What equipment do I need?
One beautiful thing about parkour is that you don’t need any equipment to do it. However, if you practice in an unpredictable, outdoors area, you will want some athletic clothes and shoes to wear for minor protection. Conversely, we do not recommend gloves, helmets, or pads in your practice. It is possible to do all the basics of parkour safely without pads or helmets, so you should strive to learn good technique rather than relying on equipment. Even though parkour will eventually result in blisters and callouses on your hands, over time, your hands will become tougher. Gloves can reduce hand sensitivity and ultimately make parkour more dangerous.
Clothing - At first, parkour clothes should be whatever athletic clothes are most comfortable to you. Many people sport long pants because they add a thin layer of protection for when you inevitably bang your knee on a wall. Similarly, some people like to wear hoodies or long sleeve shirts to protect against rough surfaces and arm scratches during some falling and climbing movements.
Shoes - Parkour shoes are a complicated subject. If you ask 1000 experienced traceurs what their favorite parkour shoe is, you will probably get 100 different answers. As a beginner, your primary focus should be low-impact movement with good form. Shoes with minimal padding will promote better technique because of the instant feedback they provide. You will be less likely to do jumps or drops outside of your limits because if you do them wrong, you will get hurt! Training in minimalist shoes will also make your feet and entire body stronger in the long term. I’m not saying everyone should train barefoot all the time, but you should slowly try to fix the problem of weak and inflexible feet, not simply treat the symptoms by wearing a ton of padding and support.
A note about minimalist shoes: If you have been wearing heavily padded shoes your whole life, your feet are probably de-conditioned and not ready for a sudden switch to minimalist shoes. In this case, I recommend getting a pair of minimalist shoes that are only for non-athletic activities at first. For parkour and other sports, you can use padded shoes with the intent of switching to a slightly less padded shoe every few months. As you get stronger and more used to less padding, start doing warm ups and/or light parkour with minimalist shoes. The eventual goal is to do the majority of parkour training in minimalist shoes. For occasional training sessions, competitions, or performances that are more impactful than normal, it’s ok to wear padded shoes for extra protection.
There are a few other general things to look for in a good parkour shoe. Even though good technique can make up for a lack of grip, look for a shoe with a flat sole because it generally has more surface area and better grip. Some rubber compounds are grippier than others and you can usually determine this quickly by feeling it and testing out the shoe. Avoid hard, plastic materials on the sole of the shoe (usually the arch). For obvious reasons, it is good to have shoes that are lightweight and flexible but also durable. Lastly, it is important to find a shoe that does not have an elevated heel because it puts the Achilles tendon in a shortened position that limits performance and flexibility in the long run. Additionally, an elevated heel creates a longer lever out of the foot/ankle which means ankle sprains can be more severe.
Next, basic parkour movements...