The Racing Flat.

As most readers know, I like to train in heavier and more cushioned shoes. When I do speed work, I’ll train in my flats but other then that I prefer the heavier shoes.  Since I’m doing higher mileage, I like the extra cushion and weight to keep me healthy.  It makes me feel more comfortable while training.  This is obviously not the everyone’s taste in running shoes but it is mine.

One of my coworkers always says: “Running shoe cushion is like money and you can never have enough money”. Isn’t that the truth?

Right now my high cushioned shoe of choice is the Saucony Triumph. After having an issue with the Asics Nimbus 17, I’ve found the triumph to be a great training shoe for me (I’m on shoe number 2).

This post, however, is about racing flats!

I don’t race in the same shoes I train in.

I think racing in a different shoe comes from beginning to run in college.  In college we raced in spikes.  A spike is just a a very light weight shoe with spikes at the bottom. Since most of college was on cross country courses, the spikes served to grip on dirt better.

It’s similar to a soccer cleat.  You can’t run on pavement in spikes or the spikes will wear down and break.

Throwback to college racing
Throwback to college racing

When I entered the world of road racing, I also went after a light weight shoe. It just seemed normal to me.  The average weight of my trainers have been about 10 ounces. The average weight of my flats have been about 5 ounces.

The first flat I ever purchased was the Nike Waffle. It was the exact platform of the spike I used to race in (but without the spike plate in).

4 years ago with my first flat.
4 years ago with my first (muddy) flat.

I’ve run every distance from a 1 mile race to my first marathon. To be honest, I raced my marathon in that shoe because I didn’t know any better. While I didn’t get injured from it, I will never do that again.  Most people (myself included) need more cushion during a marathon.

Hashtag so dumb.
Hashtag so dumb.

After realizing I liked a little bit more cushion in my racing flat I graduated to the Nike Streak LT racer (I’ve gone through several models of both 1 and 2). The shoe is much softer and only weighs an ounce more then the waffle flat. I raced my last full marathon in that shoe and had no issues.  You can see at the bottom there is a little bit more cushion to it.

Just crossing the finishing line like a bird...with my flats.
Just crossing the finishing line like a bird…with my flats.

I’ve never had any issues with it and it’s a great weight flat.  It’s one I recommend for anyone who likes more cushion but a very light weight shoe to race.


This Spring I decided to try a completely new racing flat all together.

Maybe it was because I’ve been injured for so long or maybe it’s because I decided to live life on the edge.

My friend Austin and I in our matching Saucony A6s.  Bright colored twinning!
My friend Austin and I in our matching Saucony A6s. Bright colored twinning!

Either way I’ve raced the last few 5ks in the Saucony A6 and honestly I really like them.  I haven’t had the opportunity to race anything longer in them but I plan too.

So now that I’ve given a bit of my personal background, why racing flats?

A lighter shoe improves turn over. With less weight on your feet, it’s easier to run and increase your turnover. Think about it, less weight (to an extent…) produces faster times.  Carrying an extra few ounces thousands of strides really adds up.

Disadvantages of Flats:

  • You are more prone to injury: since there is little to no cushion in a flat, you are more susceptible to injury.  Think about those who train solely in Nike frees or minimalist shoes…that is why it’s a bad idea to train in flats.
  •  It also takes longer to recover because your feet are taking more of a pounding from the pavement. I’ve always found myself more sore after racing in flats.

How to go about racing in flats:
Honestly I tell people the same thing whether it’s kids going to their first XC race, customers at work, blog readers or whomever…you have to work into them.  

Don’t go run a 5k, half or run marathon in new shoes. 

I recommend first trying a few SHORT training runs and seeing how they work. First try a mile, then 2 miles…then race a 5k. Once you have raced a few 5ks try longer distances. It’s not something I would just jump right into. Not only are they a brand new shoe but it’s a drastically different shoe than what most people train in!  If you go from never running in a flat to racing, you have a high chance of getting injured.

I love the feeling of racing in a different and lighter shoe.  I have no plans to change that!

If you have anymore questions feel free to ask away.  I really enjoy the benefits of racing in flats.  I do alway feel faster and stronger.

Questions for you:

Do you race in flats?

What advice would you give someone beginning to race in flats? 

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  1. Racing flats are awesome for short distance but I made the mistake early on of racing a half in them and paid for it with tendonitis, it cleared up quickly and at least I realized then and didn’t try to race a marathon in them! I also prefer cushion and some support for training, it definitely keeps injuries away.

  2. OK, I totally don’t ‘get’ racing flats … for many of the reasons you mention, plus a couple:
    – Different ‘drop’ – most flats are ‘zero drop’ or close, meaning you are subjecting your legs to a different stress profile … hello injury!
    – ‘Something new’ – one of the key pieces of advice for a race is ‘nothing new’ … and since it is unlikely you’ve done significant training in flats, that might as well be something new. If not, it means you have fully integrated ‘flat training’ in your program … not trivial. Otherwise … hello injury!

    Ultimately for me it comes down to concerns about injury. It is all about trade-offs, and while for a competitive race you might balance the increased injury risk against the few seconds you might shave off your time, for most people I just can’t see that the risk/benefit is remotely worthwhile.

  3. I run races and speedwork in the Mizuno Wave Hitogami. They are pretty minimalist, but have worked well for 5K-half marathon (I would never run a full in them). Honestly, they are the best Mizuno shoes I’ve had in awhile because that brand changed up all their shoes (which is why I now mostly run in NB or Zoot Solana).

    I do like more cushioned shoes for training and even if that slows down my training runs a little it is fine because a lot of people tend to run their easy days too fast (myself included). Plus the cushioning is good if you mostly run on road/pavement and I do.

    I think there’s something mental about having a special shoe for racing and speedwork. Kinda like, when you put on those shoes, you mean business- it’s not just a jog in the park, morning shakeout, etc :).

  4. I’ve never raced in flats, but have thought about it for a while. Do you have any suggestions as to how to transition? I’m very nervous to attempt to race in flats mainly because I feel like my knees/joints would take an absolute beating… Love the Nikes though! I usually walk around in their Racers because I think they’re cute with spandex #priorities.

    1. Yeah, I actually recommended in my blog post to just run a mile in training then 2…then try racing a 5k. I hope that helps Jamie, I would really work into them versus the “all or nothing approach”!

  5. I bought a pair of flats and have only worn them for a few workouts and raced 1 5k in them. I probably haven’t worn them in about 2 years, but my goal for this summer is to try to use them again on workouts and shorter races!

  6. This is fantastic advice. I’ve seen so many horrific injuries happen when people train in Nike Frees. They seem to be the shoe of choice for men at my gym, and I’m sure they’re great to race in…to log massive weekly mileage though? Not so much.

    I do a lesser version of the training in cushioned shoes and racing in flats approach: I wear clompy, heavily cushioned Asics Kayanos to train in, but Addidas Boosts to race in most of the time. They are still the most structured and cushioned version of the Boost, because my fragile bones and crappy running form make me terrified of trying proper flats. I’ve always wanted to have a go at racing in something really light though! Is there such a thing as a supportive racing flat, or are the two mutually exclusive? Thanks 🙂

    1. They aren’t mutually exclusively but it is a lot harder to find a supportive racing shoe. There are a few that I would recommend:

      Asics Gel Hyperspeed 6 is made for mild pronation, I don’t have experience with the shoe but I’ve heard it’s pretty good!

      Saucony mirage is just a lighter shoe in general so it’s going to feel more speedy. Also the Saucony hurricane is so light weight that it still has the stability like the kayano but it’s much lighter.

      By Brooks there is the pure cadence (which is the most minimal but supportive shoe in it’s category).

      The only shoe I’ve ever heard of as marketed as a “supportive racing flat” is the Brooks Racer ST. Honestly, I think it’s really great and all the people I’ve recommended it to at work have loved it!

      One other food for thoughts: Have you ever thought about running in the Hoka clifton? That shoe only weighs around 5.5-6 ounces and by nature obviously has a little more cushion.

      Let me know what you think Jess!

      1. Love this summary. I’m prone to injury and pronate like mad. I so hate running in clunkers for every. Single. Run. . Maybe there is hope for me yet!

      2. Thanks so much Hollie – I’ll have to shop around and see which shoes seem like the best value. I’m leaning towards the Hyperspeed or the Mirage, simply because Brooks always seem to be too hard and rigid for my feet. Hokas are still a bit hard to come by here and the full range isn’t always accessible, but I’ll keep an eye out for the Clifton too. I’m excited to try out some lighter shoes, but I didn’t know where to start with them until now 🙂

  7. Racing flats are something I really need to look into because the shoes I’m using right now (Brooks Glycerins) are just way too heavy. I’ll use Nike Frees every now and again and I definitely prefer those to the Brooks, but part of me is afraid that there isn’t enough support in them. It didn’t really used to be an issue since I wasn’t running crazy distances, but I’m working on upping my mileage and I’d really like to avoid injuring myself.

    1. For sure! The Nike free actually have little to no support for running and our Nike rep has told us quite a few times they were never made to run more than a mile or so. 🙂

  8. I have never raced in flats mostly because they terrify me. I would love to get enough confidence in my legs to one day run in them for shorter races.

    1. It’s something I would really work into (versus the all or nothing approach). Good luck 🙂

  9. I love this post, obviously. Someday, I might be brave enough to race in flats. I think I may start wearing the Wave Rider to race again, instead of my Asics Nimbus, because they are such a heavy trainer!

    1. I think racing in the wave rider would be a great start if you wanted to transition into flats 🙂

  10. This is a great blog post Hollie! You have answered all my questions and opened up a few more 😉

    I only wore race-only shoes when trail running or orienteering, similar to how you did with cross country. I didn’t actually put 2 + 2 together like you did for the road though, because with my injury history I didn’t think it was possible to wear a road shoe for one-off races.

    But you changed my opinion on this last year, so thanks. Since then I’ve been using the Nike Flyknit Lunar for races and have loved them! The tread is still a little high, but they’re incredibly light.

    1. I’ve also been using Brooks Pure Cadence for speed work since last year. They’re lower to the ground so are harsher on my calves, but once a week they’re fine. Haven’t tried them for racing yet though.

  11. I do all my track work/treadmill running in my racing flats – I only do 5K’s with flats on – bigger distances = cushioned shoes because I tend to get lazy with my form.

  12. Hi Hollie,
    I know you tried Hoka’s at one point. I haven’t heard you mention them much again. Out of curiosity, what didn’t you like or what made you switch to Saucony Triumph?


    1. I can’t remember if I posted why I ultimately left Hoka. They were actually a little bit to light for me. The cliftons are a very light weight soft shoe and ultimately I liked the Nimbus and then triumph better! 🙂

      1. Cool -thanks for the reply. The Cliftons are super light. I have been running in my heavy Brooks and hope that switching to the Cliftons for my 10K this weekend will be a nice change – like a racing “flat” (except Hoka’s are hardly a racing flat… just in terms of weight!) 🙂

  13. I’m the same way about racing flats. Because of running cross-country and track in high school, I used to love my racing flats. I remember I got a brand new pair before districts. ahh best thing ever. I totally agree, the turn over rate is just amazing. You feel like you could fly.!!
    butt. I haven’t been running in flats since I started road racing. hmm. idk I’m just not sure about it. I might have to try it out though.

  14. I know nothing about what to wear when doing long runs. I’m still a newbie, so this was very educational.

  15. Should you start with them on a track or straight on the roads? Are they good on a treadmill?

  16. This is a topic I’ve been super interested in hearing more about! I bought the pure cadence around 6 months ago and have used them for a couple 5ks now. I’m not ready to use them for my half’s but its been fun to use them for shorter distances.

    1. The pure cadence is definitely a great light weight and low to the ground shoe. I think it’s a good one to begin thinking a racing flat. Honestly though, it’s nearly a racing flat itself!

  17. I train in Mizunos and use the wave prophecy for higher mileage but race in the Sayonara. It’s a lighter lower profile shoe with a little cushion. So not totally flat but it’s a great shoe to wean myself into the racing flat. I definitely want a legit flat. There’s something about having a special race day shoe or outfit that gives you that mental confidence boost.

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