One of the things that makes parkour very different from most sports is the amount of equipment needed to actually start training. With soccer, you need shoes and a ball. With swimming, you need goggles and swimming trunks, maybe a swim cap, but with parkour, all that’s needed is your body (and for most people a good reliable pair of shoes.) There are multitudes of shoe types and price ranges and = it can leave someone wondering if there is such thing as the “best parkour shoe”. Having a shoe that is light and durable, has mostly a solid rubber sole, and within your budget is going to be worth the investment; versus a shoe that breaks down within a month. Parkour requires the athlete to be on their feet, constantly jumping, landing, and running up concrete walls; which calls for a durable shoe, or a shoe you don’t mind getting scuffed up.
One solid shoe choice for anyone starting off with is a martial arts style shoe called, “Feiyue”. This shoe is a great first choice for anyone old or new to Parkour. It may not be the most durable of shoes, but at its low price of $20, you can’t beat the price point. It might last you a few months with moderate usage, maybe less if used more frequently. One of the benefits of the shoe is its thin sole that will give you immediate feedback if you are landing incorrectly, which is very useful when first learning new movements. The grip for the shoe is pretty average compared to most parkour shoes, giving you decent traction on most walls and rails. However, the thinness of it can also be seen as a drawback, because of the lack of protection for the arch and heel. New students shouldn’t have this issue as long as they practice within their physical abilities avoiding careless high impact jumps or high-risk maneuvers. Overall if you are looking for an inexpensive shoe option, the “Feiyue” is a good option.
If you are looking for a shoe with a bit more durability while still keeping a lightweight profile, a solid choice among traceurs are the “Onitsuka Tigers, Ultimate 81 fashion shoes”. The Ultimate 81 makes up for the increased price with a boost in durability. With the increase in durability comes an increase in padding though, which can leave a new student less aware if they are landing correctly or not. The price for the Ultimate 81's starts at around $75 on Amazon and you might be able to find a better price on other retail websites. For an athlete with a bit of experience under his or her belt, this is a good shoe to have if they are moving into more precise movements or higher impact landings. The grip on the shoe itself is pretty standard, having traction on most surfaces, however, the rubber sole needs to be worn in a bit before the grip can be most effective.
A highly sought after shoe by many traceurs are the Adistar Racer (Or their Puma counterparts The Puma Cabana Racers). With top-notch durability, grip and build quality, the Racer is looked at by many athletes as one of the best shoes to use. One of the drawbacks of the shoe itself is how inflexible the shoe is out of the box. Because of the shoes high durability, it requires a bit of time to wear them in and for them to be comfortable for training. Normally the cost of the shoes runs in the $90-110 range can be hard to find in adult sizes. In contrast, a shoe that is easily found and at a much lower price is the “Saucony Bullet Classic Sneaker”. With its convenient price at around $50 and even cheaper on other websites, the Saucony Bullet is a happy medium between the Feiyue martial arts shoe and the Ultimate 81. The grip is great right out of the box, durable, and provides enough padding for beginners while also providing enough support for any intermediate athletes.
If you want to go out and find your own shoes, here are a couple things to keep an eye out for, in your hunt for the perfect shoe:
A one piece, all rubber bottom.
As close to the width of your foot that you can find, too wide will be deceptive and make foot placement hard.
Thin enough to be able to easily feel the ground, and should be able to easily fold in half.
Hard plastic arches
If the sole of the shoe is not flat across the whole bottom of the shoe
Overly wide shoes
Heavy shoes, or shoes with a lot of weight.
Very solid shoes without flexibility
Soles so thick that you can't feel the ground
No laces or velcro
Another important thing to keep in mind is that kids shoes often are very solid and ‘brick-like’ you want to avoid this as much as possible.
New shoes are always coming out, and athletes are always making discoveries about what the next great parkour shoe is. Just now, highly regarded Parkour fashion/apparel companies are creating and improving shoes designed specifically for Parkour. Historically companies that make shoes specifically for Parkour, have created low-quality shoes. When it comes down to it, choosing a shoe is always personal preference. Whether you go for a cheaper shoe, a more durable shoe, or the most expensive shoe in the world, do your research before picking what works best for you. Every athlete is different and requires different types of material and you are not the exception. Figure out what you need from a shoe and then go find the shoe that best fits you and your movements.
A quick rundown of recommended shoes by the PPK Philly Staff:
Puma Cabana Racers
Adidas Adistar Racers
Saucony Bullet Classic
PPK Philly Team