Different kicks serve different purposes. Some offer exceptional grip, and some feature thin soles that offer great ground feel. Most run their course after three months. Traceurs need shoes that are light for quick movement, flexible for bends and turns, and grippy for wall runs, says Brendan Jackson, the head triathlon coach at Fleet Feet Sports in Syracuse, New York, which Running Insight and Competitor magazines named the top American running shop in 2012. Fit and comfort are also critical, he adds. With Jackson’s guidance, we combed through sneaker websites, forums, and expert opinions to compile the top parkour-optimal shoes for this fall.
These offer great ground feel and a lightweight, breathable body, but on dry wood, the grip suffers. They run tight and narrow, so order a size up. $72.99 on Amazon.com.
Traceurs swear by Volley’s brother, the Dunlop Volley, which is manufactured by an Australian company and almost impossible to find in the U.S. The next best thing — the Volley International Sneaker — provides great ground feel and grip on all surfaces. However, they don’t last very long. Since they don’t look like a traditional athletic sneaker, they’re great for everyday use. $40 at Urban Outfitters.
These simple shoes look and feel like a pair of socks, boasting the best ground feel on this list because they lack soles. But beginners, beware: The absence of support and structure provided by traditional sneakers could mean injuries for the unconditioned foot. $59.99 at ZEMgear.com.
Currently one of the few companies that manufactures freerunning shoes, K•Swiss created the light, flexible Ariake III for those who refuse to let a little rain get in the way. The shoe features waterproof mesh, along with special tubing soles for jump cushioning and reinforced, leather holes that keep the laces in place. $150 at kswiss.com.
A traceur favorite, the Feiyue offers terrific grip, thin soles for good ground feel, and a lightweight body. The main body is made of soft cloth, which provides a breathable (though not waterproof) shoe. The downside: It lacks ankle support. $14.95 at themartialartsstore.com.
If you don’t mind the stares, this unconventional model might be for you. The shoe molds to your feet, assisting your form because it makes your feet work harder and strengthens them simultaneously. Similar to the ZEMgear shoes, these provide outstanding ground feel, flexibility, and grip, but provide no ankle support. $85 at vibramfivefingers.com.
The Minimus’ thin soles provide good ground feel and flexibility, but the grip lacks a bit on smooth and wet surfaces. However, the shoes provide a slight heel lift that won’t mess up your balance. $70 to $120 at newbalance.com.