans-old-skool-on-foot

However, when it comes to high tops, I will have to hand over the crown to Converse…

Related:

Which brand makes the best high tops?

converse-high-tops-vs-vans-high-tops

Vans have their Sk8-Hi and Converse have their Chuck Taylor High Top.

So in terms of high tops, I will definitely give the crown to the Converse Chuck Taylor 70. I prefer the beautiful slim design of the 70s over the regular Chucks and they are a lot more comfortable, too.

converse-chuck-70-vs-regular-chuck

I absolutely love these and I think they’re great value. I’ve worn them, destroyed them, and then bought them again, and at the end of the day, you can throw them in the washer.

What I don’t love about the Vans Old Skool High Tops aesthetically is the padding inside the high collar.

vans-sk8-hi-ankle-support

While I don’t like that aesthetically, that means a lot more comfort, especially for skateboarders looking for enhanced ankle protection.

Overall, in terms of the battle of the best low tops versus the best high tops, I think the Vans high tops are just slightly behind the Converse high tops while the Vans low tops are vastly in front of the Converse for me.

Again, the Converse Chuck Taylor 70, in my opinion, is probably the best high-top sneaker out there. It’s classy, it’s really easy to style, and it’s versatile.

converse-chuck-taylor-on-foot

Talking about versatility…

Which is more versatile?

I think we have a clear winner here…

I do feel the Converse Chuck Taylor 70 is a lot more versatile than the Vans Sk8-Hi because of its slimmer silhouette.

converse-chuck-taylor-all-star-high-top

The Sk8-Hi can look a bit too bulky with certain outfits and it can give off a much more casual look.

vans-sk8-hi

The Chucks can be worn more casually, too, but I feel they give off a more mature look than the Vans Sk8-Hi.

I know the Chuck High Tops look pretty much identical to the Low Tops, but for some reason, I just much prefer the high tops and I think they’re a lot easier to dress up and down.

I just think it’s the most versatile shoe on this list and it looks great with any style that you’re into.

The Vans Old Skool is ideal for creating a stylish look and can be worn for both casual and smart casual occasions, which is code for “these shoes don’t dress up very well”.

The Old Skool does not have crossover appeal for every outfit, and if you hit Pinterest, you’ll see that. There’s a fairly limited range in which you pair these shoes. Often, it features a pair of chinos, a pair of ripped jeans, or a sweater.

But Chucks go with everything from skinny jeans, football jerseys, wedding dresses, suits, leggings, everything.

converse-chuck-taylor-high-with-wedding-dress

So, from formal to street business casual to club, Chucks literally go with everything and that’s why they’ve got to get the points of versatility.

Next is where Vans makes up some of the ground that it loses in versatility…

Which is more durable?

This is going to be a long section…

Both sneakers are made with quality materials, meaning that they can take a lot of wear and tear and will last a long time. But which brand is more durable can be very variable.

I have friends who have had either Converse or Vans for years and they’ve never experienced any breakdown with their models.

But what I’ve found is that if you are wearing your sneakers on a day-to-day basis and/or you are training fairly religiously in your shoes, they’re going to last about eight-ish months to a year.

So, when it comes to durability, you’re going to expect similar timelines with each of these shoes, especially if you are rocking them on a day-to-day basis and lifting.

Breakdown Signs

With Vans, you’ll generally see breakdown issues up in the forefoot first, and that’s often around eight months maybe to a year of wearing them depending on how much you’re wearing them and if you get them dirty or wet.

With Converse models, it can vary, but generally, eight months to a year will be pretty on the money for how this shoe is going to work when it comes to the overall durability.

In my Converse low tops, I’ve actually had multiple pairs rip towards the back end of the canvas when lifting and so that’s why I like having a high-top model in the Converse.

Honestly, if you only spent $50-$60 on these shoes, it’s not too bad if they last eight months to a year, and then honestly anything after that is kind of a bonus.

But which one is more durable?

I definitely like the build on the Vans Old Skool Lows, for example. The Old Skool has a suede material for the toe box and heel as well as double stitching enhancing the durability at key skate abrasion points.

converse-heel-counter-vs-vans-heel-counter

Vans have thicker and more durable midsoles and so they do last longer in the sole department from my experience.

vans-slip-ons

The shoe also has great quality vulcanized waffle grip rubber outsoles for traction on or off the board as well as padded collars for support and extra comfort at the ankles.

The Converse All Star Chucks have canvas uppers for a more lightweight and breathable feel with metal eyelets for enhanced durability as well as the white signature rubber toe cap and a great quality vulcanized rubber sole for enhanced strength, stability, and durability.

But Chucks don’t offer much in the way of durability. The bottom material in these shoes often wears out. Holes are known to form in the thin soles and cupping at the stitching on both sides near the toe box separates your upper from your lower.

So Vans are clearly superior when it comes to durability and so Vans get the points. Their thick sole, separate toe box material, and sturdy construction all makes for pretty resilient shoes.

I think Vans actually increase in appeal because the dirtier they look, the more appeal they have, but you can tell that durability is key to Vans.

Do Converse and Vans have premium versions?

Like I said earlier, Converse and Vans also have premium lines of sneakers as well where they use more premium materials and leathers.

So, Vans have got their Anaheim and Vault range and Converse have got the Chuck 70s and their Pro models.

Of course, these are going to cost you a bit more, but you’ve got a better-made shoe that is going to last you longer, or is it?

Talking about leather, which brand has better leather versions of some of their classic versions?

Leather Converse vs Leather Vans

This is another super detailed section…

In this section, we’re going to be more specifically looking at the leather itself. Is it real leather and is it durable enough to justify buying the leather version of the sneaker? Is it just a cheap terrible leather that’s just going to be as durable as a canvas version of the sneaker?

Converse

The leather of the Chuck Taylor feels really fake. I mean it’s got to be real leather just because they say it is on the little tag on the inside, but it doesn’t feel like real leather.

As for the type of leather used, it has to be a chrome-tanned leather, especially for this price point. There’s really no way it’s a veg-tanned leather and it makes more sense for it to be a chrome tan because chrome tan is a lot cheaper and it doesn’t take quite as much upkeep.

So, for $60, it’s definitely a chrome-tanned leather.

Here’s an interesting article comparing chrome-tanned leather to veg-tanned leather.

The construction is just like all the other Converse as well with the vulcanized construction where before all the rubber is cured, they wrap all this foxing around it and then cure it all together to create a bond.

The outsole is rubber, but unlike regular Converse shoes that have that little felt texture on the bottom, this one is just straight rubber all the way through.

Converse add that felt on the bottom so that when they import it, they can classify it as a slipper rather than a sneaker because that lowers the tariffs and the import fees.

converse-put-felt-on-the-bottom-to-classify-shoes-as-slippers

However, the Leather Chuck Taylor doesn’t have it. Maybe it’s because it’s harder to classify something as a slipper if it has leather in the upper and so it wasn’t worth trying to classify it as a slipper and put the felt on the bottom.

The lining of the shoe is just like all the other Converse with the canvas lining that I really like. The insole is just that classic non-removable dual-density insole with the canvas on top.

Vans

Right off the bat, it seems like the chrome-tanned leather on the Vans Made For The Makers Authentic UC is a little bit thicker, a little bit higher quality, a little more resilient, and just doesn’t feel quite as foamy and cheap.

Just like the Converse, the Vans does have a pretty thick coating on top of it but maybe not quite as thick as the Converse.

This is not the natural grain pattern that you see with a higher-quality leather. This is some sort of polyurethane coating that they call Vans Guard which is basically just a spin version of saying “we put plastic on top to make the shoe more water-resistant”.

The construction is also a vulcanized construction like most of the Vans and the inside has an UltraCush insole.

Compared to the ComfyCush insole, the UltraCush feels more like the consistency of packing peanuts rather than like memory foam, but it is a little bit squishier and softer than the Converse is.

So, I would prefer that over the Converse personally, and it’s removable so you can always slip in your orthotics or a little bit more comfy or thinner one if you want.

Waterproof Test

The water beaded up on both of these really well because there is that heavy coating on top.

vans-leather-water-resistance-test

converse-leather-water-resistance-test

This is part of why people like these leather shoes, especially for the service industry. If you spill stuff on these shoes or you get them wet, they’re going to be easy to wipe clean and the fluid is not going to absorb into your shoe.

Leather Test

Vans

vans-leather-thickness-caliper-test

Putting the caliper on the Vans, we got about 2 millimeters of thickness, which is a half millimeter thicker than Converse.

Looking really closely at the cross-section, you can see that the Vans do have some of that grain pattern that is associated with a higher-quality leather that binds all the fibrous bits together, which gives the leather its strength and durability.

vans-leather-test-grain-pattern

So, even though the leather on the Vans has a polyurethane coating on top, it still retains the strength of that grain pattern on the very top bit underneath the polyurethane.

Converse

converse-leather-thickness-caliper-test

Doing the same test, Converse are about 1.5 millimeters thick, which is pretty thin but not crazy thin for a sneaker. However, it’s definitely on the thinner side compared to Vans.

Converse looks like it does have just a little bit of that grain pattern as well but just not quite as much.

converse-leather-tes-grain-pattern

Again, I think Vans is pretty close to full-grain leather with a good amount of that grain pattern in there.

The Converse, on the other hand, is probably more of a top grain where they’ve sanded off a large portion of that grain to get a nice even leather that then they can put that coating on top and emboss this pebbled print on top.

Just from the cross-section alone, the Vans is a little bit higher-quality leather and the Converse is a little bit cheaper of a leather.

Overall, the Vans leather version is a little bit thicker, a little bit more durable, and a little bit higher quality than the Converse which is a little bit thinner.

However, it’s also a trade-off because these Vans might be a little bit harder to break in because of that thickness of leather, but I don’t think it’s enough to justify wanting a thinner leather.

I would still rather have the thicker leather in the Vans.

Scratch Test

vans-leather-polyurethane-coating-scratch-test

converse-leather-polyurethane-coating-scratch-test

Scratching that polyurethane coating off on both shoes, the coating flakes up and starts separating from that top layer of leather.

Actually, that’s the big thing I don’t like about any coated leather that has a really heavy finish on top because as you start wearing these and you start flexing them, that coating kind of starts to bubble up and starts getting a little bit loose.

It’s only a matter of time before that top coat starts flaking off and these shoes look terrible.

That’s why I much prefer an unfinished leather because the more that you wear an unfinished leather, with that grain in the leather, it’s never going to flake off like a fake coated leather is going to.

Also, once this polyurethane layer starts splitting and cracking, your water resistance is gone anyway.

So, both of these leathers are not the highest-quality leathers, but they’re also not $300 sneakers.

Overall, which of these two has the higher-quality leather?

I think the Vans is a lot higher quality.

It’s thicker, it has less of a coating on top, it’s not quite as heavily embossed, and it has more of that grain pattern that’s going to give you the longevity and strength in your sneaker.

Converse is just a really thin cheap leather that just barely has any grain in it at all.

So, in terms of the leather versions of Converse vs Vans, I would go with Vans.

Converse vs Vans for skating

Basically, the reason why people like to skate in these shoes is because they are thin, they have a great board feel, and there’s no extra crazy insole on the inside.

When you first start skating in these, it’s going to take you a while to get used to the impact in how there is no specific insole, but once your feet get used to them, you’ll start to notice very little difference between those shoes.

Which is more durable for skating?

In terms of durability, any thin shoe is probably not going to last very long compared to a shoe that is designed to last longer obviously.

Both Converse and Vans are thin and so they’re not going to last very long, but there is a little hack with that.

Some skateboarders always shoe goo a layer over top of them before they even start skating in them to extend the life of the canvas.

Also, some skaterboarders cut out a piece from an old shoe or a piece of a shirt and glue it on the inside as well to create a double layer of cloth and of shoe goo.

In terms of flick, the Converse have this giant rubber toe cap which surprisingly gives you the right amount of flick that you like, and the gum outsole grips the board perfectly.

The Vans Era Pro does seem to last way longer than Converse because it has an extra rubber layer called the DuraCap all under the toe box area.

vans-classic-skate-duracap-midsole

The waffle cup sole is a great outsole hands down, but you do have to break it in. You have to skate in it for a couple of days before you can get the perfect flick.

vans-classic-skate-deeper-waffle-tread-pattern

Overall, both shoes basically skate the same. Yet, you have your give and take with each shoe.

Now that a lot of gym goers start rocking these classics, which is the better shoe for lifting?

Converse vs Vans for lifting

Both of these models are tried and true classics and I feel like a lot of powerlifters and even recreational lifters have at least trained once in one of these shoes.

In this section, we’re going to compare the Vans Authentic and the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Tops.

Actually, the differences between the Vans and Converse in terms of lifting are subtle and they don’t really make or break performance, but they are worth noting in my opinion.

Stack Height & Drop

The Converse does have a slightly decreased stack height compared to the Vans.

So basically, the amount of material that separates the foot from the floor is a tiny bit less in the Converse all across the board from the forefoot to the midfoot to the heel compared to the Vans Authentic.

Both of these shoes have flat heel-to-toe drops, which puts your foot flat with the ground because as a powerlifter or recreational lifter, you don’t necessarily want that heel jacked up with an elevated heel.

Upper Material

Both have canvas uppers, but generally, the Converse’s upper is a little bit more maneuverable and malleable compared to the Vans.

The Vans tends to be a little bit stiffer and that’s why you’ll often see lipping at the crux of the forefoot whenever you’re walking and bending the shoe a lot throughout the forefoot.

I think that’s due to the thicker canvas construction and the midsole construction not necessarily working perfectly with one another.

Those are three differences between Vans and Converse from a performance point of view. They don’t really make or break performance by any means, but they were differences that I wanted to point out nonetheless.

With this out of the way, which model is best for lifting?

Right off the bat, I’m going to say that both of these models have very stable midsoles and outsoles.

So, if you’re worried about compression under squats, deadlifts, barbell movements, or whatever you might be using these shoes for, these shoes are going to be pretty great at resisting that.

This is why a lot of powerlifters will reach for either Converse or Vans and deadlift and squat monstrous amounts of weight. It’s because of their stability. 

I will say if you are somebody who wants to take out the insoles of these shoes, the insoles are not removable.

But if you do want to take out the insole to get a little bit flatter to the ground or put in a more comfortable insole, you can definitely do that a bit easier in the Converse.

Outside of stability, neither Converse nor Vans are not going to be necessarily the most versatile when it comes to things like functional fitness or cross-training. They’re not exactly designed for responsiveness, bounding, lighter runs, etc.

So generally, when lifters wear Vans or Converse, it will be more for static strength work where you’re not necessarily doing a ton of plyos or bounding where you need to have a responsive midsole and outsole to provide feedback for your activities.

Which shoe do I train more in?

Personally, I really do enjoy both. I like to wear the Converse probably a bit more regularly these days just because I like how they fit and how flat I feel to the ground with them.

I wear Vans more for recreational training and when I want a shoe that I could wear to the gym and then out and about afterwards. But reality is if you’re considering which is best for lifting, they’re both kind of neck and neck.

So, if you are considering which model is best for lifting, it’s tough. I cannot definitively say that one is necessarily always better than the other because they are both very stable, perform very similarly, and have a lot of similarities when it comes to their construction traits.

Which brand has a stronger cultural impact?

Vans started in 1966 in a shop in Anaheim California. They’ve basically stayed true to those SoCal roots hitting it big with skaters and non-skaters alike.

From the Vans’ major role in sponsoring the Warped Tour to their partnership with Supreme, Metallica, and even artists like Anderson Paak, Vans have always felt like the free spirit of the shoe world.

Converse, on the other hand, was founded in 1908 in Massachusetts, the same year Henry Ford introduced the Model T. That’s how old these shoes are.

For the last hundred years, Converse, specifically the Chuck Taylors, have embedded themselves in everything.

We’re talking fashion movements, subcultures, basketball, baseball, hip-hop, punk, modern street culture, and the list goes on.

Converse has been probably one of the most important figures in the shoe business in the last 100 years not just as a basic shoe.

Vans has a crazy following, but what I will say is Converse’s cultural impact was sharp, it stayed on the rise, and it’s been basically through everything.

Unfortunately for my Vans team, I’ve got to give the cultural points to Converse.

Converse vs Vans – Final Verdict

Converse and Vans are inarguably iconic shoe brands. Both companies make amazing classics which are good quality and have superb styling.

Just like how Crocs rose to popularity, Converse and Vans’ popularity stems from their ability to fit a lot of your needs.

They have a similar build quality in my opinion and they both can take a bit of a beating and they hold up fairly well.

They both offer clean and simple sneakers that go with pretty much anything, and for the money, there’s not a lot that beats them.

But Vans are certainly more comfortable and absolutely more durable and Converse have got the cultural impact down and they’re super versatile. 

For all your style people, if you dress more casual or mature, the Converse All Stars really complete the look and are the ones I think you should get whereas if you dress more street or younger, definitely go for the Vans Old Skool as they will match your outfit.

If you do skateboard a lot, I would recommend you get the Vans Old Skool High as the extra ankle support, double stitching, and padded abrasion points will be very useful for you.

For the gym goers, you can honestly use either sneaker as they will both support the gains you’re making. They’re both decent choices for heavy lifts like deadlifts and squats.

Even though the majority of Converse shoes are a bit more flimsy, have thinner materials, and don’t offer much structure, some people actually like the way the canvas sits closer to their legs. It’s just less bulky.

Choosing a classic model from either brand, you can’t really go wrong and so don’t worry too much about it.

In reality, we don’t have to choose just one pair or one pair over the other. We can wear them all.

But if you were torn between which pairs to get, then I hope this Converse vs Vans comparison has helped you out.

I hope I’ve covered everything. If you’ve got any questions, ask me in the comments below and I’ll answer them down there.

This pretty much wraps this Converse vs Vans epic battle.

I hope you’re staying safe out there and until then, see you in the next one 🙂

About Eric

Eric Barber is a happy father of two little angels, a husband, and a runner. He eats, sleeps, and dreams anything foot related: running shoes, walking shoes, sneakers, you name it. It all started when Eric was a shoe store specialist watching and fitting people's feet day in and day out.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.