Training Parkour in minimalist shoes can often be a rewarding experience. It can prove useful for progressing technique and generally feeling more connected to the environment you’re moving through, but the world of barefoot shoes can seem daunting for most. They seem expensive, you’re not sure what the impact will be on your feet, will it be painful landing in them? The list of questions and potential worries goes on. Where to start? Well, hopefully, we can help with that with this rundown of the Vivobarefoot Motus II and the Merrell Vapour Glove 3. Two fairly recent shoes produced by two reputable brands. Vivobarefoot specialises in barefoot shoes and Merrell has a good reputation for producing quality shoes with that quality extending to their barefoot-style footwear. Remember that acclimatising your feet to moving barefoot is always a wise move before starting to train Parkour in minimalist and barefoot shoes.
Vivobarefoot Motus II
I have currently owned my pair of Motus IIs for nearly 5 months.
The Motus IIs exhibit the main attributes you would expect to find in a barefoot shoe. The sole is thin, very flexible and has excellent grip out the box. It performs superbly on rails and functions well on walls, with the lack of cushioning obviously allowing for a greater ability to feel your environment and respond to the surfaces you’re moving over. The rubber used on the sole is clearly amazing for grip and so far it has reacted impressively to any environment I’ve tested it in. Once the grip starts to wear down the performance of the sole doesn’t seem to take too much of a hit, with the general performance remaining solid and reliable. Performance on larger jumps has also been good, with the shoe coping well with impact. This is to say that as a barefoot shoe it obviously can’t negate impact at all, but I have felt surprisingly comfortable in my landings for most jumps.
Comfort is an important factor in a shoe you’re likely to be wearing a lot, but the Motus IIs might not be the most comfortable for everyone. Vivobarefoot seems to design their shoes with a slightly wide fit, so this is worth bearing in mind if you’re considering investing in a pair. This extra room in the shoe can be nice for breathability and is obviously a bonus if you do happen to have wider feet. If you don’t have wide feet then the additional space in the shoe can be welcome during some hot weather training days, but it can also be off-putting for some. Despite the shoe being very secure on your foot, it can feel like there’s a little too much space to move around within the shoe itself. The sizing, in general, is fairly roomy. I am a size 4 and bought a size 4, but it feels like I could easily have got the size down.
A well-constructed shoe, the sole wraps ups around the toes and heel, which minimises the risk of a few unfortunate jumps and vaults catching the sole and gradually tearing it away from the shoe which, was an issue I have encountered with shoes in the past. The main foot covering is a mix of mesh and rubber, giving your foot the ability to breathe during movement while also providing strength and durability in the top part of the shoe. There is quite a lot going on in the construction of the shoe, so it feels a bit heavier than other barefoot shoes on the market. By default, the Motus II comes with elastic laces that don’t need tieing up but they don’t make the shoe particularly secure. The box did contain proper laces as well, which I made use of immediately. As well as the laces there is a velcro strap that comes across the laces and provides added security.
On an affordability scale, these shoes score very low. They are £120 and are available in either black or blue and white. They have lasted well so far and have performed well in Parkour training, running, hiking, ultimate frisbee and general use, so, they are proving to be a good choice of barefoot shoe with regards to their overall performance. There are clear signs of wear appearing that have been present since about the 4-month mark, so I am uncertain as to their value for money. Personally, I feel they would need to last a year of regular training for the price to be considered worth it and with regular training, the toe section of the sole seems likely to wear through prior to that. Worth a purchase if you have the funds, but definitely not worth the price if you need something that will definitely last.
Merrell Vapour Gloves 3
I have currently owned my pair of Vapour Gloves for 1 month.
As with the Motus IIs, the sole on the Vapour Glove 3 is very flexible and the grip is superb. It is a particularly thin sole, which allows for greater touch sensitivity but obviously offers absolutely no cushioning. Merrell uses Vibram soles on their shoes and the reputable name certainly lives up to expectations, providing excellent grip on all terrains. Moving and jumping on rails is comfortable, damp walls present very few issues and running in them feels good. Really big jumps and drops are likely to be unpleasant in these shoes as there is no cushioning at all so if you are a practitioner who regularly practices really big movements, then the Vapour Gloves are not going to be comfortable for you. With training and technique, most jumps can feel fine in these shoes, but work is certainly required by the practitioner to improve technique accordingly.
The Vapour Glove 3 is very, very light. It barely feels like you’re wearing a shoe, which is ideal for those of us that love minimalist training. In comparison to the Motus II, the Vapour Glove is a much slimmer fit and guarantees more comfort for the average foot since it hugs closer to the foot and feels more secure. The sizing is also more accurate with Merrell than with Vivobarefoot. I purchased a size 4 in the Vapour Glove and it definitely feels like the right size. An incredibly comfortable shoe to wear and arguably the shoe I have enjoyed wearing the most in my Parkour life so far.
A sturdy looking piece of kit, the Vapour Glove offers a similar wraparound sole design to the Motus II, with the sole wrapping up around the toe and heel. The primary material involved in the top part of the shoe is an incredibly lightweight and deceptively strong mesh, with some rubber reinforcement present around the laces and the sole. There’s clearly less material used in this shoe than in the Motus II but it doesn’t feel any less sturdy. The shoe has a standard lace-up design. I haven’t owned my pair for as long as I’ve had the Motus IIs but after a month there is only a token amount of wear present on the sole, as you’d expect from a shoe that’s been used for running and training 3-4 times a week, and their potential longevity seems like it will be at least as good as the Motus IIs, possibly better.
The Vapour Glove 3 isn’t a cheap shoe, but it is at least £30 cheaper than the Motus II and is often available via Amazon and other online retailers at good prices, as well as having a much greater range of colours to choose from. The value for money on Merrel’s product is much better, with the shoe performing extremely well in most conditions and with the shoe having such a sturdy construction. Since it’s often available at more affordable prices it’s also an ideal option to get started with if you’re interested in barefoot shoes and an excellent option to try out if you already train with barefoot shoes and want a really good shoe to continue your journey with.
Both these are great shoes in their own right, but the Motus II definitely requires a greater investment for potentially less reward and the Vapour Glove 3 is just such an all-around wonderful shoe and a fantastic recommendation for anyone’s box of training tools. If you have wider feet or like having a bit of room in your shoes and you have the funds, then the Motus II is a good, comfortable shoe that is great to train in. If you want to spend less than £100 then the Vapour Glove 3 offers the same, possibly better, quality while also being a lighter and more minimal shoe.
©World of Parkour 2018