It’s race season! That brings up the question of needing a pair of racing flats. With so many fancy shoes out there, do you need a special one for race day?
The answer is maybe. The contrasts between training shoes and race flats isn’t as dramatic as the differences between basketball and trail shoes but they are there. More than looks or drop, the type of shoes you want for race day depend on what kind of runner you are. Here are 5 ways to tell if you’ll want to stay clear of racing flats.
You’re a new runner. Throwing on a lighter shoe won’t actually make you that much faster. Hours of training and hard work do that. A less cushioned, less supportive pair of racing flats is more likely to lead to an injury than a new PR.
Marathoners. The marathon is a long race and you’ll be taking lots of steps while beating your body up. Don’t make it worse by stripping away the layer of protection between your foot and the road. Happy feet are fast feet so give them a little love on race day with nice comfy shoes. The longer the race, the more shoe you’ll need.
Heavier runners. You’ll need that extra cushioning for support over the length of the race and the barefoot movement hasn’t been all its cracked up to be. Typically, less protection means more injuries. No matter what the scale says, your gait can have a big impact on how much pounding your bones take with each step and swapping into a lightweight shoe on race day can change the way you move and lead to injury.
You’re injured. If you have any hint of soreness, fatigue or muscle strain, stick with your trainers since you probably won’t be pushing yourself for the race’s entire duration anyway. It always better play things safe than toy with making a minor injury more serious.
You didn’t train in them. Nothing new on race day, right? That especially goes for shoes. Whether you’re tackling the course in brand new trainers or fancy racing flats, definitely spend time training in them. Take them out for easy runs, a track session or two and maybe even a long run. You have to prepare your body for the demands of a lightweight shoe.
Slow down! We’ve all heard it but we might not know why. Here are a few of the reasons easy running is important and how it will benefit your next race.
Easy running might seem boring. How can you get faster if you don’t actually run faster? The truth is you can’t. To improve speed, running economy and endurance you do have to run faster than you are comfortable. But you don’t have to do it all the time, nor do you want to. A balance between hard and easy workouts is the best way to build fitness without risking injury or burnout. The purpose of easy running is to build a foundation. Building this foundation is how your body adjusts to the stresses of road running over time and will ultimately lead to improved race times and a lower risk of injury.
Easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch, fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity without beating yourself up. You need fast days to work on turnover, mitochondria and VO2max but easy days are not necessarily ‘junk miles’ because you’re still working towards a goal. As long as each run has a purpose your time and effort is never wasted.
That’s because going as fast as you can all the time is asking for trouble. Your body has to take care of itself after hard workouts. It has to repair damaged muscle, expand blood vessels and learn to process more oxygen. An easy workout helps clear out waste from muscles, improve circulation and might actually help speed muscle recovery. If you push all the time, those processes never get to finish their jobs and you’re inviting over training and burnout. Alternating hard and easy running workouts gives your body a chance to make all of the positive performance enhancing adaptations it can.
The most important thing is to make sure your easy running is just that. Easy. Aim to be at least one minute slower than your goal race pace for the duration of an easy workout and remember that easy is relative. Some days it will be closer to race pace while the run after a hard workout might be slower. Make sure the pace is conversational and your heart rate stays low.
As your fitness level increases it can become hard to slow the pace down. Keep the goal of each workout in mind when you’re out there feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything. Your body has to have time to adapt to training stimuli so you can ultimately increase your performance level.