At first glance, most people probably wouldn’t think that Asics’ Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81s would make a good parkour shoe. Nonetheless, they have become a very popular, highly regarded choice inside the parkour community. At every large jam, there is a good chance of seeing at least someone wearing a pair. If you ask for a parkour shoe recommendation on any forum or site, they are sure to pop up among the list of suggestions. And all of this praise is not undeserved.
As a parkour shoe, the Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81s have no real weakness. They aren’t the best at any one thing; they aren’t the grippiest, lightest, or most sensitive shoe. However, Asics has created an overall product greater than the sum of its parts, and one of the best parkour shoes on the market.
Read the rest of the review to find out why.
The fit of the Ultimate 81s is fairly snug. I have heard them described as slipper like, which I think has some merit. Overall, they are quite comfortable and I have no complaints. They do take a little while to break in though and the arch support is not everyone’s favorite. The toe area is mesh and breathes very well (note: there is also a non-mesh version available). If you have a very wide foot, these might be too narrow for you, as they run slightly on the narrow side.
Flexibility / Sensitivity
The Ultimate 81s have a thin sole, at least compared to traditional running shoes. I find the sensitivity to be great, though everyone will have a different opinion. The shoes strike a good balance between super minimalist shoes and regular running shoes. While you won’t be able to roll the shoes up or fold them in half like with some Vibrams or Feyiues, they are flexible in the areas that they need to be, particularly the toe area. From the middle of the shoe to the heel is much stiffer.
If you are used to well-padded running shoes, the lack of cushioning in the Tigers will be dramatic. The cushioning is not great and this should be fairly obvious from just looking at them. While this is actually a selling point for many experienced traceurs, if you are looking for lots of protection and shock absorption, than these are not the shoes for you. The relatively minimal cushioning makes them an excellent choice if you want to try a more minimalist shoe, but are not ready to try something like Feyiues.
Note: The insoles are glued into the shoe.
For a men’s size 9(US), the Tigers come in at 11 ounces. Personally, they feel a lot lighter than this when wearing them though. I think this might have to do with their snug fit. Compared to everything but lightweight running shoes, they can hardly be considered heavy. It is easy to forget that you are even wearing them.
Like you want with a good parkour shoe, the sole of the Tiger is completely flat and one continuous piece. There are no plastic pieces that will cause you to slip or individual segments that will rip off. The grip isn’t good enough that it will markedly improve performance, but it is solid. And grip is good across a wide variety of surfaces. The pattern that you see above can wear down quite a bit, but the grip performance remains good even as it does.
The Ultimate 81’s are definitely well made. In fact, they are deceptively durable. I did not expect them to last very long at all and have been pleasantly surprised. I have had several pairs now both for parkour and casual use and I can’t personally point to any particular flaw. However, some have reported that the mesh toe area can develop tears.
If you are looking for a remarkably well balanced, affordable, parkour shoe leaning towards a more minimalist style, Asics Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81s are an excellent choice. Their low price compared to higher end running shoes and excellent durability makes them great value for the money.
Personally, I am a fan of the aesthetics as well, which is a nice bonus compared to many other parkour shoes. They come in a ton of different colors and are something you can wear when you’re not doing parkour.
I have tried to be impartial and take into account different training styles in this review, but overall, the Ultimate 81s are my favorite parkour shoes that I have ever tested. Give them a shot, you probably won’t be disappointed.