Best parkour shoes 2023
Probably the most often asked question in parkour community, what shoes should you get for training?
Since the last time we touched on this topic, there was plenty of talk on the internet about shoes, amongst which, four features stood out the most. The wide toebox, thin padding, low/zero heel drop, and flexibility. With this in mind, I want to elaborate on what makes a good parkour shoe, how those features affect you, and also take a look at the most popular shoes in the parkour world today.
Bear in mind, the is no such thing as the best shoe, as everyone is different, has different needs and different preferences.
“No shoe can make you a better athlete, only training can do that”.
I think everyone can agree that a good parkour shoe needs a good grip and a durable upper.
Grip: The grip of the outsole is immensely important, and probably the place that gets worn down first. Whatever shoe you buy, make sure it has a layer of rubber on the outsole of the shoe. The less segmented it is, the more durable the outsole will be. Naturally, this means outsoles from 1 patch of rubber are the best, and this is further emphasized by the fact that sometimes we land or balance on our midfoot, a place where most shoes are choosing to cut some rubber material to save weight & money. Usually the better the grip the rubber has, the quicker it’s going to wear down.
Upper: This is the other part that gets worn down the quickest. A strong upper prevents this, but as per usual, that often means a lot of non-breathable material which will make strong shoes extremely hot in the summer. Depending on your training style and your foot structure you might not have a problem with wear and tear on the upper of the shoe at all (like myself for example), in which case feel free to enjoy all of the wonders of thin mash uppers.
The following is something that I find to be a quite common knowledge amongst long-distance running athletes, but somehow is seldom a talking point amongst other athletes.
Shoe architecture: Depending on many variables like your gait mechanics and the shape of your foot, you need to choose the right shoe type. If you have a tendency to overpronate, i.e. place most of your weight on the inside of the foot, you would not do great with a shoe meant for people who are prone to supination (loading the outside of the foot more).
The aforementioned characteristics are rarely discussed, mainly because they overshadowed by minimalist/barefoot shoe hype. But now let’s take a look at those four popular features and see how important they actually are.
Toebox: The size of the toebox is important, but does bigger = better? No! The size of the toebox should be fitting for your foot. If you have a wide foot, a wide toebox would better suit you. However, if you have a narrow foot and you opt for a wide toebox your foot would have too much space to move inside the shoe, making movement less stable, less powerful, and in some parkour scenarios downright dangerous. The trend of shoes with wide toe boxes is certainly great news for people with wider feet. For the ones with narrow feet, it certainly looks (from what I’ve seen) more like a scam because the promotion of wide toebox is often followed by unscientific claims (e.g. that having a narrow foot is a consequence of narrow shoes and it is unhealthy, but you’re in luck because they are selling the perfect solution to that problem)
The padding: Midsole thickness is important. Thin (minimalist) padding will make you feel the ground more, which (in general) is considered better for control. The thick padding is much better at absorbing the impact (1,2,) but you lose that sensibility you have with thinner padding.
The density of the padding is playing an important role here as well, as less dense material will provide a more “feel” than a denser one. Denser materials also tend to be more durable, as they deform less over time.
My recommendation is, if/when you want to go for bigger jumps, go with a shoe with a thicker midsole padding, and when/if you want to do sketchy or precise moves, go with a thinner padding shoe.
Flexibility: Flexible, or rather, a shoe with reduced stiffness is one of the characteristics of a minimalist shoe. While the scientific literature is scarce when it comes to the positive effects of such a shoe, increased bending stiffness of a shoe seems to be related to both reduced injury risk and increased performance3,4. From a parkour standpoint, I guess a more flexible shoe will result in more “feeling” compared to the stiff counterpart, but if you’re looking for performance power wise the stiff shoe is by far the better option.
Heel drop: The elevation of the heel compared to the forefoot is known as heel drop, and there are again many popular but not entirely supported claims on how it is unhealthy to have a raised heel as many running shoes have 2,5. Again, depending on your training style, you may find a slight heel drop beneficial or detrimental. I argue that techniques that require heel strikes to maximize their efficiency (like wall run/pop up, catpass, plyo, vertical takeoff) would benefit from a slightly elevated heel, however, any delicate work that requires balance and precision can suffer.
Finally: The list of the most popular parkour shoes in 2023.
Vans UltraRange EXO: Warn by almost every famous athlete at some point, this shoe is a perfect balance between every feature we talked about. With various different variations of the same model to choose from, you can get a stronger or more breathable upper, depending on your preference. The grip is arguably its weak point and it wears out too quickly. The retail price of 100$ may be a lot, but if you can get it at a large discount you would be in for a bargain.
OLLO Alpha: Parkour specific shoes that resemble Vans UltraRange in almost all aspects… except the grip! The grip has way more rubber than UltraRange which should, in theory, make it more durable. The other noticeable difference is the midsole thickness and slightly lower heel drop, but since I never tried these shoes I should refer myself from commenting any further. With its price of 98$, it looks like a clear rival to the Vans, a decent price for a small company product.
Strike Mvmnt Haze: A not specific parkour shoe that became extremely popular in parkour community and a lot of famous athletes have fallen in love with it. It promotes itself as a shoe with a wide toe box and low heel drop. With the price of 150$ it’s the most expensive shoe on the list by far, but if the quality and durability are there it’s more than justified.
Reebok Classic: The most popular parkour shoe for many years now, and it’s here to stay. It features built upper, with various versions for different conditions and seasons. The grip is decent and durable, the midsole is medium thick, and the heel drop is present but not overdone. With its retail price of 75$ it’s the cheapest option, especially if you get it at a discount in an outlet somewhere.
What do all of these shoes have in common? They are decently built, have a very good grip, and are moderately cushioned. This way they are suited for a range of different parkour practitioners, but of course, not everyone.
Here are some honorable mentions that are also popular choices but not as much:
-Adidas Duramo 4: Discontinued, but can be still found on shelves somewhere.
-Feiyue: A staple minimalist shoe in the parkour community for more than a decade.
-Farang Elevate: A decent shoe but not as popular as the aforementioned four.
-Adidas 3MC: Most recommended shoe on the internet parkour forums.
Here at #Skochy we love them all, and we all had a different favorite pair for the season 2022/2023 , but let’s see what the next season will bring. What is your favorite? Let us know in the comments bellow.
Marta – Le Coque Sportif,
Petar – Puma NRGY Knit,
Jovan – Adidas Galaxy 4,
Saša – Vans UltraRange EXO,
Kosta – Decathlon Kalenji Active Jogging Shoes
- Sterzing T, Schweiger V, Ding R, Cheung JTM, Brauner T. Influence of rearfoot and forefoot midsole hardness on biomechanical and perception variables during heel-toe running. Footwear Sci. 2013;5(2):71-79. doi:10.1080/19424280.2012.757810
- Malisoux L, Gette P, Chambon N, Urhausen A, Theisen D. Adaptation of running pattern to the drop of standard cushioned shoes: A randomised controlled trial with a 6-month follow-up. J Sci Med Sport. 2017;20(8):734-739. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2017.01.238
- Jia SW, Yang F, Wang Y, Guo T, Lam WK. Shoe Bending Stiffness Influence on Lower Extremity Energetics in Consecutive Jump Take-Off. Appl Bionics Biomech. 2022;2022:5165781. doi:10.1155/2022/5165781
- Stefanyshyn DJ, Wannop JW. The influence of forefoot bending stiffness of footwear on athletic injury and performance. Footwear Sci. 2016;8(2):51-63. doi:10.1080/19424280.2016.1144652
- Zhang M, Zhou X, Zhang L, Liu H, Yu B. The effect of heel-to-toe drop of running shoes on patellofemoral joint stress during running. Gait Posture. 2022;93:230-234. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2022.02.008