Today’s racing flats cater to what the minimalist and barefoot movements preach: rapid turnover, forefoot emphasis and minimal weight. And because these lightweight speed shoes have been around for so long and are hardly a trend, they are relatively affordable. Remember that your racing flats or lightweight trainers are for shorter races; these shoes typically have a closer fit and are less plush than high-mileage, everyday training footwear.
To help you find the perfect shoe, we enlisted a panel of speedy racer types to offer their feedback on the FIT, FEEL and RIDE of the latest racing flats. Once you have narrowed your choices down, head to your local running store to dial it all in for the final selection. Check ’em out below!
Saucony Kinvara 2--$90, 7.7oz
Cushioned minimalism. Oxymoronic, yes. But that’s exactly what the Kinvara 2 is: a light, free-feeling shoe that’s stable and almost spongy. It serves as a great lightweight training shoe. The wide toe box makes it feel larger than it is, even though it’s narrow in the midfoot.
Puma Fass 300--$85, 7.2oz
One of our tester’s favorites for its smooth feel. The 300 runs narrow, but the stretchy mesh upper gives it extra room without jeopardizing the snug fit for high turnover performance. Recommended for tempo training, half- and full marathons, and even shorter distances if you want a little more comfort than you’ll find in other stripped-down racers.
Puma Faas 250--$85, 6.7oz
This wide foot racer is perfect for runners who typically find flats to be too tight. For efficient, neutral runners, the Faas 250 was like a stripped-down rally car, with all stock components removed for a fast ride; you feel everything, but have outstanding performance in short races. Not recommended for races longer than a half marathon.
New Balance RC 1400--$100, 7.1oz
The perfect balance: firm enough for an efficient energy return and soft enough for a fluid heel-to-toe transition. Supple mesh holds the foot snug throughout the shoe. Testers found the RC1400 does like to bunch up its tongue, but not enough to cause irritation.
Mizuno Wave Ronin 3--$100, 7oz
Heel strikers, listen up: Testers found this shoe to have generous heel cushioning. The somewhat firm midsole and aggressive tread make the shoe a rational alternative for shorter trail races and, as one tester commented, the “Ronin had great manners cornering and accelerating on a rainy day, all while remaining comfortable.”
Mizuno Wave Musha 3--$85, 7.8oz
Feels like a trainer, performs like a racing flat. The Musha has comfort and cushioning without the weight. Testers found it supportive, cushioned and responsive. Recommended for tempo workouts and as a half- or full marathon racer.
Karhu Racer Fulcrum Ride--$115, 7.5oz
Got wide feet? Then this cushy shoe is for you. The upper mesh is breathable and flexible so blisters shouldn’t ruin your day. The neutral midsole offers adequate cushioning and is supportive enough for longer races. Finally, a lightweight racer for meaty feet.
Inov-8 Road-X Lite 155--$110, 5.4oz
At 5.4 ounces, this is more of a slipper than a shoe. With almost nothing underfoot, you either land right or pay a painful price—inefficiency is not an option. The fit is long and slender, appealing to our narrower-footed testers. The Road-X is best suited for track sessions, racing shorter distances, or runners who have already embraced minimalism.
Brooks T7 Racer--$85, 6.4oz
These performance shoes are fast enough to be the go-to racing choice for many elite runners. They’re minimalistic and perfect for up-tempo runners with an efficient stride. They even feel fine without socks. Light and flexible, the T7 is a perfect update to the beloved T6.
Brooks Racer ST 5--$90, 8.6oz
With the lightness of a flat and structure of a trainer, the ST 5 works well on road, treadmill and trail. Testers thought it felt lighter than it is, and loved the smooth ride and well-ventilated upper that made it possible to run comfortably with or without socks.
Avia Avi Bolt III--$100, 8.5oz
This shoe polarized testers. They loved the forefoot flex and how it works perfectly as a lightweight trainer-racer hybrid. Some testers loved the one-piece tongue while others found it annoying. They loved the speed laces, but didn’t know what to do with the long laces once they pulled them tight.
ASICS Gel-Speedstar 5--$90, 8.6oz
Although it’s not the lightest shoe we tested, the Speedstar had the highest praise-per-dollar ratio. It fits snug around the mid-foot, making it very responsive. The midsole was cushy but firm enough for long runs—we’d even consider it for a marathon. Too snug for wide feet.
Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 6--$120, 10.3oz
More of a training shoe than a pure racer, the Noosa will work well on the run leg of a full or half-iron distance triathlon—the shoes come with optional speed lacing for just that purpose. They fit snug and have a firm midsole, making them stable, lightweight training shoes with pizzazz.
adidas Adizero Rocket--$85, 7oz
Best for runners who like to race and train without socks. “They almost mold to your foot and you forget they are there,” one tester said. The curved shape, flexibility, firm midsole and sparse cushioning accommodate a faster-paced forefoot strike. Not a shoe for joggers or over pronators.
adidas Adizero Mana 5--$80, 7.7oz
Testers enjoyed the Mana’s lightweight performance and cushioning. Recommended for racing, speed sessions and minimalist training, even for mid- and rear-foot strikers. Runs narrow.