Do skaters need skateboard shoes?Skateboard shoes are designed specifically for skateboarding. They have flat, grippy soles to help hold your feet to the skateboard, they are covered with tough leather to help them survive tricks, and they usually have reinforced tongues, heel collars, lace protectors, and more.
However, the truth is that you don't NEED all of that. Your kid could skate in regular tennis shoes, but your kid won't do as well. Running shoes are designed for very different activities (for example, running in skate shoes feel clunky and takes a lot of work). Also, skateboarding will destroy regular running shoes. They just aren't designed with skateboarding in mind.
The top of a skateboard is covered with griptape - something like sandpaper. Most shoes aren't designed to be rubbed on sandpaper. And when skaters do technical tricks, they wrap the board around their foot, so it's going to get worn from every direction. And finally, your skater is going to land with a lot of force, when skateboarding off of ramps and obstacles. Weaker shoes will blow out their sides.
Not that pro-grade skateboarding shoes won't get destroyed. They will. They'll just have a better chance of lasting longer!
If you DO decide to get a pair of authentic skateboarding shoes, make sure you are spending your money on brands that will have the top chance of lasting. Take a look at the Best Skateboard Shoes list.
Do skaters need helmets?YES! Good gosh yes! As a parent, you probably already wanted to have your kid wear a helmet. You might be wondering, should you force your kid to wear one? YEAH! You should. Make it a rule, and take his / her wheels if they don't. I have a friend who has a rule with her kids - if there's wheels under your feet, there's a helmet on your head. It's a good idea! Your home is unique, and you know what will work, but it IS a good idea to make your kids wear helmets!
As far as the quality of the helmet, there are cheap, good helmets out there. Here is a list of good helmets.
Do skaters need pro quality skateboards?Ah. This is a tricky one. Pro grade skateboards are very good, and if you can afford it, I would highly recommend getting one for your child. However, you don't NEED one. There are cheaper, poorer quality skateboards that can work!
For example, if your kid is very young, and brand new to skateboarding, there are actually a few skateboards that are cheaper, and will work great. This article talks all about buying skateboards for young beginners.
Do skaters need pads?Actually, for the most part, they don't! If your kid is skating on large vert ramps, then he or she does need knee pads. And elbow pads can be helpful for any ramp skateboarding too. Wrist guards can help protect your kids wrists at the skatepark, too. But if your kid street skates, then he or she probably doesn't need any of these pads. If you still want to buy some, here's a list of the best skateboard pads.
I hope this list helps - if there is any other gear that you have questions about, please feel free to ask me!