Although the Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 is clearly a shoe that was made with fashion in mind, it is making a splash as a favorite with traceurs and there’s no law that says you can’t look good while practicing parkour. Overall the shoes provide a comfortable fit that won’t bog you down with extra weight or dulling your ability to feel through your foot. The price is a bit heftier than other shoes and you may find your foot appreciates some extra support through a third-party product, but the Onitsuka Tiger 81 is definitely worth a look from anyone practicing parkour.
The Onitsuka Tiger brand of shoes is actually one of the oldest in Japan, with its roots in footwear made for athletics. Nowadays the company makes shoes for running, football, martial arts, cheerleading, basketball, volleyball, track and field, cross-training, golf, wrestling, fencing, tennis and cricket. Of course, many of these can be repurposed by the savvy traceur for parkour purposes.
With the Ultimate 81, Onitsuka Tiger made an extremely comfortable shoe that provides a good feel for the ground by not overdoing the arch or heel supports. Your foot won’t lay flat against the ground, but there won’t be so much support that you lose the feedback many parkour practitioners prefer to receive from the surface they’re running, climbing or landing on. Lacking this extra material also provides a lighter shoe as well. Of course, the price for this feel may mean that you will need to land lighter in order to protect your foot. This issue or any others you have with a lack of arch, heel, or overall foot support can be augmented with different auxiliary soles (e.g. arch supports, etc.) which can be purchased online or at any of a handful of retailers.
The Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 also provides superior grip to match the feel it allows. Many users report the grip actually improves overtime as you begin to wear them in. As you do so, the shoe is also said to begin conforming to the outside of your foot, providing a snug fit unique to you. Obviously, this comes in handy for those practicing parkour as it allows for a fit you can be confident will give you the control you want. Some others have reported that the underside of the shoe feels a bit stiff, providing less grip (especially when they run poles), but this is both a personal preference and something that can also be “worn” out of the shoe with enough work.
A major selling point of the Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 is that not only do they look great, but they hold up great as well. The problem with a lot of shoes that are aesthetically pleasing is that it usually comes at the price of not being able to maintain that look for long. In fact, if given a choice between the two, most interested in parkour would choose durability over the prospect of constantly needing to shell out more money for another pair. The Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 won’t make you choose. You get a shoe that would fit in just fine during a trip to the mall or out with friends, but still performs when it’s time to explore your urban jungle.
Of course, you’ll find you need to pay for all these benefits. The Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 is going to cost you sixty dollars at the least. So it’s a good thing these shoes hold up. If you buy them for parkour and find they’re not the right match, at least you’ll still have a fashionable shoe you can wear out on the town (albeit not to do double kongs or other acrobatics).
The Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 is a popular shoe making its mark in the world of parkour. Fans love the way it looks almost as much as they appreciate the way it performs. Despite its price tag and fashionable looks, the Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 doesn’t bog its wearer down with extraneous materials that leave you wanting for feel or carrying around unnecessary weight. They will also hold up to a traceur’s demands without losing their feel and comfort or even outward appearance.
Overall, these shoes score a 9/10.