Racing Flats or Minimalist Running shoes are a cross between traditional running shoes and barefoot shoes, a perfect blend that provides ease to biomechanical efficient runners. Tracing back to the origin of racing flats, you will be surprised to know that there was no running specific shoe until the mid 1960’s, that is when a company named “Blue Ribbon” jumped in and created a running shoe industry, which later became Nike. From there on several companies developed interest in the running specific shoes.
According to researchers, running in shoes that are flat (racing flats) and have less padding, connect the feet to the ground, allowing the brain to process more sensory information, exactly like running barefoot. This leads to more body awareness. Experts say that people want to wear shoes that help their feet and body move in a natural motion. Keeping this in mind, they designed racing flats which tackled this from a very different angle. Racing flats have the following core design basics:
- Light weight in fact the lighter, the better. The best weight for racing flats is 10 oz or less each.
- Non-existent heel-toe drop (that is the difference between the height of the sole and the forefoot). A traditional trainer has a drop of 12-13 mm or more, where as minimal shoe has a drop of less than 6 mm, some have even less than 4 mm.
- Minimal Structure in the upper layer of the racing flats shoe, that is sufficient to hold your foot.
- Manufacturers have put great emphasis on flexibility of the racing flats shoe, since the stability allows the foot to move and flex naturally. In order to engage more parts of your body, this shoe holds the capacity of maximizing elasticity and engaging more body muscles.
- Since these shoes are light weight, they allow your feet to ventilate, moreover gives you a natural ride that keeps you comfortable and active.
Due to less substantial heel, and less material used at the bottom of the shoes, they lack a whole lot of durability. They have very little heel space, padding or support which is why they last half or quarter of the distance covered by a typical training shoe.
Do You Need Racing Flats?
In order to get the best foot wear you need to take into account two factors shape and fit. Give yourself time to adapt to the new footwear, shorter distance shoes have less outsole surface area, where as longer distance shoes have more cushioning and support. Since we have been used to train in traditional shoes from the very beginning, you should start by a longer distance flat even if you plan to run a shorter race, to understand the shoe mechanism, and how to go about it.
There is a difference of at least 3-4 oz between training flats and racing flats. No matter how many tedious calculations you do to find out the amount of work done in both types, you will always end up doing less work in the lighter shoes. The first thing to keep in mind when switching to such footwear is the kind of surface you will be running on. Some shoes offer rock plates in the soles, which increase rigidity and protect your feet from any minor injuries, on the other hand some models may have a razor like rubber sole that are best used to increase resistance on smooth surfaces and, last but not the least some have a sole that works best for indoor gym, yoga or balancing activities. Another thing to keep in mind is for longer racing distance there should be more elevation under your heel and less thickness under your mid foot. You will have to let your legs and feet gradually get used to the difference of wearing racing flats, our advice would be to start with wearing them for your short and easy workouts and then eventually start using them for your quality workouts.