Best For: Jumping down stuff
Star feature: Midsole Crating
The people at Lakai deserve an award for this shoe and I'll tell you why. Skateboarding requires footwear that has to be flexible, breathable and shock absorbant. Oh and the shoes have to be durable too and fun to skate in. With such a tall order to fill there is a reason skate-only footwear brands like Lakai are among the best -- they get it. An example of this is the Griffin, an affordable and durable shoe you'll enjoy no matter what obstacle or terrain you're skating.
This is a vulc shoe that I noticed was extremely supportive yet the upper didn't feel heavy around the ankle. Your entire foot has a good base to stand on but also feels free and that's the kind of fit you can feel good about. When you feel good about the shoes you wear you tend to feel more confident about your skating. I felt like maybe I was giving this shoe too much credit, but everyone I saw skating in them too had similar things to say. They just loved skating them. "They're fun," was the most common response I got, so I tried to see how this all worked within the shoe.
The blueprint doesn't appear to be complicated. Inside I saw a thin sockliner which is glued to the midsole and the tongue has straps on each side so it stays in place. Often companies use a thicker sockliner and no straps and a thin outsole and I'm not a fan of that because that doesn't work for all types of skating. The way Lakai did it with the Griffin, that kind of construction works best when the midsole and outsole are strong and here they are.
When the insole is really thin and the outsole is flexible and sturdy it's easier to flip your board. When you have that plus comfort there is a relief that comes with knowing the shoes you skate will hold up. Midsole crating is why this shoe has an orthotic feel and you can jump down stairs all day. The way it works is in the heel area where they used to use a heel bruise gel pad, they now employ a crate to fill in the athletic stance you should have there. This is so that you're not standing flatfooted. Not even when you're standing in line at Starbuck's. It's easy to be standing flatfooted when there is nothing in the midsole elevating the heel region and most shoe companies neglect this important quality.
When you actually skate this shoe you'll notice that it moves however you want it to and it lasts. I experienced no stiffness or resistance guiding my board in turns or flicking it in odd directions like for frontside and hard flips. I actually bent the toe frontwards so that it was touching the sole, and the shoe snapped right back into place. It's more proof that the shoes' parts work in unison. The vulc sole really holds up and so does the suede. Twelve hours in there wasn't much visible damage, but you could see where it would be headed. Twenty hours of skating finally ripped a hole through my left shoe (my stance is regular).
The outsole features Lakai's herringbone tread which is one of the best in the business. If you asked how it was made they'd say they just used materials you've heard of but they way they do it, it's the part of the shoe that is definitely the last to go.
Bottom Line: I like to think of the Griffin as beefy in the sense that every aspect of your foot is protected but none of the padding and support make it feel bulky and the high location of the eyestays keep your shoe laces intact. Those are three key skate footwear criteria that are met and for $65 dollars the Griffin may make your all time favorites list. Give it a shot.