The Ins and Outs of Vans' ComfyCush
Back in the mid 1970s, the #44 Deck Shoe – now known as the Authentic – was everywhere in Southern California. Skaters had flocked to the kicks since their 1966 debut thanks to their rugged good looks, sticky gum rubber outsoles, and wallet-friendly price point. Naturally, Vans-sponsored skaters (and soon-to-be legends) Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta donned the #44 when they were smoking the competition and catapulting the sport into a bona fide worldwide phenomenon. However, Alva and Peralta quickly realised they needed something better – something created specifically for skateboarding.
Originally known as the #95, the Era was specially designed by Alva and Peralta with skating in mind. Essentially a beefed-up take on the Authentic, the Era retained the sole and overall aesthetic of its predecessor, but offered a padded collar and tongue to go with a new suede and canvas build. The more comfortable, durable design quickly made it the go-to for skaters, and it’s remained a staple of the Vans lineup ever since.
Fast-forward more than four decades, and it’s time for an upgrade. A pair of Eras will always feel good the moment you lace them up, but spend all day standing – let alone skating – atop a rubber-based vulcanised sole and your dogs are sure to be barking.
Modern times call for modern solutions, and Vans have introduced exactly that with their latest cushioning innovation: ComfyCush.
We know what you might be thinking: doesn’t Vans already offer modern cushioning solutions? That’s true. Kicks like the UltraRange and Vans’ Pro lineup do indeed offer better cushioning than their tried-and-true predecessors thanks to the use of UltraCush.
The UltraCush lineup essentially maintains the timeless look of the originals by retaining the OG vulcanised construction and coupling it with plush new insoles. However, since vulcanised shoes are baked at high temps to fuse the rubber components together, and to the upper of the shoe, foams like EVA and PE can’t be used – the vulcanising process would damage the foams. Thus, the UltraCush tech is limited to the insoles themselves since they can be slid into the kicks after the vulcanising process.
However, ComfyCush goes way beyond UltraCush, completely reconstructing the classics from the inside out.
A Whole New Era
As you can probably guess from the name, comfort was the number one factor when it came to the new ComfyCush lineup. And which silhouettes are most in need of improvements under the foot for long-lasting comfort? Decidedly old school icons like the Era.
‘We’re all aware that modern shoes have a lot more cushioning and comfort built into them,’ explains Nate Iott, Vans Senior Director of Footwear Design. ‘And we were looking at which of our classic shoes need to be able to have that same comfort. So, if you were to stand in them for like 12 hours, you could manage that.’
Way back in 2016 – which just so happened to coincide with the 40-year anniversary of the Era – Iott and his team got to work on new tooling, ultimately coming up with a proprietary foam that was soft enough to make a noticeable difference underfoot, but hard enough to stand up to long-term wear. That foam is then co-moulded to a hollowed-out version of the classic Vans gum rubber outsole, allowing the ComfyCush tech to peek through while keeping the durability and same amount of rubber tread as the classic outsole that fans know and love. The new process even allows Vans to employ twice the amount of foam under the foot compared to the standard vulcanised OGs.
How, though, did they pack the new tech into such a clean and classic silhouette without sacrificing the look of the original Era? By redesigning it from the inside, of course!
Unlike the UltraCush models, ComfyCush sees the Era with a completely new interior. New one-piece construction complements the improved sole and adds tongue tie-downs to the mix for a better fit and feel. That one-piece interior even comes with improved arch support along with moisture-wicking lining. The result is a shoe that Iott says is internally ‘shaped more like a classic running shoe with a bigger heel drop than a Vans classic shoe’.
So, while it may look like your beloved Era on the outside, on the inside it’s anything but: the #95 has come a long way since 1976, and the ComfyCush Era is the perfect marriage of classic styling with modern comfort tech.
‘Often the opportunity to design something new leads to dramatic updates, but the best thing about the ComfyCush Era is that it is truly a classic,’ says Matthew Pino, Vans Global Product Merchandising Manager. ‘From five feet away, no one is going to question that it is a different shoe from our beloved Classic silhouettes. That is not only important to our loyalists, but gives us the chance to showcase our design innovations to newcomers.’
ComfyCush isn’t limited to the Era either. While the innovative tech may have debuted on the Alva- and Peralta-designed classic, ComfyCush has also made its way into icons like the Authentic, Old Skool, Slip-On, and Sk8-Hi. And you can shop the whole family now at Vans.
The Era has been a pillar of the Vans lineup for over 40 years, and it’s set to be even stronger thanks to its 21st century update. Shop the Era ComfyCush and its Cush-y brethren now at Vans.