Retrospective | Kalenji Success
Welcome to the second installment of ‘Retrospective’. In this series we aim to salvage gems from the scuffed and torn wreckage of parkour history, and review them for their practical and cultural impact on the community.
This week we are taking a look at a real classic, the Kalenji “Success” - a value running shoe that was available exclusively at Decathlon sporting goods stores.
Unlike the ARIAKE, this shoe was not designed specifically for freerunning, but unwittingly found widespread success in the community. Its price was a key factor, by costing £9.95 they had great appeal as disposable footwear - freerunners are often hesitant to splash out on shoes they know they are likely to ruin.
Throughout 2008, almost everybody on the scene seemed to be wearing them. I remember this being one of the first fully pervasive trends in parkour. At the Trace ’08 gathering (a freerunning event in the Peak District attended by 200+ practitioners for a week of training in the wilderness) a large group of us took a trip to the Sheffield Decathlon, storming in barefoot to adorn ourselves with fresh pairs of ‘lenjis.
In early 2009 trouble struck with their discontinuation. News quickly spread across forums and Facebook pages that the Success was to be replaced with the Ekiden 50, a more expensive, less hardwearing Kalenji. This led to mass riots and Decathlon being raided in elaborate freerunning heists. I jest, but folks were really stock piling the remaining shoes like they were preparing for nuclear winter.
In 2011, WFPF/Know Obstacles acquired the design & produced the KO Gen 1, an altered version of the Success. Subsequent re-designs have moved away from the original aesthetic.
Around the same time Decathlon released the “Parkour Visions” shoe, which gained little traction and was eventually discontinued. It seems the community had moved on from their Kalenji obsession.
Here is Marrero’s very own Jimmy Bangs giving the low-down on the latest model.
For now, it seems that Kalenji have had their time in the sun for the freerunning community. For older practitioners, I hope this has been a good little trip down memory lane. For people newer to the scene, you're probably wondering why such an ugly shoe ever had such mass appeal. The Success were actually pretty sick to train in - they had enough support at the back and the small amount of padding toward the front combined with good grip was super useful for practising proper tech. For their price they endured impressively well - believe me, the hype was real.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more write-ups on PK relics.