When looking for the best shoes to train Parkour there are a few things that should be taken into account, certain things to look for, and other things to avoid. Sometimes the best shoes for training can be as little as $20 rather than a gimmicky ‘Parkour specific’ shoe that can be over $200 and not actually be that good for Parkour at all.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PARKOUR SHOE
Ideally the shoe should be as light as possible, when your running around all day the less weight you carry the longer you can continue to train. Generally, less added weight to the body is beneficial because it will allow more natural and free movement.
There are a couple of factors that need to be considered when looking at the sole of a shoe:
Despite what some may believe, a thick sole is not advisable in a Parkour shoe. Thick soles can sometimes assist in promoting poor technique. Thick soles generally provide a lack of sensitivity between your feet and the environment you interact with. This lack of sensitivity allows some people to attempt drops that they are not yet ready for. Having thinner soles allows you to feel the impact of landings. This is beneficial as it forces you to maintain correct technique so as to avoid injury.
Shoes with a one piece sole will be the most effective as they do not tear away in chunks as many soles that are glued together in segments tend to do.
Examples of one piece soles
As soles similar to the ones in the image above wear down, some of the individual parts of rubber (shown in red) will rip off while others stay on, exposing the padding which will wear through very quickly and provide less traction. Most people tend to want to avoid this.
Arches are preferable when choosing a shoe, these work as a safety mechanism when performing precision landings. Sometimes when landing on an edge our feet slip forward, by having an arch in the shoe you can drop the heels and the edge of the landing tends to lock into the foot arch.The only exception to this rule would be when wearing a thin soled flexible shoe like the Feiyue or Dunlop volleys, due to the exceptional flexibility and sensitivity of these shoes you can use the natural arch of your foot for safety.
One thing to avoid is shoes that have hard plastic in the arches (shown in the above image in blue) as this can cause slippage when climbing, and if you happen to land on a metal rail with the hard plastic arch part it will cause you to easily slip off.
The rubber that the sole is manufactured from will generally affect how long the shoe lasts and its ability to grip. Softer compounds tend to supply more grip but wear down more quickly. While harder compounds last longer, their grip can be ineffective at times allowing you to slip down on arm jumps.
If money is no barrier then you are a lucky person and you can afford to spend a lot of money on shoes you will wear out quickly. But if that is not the case, then you should carefully consider how much you are spending on a shoe. If you are training quite a lot then you will more than likely wear the shoe out quickly. There is no point to getting an expensive shoe that will last marginally longer than a cheaper one.
The preferred shoes of many members of the APA are:
Cheap, thin soles, good grip, with the only drawback being the soft compound used for the sole which means they wear away very quickly if you train certain techniques.
Cost: $20 – $30AU
Similar to Dunlop Volley’s, but with an even thinner sole and a little more expensive. If you’re after a really light, unobtrusive shoe which allows great touch and sensitivity, this is a great choice. But be warned, they are very minimal and provide very little support or padding in the sole and can be hard to adjust to. They are often worn as martial art shoes with the Shaolin Monks being known to wear them.
Cost: $30 – $40AU
There are a few companies out there who have made “Parkour Shoes” and generally, these are not recommended, and much better and cheaper shoes can be found. It’s recommend that you avoid the gimmicks and go with one of the recommended shoes above. It is becoming increasingly harder and harder to get good quality, cheap Parkour shoes. The types and style also differ greatly between continents and countries. It is highly recommended that you take the information from here and do your own research within your local region for something that fits within the specifications of a good shoe.
Minimalist Running Shoes
There are now many more options when it comes to minimalist running shoes. This is good in some respects for traceurs in that these shoes are usually more durable than the shoes mentioned above. That durability comes at a monetary cost though. When balanced out between how quickly you can wear out the soles on the different types of minimalist shoes the cost does seem to balance out though. Different minimalist shoes appeal to different people, be sure to try them on and check them out in a store before settling on a particular shoe. Some of the options available are:
Merrell Trail Glove
Probably one of the best for Parkour, but it is also one of the most expensive. The lacing system allows the forefoot to spread and have freedom, while the heel is locked in tightly. The grip is good and the design on the outer stops the shoe falling apart when you roll (most shoes get a hole just behind the little toe where the shoe rubs on the ground on rolls.)
Although this has been all about shoes, taking them off and training barefoot is very beneficial. As discussed, a good shoe gives you good touch and sensitivity, hinders movement as little as possible, and promotes solid and refined technique. Training barefooted gives you the greatest feel for your environment, allows for complete freedom of movement, and forces you to have solid technique particularly in regards to landing. If you land poorly barefoot it will most likely hurt, so it forces you to land with very good technique, minimising impact.
Whilst it is very hard to train all techniques at a high level barefooted, it is great to take off your shoes and train, even if it is only occasionally. Once you have a reasonable grasp of the techniques involved in Parkour it is a good idea to start doing some barefoot training. Just start by taking your shoes off whilst you normally train and seeing how it feels. Make sure you approach your training with the appropriate caution until you adjust.
As your skill and experience training barefoot increases, you can train extensively without your shoes, eventually being able to train primarily barefoot.
Please be aware that the Australian Parkour Association and contributors to this article are in no way commercially associated with any of the mentioned shoe makers.
Further discussion and contributions