As you begin your path to becoming an elite traceur you will find that often your shoes feel like they have suddenly jumped out from under your feet. It's one of the most common ways to end up injured when training, and there are a couple ways to avoid it and keep training safely. Out of all the factors that go into getting the traction needed to move over obstacles quickly, one of the most important aspects starts with finding good shoes. There are important points to consider when finding the right footwear, like what kinds of movement you are trying to execute, or what surfaces you will be training on and what the weather/environment is like in the area.
The Right Shoes For Your Movement
What Moves You?
First lets talk about what kinds of movements are important to you. Depending on if you enjoy dropping from higher heights or staying local to the ground, or even training in wet or dirty conditions the optimal type of rubber, sole, and tread pattern on your perfect shoes may differ.
Some shoes are designed to absorb great amounts of impacts to minimize the total fatigue on a runners body. These shoes are generally characterized by having larger soles especially in the heal region of the shoe. The down side to having larger soles however is that when you increase the hight of a shoe it makes the shoes more likely to roll when there are lateral forces on the ankle. You can think of it like trying to running barefoot opposed to with high heels... Generally for learning new movement, especially those that are more tricking oriented, or when working on technical movement challenges, having a thinner shoe can help develop cleaner movements. As an athlete moves around, they may feel the ground underneath them and make the necessary changes to maintain stability. With a thinner shoe, being able to feel the ground provides important feedback on landings and traction. The thicker the sole the less an athlete will be able to pick up on these slight feelings. As a result athletes who only train with excessively thick shoes tend to have less control over their movements.
Get a Grip
The next aspect in choosing a shoe for a good training session is the type of rubber and tread pattern to suit the situation. In an urban environment where there are lots of smooth hard surfaces such as concrete, a smooth surfaced shoe with dark black rubber is usually the best option. Not all rubber compounds are the same however. Before you buy the shoe try a grip test. While wearing the shoe, step against a solid wall and put a fair amount of your weight into the wall. If the shoes can't hold their traction under a simple grip test then they probably won't keep you safe when it matters. The tread pattern on the bottom of the shoe is almost as important as the type of rubber. A flat bottomed shoe will technically have the most contact surface area on a flat surface and therefor the most traction, but like most traceurs know after their first training session not everything in the world is perfectly smooth. Whats worse is that not every surface is going to be clean. Surface contaminants such as water, mud or other traction inhibitors are going to turn whats normally a sticky shoe into an instant slip-n-slide. Having a semi aggressive tread pattern on the bottom of the shoe can help alleviate some of that traction loss by giving all the dirt and grime a place to go so the rubber of the shoe can make direct contact with the surface. For those training in a more natural setting with natural surfaces like dirt, rocks, or other malleable surfaces, a highly aggressive tread pattern may be beneficial to bite into the surface and hold traction.
So what shoes are the best?
Ultimately what you need in a shoe is one that you can trust to stick that rail precision every time, and when traction is minimal, be easy to predict the limits of its grip. Not every shoe is going to work with every traceur, so a little trial and error is alright as well.
Here are some of our favorites here at Scottsdale Parkour and Freerunning but we also don't know every kind of shoe on the face of the earth... If you have any suggestions leave them in the comments section below 😀
- Ollo Sapien- A great all around Parkour specific shoe that has a good balance in all conditions
- KO Gen 2 - slightly thicker then the Sapien, the Gen 2's are another well balanced shoe with a little more cushion.
- feiyue- A thin sole, grip monster, that will stick to almost anything and give you plenty of feedback to work on technique
- onitsuka Tigers - Great minimalist shoe with a wider frontal reagon for added traction on flat surfaces.
Natural Surface Training