5 Best Vans Alternatives in 2021: Shoes Like Vans, But Better

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by  Savarone Ammann | Last Updated: 

Vans look great, but if you’ve owned a pair for any length of time, you already know they wear out quickly. It’s time you get your money’s worth.

These are the best Vans alternatives for each of the major styles. 

Best Slip On Alternative
  • Durable rubber sole and poplin twill upper hold up spectacularly well
  • Built with comfort in mind including a removable cushy foam insole
  • A truly minimal and stylish shoe
  • Versatile low-profile design pairs with shorts or pants alike
Best High-Top Alternative
  • Soft, cotton canvas makes for a cushy ride
  • Made with sustainable and responsibly source materials
  • High-top style is simple and elegant and pairs well with pants
Best Vans Old Skool Alternative
  • Designed in tandem with a pro skateboarder and built to be on a board
  • Offers more front support than most purely low-top kicks
  • Sleek, soft suede is easy to instantly break in
Best Vans Authentic Alternative
  • Looks as sharp as your favorite pair of Vans but lasts 3x as long
  • Minimal, low-top style makes it the ultimate casual sneaker
  • Constructed with comfortable, lasting materials from top to bottom
Best Budget Alternative
  • A simple, low-profile design that’s great for walking around
  • Comes at an unmatchable price point for a casual sneaker
  • Canvas is lightweight and airy

California produces iconic things. 

Iconic films, people, trends, and not least, iconic shoes. And where casual footwear is concerned, you can’t have a conversation without uttering the word “Vans”.

Low-profile canvas, narrow laces, minimal, skater-style construction—Vans are deeply-seated in mainstream pop culture and hold an undying grip on the world of breezy, casual footwear styles.

But what if I told you Vans wasn’t the first brand to produce this iconic style? And what if I told you there are brands today producing better, sleeker versions of Van’s timeless shoes? Would you believe me? 

Here are the five best Vans alternatives you’ll either want right now or want to have on your radar. Trust me.

5 Best Shoes Like Vans That Are Better Than the Original

Best Slip On Alternative: SeaVees Hawthorne Slip On Classic

Model wearing SeaVees Hawthorne Slip On Classic 1

SeaVees’ legacy is a story rich in discovery and identity. Born in 1964, SeaVees aimed to produce shoes that captured the original, sun-kissed lifestyle only California could afford.

Then, it vanished. For nearly 40 years the brand lay in the shadows. Until, in a street shop in Tokyo, Steven Tiller—the current founder and CEO—stumbled upon a vintage pair of SeaVees.

Today, SeaVees is committed to preserving the California dream which is apparent in their slogan, “the original way to go casual” and their lineup of iconic and well-constructed casual kicks. SeaVees Hawthorne Slip On Classic is my top choice for a slip on from any brand.

What I Like

  • While it’s minimal and stylish, this slip on is constructed with solid, breathable materials.

  • Made with a contoured foam footbed with extra cushion in the heel for softer steps.

  • The certified suede backstay keeps your foot snug and in place.

  • For a casual sneaker, this offers ample cushion and bounce.

What I Don’t Like

  • While this is much better made than Vans slip ons, it’s a tad heavier.

  • Like every white-soled rubber shoe, the bottom is prone to scuff marks.

What Other Reviewers Say

Guys who know about SeaVees and who are fans of the brand are die-hard lovers of these kicks, pointing out the true-fitting nature, style, and functionality of these shoes.

The Verdict

Slip ons are hit or miss. Not having to tie and untie laces is awesome, but at the cost of having your feet sliding around all day? Nope. Vans makes iconic slip ons that look and fit great, but inevitably break down sooner than you’d like.

SeaVees knocked it out of the park with their Hawthorne Slip On Classic. Its poplin twill upper is sturdy yet breathable. The suede backstay and subtle, elastic gore hold your feet in place, and the cushy foam footbed softens your step for long walks. No details were left unconsidered in this shoe.

Best Slip On Alternative
SeaVees Hawthorne Slip On

The Hawthorne Slip On is an elegant, airy, slip-on made of cotton poplin twill. Both poplin and twill are woven fabrics that are soft, breathable, and strong. The outsole is composed of a firm natural rubber that’ll hold up well over time.

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Best High-Top Alternative: Cariuma OCA High

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Cariuma was founded in 2018 by a couple of relatable guys who bonded over a shared love of surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and their beloved home country of Brazil.

They ditched the corporate world and set out to make casual shoes with an emphasis on sustainable materials, ethical factory operations, and a strict code of conduct. I can get right onboard for that.

What I Like

  • Made with soft, supportive cotton canvas inside and out.

  • Has a classic high-top design that pairs with most pants and offers some ankle support.

  • Made with a 100% vegan insole.

What I Don’t Like

  • The soft canvas absorbs water and repels stains.

  • Limited color selection.

What Other Reviewers Say

Most guys who have these sneakers appreciated the sleek, stylish look they have and agreed that they were comfortable and great for walking around town.

The Verdict

Vans has been producing a high-top sneaker called the Sk8-Hi for years. And no one is saying it’s a bad shoe. In fact, it’s a stellar shoe.

But if you can get a shoe that costs about the same, looks just as good, offers extra cushion, and is built with sustainable and responsibly-sourced materials, then why wouldn’t you?

Best High-Top Alternative
Cariuma OCA High Top

Cariuma blends sustainability and style. The OCA High Top's distinctive toe cap adds some unique flair to this casual sneaker, but make sure you check out all the bright colors the brand offers before making your decision.

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Best Vans Old Skool Alternative: Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski

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Nike definitely ain’t the new kid on the block—they probably own the whole block. With innumerable sport and casual styles, it’s no wonder Nike has a few models in their catalogue that mimic the look of Vans. 

While Vans Old Skool sneaker has rightfully earned a spot in sneaker history, when it comes to a skateboard-ready kick, Nike’s SB Zoom Stefan Janoski are tough to roll over.

Named after and designed in tandem with the American skateboard, artist, and musician, these shoes are perfect for skateboarding and bouncing around town. And they look just as good as the Vans Old Skool.

What I Like

  • Mid-low design with thick tongue offers more front support than purely low-top kicks

  • Flexible suede and lightweight sole make this shoe easy to instantly break in.

  • Looks cool and casual on and off a skateboard.

What I Don’t Like

  • Wear marks start to show on the suede in the front of the shoe over time.

  • Materials might be too lightweight and flexible and not hold up or offer enough support for some guys.

What Other Reviewers Say

There aren’t a ton of reviews of this shoe. Still, most reviews I could find say the SB Zoom is a simple, comfortable shoe with a design that’s effective for skateboarding or walking alike.

The Verdict

Vans Old Skool sneaker is an iconic mid-low top shoe and I won’t deny it’s fame and praise. But Nike intentionally built its Stefan Janoski line in tandem with the skateboarder to assure the specifications hold up for tricks that you or I probably can’t do.

So, if you’re skateboarding and kicking around for the day, and you want to look cool doing it, the Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski is your best bet for a hybrid shoe that’s both stylish and kickflip ready.

Nike SB Zoom Janoski

Named after and designed in tandem with the American skateboard, artist, and musician, these shoes are perfect for skateboarding and bouncing around town.

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Best Vans Authentic Alternative: SeaVees Legend

seavees legend sneaker

When you land on SeaVees’ catalogue, you’ll be strongly reminded of the classic Vans styles you know and love. Yet, Vans was founded in 1966 in Anaheim, California and SeaVees was founded in 1964 in Santa Barbara, California. So, really the Vans styles you know and love might belong to SeaVees in the first place.

SeaVees Legend Sneaker is SeaVees’ version of the Vans Authentic, and if you strutted down the street in both pairs, I’d bet almost no one could spot the difference unless they crouched down and squinted to pick out the subtle logos.

The difference between the two is in the materials, build, and level of durability.

What I Like

  • Looks as sharp as your favorite pair of Vans but holds up much longer.

  • Poplin twill upper and bouncy “power-grip” outsole give this shoe durability and comfort.

  • Iconic, versatile style that pairs with shorts, pants, and anything in between.

What I Don’t Like

  • The white sole is prone to scuff marks.

What Other Reviewers Say

Guys who own this shoe are quick to point out the quality, comfort, classic styling, and fit. Most dudes found that these shoes looked good with almost everything in their wardrobe. I fully agree with that.

The Verdict

The stripped-down, low-top look of the Vans Authentic is cemented in the sneaker hall of fame, and might be the breeziest most beloved casual kick ever. 

Since their founding, a few years before Vans was even launched, SeaVees has been making their stripped-down low-top coined the Legend Sneaker (a rather fitting name). Truth be told, it’s just a lot better than the Vans Authentic, most notably in the materials, build, and in the overall comfort.

Best Vans Authentic Alternative
SeaVees The Legend

This is the original sneaker that kicked off the canvas sneaker craze in Southern California.

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Best Budget Alternative: Lugz Clipper Sneaker

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While most Vans styles are affordable and even inexpensive compared to luxury and performance sneaker brands, it seems there will always be someone trying to build it cheaper. You can keep your feet looking fresh on a tight budget, you simply have to look in the right places.

If you can’t drop $70 on a pair of Vans, you can snag a pair of Lugz Clipper Sneakers for under $40. You’ll take a hit in the quality department, but still ultimately get the same style and look. 

Lugz Clipper Sneaker is as minimal and reflective of a Vans slip on as you can get, at a significantly cheaper price point.

What I Like

  • Gives you the same look and styling of a Vans low-profile sneaker.

  • The canvas upper is lightweight.

What I Don’t Like

  • These may not hold up as well as sneakers from better brands

  • The white, ridged rubber sole is prone to scuffs and marks

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers who own Lugz talk about how comfortable they are out of the box and the quality in grip and thickness of the sole, but many had to buy multiple pairs as these shoes fell apart faster than others.

The Verdict

When you’re at the top of the mountain, arrows come from all sides. There are plenty of sneaker brands who have made a Vans doppelganger in one form or another. Some brands opt to design a higher-priced luxury version, others mimic a similar price point and build, and others undercut the market and find success being the cheapest option.

Lugz is a discount footwear brand putting out one or two models that are strikingly similar to Vans. The Clipper Sneaker is your best bet for a low-profile shoe that looks and feels like a Vans sneaker, but is a bit friendlier to your wallet.

Best Budget Alternative
Lugz Clipper Sneaker

When you’re at the top of the mountain, arrows come from all sides. There are plenty of sneaker brands who have made a Vans doppelganger in one form or another. Some brands opt to design a higher-priced luxury version, others mimic a similar price point and build, and others undercut the market and find success being the cheapest option.

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The Origin of the Canvas Sneaker

Ain’t No Sneakers in the 60’s

seavees history image

The 1960s were a turbulent decade. Jam-packed with excitement, unrest, and turmoil, the 60s brought monumental changes to the world in the Space Race, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. 

But out West in California, along the glittering golden coast, footwear discoveries were underway that would forever alter how the world embraced—and soon obsessed over—what we now know as breezy, classic, iconic styles.

In 1964, sneakers were still only worn by children or confined to gymnasium and fitness settings. The versatile adult sneaker, an item comprising the majority of our preferred footwear today, didn’t exist yet. Yep, that’s right, folks were pattering around everywhere in stiff, unforgiving dress shoes. Bunions anyone?

Casual Footwear Makes Its Debut

seavees history image 1964

In June of ‘64, BF Goodrich launched SeaVees in a breakthrough effort to reimagine casual footwear. Fueled by a potent advertising campaign, SeaVees was positioned slyly as “the new way to go casual”. 

The result? Canvas footwear with the plushness of a sneaker but the refined style of a dress shoe. 

A couple years later, and little more than 100 miles south in Anaheim, California, two brothers named Paul Van Doren and Jim Van Doren, along with their partners Gordon Lee and Serge Delia, opened a nifty little rubber shop and sold sneakers directly to the public. This was the humble beginning of Vans.

It was in the 1970’s that House of Vans and the Authentic model were born, sneaks that became instantly revered by bad boy skateboarders for the sticky, grippy sole. Soon, Vans took off.

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In 1969, much to the misfortune of SeaVees, BF Goodrich decided to reallocate funds and lean harder into tire production. So, they sold SeaVees off to Converse Rubber Company.

Only two years later, The US Department of Justice commands Converse to shutdown SeaVees citing that they had too large of a monopoly on the American sneaker market.

From Lifeless to Timeless

seavees legend sneakers

For 40 years, SeaVees sat lifeless and forgotten. Until, in 2005, in a vintage shop in Tokyo of all places, a designer and entrepreneur named Steven Tiller gazed upon a tattered pair of SeaVees and fell in love.

Tiller pumped life back into the brand, dragging it from the shadows. In 2008, the first SeaVees website was up and running, and by 2010, SeaVees was transported back into the sunlight and back to it’s dreamy birthplace of Santa Barbara, California. 

Today, both SeaVees and Vans operate out of California, coolly spreading the laid back styles of the Golden state far and wide.

Best Vans Authentic Alternative
SeaVees The Legend

This is the original sneaker that kicked off the canvas sneaker craze in Southern California.

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Conclusion

There’s no shortage of ans lookalikes to scroll past and sift through. My ultimate pick for a Vans alternative is the SeaVees Legend

Our Top Pick
SeaVees The Legend

This is the original sneaker that kicked off the canvas sneaker craze in Southern California.

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This sneaker exudes the same simple, casual style elements of Vans’ flagship Authentic model, but it’s constructed with significantly better materials that last longer and carry you further down the road.

Did you discover some stellar kicks that rival your favorite pair of Vans? Did you enjoy learning the compelling history of when casual sneakers broke into mainstream fashion?

Sneakers will forever evolve, but some styles, especially the clean, casual, low-profile style of Vans, might stick around forever.

At least, I hope they do.

FAQs

Which shoes are like Vans?

There are plenty of brands producing clean, low-profile canvas footwear that rival Vans. Consider looking into SeaVees, Cariuma, Nike, and Lugz.

What are the best Vans alternatives?

SeaVees Hawthorne Slip On Classic, Cariuma OCA High, SeaVees Legend, and Lugz Lear Oxford Sneaker are all capable Vans alternatives to some of Vans most popular and beloved styles

Shoes like Vans that last longer?

Consider buying SeaVees Hawthorne Slip On Classic or Legend Sneaker for shoes that mimic iconic Vans styles but are built with better, longer-lasting materials.

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