Should You Race in Racing Flats?

As requested, I’m continuing the series of questions and thoughts from working in the running store.  If you have any questions or topics you would like answered, feel free to ask below.

As most readers know, I train in more substantial and more cushioned shoes. Right now my favorite trainers are the Brooks Ghost and Saucony Freedom ISO.

However, when I do road races and do speed work, I wear a lighter shoe.  Since I run high mileage, during daily runs, I like the extra cushion and support to keep me healthy.  Personally, it makes me feel more comfortable while training.

This post, however, is about racing flats!

How did I get started in racing flats?

In college, we raced in spikes.  A spike is just a very lightweight shoe with spikes at the bottom. Since college was on cross country courses, the spikes served to grip dirt and grass better.  Athletes running on the track also use spikes. These racing shoes help you run faster, even if it’s because you “feel fast.”

Spikes are similar to a soccer cleat.  You can’t run on pavement in spikes, or it wears down the actual “pointed spike, ” and they’ll break or hurt your feet.

During the offseason and after college, I also wanted to race in a lightweight racing shoe. I feel faster when I’m running in racing flats, and typically I do run faster.

There is no point in training in a flat because the goal of an easy run is not to run fast.

For comparison purposes, the average weight of training shoes are about 10 ounces versus the average weight of flats are 5.  Even lightweight trainers are still 7-8 ounces.

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

I’ve run every distance from a 1-mile race to my first marathon (which was dumb). 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 in long-distance events such as the marathon.

After realizing I liked a little bit more cushion in my racing flat than the waffle, I graduated to the Nike Streak (I’ve gone through several models of both 1 and 2 and now the Nike Streak 4). The shoe is much softer and only weighs an ounce more than the waffle flat.

Keep in mind, what works for me might not work for you, and it’s essential to find a shoe you are comfortable in.  Out of any racing flat, I’ve had the Nike Streak LT racer has been my favorite (and no, Nike is not paying me to say that).

Recently, I’ve been running more in the Saucony Type A.

So now that I’ve given my personal background, why choose to wear racing flats?

With less weight with your running shoes, 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 on your feet for thousands of strides adds up.

Disadvantages of Running 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 not a good idea to train in flats. If you train all of your runs in flats, you will probably hurt yourself.
  • It also takes longer to recover because your feet are taking more of a pounding from the pavement. I’ve always found myself sorer after racing in running flats.

How to Get Started in Flats:

As most people know, I work in a running store and 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 slowly.  

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

Before race day, I recommend first trying a few SHORT training runs and see how you like them.

First try a (fast) mile, then 2 miles…then race a 5k.

Once you have raced a few 5ks, try longer distances.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is not to just jump into a race wearing running flats. Not only are they a brand new shoe from your trainer, but flats are drastically different shoe than what most people use for everyday training.

If you go from never using a running flat to racing a distance event, you run the risk of injury.

Personally, 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 enjoy the benefits of racing in flats.  I always feel faster and stronger.

Finally, have you subscribed to the LOLZletter? It’s a free newsletter that comes out each Monday. In the newsletter, I share running industry trends and things relevant to the sport. 

Questions for you:

Do you race in running racing flats?

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