Parkour Shoe Review | Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81

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 that you hope to keep you safe and propel your training forward. Today, let’s take a look at the Onitsuka Tigers Ultimate 81s by Asics. These shoes come in two slightly different versions, the Ultimate 81s, and the Serranos. The shoes are nearly identical with some slight changes in padding and flexibility. Here, we’re going to be talking only about the 81s. Click here to see our review of the Serranos.

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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 the Onitsuka Tigers Ultimate 81s to be contenders for their favorite shoes. However, despite the shoes being well rounded, some athletes think they may be lacking in certain areas for particular movement styles. Keep reading to find out how YOU would like them!

Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81

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A multi-sport shoe, for parkour.

In 1949, Kihachiro Onitsuka created the first ASICS shoe in his living room in Kobe Japan, under the Onitsuka Tiger name. Onitsuka Tiger, the forerunner of ASICS, was born in 1949. The brand began with Kichachiro Onitsuka’s commitment to promoting youth health through sport and since then, the Onitsuka Tiger stripes have become synonymous with premium performance in sport.

Due to its flat rubber grip and well-rounded balancing, the Ultimate 81s have been a tried and true favorite of parkour since the beginnings of the sport. I suppose it makes sense that a multi-sport shoe would end up being a solid choice for parkour athletes alike.

Ultimate 81 Stats At A Glance

Onitsuka 81 stats

 

Durability: 5- Stars

Some athletes report having these shoes for up to two years! In very heavy use, the shoes tend to last at least 6 months. For casual wear, you can expect closer to a year or more depending on your style. These shoes have some of the best construction in the game. That’s to be expected from a long-standing shoemaker such as Ascis. Typically, the first Major part to wear down is the rubber under the ball of the foot, which is typical for a shoe.  If you get your shoes wet often or scale a ton of abrasive walls, the front rubber bumpers may begin to peel away after 6 months or so, which is mostly cosmetic. Currently, no shoe on the market lasts longer than Onitsuka Tiger 81s or Onitsuka Serranos.

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Nick Blake balancing in Ultimate 81 parkour shoes at Freedom in Motion Gym in Murrieta CA.

Flexibility: 3 -Stars

The shoes are flexible enough, nothing to write home about, yet fair enough to get you through your training day without any problems. If you do yoga or other movement practices with these shoes on as part of your warm up, you may feel an urge to take them off for some better foot and ankle mobility. While training parkour, however, the shoe’s flexibility is a-okay and gets the job done!

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The Ultimate 81s can be easily bent in a variety of directions. Especially when broken in.

 

Grip: 4-Stars

The 81s boasts a grippy uniform rubber coating covering the entire bottom of the shoe. The particular type of rubber on the shoes tends to perform well on wood, paint, brick, concrete, and metal. The tiny-circle pattern on the shoe’s grip provides some decent traction and holds up for a decently long time before wearing down to smooth rubber. Once smooth, the rubber still provides a quality stick. The grip and coverage of these shoes is a huge asset for the brand. The only drawback is that the somewhat flat grip surface can slip on some wet surfaces like grass or wet concrete, as reported by some athletes.

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Padding: 3.5-stars

The Ultimate 81s feature two layers of foam padding. The second layer of padding adds a centimeter of thickness to the midfoot and heel of the shoe. The heel of these shoes has three holes to further help with shock absorption. The particular level of padding is obviously much more than a feiyue (near minimalist) but less than the Vans Ultra Range shoes. The 81s fall neatly in the middle of how much padding and how soft parkour shoes tend to be. We don’t recommend these for those looking to get a huge amount of feel and feedback from their feet, however, they are still great when transitioning into movements with higher levels of impact when over concrete.

Padding of the onitsuka tiger ultimate 81 parkour shoe
Note the two layers of padding for the Ultimate 81s. The second later featuring the 3 shock absorbing holes.

NOTE:  Some parkour athletes have cut out the second layer of foam leaving just the white layer (as seen in the above image). This makes them resemble the Serranos, however, because the 81s and Serranos have a different grip texture, reducing the padding on the 81s results in a new custom shoe design. All you need is an exact-o-knife, shoe glue, and patience. Though, we don’t recommend this DIY without proper training or supervision.

Looks: 4 -Stars

The shoes come in a variety of colors yet all have the same vegan mesh covering the top of the show. They are much better looking than your average running shoe, but not quite as nice looking as the Vans Ultra Range or the Strike Movement interval knits (review on strikes coming soon). If you color match your shoes to a fly outfit, they may bump up to a 5-star shoe in this category.

Parkour shoes in colors.
The Ultimate 81s can be found in a wide variety of colors across the internet. Some colors are more expensive than others.

Weight:  Average

Crosstraining and multi-sport shoes tend to be on the average to heave side of shoes. However, the use of natural fibers on the Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 makes it lightweight compared to other multisport shoes in its class. They have an average weight and quickly become comfortable on an athletes foot after a few moments of training in them.

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Price: $65 – $80

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 10.23.48 PMThese shoes are on the upper end of the price spectrum for parkour footwear. However because they have such high durability and are so well rounded, athletes are highly likely to feel like the price matched the quality of the shoe. If the price is still just too high, there are much cheaper alternatives to these shoes. Try Feiyues if you’re looking for something less expensive. Sometimes deals with these shoes can be found across the internet. Good luck in your search! Click here to compare colors and pricing on Amazon.

Additional Benefits of the Ultimate 81

  • 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.
  • Great Construction
    its mesh forefoot is airy, which prevents the toes from getting blisters and keeps feet drier. The use of natural fibers on the Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 makes it lightweight compared to other multisport shoes in its class.
  • Vegan shoes
    The onistukaTiger website states that the 81s are part of their vegan shoe collection. This means the materials, including the glues used in the shoe, are synthetic or derived from plans and use no animal products.

Here is what Freedom in motion Coach and athlete Nick Blake has to say about the Ultimate 81s. You can see him training in the shoes here in this video we pulled from his Instagram account. See more from Nick on Instagram @The_Nyk

 “I’ve had the same pair for easily over a year and you know my style of parkour. Durability deserve 5 stars.”

 

Drawbacks of the Ultimate 81s

  • 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.
  • Uneven Wear
    Many users report the grip on the ball of the foot is always the first thing to fail on Tigers. Overall, even this part of the shoe lasts a decently long time, it’s just something we have noticed many users mentioning about the shoe.
  • Awkward feel for flatfooted athletes
    Flat footed athletes have specified that the partly raised portion on the heel gives an awkward feeling. They eventually get comfortable to the feel after a few sessions.
  • No Trickers?
    We noticed that athletes who tend to do a lot of tricking in their style, tend to not wear Tigers. This may be due to the 3-star flexibility and average to low feel of the show.

 

Conclusion: A well-rounded shoe, a safe purchase!

The Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 shoes are a stylish and well-rounded shoe. They are adequate for a wide variety of movement types and are solid shoes for beginners and professional athletes alike. If you have the money for them and are looking to be a well-rounded athlete, we highly recommend these shoes for parkour training.

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 Onitsuka 81s? Did you love them, or hate them? Let us know in the comments below!

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Other Shoe Reviews By Freedom in Motion


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