Any shoe that’s worn and recommended by such parkour greats as Chase Armitage, Ryan Doyle and Sam Parham has a high reputation by default. Let’s see if the Puma Faas 500s live up to the expectations brought on by the endorsements, both implied and overt, of such well-known traceurs – and while we’re at it, let’s find out if they’re worth the $90 price tag.
Note: Puma sent me a pair of Faas 500s for testing purposes. This review is a completely honest compilation of my thoughts on them, but I’m just stating this for the sake of full disclosure.
Using the Faas 500s
First, realize that the Faas 500s were not originally designed for parkour. They were made to be lightweight, neutral sole running shoes. The special needs of traceurs were not taken into account. Therefore, I will cut Puma a little slack – just a little – that I wouldn’t on a shoe specifically designed for parkour, e.g., WFPF KOs or Decathlon Visions. I don’t feel this is unfair, as I will be completely honest about the shoe’s flaws.
Fit and Comfort
The Faas 500s are some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. I don’t even like padded shoes, but the Faas 500s are extremely pleasant to wear. There isn’t any arch support to jam up into your foot and mess with the biomechanics of proper walking. The padding around the uppers is just about perfect; there’s enough to feel nice, but not enough to be bulky. The shoes fit very nicely, with enough space between my toes and the front end of the shoe to have flexing room, but not so much that my foot shifts during intense movements.
Now look at this:
(They can actually be pushed down further.)
Unlike virtually every other running shoe on the market, the Faas 500s have a flexible, squashable back heel wall. I cannot stress enough how much I love this. It makes putting on and taking off the shoe a lot easier; pointing the toes or moving my feet in circles is just as easy as if I were barefoot. Most importantly, the heel wall doesn’t dig into my Achilles tendon when I precision. This is a huge, huge positive point. Until the Pumas, I’ve never really noticed the effects of stiff heel walls, but now I can’t help but notice – and frown disapprovingly.
The Faas 500s have Puma’s Bioride mechanism built in. Bioride is supposed to help runners transition smoothly from heel-strike to toe-push; it works exactly as advertised. Heel-strike running and normal walking do seem to flow more smoothly. The thick heel (and Bioride) does prevent correct form forefoot-strike barefoot running, so there’s definitely a tradeoff. If you’re absolutely committed to heel-strike running, you’ll love these shoes. If you’re a hardcore barefooter… Well, you’ll hate them. If you’re in between those two spectrums, you’ll like them well enough. However! The next aspect of the soles may make up for excessive thickness.
That odd grip functions extremely well. I absolutely love the grip on these things. The first time I used these shoes for wallruns, I went several inches higher than my normal max height. Later, I also managed to pull off several decent 3-step wallruns – something I’ve never been able to consistently do before. Just about every surface encountered during normal training – brick, concrete, asphalt, dry tile, wood – gets grabbed tightly. Slippage only occurs on wet wood and tile; I can’t really fault Puma for this, as I’ve yet to see a shoe that retains a good grip on wet wood. To date, the grip is the best I’ve ever used.
The strange multiple squares design makes cleaning out dirt and mud a relative snap – yay for training in nature.
The toes are a little more flexible than the average running shoe; the middle through back of the sole is normally stiff. Unfortunate. We’ll talk about the consequences of that in a bit.
They’re quite light; the Puma website says they weigh 9.7 ounces, which is not quite as light as KO’s, but roughly the same as Feiyues. I don’t think anyone will have weight issues with the Faas 500s. They’re easy to forget about after a few minutes of use.
At first, I was a little hesitant about the sturdiness of the glue and how easily the suede around the toes/sides will get torn.
The glue doesn’t look particularly strong; the suede just screams, “I WILL BE RIPPED IN APPROXIMATELY 10 SECONDS!” Surprisingly, the glue has been rock solid, and the suede is still entirely intact. It should be durable enough except for the toughest of rough concrete training.
The grips worry me. The completely unnecessary (except stylistically) black strips seem like they could pull loose.
They’ve remained firmly attached so far, but I still wonder. It annoys me when function is sacrificed on the altar of style – which is obviously the reason for the black strips. Who looks at the bottom of your feet, anyway? I wish the whole thing was one piece. That would be much less prone to falling apart.
The holes for the laces are exactly that: just holes.
At least one pair of metal or plastic grommets should have been added for a little more durability.
A lot of the little squares that make up the grips are getting more rounded as I scuff them more, but the more they round, the slower the rate of deterioration becomes.
Judging from the way they’ve held up so far and the quality of the materials used, I’m not too concerned that the Faas 500s will fall apart. I estimate they’ll last at least 5 or 6 months with decently heavy use.
This section will be updated as I continue using the Faas 500s.
Now that we know a lot about the general usability of the Puma Faas 500s, how do they perform with specific parkour techniques?
Precisions are a bit of a mixed bag. The grip is very, very good. The flexibility, not so much. These two things combine to make a precisioning shoe that’s quite decent, but not great.
The thickness of the sole also dings the Faas 500s’ sensitivity/controllability. There’s one precision in particular I’ll use as an example; it’s a round wooden piling about 7 inches wide. I jump from there, four feet across onto an identical piling. Not exactly a heroic Phil Doyle precision, but it’s very good at testing shoes because the landing areas is so tiny. Using Feiyues, I routinely stick this jump. Using KO’s, it’s still pretty easy. It took me two sessions in the Faas 500s before I was able to stick the jump several times in a row. Telling? Maybe. It could also be that the Pumas just take a longer time to get used to. Or it could be the Pumas making it harder for me to control the landing. In any case, they’re just too thick to properly flex for a very precise precision.
On the other hand, the thick soles make them very forgiving with precisions that aren’t landed perfectly on the balls of the feet. Hello, beginners.
The Faas 500s are decently padded, so they’re great for heavy landings and big drops. If you tend to strike the blade of your foot when rolling, these will be great for that kind of roll. The width and the angle of the grips to the rest of the shoe make them almost perfect.
Meh. Tricking is really meant to be done barefoot or with very minimal shoes; the Faas 500s’ size and thick soles make them not really optimal. High kicks are… Awkward. Still, the soft heel wall lets the toes be pointed easily, which somewhat makes up for the other problems. And the padding makes bigger flips easier to land painlessly.
- Grip is absolutely amazing.
- Extremely comfortable.
- Squashable and flexible heel wall.
- Pretty durable.
- Good-looking (in the right colors).
- Padded for heavy landings and big drops.
- $60-$90 may be too much to pay for a parkour shoe that could only last a few months of harsh use.
- Too thick to be flexible.
- Padded for imprecise precisions and heel-strike running.
To Buy or Not To Buy?
As you consider buying the Faas 500s, the main competitor in your mind is almost certainly going to be the WFPF KOs (Gen 1 and Gen 2). The KOs have the definite price advantage; they are $30 cheaper. The Pumas have an advantage in grip, comfort, durability (probably), looks (if you get the right colors), brand name awareness among non-traceurs, and relative anonymity among traceurs. You can be a parkour shoe hipster. *coughs* Anyway!
Personally, I think the KOs are just a hair better – for me, my body, and my way of training. I really like softly landed precisions and barefoot running and minimal shoes – but even I enjoy training in Faas 500s. That should tell you something.
The Puma Faas 500s will be really awesome for two sets of people.
Beginners with deep pockets. The thick soles will not be a hinderance to anyone who’s been wearing the typical running shoe. The toe flexibility will leave them nodding in approval. The grip will be an absolute revelation. For those who are not super harsh on the grips, the lifespan of the shoe should be plenty long enough for the price.
Advanced people who like to climb on rooftops and make big jumps. Wallruns and climb-ups are easy with the Pumas’ awesome grip. Big drops and jumps are best done with as much cushioning as possible; this is one instance where barefoot is not better. Jumping from one building to another doesn’t generally require being precise, just strong and ballsy.
In the end…
The decision will probably come down to money, experience, and usage.
If you have the money, Puma Faas 500s plus Feiyues is a nearly unbeatable training combo.
If you have extremely strong ankles and knees from years of training, the padding won’t do much for you. If you haven’t been training quite so long, you will appreciate the padding.
If you want to jump between railings, the Pumas are not for you. If you want to jump between buildings, then the Pumas are for you.