The Shoe Blog: Skate Shoes for Parkour

February 02, 2022 4 min read

The Shoe Blog: Skate Shoes for Parkour

What use is it writing a parkour blog if you don’t discuss the one piece of equipment that every athlete brings with them to every spot? In the first installment of this series we’ll be discussing the pros and cons of training in skate shoes, a staple of the parkour community’s footwear. 


When average people think of parkour shoes, many conjure an image of some out-of-this-world, rigorously tested, super-grip, athletic shoes designed for the sport. While parkour branded footwear is becoming more standard in the community, the vast majority of practitioners still flock towards more widely available and applicable shoe models. 


So why skate shoes? Skate shoes found their place in parkour in the early 2010’s and have remained an effective alternative to athletic shoe designs for a litany of reasons. 


The first we’ll speak on is grip. Skate shoes by their design tend to feature a perfectly flat, rubber sole for the purpose of maintaining a high-friction point of contact with a skateboard. This translates to a high-friction point of contact with walls, rails, and the like; providing the momentum halting qualities that are all too important in a parkour shoe. 

The second important facet in skate shoes is durability. Many are made from a thick, quality canvas, due to the fact that skateboards (if you didn’t already know) are extremely hard on the toe box and upper portion of shoes. (Climb-ups, anyone?) Compared to athletic shoes, which, in recent years, tend to feature mesh toe boxes for breathability, and have a proclivity to get blasted out of the shoe by an athlete’s toes in precision landings. 


The third trait of skate shoes to consider is padding and support. An interesting note to consider when looking at skate shoes is whether you gravitate to a cupsole or a vulcanized shoe. The difference between the two is very important. A cupsole fits as it sounds, “cupping” your foot in a way that’s supportive to the ankle and heel, providing more padding for large drops. Unfortunately, this means a lack of ground-feel and low flexibility. Comparatively, a vulcanized shoe is much more flexible, and provides the ground-feel necessary for high-precision movements; though this means a much thinner and less protective shoe. If you’re working on flip precisions and technical flow, vulcanized shoes are probably your bag. If you’re working massive drops and plyos, a cupsole may be what you’re looking for.


 Many skate shoes are minimalist or zero drop shoes, which means that there is no change in the height of the shoe from the heel to the toe. This often denotes a flexible sole with more minimal padding; really great for feeling the ground beneath your own feet, but perhaps not ideal for those whose landing techniques leave a lot to be desired. Additionally, many skate shoes lack a certain amount of ankle and arch support, specifically airing towards the aforementioned flexibility of sole and tactile response of the ground or a board. 


The final and obviously most important aspect of a training shoe is style. Skate shoes are stylish, that’s really all there is to it. Skate brands have found ways to make the same models of shoes popular for decades, and who are we to argue? There’s something to be said about training in a shoe that makes you feel like you look good, regardless of your skill level. Wearing bulky, oddly shaped running shoes never felt right to me, personally, and skate shoes make it easy to go from styling, to riding, to jumping, with ease. 


We at Motus recently turned to the community to see what skate shoes people are using, and the results were highly varied, but not without a few clear winners. Here are the top five skate/parkour shoes as chosen by the community. 

 

  1. Adidas 3MC: Brought into the stream of parkour consciousness by Kelan Ryan of Motus, this shoe is now worn by 31.81% of the responding community, and that percentage is likely much higher amongst the general parkour population. Unfortunately this shoe has been discontinued by Adidas, but a few pairs still float around the interweb in specific sizes. Chris Harrison of Fifthunit Parkour had this to say, “They’re good, personally thought the grip on climb-ups and 180’s wasn’t too good.”
  2. Vans Ultra Range Exo: Used by 15.91% of responding athletes, the Vans Ultra Range were popularized by the likes of Dominic di Tomasso, and have quickly grown into one of the most popular shoe models among parkour athletes. Many tout their padding and support compared to other skate shoes. At a price point of $90-$100, these are a costly choice for any discerning athlete.
  3. Vans Old Skool: With the same community representation as the Ultra Range (15.91%), Vans Old Skool is just as popular, as well as far less expensive, at the cost of less padding. At $60, these shoes are easily found, look sick, and won’t break the bank.
  4. Nike SB Alleyoop: The fourth shoe in our lineup came in at 13.63% of all responses. The Nike SB Alleyoop is unfortunately discontinued by Nike, and currently the most similar is the Nike SB Chron 2, which retails at $60.
  5. Etnies Marana: The final shoe in our list is the Etnies Marana. Popular with 4.54% of responders, the Marana features rubber designed by Michelin (yes the tire people) and claims to be skating’s most durable shoe. As a cupsole shoe, it offers more in the way of protection and support, while potentially sacrificing ground-feel and flexibility. The Marana is currently on sale for $43.99, and at that price, it seems a waste not to give them a test run. 

Not all parkour shoes are created equal, and we recognize that many of the shoes people use were not referred to in this study. In the next installment of the shoe blog, we’ll be taking a look at athletic shoes in parkour. Until then, if you’d like to submit your athletic shoe of choice, send us a message on Instagram @themotusprojects. 

Media Credit:

Stupid Shoes: Courtesy of Storm Freerun

Skate Shoe Grips: Courtesy of skatedeluxe.com

 


Support the author of this blog & our push to provide more opportunities within Parkour by using the code

CHAPPY10

when purchasing something from the store.