Hello and welcome! I imagine you’re here because you’re looking for the best parkour shoes. There are several heavily recommended shoes by the parkour community, each with their own pros and cons, but even that list is daunting. So I conducted a significant amount of research to narrow it down. Before the reviews and information on shoes, I want you to know that you can trust my judgment.
My name is Garrett Oden. I was a practitioner of parkour for over two years, was sponsored by Texas Parkour, and suffered my share of injuries. Check out the about me page for my videos!
The Top 3 Parkour Shoes
After dozens of hours reading forums, reviews, and recalling personal experiences, I have finally narrowed down my recommendation to three shoes. Note, these are not necessarily the best shoes out there, but these are the ones I was able to get the most information on and judge accordingly. There are other shoes that may better fit your specific style or needs, but I am confident that these parkour shoes will wonderfully please almost every parkour practitioner. Take a quick look at this overview table and then proceed a little further down to the reviews of each individual shoe.
Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81
The Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 shoe by Asics is my personal favorite and top pick for the best parkour shoes. I cannot stress enough how well these shoes have served me. So much, in fact, that I went back for a second pair after the first one wore down after about seven months of heavy use, which is longer than most shoes will last with constant training. The incredible durability can be attributed to the single piece of rubber that spans the entire length of the shoe, making small rips and tears along the bottom virtually impossible.
The grip on these shoes is incredible on almost every surface. The only problems came with treated wood, but that’s a very common occurrence. At first I was satisfied, but then I became amazed – the grip improved significantly after some use. The tread on the bottom needed to break in before the full potential of the shoe could be released.
Another significant thing to mention about the grip is that it continues up right in front of the toes. Other shoes I wore in my parkour adventures lacked this. Not that you should expect to be kicking anything, but when I needed grip when jumping or climbing, that small bit of rubber on the toes made a big difference. I also think this contributed to the long life of the shoes.
The Ultimate 81’s have a very thin sole. This was instrumental in helping me improve many techniques that I had been slacking on with padded shoes. I could feel the ground more on the drops, but it was worth it to learn to land safely. The slight bit of padding that is present keeps rocks from invading and stabbing, while many other minimal shoes have this problem.
These shoes also fit well and, because of the thinness, would bend where my feet needed. The light weight material and breath-ability are major factors that make this shoe excellent for this type of activity. I strongly recommend this shoe to any parkour practitioner!
Vibram Five Fingers
The hype surrounding Vibram’s “toe shoes” is deserved, but misplaced. They are often praised for being “cool” or “interesting”, but the real value is in outdoor activity. As parkour shoes, Five Fingers work marvelously. The grip is second only to the Ultimate 81’s, but is still leagues ahead of most shoes, except on slippery surfaces. Tread carefully there.
The real selling point comes with the design. This shoe is mean to emulate barefoot training. Wearing shoes causes our feet and legs to develop different muscle groups than we would naturally going barefoot. This shoe however, will build up those other muscles, giving you strong feet and legs.
The individual slots for the toes allow for amazing flexibility. This becomes very important on small surfaces, such as rails, when wrapping your foot and toes around the landing zone improves balance and safety immensely. I personally never owned Vibrams, but all my training buddies did – and they all had great balance because of the availability of each individual toe. However, they also occasionally experienced toe pain when rocks and sticks would get jammed in-between the toes where there is little protection.
The snug fit, feather weight, and extreme flexibility make this the ultimate minimal parkour shoe. The only other drawback is the lack of practicality in every day activities – although some would argue against that point. I strongly recommend this shoe to any parkour practitioner!
Nike Dart 10
This was another shoe that I had to go back to for a second time while I was involved heavily in parkour. It’s surprising that some random Nike shoe would be great for parkour training, but it’s true! The Nike Dart 10 is a well-respected shoe in the parkour community and it is well-respected by me, making it on the top 3 parkour shoes list!
While the grip doesn’t quite match the Ultimate 81’s, it’s great on more surfaces. Even treated wood and wet grass can be conquered by the Nike Dart 10’s. The ability to find great traction on a range of surfaces is due to Nike’s Phylon soft rubber. Unfortunately it also wears more quickly than the other two shoes. Both pairs of mine maintained great grip for about five months of constant training. However, these are the cheapest shoes of the three, so take that into consideration.
The padding is noticeable, but not extreme. The extra support is very nice for days when I know that there will be larger drops involved, but I don’t feel like they are just for high-impact training. Truly, they are functional in all areas of parkour.
The shoe fits very nicely, but the added padding decreases flexibility and increases weight, though it’s not very significant. If it was, I wouldn’t allow it to be on my top 3 list! As a simple running shoe, it is appropriate for any outdoor activity really, making it extremely practical and not just for parkour training. I strongly recommend this shoe to any parkour practitioner!
If you are confident that none of these shoes are right for you, check out the honorable mentions:
What to Look for in Parkour Shoes
Here’s a little guide on what you’re looking for in parkour shoes. All three of the shoes above excel greatly in all of these categories, but some even moreso than the others. So now it’s up to you to complete your research of these three shoes by comparing them specifically what you value in these items and what the shoes offer.
Arguably the most important aspect of any parkour shoe is the amount of grip. Obviously, if a shoe is slick and made of certain materials, you’re not going to improve and will likely injure yourself.
The best grip for most parkour comes not from cleats like you would need in football or soccer, but from fairly flat bottoms. You probably see shoes all the time with layers of depth in the rubber bottom. Avoid this. You want a shoe with much surface area.
The amount of cushion a shoe provides is one of the other essential things to consider. A shoe with a lot of cushion may feel nice on the feet, but having the extra support can easily lead to sloppy form because your landing technique will be poor, but you won’t be able to tell. Similarly, the added thickness deceives many to believe they are skilled enough for larger drops than they are ready for.
Parkour shoes will little cushion will help you develop proper technique by revealing your flaws clearly. You will feel discomfort initially, but your ability to land gracefully will improve quickly and dramatically. I strongly recommend, along with many experienced traceurs, shoes with very little cushion and thickness.
Weight and Flexibility
Nobody wants to drag around heavy shoes while they are climbing, jumping, and vaulting. Light weight shoes will allow you to move more freely without carrying weights around.
Flexibility is also good to consider. If the shoes don’t bend at all, you are losing control. When you’re landing on a rail or small surface, you want the shoe to bend just enough to wrap your foot around whatever you’re landing on. When you’re climbing a wall, you want the front end of the shoe to bend to keep your toes from bending.
Too much flexibility and the shoes won’t support your foot structure at all, but the main problem is with not enough flexibility most of the time.
Soft rubber soles are going to provide amazing grip, but will also wear down very quickly. Hard rubber soles will provide less grip, but will endure much more training. That’s the rule of thumb to follow, but the three shoes listed above definitely have greater durability than the average shoe, despite the hardness of the sole’s rubber.
Nobody is made of money, so pick the shoe that is most appropriate for your budget. If you’re able to invest a little more in shoes each year, you have the luxury of choice. For the rest of us, use good judgment.
Other Things to Consider
You definitely want to avoid any shoe that has a hard plastic centerpiece on the bottom of the shoe. This small thing is responsible for many injuries in the parkour community due to its slippery nature. That specific spot in the center of our feet is a sort of second chance spot when our toes fail. You absolutely do not want your safety net made of plastic.
Fit is important when you’re running and jumping. If the shoe slips off your feet or rubs major blisters, you’re not going to be training for long. Make sure you are comfortable and secure in the shoes you choose.
By now you should have a very solid understanding of what makes great parkour shoes and ought to be considering the ones I have recommended. But it’s up to you now to decide which shoe is for you. Will you go with the gripping Ultimate 81’s, the flexible Five Fingers, or the well-rounded Darts?
Good luck and safe training, my friends.
For some more insight on shoes, I highly recommend checking out American Parkour.