A PROFILE ON FEIYUE MARTIAL ARTS SHOES.
Considered to be one of the leading shoes for parkour enthusiasts, the Feiyue martial arts shoe’s history predates the current enthusiasm from the urban acrobat.
ONE HUNDRED YEAR RUN UP
As a brand Feiyue began in Shanghai China in the 1920s. Ten years later, Feiyue, which means “Great Leap Forward” or “Flying Forward” were producing a shoe that had gained a reputation for being flexible, comfortable and robust, perfect for athletes and martial artists.
Quickly, Feiyue shoes became a popular choice not only for martial artists but also for performing dancers and acrobats. (*Interesting fact: they were featured in the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.)
Holding a prominent position in Chinese sports and athletics, their shoes are regularly seen upon the feet of martial artists ranging from karate to wushu practitioners and even Shaolin monks. With this kind of history, it is clear as to why parkour quickly adopted this shoe.
IMPORTANCE OF GOOD FOOTWEAR
After an afternoon of parkour, you’ll understand why appropriate footwear is important. “Appropriate” being the optimal word. Parkour, as an activity, requires a greater flexibility and grip of the shoe than is provided by many brands. It is less about the cushion of the sole and more about the flexible mobility of the foot itself and the grip. This is why those shoes associated with martial arts, especially those that utilise kicks- where the position of the foot is important, work so well.
Many in the parkour community were quick to adopt the highly flexible and low cost shoe. As a result, Feiyues have become adored by many ardent and experienced traceurs who value the design and quality of the shoe as well as its relative affordability. When your main activity can involve leaping from one block of urban concrete to another and running up rough brick walls, shoes tend to get obliterated quickly.
Not as cushioned as your average running shoe, Feiyues are still considered quite comfortable. At first this may not seem to be the case as if you’re used to your feet being very well cushioned it will take some time for your feet to adapt and toughen up. What will immediately be apparent however is how much contact you’ll get with the whole of your shoe, making it easier to get grip and traction on your various manoeuvres.
A snug fit, they do have a wider fit and other reviews have suggested lacing them up with an “over and under” lacing tie rather than the usual criss-cross style. The canvas upper provides good breathability so you’re toes are less likely to sweat through.
TOE MOVEMENT AND GRIP
Without a doubt one of the most flexible shoes, this is one of Feiyues greatest strengths. Wearers can bend, twist and crumple the sole almost into a fist. Ankle movement is completely unimpeded which is an advantage to most wanting to make use of these sort of shoes.
They are also incredibly sensitive compared to the average running shoe that many traceurs use when they start. There is nothing particularly wrong with running shoes as they are designed for a lot of wear and tear and support but running shoes do lack a lot of flexibility and takes away a lot of foot sensitivity.
The sensitivity that Feiyues offer makes balancing on rails and ledges much easier, allowing you to gather your balance. It also reflects how when we were young children, we spent most of our time playing with shoes off. Very importantly, this sensitivity allows for a greater precision and increases the development of micro muscle usage which is important for the landing and rolls.
It is true that the lack of padding/cushioning does have the added benefit of more flexibility but be warned that these shoes do little for absorbing shock. However, your parkour training should have a lot of focus on the development of technique and the distribution of heavy landing impacts. The fact that this shoe won’t help cover up any poor technique with added shock-absorption will help hammer any lessons home- probably through your leg joints.
High absorption shoes are really for people interested in doing “super hero landings” anyway, which if you’ve watched Deadpool 2, you know don’t work.
These are very light shoes designed for martial artists who would otherwise be going barefoot, (in many schools shoes are used for health, safety and hygiene). So, there is no weight really aside from the rubber sole. This is perfect for developing a nice muscular balance as well as strengthening the feet generally- however be warned, if you stub your toe on anything at all you’ll feel it.
As mentioned above there is a lot of natural grip with the Feiyue sole. Not the best in the industry but very good for the price you’re paying. While like most shoes, they struggle in wet conditions, this can also be a good thing to help develop your technique. Not to say they are useless when it rains, but it’s something to consider. If you’re doing high risk jumps anyway, you shouldn’t be practising them in wet conditions.
What has been said, and this goes across martial artists as well as traceurs is that the sole durability isn’t great. You will be replacing your Feiyues. With any kind of heavy training, especially cat leaps and wall runs the grip of the sole wears down quickly. The rest of the shoe is pretty sturdy, and nothing is likely to cause issues before the grip is completely destroyed.
Considering the price and that you can buy several pairs of Feiyues for the same price as most other parkour shoes, this is a passable issue.
While some traceurs may scoff at anyone caring about the state of their shoes, it is worth mentioning that these shoes are actually very fashionable. The minimalist style and purpose built orientation that lacks any unnecessary flare has made these very reliable run-around shoes.
Not only the perfect training shoe that will will help you develop your technique and ability which should always be the primary focus while training. They’ll also make you look good while doing it. However, when purchasing, consider not going for the white version because they will get grubby right away.
Make sure you wear a decent pair of athletic socks along with your Feiyues. These shoes can be unforgiving when it comes to blisters at the start and socks will also help maintain the body of the shoe longer. Investing in a good pair of cotton socks will make sure they last longer and can also save you from unnecessary blisters that can slow down your progress.
In the parkour world they are pretty unique and it’s difficult to find a comparable shoe that offers the same benefit/problem ratio at such an affordable price. Like any gear you should try them out cautiously at first because they are different to normal shoes and while they are popular you might find that you’re the only one wearing them in a group of traceurs.
Loved by martial artists and traceurs around the world they have been put through their paces by some of the best and they are designed for this purpose, so it doesn’t take a leap of faith to put your trust into them.