Free running is a style of urban acrobatics that incorporates jumps, flips, wall climbing, and other activities to traverse a cityscape. Unlike its close relative parkour, free running, or freerunning, is less about utility and practicality than it is about the aesthetics of the body's movements. It requires an area that is arranged with numerous kinds of obstacles and multiple directional capabilities, both horizontal and vertical.
Sebastien Foucan developed both parkour and free running. Parkour was created as a discipline with which a person, using only his or her body, can travel unhindered and safely through any urban environment. The focus of parkour is efficiency, while free running is a practice that was developed as a mode of individual expression. It gives an individual the opportunity to add his or her own personal style and flair to any urban landscape, in a non-permanent way. Though the two are often confused, due to visual similarities, they are, in fact, quite different.
The term free running was originally an attempt, in several films, to translate parkour into the English language. The two words, however, began to acquire separate definitions and are no longer used to denote the same style of urban acrobatics. Free runners and parkour enthusiasts alike are quick to point out the difference.
Free runners employ techniques and skills from other physical disciplines. Their movements are designed to highlight the freedom of the individual as well as the appealing visual effect that the movements convey. A free runner’s movements may not be as efficient as those of a parkour practitioner, but efficiency is not the goal.
An environment rich in obstacles and twists and turns is the ideal location to showcase a free runner’s ability. Aside from tailoring their techniques to their own individual preference, free runners are also subject to the surrounding environment. A free runner should interact with their surroundings as opposed to moving through the area as quickly as possible. Flips and spins are commonplace in free running along with a number of vaulting and wall climbing techniques.
Free running uses the entire body and is an aerobic activity. These characteristics have led to its adoption, by some, as an exercise program. The desire to use the acrobatic techniques and to get in shape have made it popular.