Like almost any aspect of training, the decision on whether to wear racing flats isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are some general principles that can apply, from which I’ve derived a an accurate formula to help you determine if racing flats are the right footwear choice for you on race day.
1. Make sure you’re healthy.
The first consideration is to make sure you don’t have any nagging injuries or tweaks that might flare up. If you’re already training gingerly to keep injuries at bay, racing hard in racing flats might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
2. Make sure you adapt by training in flats first.
The rule with almost any race, especially the marathon, is never try something new in a race. The same principle applies with racing flats. If you’re going to test them out, make sure you take the time to run a few of your workouts in them first. It’s much easier to stop during a two-mile interval if your calves get sore than to have to walk the last 4 miles of a half marathon.
3. Heavier the longer the distance.
Finally, choosing the right flat for you is also based on your race distance. In general, the shorter the race, the lighter, less supportive, and less substantial your shoe can be. For a 5K or 10K race, a shoe weighing in the 5-6oz range is optimal for most runners. For races from 10K to the half marathon, you should find a shoe that is 7-9oz. For the marathon, a shoe in the 7-10oz is optimal, unless you’re a sub 2:40 marathoner.
If you’re training hard and need to lose that last minute or two to hit your goal or qualify for Boston, give racing flats a try and see how much they can help improve your performance on race day.