Race day is a big day on the calendar for many runners. Even if you are competing in events on a regular basis, there is always that one special race you keep your eye on, train especially for, and pin your hopes for a PR to. You dial in your training diet, your race-day nutrition, your race-day outfit. But have you given enough thought to your shoes?
At first glance, that may seem like a silly question. Of course you, as a runner, have considered your shoes! Shoes are what we runners talk about whenever there is a sliver of silence! Even though that is the case, there is a lesser-known type of running shoe that could actually make a big impact on your finishing time: the racing flat.
Lightweight, low-profile, and built for speed, racing flats are what many professionals don when they toe the start line. While recreational runners line up with the same shoes they have been training in, other know that special shoes on race day are an option well worth considering.
There are many different options on the market for racing shoes and flats.
If you’ve been running races with heavier every day running shoes, choosing a shoe meant specifically for racing could help you improve your overall time.
Before you decide which on a shoe, it’s important to understand the difference between a racing flat and a lightweight running shoe.
Racing flats are extremely lightweight shoes meant for road racing, generally for shorter distances (10k or less). They don’t have the same support and cushioning as some of the less weight-conscious running racing shoes on the market. If you are looking to achieve your fastest time, a racing flat is a great option.
Lightweight running shoes help you faster over longer distances. They generally have less material than your everyday running shoes. Consider the amount of cushion you want as well as fit when trying on racing shoes.
Need more info? We’ve profiled 11 of our favorite racing shoes and flats below.
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Brooks Launch 9
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Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro
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1. Best Racing Shoes
The ASICSLyteracer delivers speed over any distance while maintaining a responsive yet stable feel. This is why the Lyteracer is our choice for the best overall racing flat.
The full length midsole SpEVA foam cushions your feet for long runs up to marathons, but most will prefer shorter races with the Lyteracer. You still get versatility out of the shoe for shorter races with excellent energy return (up to 20% above industry averages) and responsiveness.
The upper is made of mesh, which, combined with the mesh insole, keeps feet cool and dry even in hot and humid environments. Combined with the EVA sockliner, you get a luxurious, snug fit with the Lyteracer.
ASICS also included their TRUSSTIC system, stabilizing the midfoot and preventing twisting.
The specialized outsole provides excellent traction and grip and also gives the shoe great durability, about twice that of normal rubber.
If you are looking for a fast shoe with great cushioning, traction, and a small amount of stabilization, you’ll love the ASICS Lyteracer.
- Extremely breathable to keep your feet cool
- Runs small
- Midsole feels stiff
Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit
2. Top Running Shoe for a 5k
Sure its carbon-plate midsole is controversial, but this is the shoe that lovers and haters alike are saying is responsible for the recent rash of world records. Nike invested a lot of money into the technology behind the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit in an attempt to help Eliud Kipchoge break the 2:00:00 marathon barrier. He wore a version of the shoe to shatter the world marathon record in Berlin in 2018, and an update to run his historic 1:59:40 in Vienna in 2019. The day after that, Brigid Kosgei rode Vaporflies to a new women’s record.
I’m not here to tell you you’ll become world-class because of the these shoes. But you can tell when you put them on that they are something new and different. Which is why they are our best racing shoe.
Running feels effortless with the Vaporfly 4%. The upper of the shoe is updated in this year’s version to increase comfort and hug your ankle, almost like a bootie. The new upper, combined with the heel cup, is great at keeping your feet in place and preventing slippage.
Many racing shoes sacrifice cushioning to be lighter. Not here. The cushioning in this shoe is amazing! Nike’s revolutionary ZoomX foam in the midsole projects you forward while absorbing your impact.
You also get a really thick sole and a 10 mm drop. The controversial carbon fiber plate provides excellent (some say too excellent) energy return but limited flexibility, as the shoe is designed to put you on your toes and propel you forward.
As far as fit goes, the midfoot is pretty narrow. If you have wider or large feet you may want to look at another option. The shoe is UNISEX, so the sizing is in men’s. Women should order 1.5 sizes below standard running shoe size.
If you are looking to break a PR with an incredibly speedy and pricey yet comfortable shoe, check out the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit.
- Very durable
- Midsole is comfortable and still responsive
- Lack of a tongue makes shoe very comfortable
- Good color options
- Runs small
- Narrow midfoot
Mizuno Wave Sonic
3. Lightest Racing Flat
Mizuno created a low-profile racing shoe, both lightweight and breathable, with the Wave Sonic. The glove-like fit and new midfoot cushioning make this our favorite 5k shoe.
At 7.6 oz, this shoe has incorporated Mizuno’s new midfoot cushioning, which gives the runner dynamic cushioning but still keeps your feet feeling energized with rebound in every step. The Wave technology helps dampen impact forces away from the foot.
The 4 mm drop of the shoe combines with the toe-spring midsole for a quicker transition and toe-off, keeping you cruising with efficiency during a 5k. Keep in mind, though, that such a low drop can require some time and training to get used to.
The larger toe box also fits runners who have broader feet, which is a huge plus. Even with the extra room up front, the Wave Sonic has a firm grip and great traction.
The quick and nimble feel makes the Mizuno Wave Sonic fantastic for runners who like low-profile speed training!
- Highly cushioned
- Great price
- Well-ventilated shoe
- Shoe has great traction for rugged terrain
- Upper is not as supportive as other shoes in this category
Lightest Racing Flat
4. Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro
The Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro is the lightest racing shoe on the market, designed to help you perform at any distance.
At only 3.5 oz, this 4mm-drop shoe is a perfect option for neutral pronators who like a fast, grippy feel. Like the Nike Vaporfly 4%, this shoe only comes in unisex sizing (women should go 1.5 sizes down).
The shoe resembles a track spike, and is really unique looking. The upper single-layer mesh is very breathable and fits like a sock. Printed overlays on the heel and sides of the shoe help keep the fit snug and prevent loosening.
Floatride is Reebok’s speed technology. Using a thin layer of rubber with texture on the outsole provides great traction and cuts weight. The Floatride foam placed in the midsole is soft and super reactive.
The out of the box comfort of the Floatride Run Fast Pro combined with the high energy return make this shoe a great option for shorter races. On the flip side, the expensive price tag means you probably won’t want to wear them on your daily run.
- Lightest racing shoe on the market
- Highly responsive
- Attractive colors and design
- Unisex sizing
Best Racing Shoe for a Marathon
5. Brooks Launch 9
The energizing, fast feel of a racing flat combined with the durability of the midsole cushioning makes the Brooks Launch 9 our favorite shoe for marathons.
Brooks updated the Launch 9 to increase breathability and fit, an issue with previous versions of the shoe. This new edition of the Launch only has a single layer of mesh. The mesh helps to better lock down the foot while an internal bootie keeps your foot comfortable and breezy.
At 9 oz for men and 8 oz for women, this shoe isn’t the lightest racing shoe on the market, but the extra few ounces are worth the comfort and durability you want for longer races.
Brooks’ springiest cushioning, the BioMoGo DNA midsole, gives you the springy feel you want for longer races. You also get really quick transitions from heel to toe, keeping you comfortable and energized for marathon-length runs.
If you are looking for a shoe to take you the distance with comfort and energy, the Brooks Launch 9 is the answer!
- Improvements on breathability and fit compared to older models
- High energy return and springy feel
- Great price, affordable
- Heavier than other running shoes
Top Hoka One One Racing Shoe
6. Hoka One One Carbon X
The Hoka One One Carbon X shoe is our favorite Hoka One One. While Hokas are revered for their cushioning, we love this shoe for it’s excellent responsiveness. Customers have described this shoe as “effortless cruising.”
The carbon fiber plate in the Carbon X helps propel you forward during your toe-off and gives you great acceleration. The placement of the plate ensures a smooth transition through your entire gait, so you get a smooth ride with fantastic energy return.
The PROFLY X foam is Hoka One One’s lightest and most resilient. The cushioning is less than what you might get in other models, but I consider it plush for a racing shoe. If speed is what you’re going for (and who isn’t?), this shoe excels.
The single layer mesh offers excellent breathability in the upper. The shoe has excellent stability with a wider forefoot platform. You also get a super-comfy and spacious fit in the forefoot with the wider design.
If you are a fan of Hoka One One and looking for a racing shoe, look no further than the clean and fast Carbon X.
- Extremely responsive
- Supportive over any distance
- Right amount of cushioning for a shoe of this category
- Roomy toe box
- Limited colors available
Best Nike Racing Flat
7. Nike Air Zoom Streak 7
The Nike Air Zoom Streak 7 is a fantastic racing shoe for Nike fans out there looking for great feedback and energy in every step but not willing to dish out for Vaporflies.
The shoe is lightweight at 6.9 oz, thanks to the super-lightweight and bouncy Phylon foam. This foam is placed throughout the midsole, giving you a large sweet spot that just feels good to run in.
The midsole cushioning perfectly balances comfort and performance. You maintain a comfortable, springy step, while also maintaining enough rigidity to provide excellent responsiveness. Your feet won’t get fatigued during fast-paced runs.
A lot of Nike racing shoes feel loose in the heel. That isn’t the case with the Streak 7. There’s room in the forefoot to allow your feet to splay, while the heel still feels very secure. Nike worked specifically on this, re-engineering the midfoot wrap to a snug fit.
The breathable Flymesh upper has been continued from previous versions of the shoe. While the drop is 8 mm, the shoe feels like it has a much lower drop, especially if you’re racing.
If you are looking for a Nike racing shoe that performs and is lightweight with just enough cushioning to take the edge off your stride, the Air Zoom Streak 7 is a great option.
- Attractive design
- Highly responsive
- Durability of the upper falls short, as with previous versions of the Streak
- Laces are known to become loose over the course of a run
- Unisex design
Top Racing Shoe for the Mile
8. New Balance 1500v5
Building on the visibility of events like the Fifth Avenue Mile, road miles are an increasingly popular race format. These all-out, leave-it-all-on-the-road efforts call for a different kind of shoe. And if you are looking for a shoe to help you perform in the mile, the New Balance 1500 v5 is it. This shoe helps you speed to the finish line with less strain on your feet. It’s a fast ride with reliable support.
The shape of the midsole helps runners emphasize mid to forefoot strikes instead of the less-efficient heel striking. You get support features in a lightweight racing shoe, which is pretty rare!
REVLite foam, 30% lighter than other New Balance foams, keeps the shoe feathery-light at only 8.1 oz for men and 6.9 oz for women. This foam, combined with the included insole, ensures a comfortable, stable ride and premium responsiveness.
The engineered upper uses Fantom Fit technology and keeps things lightweight. That doesn’t stop it from giving extra support, though. A snug fit hugs your feet and the padded collar adds extra stability and cushion to prevent slippage.
The design of the New Balance 1500 v5 will energize your mile races with a firm, effortless ride.
- Extremely responsive while providing stability, unique for a racing shoe
- Fits like a sock
- Great color options with attractive design
- Good durability, cushioning and upper holds up
- Runs small
- Runners used to high stability shoes should slowly incorporate these into their running routine
Best Saucony Racing Flat
9. Saucony Type A9
Fans of Saucony shoes will appreciate the versatile Type 9A for its natural ride with less reliance on shoe cushioning and stability. Those who are not fans of Saucony shoes might find themselves converts.
The Type 9A provides an extremely responsive ride over any distance. The energy efficient SSL EVA foam in the shoe has been continued from previous versions, because it gives great rebound for the runner, and it holds up over the long haul.
While the foam stayed, the upper is new. Saucony reengineered it in the A9 to provide increased comfort and a fit that adjusts to your feet.
The upper is still a simple mesh with welded overlays, but has been redone for a seamless lockdown. You’ll get a secure fit with the A9 that doesn’t rub against the foot. This had been a problem in previous versions of this shoe.
The outsole is made of lightweight carbon rubber giving you durable traction no matter where you run. The added cushioning in the forefoot of the outsole increases cushioning by a third compared to normal rubber.
With a low drop of 4mm and a weight of only 6 oz, the Saucony Type A9 is a great option for runners looking for a fast natural shoe.
- Extremely lightweight
- Re-engineered upper for a more dynamic, comfy fit
- Only one color choice with extremely bold orange and yellow colors
Best Brooks Racing Flat
10. Brooks Hyperion
For runners looking for a racing shoe with a higher drop (10 mm), the Brooks Hyperion is a really comfortable option that still gives great ground feedback and remains flexible.
The shoe is very lightweight at 6.4 oz for men and 5.4 oz for women, thanks to the BioMoGo DNA foam that combines lightweight cushioning with support designed to meet the specific needs of the runner.
The overall feel of this shoe is fantastic. The upper is stretch woven and fits conforms to your foot like a sock. Combined with the midsole cushioning, you get a super smooth and quick heel-to-toe transition.
Brooks has improved the sole with the Hyperion for increased responsiveness. On the outsole you’ll see propulsion pods, which are designed to maximize energy return to make sure you can get up to speed and cruise throughout your entire run.
Brook Hyperion shoes are an excellent blend of comfort and speed.
- Smooth transition
- Very comfortable and retains responsiveness
- Extremely durable, especially the tread
- Shoe can be stiff at first
Top Altra Racing Shoe
10. Altra Escalante Racer
If you’re looking to race and like the large, relaxed toe box and zero-drop designs Altra is known for, then you’ll love the Escalante Racer, the faster, higher performance version of the Escalante.
You get increased energy return and firmness with the Escalante Racer, through improvements to the shoe’s midsole. Combined with the Footpod technology on the outsole, the shoe aligns with your foot’s bone structure to make sure you still get a good amount of flexibility.
The design of this shoe makes it a great option for runners who typically choose minimalist shoes, but want a little extra cushioning and coverage for a recovery race.
The design of the upper provides a great fit out of the box due to the plush tongue and collar and knit mesh, which hugs your feet. The FootShape Toe Box ensures you still get enough room for toe comfort.
If you are looking for increased energy return with a little less cushioning, the Escalante Racer will help you perform.
- Roomy toe box
- Comfortable fit out of the box yet still highly responsive
- Very breathable
- Some runners don’t like the thin coverage of the upper