Once more of an underground urban phenemenon revealed only to the world through brief YouTube clips, parkour has really taken off. MTV recently hosted a weekly series Ultimate Parkour Challenge, and parkour is slowly seeping its way into pop culture.
For those that don't know, American Parkour defines the activity as "the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one's path by adapting one's movements to the environment."
As is often the case with official definitions, that leaves a little too much to the imagination. Basically, parkour athletes try to get from point A to point B as quickly and fluidly as possible. If there happens to be obstacles in their way, then they maneuver around them by leaping, jumping, climbing, swinging, dropping, etc. It can sound almost lame in conversation, but watch a couple minutes of it and you'll see what all the fuss is about.
With the rise of the sport comes the need for and attention to specialized equipment. A few companies like K-Swiss and Five Ten offer shoes marketed as "parkour" or "freerunning" shoes, but they look a lot like typical sneakers or approach shoes. Designer Annika Lüber seems to think that the extreme sport of parkour demands an extreme shoe. She's designed the 980 TATOU, a unique shoe designed specifically for parkour.
Looking like a cross between a sneaker, rock climbing shoe and sparring boot, the 980 features a variety of parkour-specific features aimed at increasing performance during the careful mixture of speed, accuracy and balance demanded by parkour athletes. The shoe features a wraparound sole that provides grip all around, helping for the multitude of angles that parkour athletes work with. The gaps in the sole increase the flexibility of the shoe. The two-part design features a thin, sock-like inner shoe and a rough, rubberized outer shoe. The inner shoe can be used for practice, allowing for extra nimbleness and feel. The elastic lacing system allows for extra customization, enabling individuals to get their shoes just right before attempting their latest move.
The 980 TATOU is also designed for extra durability to keep up with the rigorous demands of the sport and the two-part design allows the outer sole to be replaced while keeping the inner sole, presumably saving you a little scratch.
They're not the most attractive pair of kicks on the block, but neither are cleats, trail runners, wading boots or other functional sports gear. I'm not a parkour guy myself--though I'm all about watching it--so I can't offer a very educated opinion on how well these will work, but it definitely looks like the designer put a lot of thought into them. The shoes appear more nimble, grippy and customizable than others on the market, so I'd imagine they'd do alright if ever they reach production. The shoes won an IDEA Design Gold prize, so I guess others think they've got potential to.
All this parkour talk has made me hungry for some video. Here's a little snack: