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On your marks, get set…go!
Want to improve your personal best? Race shoes could be the answer although read our guide before you take your first very light footed step…
Racing shoes may have been around for a long time, but up until now they have been the sole reserve of club or elite athletes.
But with the growing popularity of running among recreational athletes and competitive racing, race shoes are increasingly beginning to crop up in running stores across the UK.
So how do racing shoes differ from ordinary running shoes, and should you be making the switch?
The main difference between a race shoe and traditional trainer, is that racing ‘flats’ as they tend to be known, have little or no heel, and practically no cushioning to make them super light weight.
It therefore stands to reason that they make you faster because with less weight, your feet spend less time on the ground resulting in a quicker leg turnover and a faster time.
Which all sounds wonderful if you are chasing that elusive fast finish, but it is not as straightforward as this.
Whether the shoe is light or not, it is still the runner in them that has to do the work and wearing a lighter shoe is not a short cut to a faster time.
Before you even begin to think about racing off in shoes like this, you need to be highly conditioned which means having great foot strength, elasticity and good biomechanics.
So, if you’re a beginner, or a rock n’ roll runner, in other words someone who moves a lot from side to side, these are shoes are more likely to case you injury.
But what about the rest of us, who have been running for some time? If you are a conditioned, experienced runner then racing flats may well offer you that golden grail, the chance of shaving off a few seconds to get that personal best that you may have been aiming.
The question is, how do you know whether you are conditioned enough to wear these shoes? If you have been running for some time and incorporate strength work in your training, these may be for you but incorporate them gradually.
Try them out on a short tempo run first and if your feet, ankles and knees feel OK a few days later, continue to build up your use of them gradually. Many of these shoes are built for 10k races only, although elite athletes obviously run marathons in more in them.
If you are not a budding Paula Radcliffe though, make sure your first race in them is no longer than a 5k.
And one more thing, if they work for you expect to spend some money. With so little cushioning or structure these shoes typically wear out after around 125-250miles.
RACE SHOE REVIEWS
Best for an entry level race shoe:
More info: store.nike.com
Weigh these in one hand with an IPhone in the other and the trainers feel lighter which is pretty incredible.
Bright pink is not necessarily a colour I would associate with a serious racing shoe, but this small quibble aside (they come in yellow too), these are perfect for someone making the transition to a racing shoe as they have more support than most without sacrificing weight gain.
They make for an incredibly comfortable, cushioned ride and this last part is crucial. If you are trying lighter shoes for the first time then great, if you used to race shoes or are a mid or fore foot striker these could feel a little too cushioned.
Best for the conditioned race runner:
Brooks T7 Racer
More info: www.brooksrunning.co.uk
These were the lightest shoe we trialled and worn by the likes of Chrissie Wellington, we were expecting these to be super fast and they are.
It feels like you are wearing nothing on your feet although they have just enough protection to make the difference between allowing you to feel the texture of the road without it being painful.
In addition to feeling lighter than pair of blister resistance running socks, these shoes are designed with an asymmetrical upper which means they lace up on a diagonal to work with the natural anatomy of the foot.
Shame that for all that, the laces came undone a few times, which is not great if you are going for a personal best.
Other than this minor flaw, easily fixed by switching laces these are fantastic and look pretty snazzy too. This is a shoe that will help you get your personal best.
Best for the racing trail runner:
Salomon Speedcross 3
More info: www.salomonrunning.com/uk/ or call 01276 404800
Prefer trail to roads? Well don’t worry because there are performance shoes for you too.
These are super light weight (around 3 ounces lighter than usual trail shoes) and feel like a second skin.
They have quick release/tie laces, just requiring you to pull a toggle although tuck them between your laces otherwise they flap about. Their only design flaw, is partly a plus point too and that is their grip.
I tried these on very muddy, steep terrain and they were 100% secure in traction but picked up a lot of mud, which stuck resolutely making them rather less than lightweight.
But can you get a shoe with good traction that also ‘releases’ the mud from the soles as you run? That aside I will be racing in these shoes, particularly now they’re not so gleaming-ly neon lime.
Rachael Woolston, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine