Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How fast is fast?

During my last 5K, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people jumping nimbly about in their racing flats and/or trainers. It honestly made me feel a little underdressed. Sort of like going to a black dress cocktail hour that you thought was a costume party. Suddenly your pregnant hobo costume is not as much fun when people are laughing AT you rather than WITH you. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t lacing up any Converse All Stars or anything. In fact, I even wore a wicking shirt! Although, I still had cotton basketball shorts on – fail. It got me thinking about the possibility of getting a pair of racing flats or trainers.

Racing flats or trainers are shoes that have been stripped of padding that would normally be used for longer distances. As a result, these shoes are lighter and a bit less supportive to run in. Since I’m a numbers guy, I tried to find out exactly how much I would be gaining from spending the $100 for a racing only pair of shoes. Of course, I found a lot of “it depends”, but one source said that you gain 1 second per mile per ounce. So, my shoes weigh 15oz and the trainers that I am looking at weigh 10 oz. During a 5K, that’d be a savings of around 16 seconds. 30 seconds saved on a 10k. Hmm.

The problem is that it seems really wasteful to spend $100 on shoes that I can only wear a few times a month / year. I suppose that I could wear them during fast training, but since they are far less supportive, I’d hate to get hurt during training.

I don’t consider myself a fast runner. I’m faster than some, but certainly not fast enough to necessitate all sorts of expensive “gear”. So, the real question is – how fast is fast enough (to justify buying racing shoes)? For the runners out there – what are your thoughts? Do you wear racing flats or trainers? (Especially if you have mild pronation.)

12 comments:

Laura said...

Just bought racing flats, but it's an unfair comparison because I am one of those lucky people who have a perfectly neutral gate.

Although, check out the research being done on less supportive shoes. Real life example in the book Born to Run (featured on the Daily Show last night).

Nitmos said...

I'd have to actually be in contention to win 5k's (i.e. sub 16 minuter) or other races before I'd consider buying them.

The Sean said...

When introduced properly they will actually be beneficial in your attempt to stay healthy. Your feet will gain strength and you will feel better day to day. You'll get to know the earth below your feet a little better too. I say flats are where its at. I where lightweight trainers everyday, even old ones... don't buy into the shoe myth, afterall, there are guys strapping old tires to their feet with rope and then winning 100 mile races...

Kelly said...

I didn't even realize they had such things. I used to wear spikes during track, but that's a little different. I say the racing shoes seem pointless... however, if you're feeling left out without them, then go for it! haha

Ulyana said...

I'm just like you on this one. I'm not fast enough that a lighter shoe makes a ton of difference for me. I've had racing flats and I didn't see that much improvement in speed, but what I did notice was that my feet weren't as supported and they'd feel less comfortable (and would actually hurt).

What I ended up doing was get lighter long-distance running shoes. They should be able to direct you in the running store.

I have a couple of super heavy asics, I use them for pretty much all my runs. And then I have mizunos that are much lighter, but are still marathon shoes, and I use those for races. It really feels like I get a brick off of each foot when I switch.

Bradatuud said...

I wear them for 5k's, but for the marathon I still with lightweight trainers.
Last marathon I used the Brooks Launch, it's a new shoe for them. It's light and supportive for the neutral runner.

OhMyLaughter said...

Random side note--

Races in costumes are fun :) I will do Bay-to-Breakers before I die.

Michelle said...

I have Brooks ST4's. WHY? I have no idea!!!

But, I do like them! They feel so light and bouncy on my feet!!!

Jamoosh said...

I think the answer is two fold. First, personal preference. Sure that's an easy answer. Second, I would have to agree with Nitmos - if I were consistently able to compete near the front of the pack, I would consider a purchase.

sRod said...

I've contemplated racing flats several times, but I can't bring myself to spend $100+ on a pair of shoes that get eaten up in less than 200 miles. So, like Nitmos suggested, unless you're a contender to win a race, I wouldn't bother with the flats. Also, unless you are a serious contender the flats looks kinda out of place--like the guy who cycles at 8 mph but has the $5,000 bike.

Home Away said...

racing flats sound stupid. who cares if you win a 5k anyway? it's a 5k. and you wouldn't want to mess up your legs due to lack of padding because then you wouldn't be able to run / run well at your next marathon.

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