One of the most frequent questions we get from parents, athletes, and students here at Freedom in Motion is about footwear for Parkour.
Shoes are the only real equipment to consider when preparing for your Parkour training. You want to make sure you’re making an informed decision before you lay down your hard-earned cash for something you hope to keep you safe and propel your training forward. Today, let’s take a look at the Ultra Range series by Vans.
Collectively, we at Freedom in Motion have tried just about every shoe out there, and have discovered the top shoes for parkour. A number of our athletes have found these Ultra Range shoes to be a new contender for their favorite shoe. However, a few of our athletes actively despise wearing these shoes. Keep reading to find out how YOU would like them!
A skate shoe, for parkour?
It’s True, Vans is originally a skate shoe brand at their core. However, Vans have long been worn for much more than just skateboarding. This new line of shoes from vans is their way of reaching into a more active lifestyle market and not one of just pure skating fashion. Designed with versatility and comfort in mind, the Ultra Range line up offers a number of features a parkour athlete may find useful. If you happen to skate and practice parkour, then more power to it!
Ultra Range Stats At A Glance
The Ultra Range’s durability isn’t great. The shoes are particularly vulnerable on the sides on top since the mesh is so easily ripped. If your shoes scrape a wall or concrete to often you will end up with holes in the mesh. These shoes last 2-3 months on average to athletes who tend to be “Parkour heavy” on their shoes, meaning you climb and leap to surfaces often. The rubber, while certainly more durable than the mesh, can begin to peel off if you’re training on really rough perforated surfaces often.
Ultra Range shoes easily have the flexibility to match any type of flexion the foot may experience during training. You can bend and twist the shoe in just about any direction. It loses half a star because of the thickness of the foam, it brings it just shy to 100% mobility. If you like Flexibility, then consider this a strength of these shoes.
The grip is, on average, pretty good. Van’s classic waffle pattern orange rubber has a good stick to most wood/concrete/brick surfaces. Vans would have gotten more stars if it weren’t for the bumpy texture that the waffle pattern causes. This texture is highly noticeable when landing or balancing on railings (which is fairly often on our sport). Plus the entire middle of the shoes if foam, which has considerably less grip than the orange rubber (though its location makes it acceptable). The literal grip is good, but the feel of the grip under your foot detracts from the overall performance. It is entirely possible to get acclimated to the feeling of the texture under the shoe, so it will only really be distracting for the first few hours of training in them.
Note: the region of foam in the middle can be useful in providing negative feedback on bad landings. If you land right int he center of your foot, it’s going to hurt a bit, which may promote better landing accuracy. Not exactly “Grip” related, but it’s important to mention here.
These shoes have a ton of padding. This stat is totally subjective. Some people like padding, other avoid over-padding at all cost. We personally recommend that beginners stay away from high padding shoes simply because the access of foam may create poor technique and lame landing habits in new athletes. However, once you have a grasp of the fundamentals and your style is calling for a bit more padding, then these shoes may be a good fit for you.
These shoes come in a wide variety of styles and colors! It’s not hard to find a color to suit your wardrobe. One great thing about the look is that you can feel fitted while out training, then, if you need to rush to some other non-parkour social event you will not have to worry about swapping into a nicer pair of shoes. Looks are a big selling point here. The only reason why they are not 5-stars is that because their durability is so low, the shoes will look a lot less fresh once they get a couple of rips and tears in the top mesh.
Weight: Light Weight
The shoes lightweight stats are due to its majority foam composition. the only thing lighter than an Ultra Range might be some of those bare-foot 5 finger shoes. You can hardly even feel them on your feet. Plus there is an inner sock built into the shoe making them responsive to quick movement, adding to their sense of lightness.
Price: $70 – $80
These shoes are on the upper end of the price spectrum for parkour footwear. Honestly, the price may not be totally worth it when their durability is taken into account. You are paying a higher price for a brand name shoe. If you can shell out close to $100 (after tax), then sure, do your thing. There are much cheaper alternatives to these shoes. Try Feiyues if you’re looking for something less expensive.
Additional Benefits of the Ultra Range
- Very comfortable
People find these shoes to be very comfortable. The inner sock lining and the thick foam make these shoes a joy to stand and walk around in.
Here is what a Seattle based athlete, Bryan Riggins had to say about the shoe. Check out this video below to get a sense of his style of movement. Bryan is wearing Adidas Essential Stars 3 in the video, btw.
The Vans Ultra Range is a great form fitting shoe. It’s great for technical footwork on small surfaces such as rails and comfortably taking impact when performing large running precisions. – Bryan Riggins @deplacement on Instagram
Further Drawbacks of the Ultra Range
- Lifted Heal
There is more foam under the heel than under the toes. This slight elevation is noticeable, and can really bother some athletes. You will likely get used to it, but it can feel a bit creepy at first if you’re coming from a more leveled out shoe.
- Poor feel
The very thick foam on the underside of the shoe reduces an athlete’s ability to feel minor details on the ground. For example, one of our athletes was unable to feel a crack in the floor under the shoe, whereas they could easily feel it in other shoes. For parkour athletes, details like this can play an important role in balance and response time.
The shoes feel like boots to me, just too big. When I wear them I feel no sense of what’s under my feet and I feel like my ankle is going to roll.
– Tyler Trueblood @tyler_trueblood_ on Instagram
Conclusion: Worth a shot
The Vans Ultra Range shoes look great, and to a certain group of athletes, have the potential to perform well. However, their high price and low durability make them a risky purchase. If you can get your hand on them, we suggest taking them for a test run before you hand Vans a Benjamin.
Where to purchase?
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What do you think?
We want to know what the community has to say. What was your experience with the Vans Ultra Range shoes? Did you love them, or hate them? Let us know in the comments below!