In Phoenix, where I live, mid-winter is prime training season, and I’m starting to get antsy for the spring and summer races I have on the calendar. I imagine I’m not alone in that I tend to let my running mileage and consistency dip toward the end of the year. But the beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity to rededicate to the training plan and gear up for the racing season. To hit that first competition of the year in stride, consider grabbing a pair of speedy racing shoes to help you nab a personal best.
I’ve never been a very serious runner. In the past, the sport came and went from my life depending on the seasons and the places where I lived. Casual and serious runners alike know that at its best, running can be euphoric, meditative, and fulfilling. At its worst? Well, it just kind of sucks. In the last couple of years, though, I’ve discovered the power of signing up for races as a way to stay consistent with running. It works for two reasons. First, races are expensive and I hate wasting money. Second, I am competitive and I hate performing poorly.
Why You Need Racing Shoes
So why buy race-specific shoes? The short answer: They can help you run faster on race day. Typically, racing shoes are very lightweight, contain a carbon fiber plate for added responsiveness, and have lighter cushioning in the midsole. They’re designed to be extra springy and light, so you can run more efficiently and maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time.
The natural next question: If they have such big benefits, why shouldn’t I always wear racing shoes? Training in race-day shoes isn’t recommended for a few reasons:
- Racing shoes tend to break down faster due to their lighter and thinner materials and lack of full-coverage outsole rubber.
- Since they have less cushioning (usually), they can be harder on your body when worn as everyday running shoes.
- Wearing them too frequently will—like any shoe over time—deteriorate their energy return and reduce their race-day performance.
Think of your training shoes like those donut bat weights baseball players use to take warmup swings: When you lace up your racing kicks, their low weight and snappy energy return will make you feel like you’re flying to the finish line. Racing shoes feature the latest in running shoe tech, and tons of R&D goes into this segment each year to help you shave off valuable seconds in a race.
A couple years ago I would have scoffed at the idea of training and racing in different shoes. And to be sure, buying another pair of running shoes isn’t cheap. But one of the best parts about getting running shoes just for races is that they can last a really long time, since you won’t wear them as often.
Ready to boost your race day performance? Whether you’re training for a 5K track race or an ultramarathon, there’s a pair for you. Check out the 10 best racing shoes below.