Our verdict

A skate sneaker that took Instagram by storm, the Knu Skool from Vans knocked us out of the park with its puffy aesthetics and nostalgic vibes. Just look at that obnoxiously chunky tongue! Visuals aside, we were also blown away by the quality and craftsmanship that this Vans offers at such a low price point. Even though we would never recommend the Knu Skool sneaker for all-day wear due to its lack of cushioning, it is hard to resist if you need a pair of puffed-up kicks to complete the outfit.

Pros

  • Late '90s skater vibes through and through
  • Mind-blowing durability for $75
  • Surprisingly breathable
  • Grounded underfoot feel
  • Extra padded and cozy interiors
  • Flexible, bends well with the foot
  • The puffiest tongue you can get!

Cons

  • Not for all-day wear
  • A bit heavier than average
  • Non-removable insole

Audience verdict

91
Great!
  • Top 17% most popular sneakers

Who should buy

We think that the Knu Skool silhouette could be a great match for people who:

  • love puffy kicks (chunky tongues, oversized laces, generous collar padding, and 3D side straps)
  • want to channel the throwback '90s skater vibe
  • can't say no to a pair of highly durable shoes for only $75

Who should NOT buy

If you like the bulky tongue but need a more comfortable kick for day-to-day wear, try the Adidas Campus 00s. It also comes with a removable insole allowing you to customize the in-shoe feel.

And if you want a simpler, more minimal silhouette from Vans, you can't go wrong with the Old Skool.

Vans Knu Skool lab test

Breathability

Believe it or not, this Vans kick breathes just fine for summertime!

Despite the enormous tongue and generously padded interiors, the Knu Skool has a way of keeping the interiors fresh and ventilated.

As you can see from our smoke-pumping breathability test, a good amount of smoke passes through the gaps in the shoe's tongue area.

Several perforations on both sides of the shoe's upper also contribute to the ventilation.

For an all-suede kick with an extra-puffy tongue, the Knu Skool has excellent airflow. On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the most breathable, we gave it a solid 4.

Test results
Knu Skool 4
Average 3
Compared to 46 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Leather/Suede quality

Real suede upper for only $75? Let us grab our butane torch to check if that's possible.

After a few seconds of applying the torch to the shoe's upper material, we did not see it catch fire or melt. Further inspecting the burnt area with a scratch awl confirmed that the suede is indeed real! No cap (is that what they say these days?).

We also couldn't resist checking the brand's signature Sidestripes. Alas, these details are synthetic. But what else could we expect at such a low price point?

Test results
Knu Skool Real suede

Toebox durability

Further putting the Knu Skool through its paces, we found that the kick is full of surprises.

First of all, its suede upper is simply indestructible!

After 12 seconds of drilling the shoe's toebox with sandpaper, the tool merely scuffed the suede fibers. The upper remained intact.

Vans Knu Skool Toebox durability comparison

For context, let's take a look at the comparison photo of the $75 Vans Knu Skool and the $100 New Balance 530. It proves that going for suede (or leather) is always a better idea if you prioritize longevity.

Rating the Knu Skool's toebox durability on a 1-5 scale, we surely gave it the highest 5!

Test results
Knu Skool 5
Average 3.7
Compared to 46 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Even the shoe's inner lining turned out to be sturdier than that of the more expensive sneakers.

What looks like a very soft and delicate textile proved to be impressively robust in our Dremel test. After 4 seconds of drilling the fabric at a 5K RPM speed, it remained completely unscathed.

Vans Knu Skool Heel padding durability comparison

The Knu Skool earns another maximum possible score for durability - a solid 5 out of 5 for the heel padding! It is notably higher than the average among sneakers.

Test results
Knu Skool 5
Average 3.4
Compared to 46 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Seeing a gum rubber sole on this Vans kick, we didn't expect exceptional durability. This type of outsole tends to wear out faster than the black rubber one.

But the Knu Skool surprised us yet again. Pressing our durometer against the outsole showed a pretty high reading of 80.0 HC. This indicates a good level of hardness and, as a result, better wear resistance.

Vans Knu Skool Outsole hardness
Test results
Knu Skool 80.0 HC
Average 85.1 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 46 sneakers
Number of shoes
72.9 HC
Outsole hardness
90.3 HC

Outsole durability

Our trusty Dremel also helped us put the shoe's outsole through rigorous testing.

This time, we used extra harsh conditions such as higher speed (10K RPM) and longer exposure time (22 seconds) while the pressure remained consistent (3.2N).

The Knu Skool gloriously stood up to the test, showing only 1.2 mm of damage. It is just about the same as the average. Considering the shoe's low price, we are impressed!

Vans Knu Skool Outsole durability test
Test results
Knu Skool 1.2 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 46 sneakers
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

The outsole thickness on the Knu Skool is just the same as the average at 5.5 mm.

With regular daily wear, we are sure that this Vans shoe can outlast many other kicks on the market, even the more expensive ones!

Vans Knu Skool Outsole thickness
Test results
Knu Skool 5.5 mm
Average 5.5 mm
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
3.4 mm
Outsole thickness
8.2 mm

Weight

On the downside, this puffy little kick comes with a bit of a weight penalty.

Vans Knu Skool Weight

Weighing the Knu Skool in a men's US size 9, our scale showed 16.5 oz (468g) which is a bit heavier than the average sneaker in our lab.

To give you some reference, it weighs the same as the Nike Air Force 1 07.

Vans Knu Skool sneaker weight

Test results
Knu Skool 16.51 oz (468g)
Average 14.18 oz (402g)
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
8.54 oz (242g)
Weight
22.61 oz (641g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

The Vans Knu Skool is by far the lowest sneaker in our lab with a heel stack of only 18.2 mm.

The runner-ups include the Vans Slip-On (18.7 mm) and the Adidas Samba (19.3 mm).

Vans Knu Skool Heel stack

It is definitely NOT the shoe you want to wear all day long. There is essentially no cushioning to protect your feet from the constant impact of walking on hard surfaces.

Test results
Knu Skool 18.2 mm
Average 29.8 mm
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
18.2 mm
Heel stack
41.8 mm

Forefoot stack

But let's not forget that Vans is a brand that caters to the skateboarding community. And these folks do appreciate thinner soles for better connection with the board.

So it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that the forefoot stack of the Knu Skool is also very low at only 10.6 mm.

Vans Knu Skool Forefoot stack
Test results
Knu Skool 10.6 mm
Average 18.9 mm
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
10.6 mm
Forefoot stack
28.3 mm

Drop

The heel-to-toe offset in the Vans Knu Skool also comes on the lower side at 7.6 mm.

Vans Knu Skool Drop

This lower-than-aveareg drop puts the foot in a flatter position inside the shoe to promote a more grounded underfoot experience (also very much needed for skateboarding).

Vans Knu Skool style

But it is not the best setup for clocking your daily 10K steps for sure.

Test results
Knu Skool 7.6 mm
Average 10.9 mm
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
6.7 mm
Drop
17.2 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

If we consider that tiny layer of foam to be the Vans Knu Skool's midsole, then it happens to be a pretty firm one.

Applying a durometer, we got a reading of 46.4 HA which is about 30% harder than the average. Paired with the rubbery vulcanized sole, it doesn't have any squish for proper cushioning and shock absorption.

We recommend getting one of Vans ComfyCush sneakers if you need a cozy sneaker for all-day wear.

Vans Knu Skool Midsole softness
Test results
Knu Skool 46.4 HA
Average 28.5 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 37 sneakers
Number of shoes
15.0 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
46.4 HA

Insole thickness

Checking the Knu Skool's insole with a caliper, we found that it is thinner than average at 3.8 mm. This is not enough padding to compensate for the kick's rather firm platform.

We were also a bit disappointed to find that the insole is not removable in this Vans sneaker. There is no option to replace it with a custom insert, unfortunately.

Test results
Knu Skool 3.8 mm
Average 5.4 mm
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
3.1 mm
Insole thickness
13.9 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

Sneakers with thin, firm, and grounded platforms by default feel more stable.

It's not the kind of stability that supports overpronation or plantar fasciitis but it does lower the risk of rolling your foot over the sole or twisting your ankle.

Torsional rigidity

Checking the Knu Skool's stiffness in our manual test, we were quite surprised with its pliability.

It took very little effort to twist and bend this Vans sneaker. On a 1-5 scale, where 1 is the most flexible, we gave it a score of 2.

The puffy silhouette may trick you into thinking that it's all stiff and unmalleable but in fact, it is quite forgiving. But given the low stack, such flexibility doesn't hurt the shoe's stability.

Test results
Knu Skool 2
Average 3.5
Compared to 46 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The Knu Skool provides a nice heel hold with its moderately stiff and generously padded heel counter.

Giving it a push and squeeze, we rated the heel counter stiffness an average score of 3 out of 3. Even though it's not highly rigid, it has enough firmness and structure to hold our heels and ankles securely in place.

It contributes to the shoe's stability by not letting the heels slide sideways.

Test results
Knu Skool 3
Average 3.2
Compared to 46 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Measuring the shoe's platform width with a caliper, we got 109.7 mm in the widest part of the forefoot. It is the average sole width for a sneaker.

Vans Knu Skool Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Knu Skool 109.7 mm
Average 108.5 mm
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
100.0 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
121.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The heel of the Knu Skool, however, turns out to be notably narrower than average at 73.3 mm. Nearly 10 mm less!

Even though it didn't make us feel tippy, such a narrow heel may feel odd if you're coming from a wider platform.

Vans Knu Skool Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Knu Skool 73.3 mm
Average 82.8 mm
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
69.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
103.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

As we mentioned above, the Knu Skool feels pleasantly flexible on the foot.

Vans Knu Skool flexibility

It didn't require much force to bend the shoe to a 90-degree angle in our stiffness test. Only 17.8N according to our force gauge. It is 30% more flexible than it takes an average sneaker.

Test results
Knu Skool 17.8N
Average 23.0N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
5.8N
Stiffness
51.8N

Grip / Traction

Based on our wear tests, the shoe's gum sole and signature waffle pattern offer a nice grip on the pavement and other urban surfaces.

Vans Knu Skool outsole

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

We were happy with the spot-on sizing and fit of the Vans Knu Skool. No complaints in this regard whatsoever!

Vans Knu Skool fit

Yes, the Vans Knu Skool looks THAT oversized. It doesn't feel loose on the foot.

Measuring the widest part of this Vans shoe's toebox, we got 98.8 mm. It is just about the same as the average among medium-width sneakers.

Vans Knu Skool Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Knu Skool 98.8 mm
Average 99.1 mm
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
94.0 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
107.7 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The shoe's tongue is not gusseted for obvious reasons. Believe us, you wouldn't need those anyway given how thick it is.

Vans Knu Skool Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Knu Skool None

Comfort

Tongue padding

The tongue of the Vans Knu Skool is unbelievably, unapologetically THICK!

Measuring it with a caliper, we got a whopping 38.4 mm! It even undercuts the popular Adidas Campus 00s with its 23.0 mm

This spongy pillow gave our insteps a huge bear hug, enhancing the in-shoe comfort.

Vans Knu Skool Tongue padding
Test results
Knu Skool 38.4 mm
Average 9.3 mm
Compared to 47 sneakers
Number of shoes
1.0 mm
Tongue padding
38.4 mm

Heel tab

This Vans shoe comes with a finger loop at the back to ease the on-and-off action. But even without it, we could slide right in and out of the Knu Skool in a matter of seconds.

Vans Knu Skool Heel tab
Test results
Knu Skool Finger loop

Misc

Reflective elements

The Vans Knu Skool doesn't have any reflective elements. At least not the basic version/colorway.

Vans Knu Skool Reflective elements
Test results
Knu Skool No