The Kickstarter-funded Ollo Sapien shoes have a huge amount of potential. The idea of a shoe funded by the community and designed by professionals who also practice parkour is immensely appealing. Do the Sapiens live up to their potential? Not exactly… But with some work, they could.
Note: I was using a pair of pre-production Sapiens. Ollo is still tweaking the design, so this review is only valid for the pre-production design. It will be updated when the final product is out in the wild.
Using the Sapiens
My initial impression of the Sapiens remained consistent throughout my usage of them: Too. Thick. There’s a lot of good aspects about the Sapiens (which I will go into shortly), but everything is affected, one way or the other, by the thickness.
Two words: not bad. The walls are very padded, if you like that sort of thing (I don’t). For general walking around, they’re fine, no blisters or chafing to report.
During intense sprinting and precisions, the shoes tended to slide around my feet quite a lot. Possibly a pre-production problem. The inside stitching is pretty easy to feel – but again, this is a pre-production test run. I don’t expect total polish. Shorter laces would be nice, though.
The laces themselves need to be made non-stretchy – the current fabric isn’t particularly prone to being untied, but it’s annoyingly stretchy.
The Sapiens use 0110/High Grip rubber for the sole. Don’t feel bad, I’ve never heard of it before either. A Google reveals absolutely nothing tangible on this rubber, which leads me to assume that it has been developed in-house by the designers.
Of everything about the Ollo Sapiens, the flexibility is what shocked me the most. For how thick the shoe is, the flexibility is astounding. Much better than Onituska Tigers, and about on par with a thoroughly broken-in pair of KOs.
I haven’t had a chance to really put the Sapiens through a good stress test. I did try to manually twist and tear apart the stitching, but it remained solid. The grip pattern seemed unaffected by me spinning around on my toes on a rough concrete parking lot. Only time will tell for certain, but the durability seems pretty good. I’ll update this section as I continue to use the Sapiens.
The Ollo Sapiens have nearly the perfect amount of padding on the toes. I would have liked for them to be a little thinner, but they’re still very good for precisions. I could definitely see breaking big jumps with them (after you become accustomed to the way they perform).
Despite the heel thickness, the toes are plenty wide enough. That, plus the good grip, plus the flexibility, makes for a shoe that’s very good at wallruns. Wallruns are probably the shoes’ biggest strength.
The grip is good, even on metal. The sole is flexible, but the thickness really cuts down on how well it stays on rails. It’s hard to feel where you are. Lower the heel and it would be very good.
Well padded. Good for big drops. The soles and interior are a little slippery and loose, so not as good as it could be, but still comfortable for landings, even awkward ones.
The heels are too thick for proper full-foot ground feel, but the grip is good enough that you won’t slip while landing kicks, but not so good that it’ll be difficult to twist on the ball of your foot while landing that kick. It’s possible to trick in the Sapiens, but I would not recommend it.
To back or not to back?
The Ollo Sapiens are a lot of firsts. They’re the first shoes that have been designed from the ground up for parkour, by a company dedicated purely to parkour. They’re the first shoes that will be backed by the community, which means they’re the first shoes on which the entire parkour community could have a huge influence. I say “could” because the responsiveness of the Ollo team has yet to be determined. There are 4 main improvements that need to be implemented:
- Thinner soles. This is extremely important.
- Less padding in the walls, which would help with improvement #3.
- Tighter, closer fit. (Could be a pre-production problem)
- Be prettier – everyone I talked to said they were ugly.
I’m backing the Ollo Sapiens, and not just because I want to support their efforts. The Ollo Sapiens have serious potential. With some tweaks – primarily a thinner sole – the Sapiens could be a really, really good shoe.
But for the sake of ankles everywhere, make the soles thinner.
- The K-Swiss Ariakes were the first shoes designed for parkour. The second shoes designed for parkour, WFPF KOs, were a spin-off of the Kalenjis. ↩