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.

Week 1: Common Questions Asked
Week 2: Today: Should You Run in Racing Flats?

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

Thinking out loud, when I race and do speed work, I use a lighter shoe.  Since I run high mileage, during daily runs I like the extra cushion and weight 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 light weight 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.

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.

During the offseason and after college, I also wanted to race in a light weight shoe. I feel faster when I run in 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 trainers are about 10 ounces versus the average weight of flats are 5.

The first 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 during a marathon.

After realizing I liked a little bit more cushion in my racing flat than the waffle, I graduated to the Nike Streak Streak (I’ve gone through several models of both 1 and 2). 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 important 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 race in flats?

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 on your feet for 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 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 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 slowly work into them.  

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

I recommend first trying a few SHORT training runs and seeing 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 flats. Not only are they a brand new shoe from your trainer, but flats are drastically different shoe than what most people train in!

If you go from never using a 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 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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Author: Hollie

Posts are written and maintained by Hollie. I'm just runner who is blogging her way through internet life. If you see me in the real world, you might be dreaming. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to email me at fueledbyLOLZ@gmail.com

15 thoughts on “Should You Race in Racing Flats?”

  1. Nice topic on racing flats.
    I use a t7 racing flat for 5k races and sometimes brooks pure flow(which you recommend for 5k or speed work) and I love that show.
    I train in a sacouny ride 8 and 9 and power grid for more cushion and comfort.
    My advice would be try the racing flats on a couple of Easy miles then try them for tempo work out and see if your ready to run a race in them goals sure they want to race in them.
    Happy running hollie

  2. I don’t race in flats, but I do typically race in my Newtons, which are lighter. I do my long runs in them, too. The rest of the time I’m in my Ghosts, because I do like more of a cushion some of the time.

  3. I do not wear racing flats. I can see why some of the very faster runners DO wear them, but for the majority of recreational runners, I’m not sure it is worth the investment and risk for true “flats”.

    I DO race in lightweight shoes, though! I think this is a good idea for runners, even ones like me who aren’t super fast. To me, there’s a mental shift when I wear the shoes I race in, which are the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante. They are lighter than my trainers, yes, but when I put them on, my brain goes into “run faster than usual” mode.

    Above all, running and training makes the runner not shoes, and it is so individualized. My friend races 5Ks in the Asics GT-2000 and she’s solidly in the 19s- so it’s obviously working for her. She’s just always worn those shoes and is injury-prone. As someone who wears lightweight shoes, I don’t know how she does it either, but she’s running 19 minute 5Ks and I’m obviously not, so big kudos to her!

    I feel like runners should race in the shoes where they feel comfortable… whether it’s flats or GT-2000. Same way with clothes (sports bra only vs. tank top in the summer, etc).

    1. OOPMH! I cannot imagine racing in the 2000 but it obviously works for her. The Zante is a great option for racing too because it’s so light weight!

  4. I have a beautiful pair of flats that I was given by a friend who worked in an athletics store many years ago. I think these shoes have seen a total of 5 indoor track races. I’ve never even thought about using them outdoors until I just read this. I might give it a go for a speedy 1.5 some day. I already run in a fairly light weight shoe (NB Zante) wonder what these would feel like on the road?!

  5. Great topic! I have one pair of flats that I occasionally use for a 5k but have never used them for anything further than that and was interested to know if you use yours even up to the half. It makes sense that a full marathon would not be smart. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I always appreciate how thorough and knowledgeable you are, and that you share in a very open and honest manner. I agree always about finding the right shoe for your person, now because ___ races in it, not because it’s pretty (but that never hurts!) I just started racing in flats (Brooks Hyperion) and can see why it’s important to train differently. The speed session I did in them for training, my legs and feet just wanted to GO, and I dropped a surprise PR at my most recent race in them. I personally love a lesser shoe, but feel strongly that no matter what shoe one chooses, easing in is important to prevent injury. That’s always hard when you’re too excited about new shoes!

    1. The Brooks Hyperion is a great shoe from Brooks. It’s actually one I want to try again. I definetely agree that it’s so hard not to just jump into a race and thank you for reading! 🙂

  7. First of all, great posts on running, I’m new to WordPress and still trying to find good blogs to follow that share my interest in running along with setting the theme of my own blog!
    I have a question regarding long distance running shoes. Been a runner for years and now training for first marathon. I’ve been a loyal Asics Cumulus user for a long time, but my Cumulus 17 are starting to look tired after a lot of half marathons. Would usually just buy a later model, but heard mixed reviews on Cumulus 18. I saw that you’ve tried them out and read your initial thoughts on them. What were you long term thoughts on them? Any other advice on long distance running shoes that are worth considering? I often do foot/gait analysis and just need a good neutral shoe suitable for high mileage!

    1. I like the Cumulus 18 and know a lot of people who have had success with it. I know plenty of runners of who have run full marathons in the Cumulus 18 and they are fine for that. Cumulus will carry you into high mileage too. Based on fit of Asics recently, I would try to find somewhere you can try it on. Most people go up a half size (or even full size) or wider!

      1. Thank you for your input, went to a running shop and tried them on, ended up with a pair half a size bigger than my last cumulus! Will try them out on some shorter runs during the week, seem good so far.

  8. I race in flats for everything up to marathon, for which I wear my training shoes which are Newtons, so are lightweight anyway. I have different flats for racing different distances – I have a now ancient pair of Brooks T5s which I have rediscovered and use for racing 5k and 5 miles on both track and road. They are super light, but also because I don’t train in them they’ve stayed springy so feel nice to wear! I’ll be sad when I have to replace them. I tried them in a 10k recently and they were fine, but I wouldn’t wear them for anything further. For 10 miles and half marathon I wear Newton Distance, which for me is a good halfway house. I also sometimes wear these for threshold sessions. I find big heavy shoes too much to even train in, and indeed find that the amount of cushioning changes my running style too much and makes me more injury prone. Definitely agree with wearing flats in though – because they often fit tighter they can rub in unexpected places. I tend to wear them for the last rep of a session first time out of the box, or on a 2-3 mile recovery run.

    1. That is a great idea about wearing them on the last rep of a session. Thank you for sharing, I’m going to start doing that too!

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