Best Shoes for Parkour

Parkour is Beautiful in that the only pieces of equipment needed for the sport are loose-fitting clothing that’s easy to move in and a good pair of shoes. However, one question always comes up; what constitutes a good parkour shoe? the sport of Parkour is a super demanding physical practice that asks a lot of its athletes and just as much, if not more, from their footwear. this blog post is here to help you pick a pair of shoes that match your style, your comfort level, and your skill level as much depends on how you train and where you train.

For starters, All parkour shoes should have soft rubber soles. period. regardless of the type of shoe that you wear, traction is one of the single most important factors in a parkour shoe, that will either make or break your training experience. Foam-soled shoes like Sketchers, Nike Free Runs, etc. will be no good, and you might as well grease up the bottom of your feet, as they will have no traction, and the soles will be shredded in a matter of minutes training outdoors.

You want to find a good balance between durability and weight, or lack thereof. shoes that have more durable materials like leather and suede will stand a good beating, but will ultimately add weight to the shoe, making it hard to jump about. ideally, the lighter the shoe, the better.

You also want to avoid shoes that are too rigid. basketball shoes are awful for parkour, which confuses some folks as they’re made for jumping in right? while this is true, and they typically offer a great amount of ankle support and rigidity in the forefoot, they’re also heavy and clunky, and for all their protective features, they’ll land you in the hospital pretty fast if you train in these. you want your shoe to be flexible enough to be responsive and feel the ground beneath you, so you can react and be dynamic in your movements.

Skate shoes too should be avoided for the most part. Why? because they’re made for a very specific task; skateboarding. much like a basketball shoe, they’re made so specifically for their activity, that they’re often not great as a parkour shoe, as they often feel like brick sewn to a burlap sack. heavy, unresponsive, and clunky, when trying to do Parkour in them.

Typically, what you want in a Parkour shoe is something athletic and responsive, much like a casual running shoe. pair that with a one-piece rubber sole, and then you’re cooking with gas! typically starting out, opting for a shoe that is fairly minimalist in design is the way to go, because it teaches the athlete how to manage impact appropriately, and not rely on the cushioning of a shoe to cheat techniques and develop poor form in landing and managing impact. shoes like STRK/MVMT based out of Vancouver, have shoes with minimal padding, a zero-drop sole (i.e. no heel/ same thickness from heel to toe), and solid traction for most surfaces. the Merrill Vapor-Glove is also a good choice for beginners for the same reasons, though is more geared towards organic surfaces as opposed to manmade ones. if you want to go to the extreme of minimalism, the Vibram five-finger will give you a barefoot feel while also providing good traction, and tactility, and is a great choice for balance training.

However, shoes like this should only be used for light, beginner training at best, or at the very least, under very careful training to build up the muscles and tendons in the feet and knees. Height drops, big jumps, and flipping about on concrete are not recommended to be done in minimalist footwear without careful training, as you could very easily break bones in your feet and damage your knees. 

for training like this, especially as you graduate into bigger, heftier jumps, a shoe with some cushion to it is definitely recommended. 

One such shoe is the Vans Ultrarange. While I personally wear the discontinued High-Top version (of which I have a stockpile in the basement… don’t judge), the low-top rapid weld version is a preference of Parkour athletes everywhere, as it has great cushioning, is lighter than kung fu slippers, and by most shoe standards is pretty affordable at a reasonable $60-80. its tread is unique, as it features flat-headed lugs with Vans’ signature rubber compound on the sole; this makes it ideal for smooth flat surfaces like wood, painted surfaces, and marble, while the gaps in between the lugs conform to textured terrain like rock, brick, tree bark, etc. Its versatility makes it a great shoe to travel with too, as they are light, easily packable, and can be used for a variety of different uses. I have a low-top pair that I’ll work out and run in, and also walk around town in, as they’re so comfortable, they feel like walking on clouds, while still being an extension of your body.

Ultimately, it depends on personal preference at the end of the day, how you train, and where you train. It’s a balance between being light enough, having good traction, and the right amount of padding for your style of training.