Friday, March 4, 2011

Should you wear a RACING SHOE in that marathon?

Have you ever wondered if you should wear a racing shoe for your marathon? I have read a lot of blogs lately regarding what shoes to wear in a race. Experience is helpful, but if you are inexperienced, how do you know what to wear? A while back I started looking into the subject and found some excellent advice in Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning.
Every ounce counts in footwear. Most competitive marathoners should lean towards the light end of the shoe spectrum. But does that mean that you should wear a "racing shoe"? 

Elites wear "flats"- true racing shoes- that have minimal support and much less heel lift than training shoes. But they are whippet thin and have excellent biomechanics. The lack of support increases the risk of injury, making certain muscles work harder. And the lower heel puts added strain on the calf and Achilles muscles.

Another option to consider is the "performance trainer". These shoes are lighter than many of the high-mileage trainers, making you feel lighter as you go. What they DO have is support that is missing from a racing flat- and enough in the heel/midsole to protect you during a LONG race, as you begin to fatigue.

Go into a retailer and compare a racing shoe with a performance trainer and you will see what I mean. For instance, recently I compared two Adidas shoes. One was a racing shoe and one was a performance trainer. The difference was about 2 ounces, cushion vs. virtually NO cushion, some heel lift, and a pro-moderator device designed to add stability.

Following are some guidelines (listed in Advanced Marathoning) regarding top candidates for flats in the marathon:

Male:
Faster than 2:40
Weighs less than 160# (73kg)
History of being relatively injury free
Good Biomechanics

Female:
Faster than 2:55
Weighs less than 140# (63kg)
History of being relatively injury free
Good Biomechanics

Lastly, it is always good to introduce a racing shoe or new style of shoe incrementally to your workout schedule. Start by using them in some tempo runs a several weeks out from your marathon to make sure they will work for you.

Weigh it out. Consider the choices and the potential outcomes. Make a good decision and have a GREAT RACE, whatever you run in!

20 comments:

  1. Raina this is such an informative post!! Thank you. YOu are one heck of a researcher and I ALWAYS value your thoughts.

    And, THANK YOU for your heartfelt advice. You are correct that I am doing essentially 2 speed days (track and tempo) per week which is VERY challenging for me right now. I will pay more attention to my body--and know that it is okay to back off. Thank you!

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  2. Hey, those are my new performance trainers in the picture! ;) Not sure I will use them though. At least for the marathon. I might try them out for a speed workout soon. I really really love these Brooks Launch shoes though and they are light but supportive too. They might be the shoe! :) What did you decide? Will you use one or stick to your other shoes? How are you feeling?

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  3. the last time I went to the running store for shoes I stared at the 'flats' for a good long time and then decided not now.

    Once I hit three hours for the marathon and decide to try to win one of the two local marathons (Probably take a 2:40-2:45) then I'll use the flats :)

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  4. I have shoes for the training and for the races (any distance) and I never had any problem. I wore the mythic Nike Elite classic, Asic gel racer and Asics gel gold. Now I have a beautiful and comfortable pair of black Nike Waffle Zoom (you can see them in my last pictures and in the header).

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  5. I always figure that I'd rather be a minute slower in a marathon but use the shoe that I trained in and am comfortable wearing.

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  6. Thanks for the informative post. I'm always leary to use any shoe except the one I trained with in the long distances. But I actually need to get a performance trainer, something more light-weight to use in my 5K's and cross-training activities. Those Asics are awesome looking!!

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  7. Very interesting!!! I'm glad you did the research on this, good info to know! Personally, I wouldn't want to risk running in a racing flat or a marathon, but I would do it for a shorter race like a 5K. To be honest though, I don't know if a racing flat is even worth the cost. I think that's why I haven't bought a pair yet!

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  8. Thanks for the information. My running partner has racing flats and I don't think it is a good idea for her. She is always complaining about her calf.

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  9. I race with what I train in. Great post on shoes and very informative. I often think we focus too much on shoes hoping to find an edge, and less on hard training which will be a significant factor with our results. If going to a lighter (minimalist) shoe, give your body time to adjust by slowly adding miles each week in them. Otherwise you risk injury.

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  10. thanks for the post. Looks like based on the guidelines I shouldn't be wearing a racing shoe.

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  11. Some fella talked me into using racing flats for a half marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Of course I can barely walk now, but it was worth it.

    Seriously, you should base your decision on what brings you the most joy. For me, running in light weight shoes is just more fun. I should have sneaked up on the mileage more gradually and I would have been fine.

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  12. Thanks so much for posting this!
    I always wondered about racing shoes!
    I want to perhaps try them on my next marathon, but will probably do a little more reading myself as well. AND plug your blog post when I learn more :)

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  13. As a new runner, it hadn't even crossed my mind to buy different shoes for the big day. This opens some doors for me. Thank you.

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  14. Very informative! Thank you! That Boston countdown on the top of the screen has me freaking out right now!

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  15. I've been wondering about the differences - thanks for the info!

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  16. With those criteria - affirms my thinking - flats will never be in my future. Good thing. That is one less thing for me to be concerned about!!

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  17. Great post! I alternate between a few different shoes but primarily stick with a performance trainer even for long runs now. So, there's no way I'm going under 2:55, I do weigh a fair amount less than 140, injury free-not so much, and unsure about my biomechanics. Yep-1 out of four says I best steer clear of the flats for now!... Brooks Launch-world's perfect shoe for me. Of course it helps that I run for Brooks and they don't break the bank.

    Good informative post!

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  18. Great post! I remember reading this in Advanced Marathoning, seems like it doesn't apply to me because I'm not fast enough, haha Really I only think the elites should even consider wearing racing flats, because of the risk of injury due to poor cushioning.

    Wearing a lighter shoes during races might be considered for people like us, the only problem is that you would need to experiment with it prior to race day to make sure that your body doesn't break down from it. I just wear my regular training shoes during races, it serves me fine it seems like...

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  19. Wow! This is seriously really interesting!!

    I basically find shoes by looking at what is cute and what feels good on my feet. It seems like there are so many options that I just get overwhelmed with it all. I've never thought about the differences like this, but then I also will never be an elite and running fast like that. I've been running in Nike the whole time, but Adidas are so cute, I might try some on next time to see how they feel!

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