If you’re wondering whether or not racing flats will improve your running race times, here are some things worth thinking about:
Do you think you could go faster without that extra ½ pound tied to each foot for thousands of steps?? Of course you could! Most experts would agree that flats improve performance times between 2-5 seconds per mile. That can be a real difference-maker if you’re striving to become more competitive, make a time goal or if you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A lighter shoe will increase your stride length and allow you to cover more distance with less effort. And while flats aren’t miracle workers (we’re only talking about improving performance 1-2% here, folks), they will undoubtedly give you an edge that you didn’t have with your training shoes.
So what’s the price of this added performance? Racing are a lighter shoe, because they have less cushioning and foot support structure than your training shoes. You’re sacrificing stability for speed. If you’re injury-prone or need a stability shoe, a racing shoe may not be for you. Most, but not all, of the racing flats available are made for the neutral foot. Also, it’s not a great idea to wear racing flats as your everyday running shoe. One reason is that you’ll get far less miles for your money, as these shoes will wear out twice as fast as your training shoes. Another reason is that you’ll be subjecting your legs and joints to greater stresses than you’d experience with a higher-cushioned training shoe.
It’s worth noting that the racing flats that I’ve worn and tested are for middle to long distance. These types of shoes are very different from sprinter spikes. Sprinting shoes usually have a rigid toe plate and is meant for a runner that is primarily running up on their toes…not a comfortable ride for the long-distance runner, as there’s very little flexibility in the shoe’s mid-section. Cross-country spikes and racing flats also have a toe plate for the spikes, but there more flexible in the mid-foot section, and therefore suitable for middle distances. Please keep this in mind, as you’ll see any pairs of running spikes out there…each is designed for different race lengths and types of terrain.
That being said, be sure to consider the types of races that you’ll use your flats before hand. Road races or trail races? 5k or Marathon? Be sure to look at the recommended race distance for the shoe and the type of sole construction. For example, some of the lightest racing shoes out there are meant for asphalt or rubberized tracks. A rocky trail will translate every imperfection right into your foot and these shoes which were meant for road races will likely take a severe beating. Salespeople at running shoe stores can help you chose the right flat for you.
Overall, I would definitely look into a pair of racing shoes if you’re looking for a boost in performance and that newest PR. Be sure to try the shoes out on a few training runs before your big race. For example, I’ll wear my marathon flats for my 13-mile goal-pace run two weeks before race day. I’ll also use them for a few of my weekly shorter runs in the month leading up to race day. Happy Racing!!