Good parkour shoes are critical for both performance and safety, but shopping for parkour shoes is not an easy task. Few manufacturers make dedicated parkour shoes like they do with other sports, so traceurs are left to try and find suitable footwear from a selection that was primarily designed for a different purpose. Understandably, many turn to shoes designed for running or trail running, but unfortunately not all running shoes are necessarily good for parkour.
If you are a beginner, you might not know what features are important and what to look out for. If you are an experienced practitioner, you might not have the time or money to test out a ton of different shoes. This is why we’ve put together the ultimate buyer’s guide for parkour footwear.
Top 4 Parkour Shoes
Asics Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81
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The Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 shoes are widely recommended in the parkour community and for good reason. They are an excellent all around performer and have no significant deficiencies. They are relatively lightweight, have great grip on nearly every surface, and are quite durable. The cushioning provided is less than that of an average running shoe; the soles are thin and quite sensitive making them great for balancing. However, you will notice the lack of shock absorption if you are used to using bulkier shoes. Flexibility is good from the middle of the shoe to the toes. The heel of the shoe is much stiffer. Breathability and comfort of the shoe is fantastic. It should be noted that the fit of these shoes is on the narrow side. Read the full review.
Puma Faas 500
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The Faas 500s are well padded and provide good shock absorption for landings. Comfort is fantastic. Overall, if you are looking for a more traditional style running shoe, the Faas 500s are a great choice. They are also great for beginners who don’t know exactly what they are looking for. They are padded enough that they are more forgiving than minimalist shoes, but still retain enough sensitivity for parkour specific techniques. The thicker padding does come at a cost though. The toe area of the shoe is somewhat flexible but not great. Flexibility is certainly no worse than the average running shoe, but if you spend all your time balancing on rails they may not be the best choice. Build quality is good and durability is decent enough, making the Faas 500s an easy recommendation.
Feiyue Martial Arts Shoes
Grip: Good (except in wet conditions)
Cushioning: Little to none
Durability: Below Average
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Though not my personal favorite, Feiyues are incredibly popular among traceurs. They are highly endorsed by the Australian Parkour Association and American Parkour who write, “The best pair of parkour shoes of all time? Probably.” Feiyues are very simple shoes with almost zero padding, no ankle support, and a single piece sole. Wearing them is like being barefoot compared to most other shoes. And if you have bad landing technique it will be made abundantly clear. On the plus side, they offer incredible flexibility and sensitivity. You can easily bend the shoe in half.
While durability isn’t very good, Feiyues are so cheap it doesn’t really matter. If you are looking for a minimalist shoe, trying out a pair of Feiyues is a no-brainer. However, I would not recommend them for absolute beginners as they offer very little protection. It should also be noted that these shoes have a somewhat wider fit. Read the full review.
Nike Free Run
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The Nike Free Runs were not designed for parkour or freerunning as their name might suggest. Instead, they were designed to promote barefoot like running. Nevertheless, they have become popular with parkour practitioners. The Free Run line consists of three variations, the 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0. The lower the number indicates a more flexible and minimal shoe. They are lightweight, flexible, breathable, and quite comfortable to wear. However, the soles are arguably not the best for parkour. Grip is moderate but not excellent and they tend to not be as durable as some other choices. While there is nothing particularly spectacular about Nike Free Runs, they are definitely a solid choice worth considering if they are the style of shoe you are looking for.
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Important Features to Look at When Choosing Parkour Shoes
When looking for a pair of shoes, special attention should be paid to the construction of the sole. Thinner soles provide greater sensitivity, this is vital for balance and rail techniques. However, thinner soled shoes typically provide minimal shock absorption.
Harder rubber compounds will be more durable but generally provide less grip than softer compounds. Single piece soles also tend to be more durable as individual pieces have a habit of being ripped off.
Finally, any plastic pieces that are common in arches of shoes should be avoided at all costs. They are very slippery and let’s face it; everyone has bad landings some times. Accidentally landing on any plastic pieces can easily lead to injuries.
The less weight the better. However, the tradeoff for really lightweight shoes is usually shock absorption. It is important to weigh what kind of training you do and your personal style of movement to decide which option is preferable.
No matter how good a particular shoe might be for parkour, it is irrelevant if it does not fit your foot properly. Improper sizing or shape can lead to a variety of injuries that you don’t want to have to deal with. As a basic guide, proper fitting shoes should be snug but comfortable. Your foot spreads out during impact and should have the room to do so. The toe box should not pinch your toes. And the heel should not slip during movement.
Is the fit of your shoe almost perfect? There are some lacing tricks you can try to help fine tune the fit. Alternatively, trying different types of socks can make a difference.