Parkour is the latest workout craze. Initially developed in France by Sebastien Foucan and based on military training obstacle courses, parkour can be done alone or in groups. The basic idea is to move oneself from one point to another in a complex environment using no assistive equipment and arriving at the end point in the fastest and most efficient way possible. There are stunt moves involved, such as vaulting over objects, and high agility is required. It’s typically practiced in urban spaces and can take several hours or several days to complete. For more information, check out parkourpedia.
The intensity and high impact involved in this unique sport require particular shoes to help prevent injury.
Factors in Choosing a Parkour Shoe
Depending on your natural arches, desired shock absorption and overall comfort level you may desire more padding or less. Some people like to feel the ground beneath their feet and dislike a thick layer of padding in the bottom of their shoes. Check out the Puma FAAS 500 (reviewed below) for a great cushioning shoe.
The tread and material of the sole of parkour shoes can greatly impact your ability to successfully navigate the obstacles. Some shoes stick better to concrete or wood. Some soles grip well on wet surface while others do not. Depending on the weather where you train and the type of obstacle found there, you may prefer certain soles to others.
Given the multitude of situations traceurs can encounter while freerunning many participants want shoes with a flexible sole and snug fit. Any slipping can cause blisters. Flexible soles when coupled with gripping treads, provide a shoe that prevents slipping and injury.
To navigate through the parkour course most effectively, it’s essential that traceurs feel the course beneath the feet, almost as if they’re barefoot. This tactile connection, also known as ground feel, is becoming common in many other sports as well, but is a requirement in parkour sneakers.
Parkour shoes take a beating, more so than in most other sports. No one wants to spend their paychecks buying new sneakers all the time, so it’s important to find a parkour sneaker that will last a while. Price does not always dictate quality, so be careful in your purchases.
Best Parkour Shoes
Feiyue Top One
Parkour has movements similar to a non-combative martial art so it’s no surprise that the company famous for making martial arts shoes also makes a great parkour shoe. The Feiyue Top One is suitable for all ages and comes in sizes to fit males and females. They’re durable, lightweight and have a flexible rubber sole. They’re among the least expensive parkour sneakers on the market and durable enough to hold up for a long period of time.
Puma FAAS 500 V4 Running
This is a great parkour shoe with a synthetic sole. The lightweight cushioning and exclusive FAAS foam inside make the Puma FAAS an ideal parkour sneaker. In addition, the shoe is designed to encourage a natural stride and fit snugly to provide a support without confining your feet.
Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81
The Tigers look good and provide great support. Using and eva midsole and and flexible TPU heel the cushioning and arch support are top-notch. They’re incredibly lightweight and versatile. They work well in both urban and rural environments and offer incredible breathability. They’re not great for freerunning in the rain, but otherwise offer great arch support for people with high arches and are quite durable. Freerunner and traceur Ronnie Shalvis also recommends this shoe.
Vivobarefoot EVO Pure
The name says it all. This shoe truly leaves you feeling barefoot. There’s nothing between you and the feel of the parkour course giving you maximum control. They’re so lightweight that some wearers have had durability issues, but they may also have wider feet as these shoes tend to run a bit narrow. The soles are incredibly grippy and the sneakers overall look good. Although not the cheapest parkour sneaker on the market, they’re well worth the money.
Merrell Bare Access 4
These Merrell’s are the perfect combination of breathability and grippy. By optimizing Vibram technology in the soles and a full-cushioning zero drop, the Bare Access 4s provide a light and intensely responsive sneaker, giving you maximum control and preventing slipping. In addition, the wider toe box is great for people with wide feet.
ASICS GEL Venture 5
Perfect for rugged terrain, the Venture 5s have a rugged and sole with great tread. The gel insole provides added cushioning. That combined with arch support makes parkour attainable for those with the most painful plantar fasciitis. In addition, these sneakers are light, dry quickly and incredibly durable. They’re also available in wide widths making them a great choice for every foot.
Cushy and low-drop, the evolv Cruzer is a great parkour shoe. It wicks moisture and because it’s lined with memory foam, is super comfortable. As a minimalist shoe, they provide great ground feel and the TRAX rubber soles stick to just about everything. This combination gives any traceur a feeling of stability and control. They’re so durable and comfortable, many people wear them as their everyday shoe for years.
Nike Free Rn
The Nike Free Rns have some pretty cool tread technology. The tri-star pattern expands on impacts and contracts on release, making it easy to land a quickly jump or slide to the next obstacle. Instead of traditional laces, these shoes use a Flywire to secure the shoe and prevent them from coming untied. They have a little extra cushion from most running shoes, which is great for people with joint issues. Finally, if you pronate, the cushioning in these shoes has helped some people correct their gait.
Extremely affordable and hip, the Dunlop Volleys are an ideal parkour sneaker. They offer great heel support while remaining light weight and have a tread pattern that grips without holding too tight. Just about the only downside is that they don’t come in half sizes. At the low price point, they offer a lot of shoe for a little money.
New Balance 20v5 Vibram Minimus
The vibram soles are great for parkour as they provide great gripping ability while also maintaining tactile sensations. Crossfit athletes love them because they’re rugged and the laces stay tied – all things traceurs love in a shoe. Also, in typical New Balance style, these sneakers come in super wide widths to accommodate any foot and outsoles that are supportive without being confining.
One of the most minimalist shoes on the market, the Vibram KSO’s are sure to keep your feet connected to the ground. You’ll feel almost barefoot, but still keep your feet protected from the harsh urban terrain. Combined with Vibram’s super grippy tread, these shoes are sure to enhance your parkour experience.
Adidas is well known for making comfortable, durable sports shoes. The Gazelle is loved by traceurs. Many compare it to the Onitsuka Tigers, but at a lower price point. Depending on the shape of your foot, they may even fit better.
Take Flight Ultra
Famous tracuer David Belle lends his name to Take Flight. The Take Flight Ultra is often thought of as the ultimate parkour shoe. Flexible and durable, these sneakers offer great ground feel and unbeatable traction. Traceurs from newbie to experienced will love this shoe.
What Makes a Parkour Shoe Right for You
Everyone’s feet and joints are different. The parkour sneaker that’s best for your neighbor or best friend may not be the best one for you. What’s important is that you feel like the treads grip well and that the sneaker makes you feel in control and secure when you’re on the course. Laces that stay tied and an appealing look never hurt either. In the end, the best parkour shoe is the one that you love. Let us know which one you picked!