Sam Blattner Reviews the Asics Onitsuka Tiger 81 as a shoe for Parkour.
I got Tigers in early 2012 and they eventually became a shoe that I could always turn back to. No other shoe I have worn is the same in that I would continue to purchase the shoe after each pair has been destroyed, ripped, ruined, etc... This is a great shoe for really any activity - I have used them for hiking, bouldering, jogging, soccer, basketball, and yes, I have used them for Parkour. I have worn Feiyues, Kalenjis, KOs, various other asics, and I have been able to trust no other shoe more than the Tigers. I’ll explain why down below.
Appearance - This shoe comes in hundreds of color ways. The design of the shoe is simple and stylish. There are so many different styles that it is hard to find something you don’t like.
Tech - The build of the shoe is fantastic. Assuming one orders the correct size, the shoe will fit snuggly. I have not noticed any strange/uncomfortable aspects of the shoe - I have narrow feet so I am not quite sure what it is like to wear this shoe with wide feet, however, I am sure that the shoe would stretch and mold well. You can either get a mesh, or non-mesh toe box shoe. The tread is one strip of rubber that covers every inch of the bottom of the shoe.
Grip - (9/10) Like previously stated, the rubber spreads along the length of the shoe and there are no random plastic pieces dividing the shoe or sticking out in strange places; there are nospots in which there is only Styrofoam; there is only nice, extremely grippy rubber so you don’t have to worry about landing on the foam/plastic when staring down a big, scary, running precisions that you have not attempted before. Furthermore, the grip is effective on all surfaces (rails, brick, stone, glass, other types of metal, etc). I never worry about my shoe losing its grip, and neither will you.
Durability - (9/10) These shoes hold up extremely well - Props to Asics for that. After heavy use the rubber will begin to wane, but it actually holds up for a surprisingly long time. As the rubber breaks in the grip gets better. The mesh has begun to rip a little, but that is expected with mesh. Just remember that mesh on any shoe is bound to be prone to ripping. If you have a problem with that you can get the non-mesh version (Not sure on the material).
Comfort - (9/10) Remember this shoe fits snuggly to your feet. Just the other day I had Knox of the Tribe try to pull the shoes off of my feet and he gave up. The upper material is flexible, but strong. This gives the shoe the ability to mold well to the practitioner’s foot meaning he/she won’t have this shoe falling off in the middle of the air or anything.
Padding - (8/10) Tigers are one of the thinnest shoes on market. The forefoot of the shoe gives a mere ½ cm of padding. With that said it may not be the best shoe for people that land heavily... But these shoes can transform one’s landings tremendously. The thinness of the shoe will force you to land properly and softly otherwise you will be walking off with a bruised foot. Transforming your landings will protect your joints and your longevity. Even though the shoe provides close to no padding, the padding that it does provide is amazing. Once the shoe is broken in the landings feel soft. The advantage of this type of padding over thick standard running shoe padding is that it is not squishy and desensitizing. One can land comfortably, softly, and can maintain keen awareness with the surface on which he/she is training while using Tigers.
Conclusion - I have worn Feiyues, Kalenjis, KO’s, and various other Asics shoes. I put the Tigers above all of them. Each shoe may have their distinct advantages. I tend to wear thicker soled shoes when I am doing really big stuff. But I always go back to Tigers to keep my landings in check. Feiyues are great for their minimal aspects and cost effectiveness, but the durability of the Tigers is much better and reliable. The grip is up there with the grip of the KO’s but I think it is more reliable on a variety of surfaces. The KO’s have that spot in the middle of the shoe where there is no rubber and this tends to scare me. I feel confident with every jump with Tigers. Then there are the looks. I think the looks are of the Tigers are better than those of the Feiyues, Kalenjis, and KO’s - Tigers are just fresh! The Tigers range from $40-$70 on average making them more a more economic decision than many trainers out there.
About the Author: My name is Sam Blattner, I am 16 years old and from Silver Spring, MD. I come from a Soccer background, but also wrestled, played basketball, and pretty much every other sport out there. Soccer has had the greatest influence on my style as I love to run fast, stride, and do big powerful running jumps and kongs. Parkour is now my passion and it’s something I like to do more than pretty much anything else.