One of the best things about parkour is that virtually no equipment is needed to train. Heck, you could even train naked. <— NOTE: NOT A GOOD IDEA AT ALL
That said, there is some gear that will make your training easier.
A good pair of shoes:
Look for lightweight, sturdy, comfortable tennis or running shoes. The sole shouldn’t be too thick in the middle. Thick soles are bad. The shoe shouldn’t have too much padding in the heel or toes. Especially heels, because you’re going to be using the balls of your feet almost exclusively. It’s difficult to do that in a shoe with a high heel.
A good training session on concrete is harsh on shoes, so the cheaper they are, the better.
Arch support should be minimal unless you absolutely need it. Firstly, because too much arch support will actually make your arches weaker. Secondly, the arches of your feet act as spring, propelling you a good deal higher than if you jumped flat-footed. Good shoes should feel like an extension of your feet, not like a pair of easily-removable casts.
Some people like the $80 Vibram 5 fingers. I know a guy who swears by them, says they’re pretty much the best thing ever. Personally, I’ve never used them, so I can’t say anything other than that they look pretty goofy. If you want minimalist shoes, the $15 Kung Fu oriented Feiyues look MUCH cooler. Compare the impressions they give off:
I’ve heard good things about Nike Freeruns, K-Swiss Ariakes, and Five.Tens, but all of them are fairly expensive, in the $80-$120 range. Really expensive when you consider they’ll only last 3 or 4 months of heavy training, maybe even less. The highly popular Kalenji Successes are being brought back into production in December of 2011.
Shoe Comparison by Zac Cohn of Parkour Visions.
While you don’t exactly need long pants, they are vuuurrry handy. If you’ve ever rolled on rough concrete in short pants, you will see feel what I mean. Train on concrete or bricks and you’ll quickly accumulate scratches and abrasions. Long pants protect your legs. Plus, a pair of loose, flowing long pants look WAY cooler than your (likely hairy and bloody) legs do in athletic shorts. Moves look cleaner because the material of the pants tends to make your legs look straighter, which looks better. Handstands can become rather awkward if you’re wearing athletic/basketball shorts. The cloth tends to fall down and gather around your groin, and, well, you get the picture. Jeans aren’t good for parkour. They’re too restrictive, although they do a good job of protection. Look for pants that won’t be too hot; don’t have elastic at the bottom; aren’t skin-tight; fall straight down from about the middle of your thighs to the ground; are maybe just a little bit too long for you when standing naturally. See what your favorite traceurs wear.
Recommended for protection, but optional. Unless you’re a girl traceur. And training with me. Then it’s optional. :3
Want a parkour shirt? Take Flight has a good selection that isn’t too expensive. I’ve bought two shirts from them, never had a problem. Jump Clothing has a smaller selection, but with cooler designs that cost entirely too much. Bought one shirt from them, they have fairly good customer service despite problems with inventory.
This is by no means mandatory, but it helps a lot. If you’re just going to be a traceur and have no intention of learning flashy moves, you don’t need a camera. You’ll be able to feel if a move is done right. But for tricking and freerunning, it’s highly recommended. I can’t count the number of times I’ve done a seemingly perfect move that looked like crap on camera. If you want your moves to look better, use a camera to record all of your training sessions and use rest days to analyze your form.
Those four things are pretty much all you need. Odds are, you have all of these things already. So what are you waiting for? Go train!