I've been spending a bit of time catching up on all that I have missed during my week long absence, and while scouring the Chatroll parkour archives I stumbled across a conversation between a newer traceur and my friend Francis. The newer traceur Jyuun ask whether or not wearing gloves was a good idea. I have also recalled seeing conversations elsewhere in the past where someone will ask what types of protective gear should be worn. There are protective pads and helmets and gloves available all over the market for sports, but which are suited for parkour?
Prior to getting into the different forms of protection, something should be clarified. When training, everyone is prone to injury, it happens; but it's not about how many times you fall, but how many times you stand up, and it's standing up that takes some effort. If you feel that you need certain protection and I say don't use it, by all means use it; do what feels best for you. Not everyone is the same and not everything that I say or suggest will work for everyone, that's just how it goes. The following are simply statements and opinions of my own, and it is up to you to use your judgment and decide what you will do, for there are no definitive right or wrong answers. If you wish to wedge yourself amongst a small bundle of pillows, that is your choice. I always mean to emphasize safety, but trying too hard to be safe can occasionally be detrimental to your cause.
Parkour gear for Head.
I have seen people suggesting that traceurs wear helmets while training, and that is just silly. While there are always opportunities to injure your head in parkour by means of a fall or bad maneuver, a helmet would likely be more of a hindrance than anything. When you make to attempt such maneuvers as shoulder rolls and moves through smaller areas such as under-bars, a helmet could sacrifice the integrity of the move and possibly even cause injury. Furthermore, if you feel you need a helmet this early into your training, chances are you are going too fast and are trying things that you aren't yet ready for. Remember mommy was right, it's better to be safe than sorry; take your training slow, you have your whole life ahead of you.
Parkour gear for Joints.
One of the most common responses that I have seen in regards to questions about protective gear for parkour training has been knee pads. Actually, it is very rare that your knees will come in contact with anything if you have been training properly. Knee contact could occur in a slip on a wall run, or if someone fails to execute a proper landing, but even those are minor and are usually the fault of the traceur. You will find that the majority of precautionary equipment for knees and other joints in any sport just involves support and compression braces for people with bad joints. It is as such that you can wear braces on your knees for helping them in landings, rolls and jumps; but you should not need to cover them in order to avoid scratching, as it is quite unlikely that you will injure them if your technique is good.
Some people in response to the question of protective gear have replied by looking at the gear some people in "extreme sports" wear, having not practiced or tried parkour properly before. It is that reason that they suggest such inane things as elbow pads for parkour. How many times while training parkour have you injured your elbow? Maybe you got a little scratch when you fell backwards and landed on your arms, but other than that there aren't many circumstances where elbow pads are beneficial. By no means do elbow pads interfere with regular maneuvers and they can certainly be worn if you so desire, but if you don't own any it is definitely not worth the money to go buy a pair.
I've seen other traceurs wrap handkerchiefs around their wrists to prevent scraping on wall runs and turn-vaults on thick objects among other things; I wouldn't do any more than that as anything thicker could compromise movement and would just be irritating. The wrist however are quite likely to scrape if you are doing any wall runs or vaults and if you wish to prevent scrapes and scarring, it is ideal to wrap them with a handkerchief or a sweat band type wrist wrap.
Parkour gear for Hands.
I would avoid covering up your hands for a few reasons. First of all, though you may scrape them a little bit you need to condition them somehow to thicken and toughen them. If you wear gloves, you will always need to wear them because you will never give your hands the chance to adapt to the change in activities. If you are wearing gloves to protect yourself in an area with broken glass or the likes, you may want to consider cleaning that area up if not training in a new one; for while in a real life situation it may be unavoidable, there is no reason to injure yourself while training. Another reason you want to avoid covering your hands is that gloves are often slippery and they can't provide the grip a good pair of hands can. Sure some gloves have some grip, but no glove is as versatile in gripping different materials and terrain as a hand (unless they are mighty expensive and include suction cups). Also, parkour emphasizes interaction with your environment, you are constantly working with it and exploring it in many ways. Your hands are where the majority of your touch senses are, and it would almost be a crime to cover them up with gloves, as you lose all that interaction with your environment and that sense of feeling what you are working with.
Conclusion. Parkour gearBy ParkourHelper
While it is up to the individual to decide for their self what they will or will not wear I believe that provided good technique and practices, no traceur (unless for some medicinal reason) absolutely requires any protective gear. If you are a beginner and train by yourself, you are safety conscious or just want to be careful then by all means wear them; the choice is all yours.