In search of the perfect parkour shoe many traceurs have been turning away from traditional athletic shoes, those made for basketball and track, and more towards the minimalist style becoming more popular with traditional athletes. One company that has helped popularize this trend is Vivobarefoot.

Started in 2004 by Terra Plana, Vivobarefoot has helped pioneer the minimalist footwear revolution with their patented super thin but puncture resistant soled shoes that perfectly combine protection with the sensory feedback your feet were designed to experience.

To their credit, a 2010 Harvard University and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation both released separate studies supporting the idea that moving the way nature intended, with bare feet, actually reduced injuries, saved energy and improved technique.

It makes sense, then, that their Neo shoes would be favored by so many traceurs. Parkour is a sport that puts a premium on flexibility, feedback and injury resistance. Studies are starting to prove what so many satisfied customers have said: the minimalist style provides a better overall experience.

For a traceur, the barefoot design means a lighter shoe that helps them better feel the surface they are traversing. This comes in especially hand when running a rail, landing and rolling from a drop or scaling a wall. For their efforts Vivobarefoot’s Neos do a fantastic job on rough surfaces, wood  surfaces and even wet surfaces (though this can be dangerous). The grip you feel is the same as if you were barefoot plus you get some added treading and padding for protection via the latex rubber and TPU anti-abrasion outsole which keeps your foot safe while providing extra grip.

One way they gain these barefoot benefits is by fitting snuggly. So while you’re taking advantage of the feel they provide, you can also expect a tight, comfortable fit. Neos differentiate themselves by also providing significantly more toe room than some competitors. Again, this adds to a more comfortable foot as well as utilizing the muscles in your foot that work to “grip” with the toes. The upper layer of the shoe is a comfortable hydrophobic mesh and mesh which complements the rest of the body’s fabric and keeps your feet cool and dry by letting air in. Inside they used a Dri-lex lining which, by wicking moisture, makes for a shoe very kind to bare feet.

Their manmade patented thin sole is actually four separate layers. The top is a removable insole which is great for some traceurs who actually prefer removing it for less weight and more feel. In fact, Vivabarefoot actually recommends users remove it as soon as they feel comfortable with their minimalistic feel (it can also be used to provide further insulation and warmth). Under that insole is an antibacterial lining, then a puncture resistant layer which is especially helpful for traceurs who enjoy especially rough features of their urban jungle. The last layer is an abrasion resistant sole which furthers the protection for those practicing parkeur.

Just because their minimalist doesn’t mean they can’t put up a fight though. Vivobarefoot Neos are extremely durable and will outlast their cheaper competitors. A large part of this is the protective insoles and padding they provide to make sure the impact a traceur puts them through is met with proper resistance. All this from a 100% vegan product.

Like many minimalist shoes, there are two major drawbacks to the Vivobarefoot Neos. First, they will take some adjusting to. At this point, your foot and leg muscles are probably very accustomed to a shoe that provides an unnecessary degree of “comfort” and “support.” So when you switch to one that mimics barefoot movements, you can expect some soreness if you don’t ease into them. Vivobarefoot’s website is one of many that provides resources on how to make the transition. This is especially important to do if you plan on using a minimalist shoe for as demanding an activity as parkour. Secondly, expect to pay significantly more for these specialized shoes. Neo’s can go for as low as sixty dollars, but ninety to even more than a hundred is  more like it.

Minimalist shoes like the Vivobarefoot Neo are rising in popularity due to the unparalleled advantages they give people, especially athletes, who place a lot of demands on their feet. While they are more expensive, their potential returns in terms of comfort and results may be worth it.

Overall, these shoes score a 8/10