There’s no doubt when running fast is a priority the weight of your shoes matters. Just watch any elite runner right before a race and you’ll notice they put on a sleeker smaller-looking pair of shoes called racing flats just before toeing the line.
In an earlier article titled “Are your shoes Slowing You Down,” we wrote about two studies that attempted to quantify exactly how much time can be saved by reducing the weight of your shoes. No surprise both studies found the lighter the shoe, the greater the gain with one study finding a .78% gain in finishing time per 100 grams over a distance of 3,000 meters.
Similar to everyday trainers, not all racing flats are created equal. Differences in weight, stack heights and heel drop are important stats to consider when purchasing a racing flat, making certain flats more suitable for 5k’s verses longer races such as a marathon. Generally speaking the lighter the flat the more suited they are for shorter races.
First time flat wearers should look for higher stack heights and moderate heel drop (6mm and up) to help ease the transition from everyday trainers. The low profile and reduced cushioning of racing flats can take some getting used to so it’s important to test them out during faster workouts such as intervals or tempo runs, before wearing them in a race.
Here are some the best racing flats on the market.
Most Versatile Flat: New Balance 1400v5
The recently updated New Balance 1400v5 with an all-new sleek and softer engineered mesh upper is one of the best all-around racing flats on the market, perfect for anything from 5k up to marathon distances. It’s thick midsole adds a touch of cushioning and with a 10mm drop, the 1400v5 is one of the most versatile racing flats making it a great entry-level racing flat for shorter race distances or as a light and fast option for longer distances for the serious road-racer. Stats: Retail: $99.99,Stack Height: 25mm (Heel), 15mm (Forefoot),10mm drop, Men 7.9oz, Women: 6.1oz
Best For A Road Mile: Mizuno Wave Ekidan 11
The Mizuno Ekidan 11 is one of the more aggressive racing flats on the market, most suitable for experienced runners wanting a super lightweight shoe for races ranging anywhere from a mile up to 5k. Underfoot Mizuno keeps the midsole razor-thin, assuring the efficient runner transfers energy directly to the ground without losing it in a cushioned midsole. Extra length in the toe box may warrant going down a ½ size to get that dialed-in race ready fit. Stats: Retail: $119.99, Stack Height: 15mm (Heel), 10mm (Forefoot),5mm drop, Men 5.2oz, Women: 5.2oz
Best For 5k’s: Saucony Type A
The Saucony Type A is a firm and fast racing flat ideal for experienced runners who want a high performing shoe for races ranging from 5k to a half marathon. A well-designed flex film upper is lightweight and extremely comfortable with generous padding along the heel counter. For a racing flat, the Type A fits exactly as it should, snug and ready to rip. Stats: Retail: $100.00, Stack Height: 16mm (Heel), 12mm (Forefoot),4mm drop, Men 5.2oz, Women: 4.5oz
Best Cushioned Flat: Brooks Hyperion
Compared to most racing flats, the Brooks Hyperion is generous with underfoot cushioning making it another great option as an entry-level racing flat for first-timers or an aggressive option for the serious racer looking to rip a fast half or full marathon. The modest profile and 10mm drop softens the impact while still maintaining a responsive ride. Stretch woven upper with a premium sock liner give the rather narrow fitting upper a comfortable airy feel. Stats: Retail: $130.00, Stack Height: 27mm (Heel), 17mm (Forefoot),10mm drop, Men 6.6oz, Women: 5.4oz
Best Supportive Flat : Asics GEL-DS Racer 11
One of the more established racing flats, the Asics GEL-DS Racer 11 is a well-suited lightweight option for runners who need pronation control. While most racing flats are free of pronation control elements, the DS Racer 11 incorporates Asics’ Trusstic System Technology for added support while still maintaining a racing flat profile and lightweight. A roomy upper and toe box is ideal for runners with wider feet. Stats: Retail: $110.00, Stack Height: 18mm (Heel), 10mm (Forefoot), 8mm drop, Men 6.6oz, Women: 5.6oz
Most Durable Flat: Mizuno Wave Sonic
Released in July 2017, the Mizuno Wave Sonic is an extremely versatile high performing shoe, suitable for everything from a 5k up to a marathon. An aggressive offset favors a more efficient runner while still maintaining a generous level of responsive cushioning for those long hard races. The seamless sock-like upper free of overlays give the Sonic a glove-like race-ready fit. Stats: Retail: $99.95, Stack Height: 20mm (Heel), 16mm (Forefoot),4mm drop, Men 7.7oz, Women: 6.7oz
Best For Track Races: Brooks Wire 4 Track Spike
Light and fast, the Brooks Wire 4 is an aggressive track spike ideal for distances of 1,500 meters and up. A slightly upward turned toe with four spike holes grips the track with every toe off while an ultra-light mesh upper utilizes 3D Print overlays for added structure and support. Stats: Retail: $99.95, Stack Height: N/A Unisex: 3.9oz