Racing Flats – Do Make a Difference

Brooks Green Silence
Brooks Green Silence

Back in February, I wrote the post Racing Flats Who Needs Them.

I was wrong!

Yeah I am admitting that I was completely wrong.

Racing flats do make a difference for me when I use them.

However, I now believe the benefit is much more than just the physical part of how a racing flat is made or how light-weight it is.

Racing Flats

In that post I did say.

Personally, I have loved the light feel, snappiness of racing flats and how psychologically they make me feel like I can and want to run faster. I know that when I put on my racing flats, I am telling my body, get ready we are going to run fast today.

Then the other day in response to a facebook comment in one of the running groups I belong to, I said:

Perspective and what you think is a faster pace change as you get older. IMHO racing flats are more than just a light-weight running shoe, they are also psychological prompt for me at least, to prepare myself to get ready to run fast for me.

So while my faster pace may not be at sub 7:00 or even sub 8:00, it doesn’t mean that the racing flat is not useful or beneficial to us “slower” runners out here .

I could wear a pair of minimal shoes that weight the same or less than many racing flats, but they are not racing flats that “help” me run faster. There is a difference in the design and purpose of the shoes and how my mind sees them

Which means that I have changed my perspective 180 degrees since February, on my use and need for racing flats.

Yes, even for a non-competitive or to be more accurate, only a self-competitive runner that I am. Yeah, I know that I am not going to be at the front of the pack or win any races outright – not too many of us can, but I do compete against myself that day, my earlier times and every once-in-awhile in my age group.

Being able to do well in all of those areas are still important to me.

I want, hell I need to take any legal edge that I can get.

So using a shoe specifically designed, made and purchased to run fast in, is a pretty simple one.

Mental Vs Physical

My experience is that the style/type of running shoe we use can make a difference in our performance, but how much of that difference is mental versus physical is the big question.

Are the differences between minimal shoes and racing flats really that major?

  • Not really, they often have similar stats, materials and weights. Hell many of the minimalist shoes weigh less than some “racing flats”.

However, when I run in racing flats or at least running shoes that are classified or marketed as racing flats, I run faster in them.

Why? What is the big difference?

It might be part of the design or geometry, but I think it is more than that.

When I put on my racing flats, there is no doubt in my mind that I am telling myself that I WILL run fast today.

I want to run faster (for me) and I put more effort into the run in racing flats.

  • I think that the important difference for me is that last statement: I put more effort into the run.

It might be subconscious or whatever, but it is true.

My Experience

Something that really struck me, when I started racing in my trainers in April, was that I didn’t really seem to have that “extra” push that I have had in the past. I would reach a certain level of effort and didn’t push through it, when I looked back through my race recap posts for the past few years, there was a significant difference in how I felt during a race when I ran in flats versus trainers.

Start Patriots Day 5 Miler
Start Patriots Day 5 Miler

In other words, I don’t believe that I was mentally prepared to race and push myself through the discomfort that is there when you are truly racing a race.  Those races, became more of a harder workout than a race

After those two races in April, I decided to get a pair of racing flats. When I started using them to workout, I noticed a different mindset during my initial workouts in them. When I put them on, I “knew” that it was time to pick up the pace and do more.

Then when I got my latest pair of racing shoes and started to use them, my expectations for a run changed completely to a faster pace than I had run, on the same training runs as my trainers. Even though they are heavier than some of the trainers I had run in.

I believe that shoes can make difference in your attitude towards your run and the expectations you have for it.

Prep Time

Using racing flats does mean that we have to commit to actually wearing them and wearing them for more than just races.

We need to do speed work both on the track and during road/trail sessions (yes there are trail racing shoes too and they feel different from typical trail shoes) to acclimate your body to how to run in racing shoes.

I do not care what anyone else says – you have to prepare your body to run in a racing flat, which probably have different geometry and feel, than your typical daily trainer.

The other reason and probably more important, your form does change when you run faster and you recruit more/different muscles to run faster. These muscles and yes the tendons need to be ready to meet those demands.

It is not something that everyone remembers to do and it can bite you in the butt, if you are not used to your racing flats and you only put them on for a race.

The reality is that

The shoes we run in does not determine whether we are serious runner, much less a fast runner or not,

Think about the race when some guy or gal, blows by you like you are standing still – wearing a pair of work boots, jeans, flannel shirt, ratty vest, old ball cap, half hung-over, because a friend dared them to do it.

Yes you might be you looking good in your super light racing flats, tech clothes, singlet, GPS Watch and music blaring, but the best of equipment does not mean that you are gonna be the fast one out there.

but in my opinion a running shoe can make a big difference in our outlook, confidence and expectations we have towards a run and their physical characteristics might make enough of a difference, to allow you to run faster.

Skechers GoMEB 2's
Skechers GoMEB 2’s

I know that during my next race, I will be rocking my racing flats.

Does everyone or should everyone use racing flats for racing? I can’t really answer that – that is something that is up to each individual runner.

Personally, I have learned the hard way if I want to do my best during a race, I will wear a racing shoe style that I have done my fast-paced training in and feel comfortable running the distance I will be racing.

How about you?

Do you find that even when you are training in a pair of light-weight trainers or minimal running shoes that have about the same stats as your racing flats, that when you put on your flats, that you run faster.

Do you wear racing flats during a race or do you just wear trainers? Why?

2 thoughts on “Racing Flats – Do Make a Difference

  1. Since I have never done ‘coached running’, I never became attuned to using flats – though I hear about it from friends who ran track in high school.

    As a result I have to say i don’t ‘get’ flats … I mean, I know just moving from the 4mm Kinvara to 0mm Virrata I feel the difference in muscles, so I am not sure how that would be a good thing to do to myself on race day? I guess the prep is important, as I can now switch back and forth between them without an issue.

  2. I haven’t done coached running since high school back in the dark ages, but my experience with “racing flats” for roads and trails are that they help me with some of the psychological stuff that goes with racing and doing hard speed work sessions, but honestly some racing flats are not really all that different than some of the light-weight trainers that I typically use now.

    When I put them on I know that I need to be ready to run faster than I normally do, which means I will run through the discomfort that goes along with running faster, for a longer period of time than I tend to when I am in my trainers. Which is weird because a couple pair of my trainers are lighter than one pair of my racing flats, but I still run faster in the “flats”.

    It is part of the mind games we play with ourselves, that may or may not work for someone else.

    I think they could be called racing shoes instead of flats, because many minimalist running shoes are both flatter and lighter than many so-called racing flats. Racing flats is a name from a different age of running, when the typical trainer weighed around 12-13 oz or more and had around a 12MM drop, the racing flats of the day were 7-9 oz and a lower drop to be a flatter shoe.

    The biggest thing is to actually train in the shoes you use for a race, irregardless of the category someone or a brand puts a shoe in, so a runner will know how they work for them and know the issues ahead of time, instead of finding out on race day something doesn’t work for them.

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