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Best Racing Running Shoes and Flats in 2022

 

If you’ve been training hard for a race, you’ll want the best pair of racing shoes or flats to hit that next PR.

These shoes are lightweight and more importantly, fast!

In this article, we’re going to look at the best lightweight, aerodynamic racing shoes that could help you shave some serious time off your PR.

We’ve chosen the Saucony Fastwitch 9 for our top racing flat. Its got a low heel-to-toe drop, light but responsive midsole, and flexible but supportive engineered mesh upper.

But there are plenty of great choices, including energy-return racing shoes made with a carbon plate or responsive midsole foam!

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Saucony Fastwitch 9

 

  • Engineered mesh upper
  • Lightweight
  • SSL EVA midsole
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

ASICS Hyper Speed

 

  • Rockered sole
  • Extremely durable
  • Versatile shoe
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

Brooks Hyperion Tempo

 

  • Breathable woven mesh upper
  • DNA Flash EVA foam
  • Padded heel collar
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

Racing Flats

Best Overall

1. Saucony Fastwitch 9

This lightweight, speedy shoe is excellent for racing. It’s made specifically to be sleek and flexible while keeping the weight off your feet.

What We Like

The Fastwitch is known as the lightest stability racing flat on the market. An average-sized men’s shoe weighs less than 6 ounces, so you won’t be held back by any excess weight when sprinting to the finish line!

This weight is very unusual for a stability shoe. A dual-density medial post in the midsole provides excellent support for low arches. As well as being guided through your stride, your feet will be properly supported even in such a light shoe.

The updated engineered mesh upper is sleek and aerodynamic. It has some stretch to it, so it can accommodate almost all feet while still being supportive enough to get a great lockdown on the foot when you cinch down.

There’s enough space in the forefoot to not feel cramped, but it’s not as wide as the average Saucony training shoe. A snug heel helps lock the foot comfortably to prevent any hint of heel slippage.

In the midsole, you’ll find SSL EVA foam, which is the ideal combination of firm, protective, and responsive. Between the slight bounce in the midsole and this lightness, speed should be easy to come by.

With just 15 mm of foam in the forefoot and 19 mm in the heel, this shoe is close to the ground, and you can expect a good ground feel. The 4 mm heel-to-toe drop doesn’t feel too severe.

A highly durable PWRTRAC outsole should see you through a good many miles. It’s heavy on rubber in the forefoot and has slightly exposed midsole foam in the midfoot, but if you’re running fast, this should be no issue.

Why We Like It

The Fastwitch 9 is Saucony’s lightest and fastest racing flat. It’s aerodynamic and won’t hold you back! The presence of a medial post is also helpful for those who need a bit of light stability.

What to Consider

This shoe has a medial post in the midsole, which can help overpronators but may feel intrusive to those with a neutral gait. It may also be a little narrow for those with unusually wide feet.

What’s New

The Fastwitch 9 has had an upper update and a new midsole, which now has responsive SSL EVA foam. There’s also a new pattern on the outsole designed to increase flexibility.

PROS:

  • Engineered mesh upper has a sleek design with a slight stretch to accommodate a variety of foot shapes
  • Lightweight shoe that provides a supportive, snappy, and responsive ride
  • SSL EVA midsole foam provides good protection while remaining responsive
  • Dual-density medial post is unobtrusive and gently guides your feet through your stride

CONS:

  • The medial post may feel intrusive to those with neutral feet
  • Runners with wide feet may find the shoe to be a little too narrow
 

Top Value

2. ASICS Hyper Speed

The ASICS Hyper Speed is a brand-new version of an old shoe. ASICS fans will be happy to see it back with some modern improvements, and it’s great value for money!

What We Like

The new Hyper Speed is definitely speedy! With a men’s shoe weighing just over 7 ounces and a sleek shape, you can expect a boost in your speed when racing.

The shoe features a smooth, engineered mesh upper that’s designed to be worn without socks. You’ll notice large perforations in the mesh, providing excellent ventilation so your feet stay cool as you race.

It’s flexible and molds easily to your foot, providing a snug and comfortable fit. Those with wide feet may find it too snug, but the upper does stretch out touch with some use.

There’s also a great heel counter that locks your foot in effectively, although it may take some time to get used to, especially if you aren’t used to running without socks. A thin tongue contributes to the close-to-skin feel.

SpEVA foam in the midsole provides a good mix of soft comfort and energetic responsiveness. But the biggest feature of the midsole is the rocker—GuideSole technology—which is extremely noticeable.

There’s a heel bevel and toe spring, so you’ll be moved through your gait quickly and with little effort on your part. This feature helps with speed, but it also reduces foot fatigue, which means you can easily use this shoe for various distances.

A durable AHAR rubber outsole puts the finishing touches on a comfortable, high-performing, affordable racing flat.

Why We Like It

This shoe is excellent value for money. The rockered sole and grippy outsole work well together to help you increase your speed during races. It’s also a revamped version of a discontinued old beloved shoe! ASICS fans will enjoy it.

What to Consider

It may take a few miles to break this shoe ineffectively. Initially, you may find it uncomfortable, but it should ease up after some wear.

The severe rocker in the shoe’s forefoot may also cause your toes to be tense as they raise slightly with the curve.

What’s New

The Hyper Speed disappeared a few years ago—the last version was number 7—but this version has been completely revamped and named after the original.

It’s hard to compare to the old versions, but the shoe has a higher stack height and a rockered sole, which previous ones didn’t.

PROS:

  • Smooth engineered mesh upper with larger perforations to increase breathability
  • Rockered sole propels you forward, providing a smoother ride and springy toe-off
  • Extremely durable and grippy AHAR rubber outsole
  • Versatile shoe that can be used for easy runs, interval runs, and tempo runs

CONS:

  • This shoe can take a few miles to break in
  • The rocker may be uncomfortable in the forefoot
 

Best for Half and Full Marathons

3. Brooks Hyperion Tempo

The Brooks Hyperion Tempo has been designed for tempo runs, which makes sense. However, it’s a great choice for running a half marathon or a full marathon.

What We Like

Although the Tempo has been created with tempo runs in mind, its features make it excellent for marathon running. It’s made for both speed and comfort, which is what you need to run a great marathon.

At around 7 ounces in weight, this shoe features a decent amount of cushioning, keeping your legs a little more fresh over long runs.

The DNA Flash cushioning is surprisingly snappy, and it’s nitrogen-infused for a lighter weight with more shock absorption and better bounce. It’s firm but still allows you to feel the ground quite effectively underfoot.

As for the upper, it’s made from woven mesh that’s breathable and comfortably stretchy without being sloppy. The heel is padded for comfort but features an internal heel counter that keeps your foot where it should be throughout your run.

A carbon rubber outsole with a generous layer on the forefoot and heel add to the shoe’s traction and durability.

Why We Like It

If you’re planning on running more half or full marathons, the Brooks Hyperion Tempo is a great choice. It’s light, responsive, and has enough cushioning to help reduce fatigue over longer distances while maintaining a good speed.

What to Consider

As Brooks’ shoes go, this one seems to have a slightly narrower toe box. Those who prefer more space in the forefoot may be disappointed.

PROS:

  • Breathable woven mesh upper that can stretch a little
  • Light, firm, responsive DNA Flash EVA foam blend provides excellent ground feel
  • Padded heel collar enhances comfort, and internal counter hugs the back of your foot
  • Durable carbon rubber outsole offers great traction on a variety of surfaces

CONS:

  • The toe box may be slightly narrower than Brooks fans are used to
 

Top Zero-Drop

4. Altra Escalante Racer 19

If you’re a zero-drop runner—or want to try it—the Altra Escalante Racer 19 is a good shoe to wear for performing well in races.

What We Like

This shoe weighs just 6.8 ounces. It has a lightweight engineered knit upper with an open-perforation design for breathability throughout your run. It locks your foot down well in combination with the thin tongue and flat laces, which means the absence of a heel counter isn’t a problem.

Altra shoes feature a comfortable FootShape toe box that works well for those needing extra forefoot space.

The midsole of the Escalante Racer uses a unique material instead of foam—expanded TPU beads, although it’s called ALtra EGO foam. It’s springy and yet comfortable and should help you to increase your speed during races. Innerflex technology helps it to move with your foot.

As with all Altra shoes, the cushioning is zero-drop, which means there are 22 mm under the forefoot and 22 mm under the heel. It has great arch support geared towards those with medium to high arches.

On the outsole, you’ll find FootPod technology, which is an innovative design that follows the anatomical structure of the foot. It features blown rubber for better grip on all surfaces.

Why We Like It

The Escalante Racer is an excellent zero-drop shoe. With a spacious forefoot, flexible sole, and responsive midsole foam, it offers everything you need to get a good time in your race.

What to Consider

The midsole of this shoe is thinner than average—22 mm—which may make it a little uncomfortable for those who need a bit more padding underfoot. There’s also a fairly high arch, which may be uncomfortable for some.

PROS:

  • Woven upper molds to the shape of your foot and features a foot shape toe box that lets your toes spread naturally
  • Firm Altra EGO midsole foam is responsive and provides great energy return
  • Balanced cushioning—zero drop—provides a natural running experience
  • Blown rubber outsole helps you keep your footing on a variety of surfaces

CONS:

  • A thin midsole may not provide enough cushion for everyone
  • The arch support is quite high, which may be too much for some
 

Most Breathable

5. Salomon S/Lab Phantasm

You can tell the Salomon S/Lab Phantasm is breathable just by looking at it! This is the one for you if you’re looking for a shoe that will let the airflow.

What We Like

The Phantasm’s upper is made of a single, thin layer of mesh that’s almost translucent. It not only molds nicely to the shape of your foot, but it’s also extremely breathable and does an amazing job of keeping your feet cool throughout your run.

There’s a very minimal amount of padding around the ankle collar, which serves to protect the foot from chafing against the upper. There are a few light overlays but no heel counter on this particular model.

Aside from the lightweight, seamless upper, the minimalist Energy Surge midsole helps to keep each shoe to a modest 7 ounces in weight.

With 14 mm in the forefoot and 20 mm in the heel, the ground feel is strong but the unique EVA/Olefin combination midsole still offers great cushioning and a nice bit of bounce when needed.

There’s also a “reverse camber” rocker in the midsole, which makes your heel-to-toe transitions smoother and faster. This could push you forward a couple of seconds during races.

On the outsole, uniquely lugged Road Contagrip material keeps you on the surface safely and easily. It also makes the shoe pretty durable.

Why We Like It

If you’re after breathability, you won’t find a better choice than this shoe. It’s lightweight, open, and speedy, all the things you need to run a comfortable, cool, and effective race.

What to Consider

Firstly, Salomon shoes are known to run slightly narrow so they may not fit everyone comfortably. But the more potentially pressing issue is that the lightweight, minimalist nature of the shoe means there’s little to no support in the upper.

Those who need a supportive upper to lock their foot in will find that this one doesn’t quite get it right. While it’s great for breathability and lightness, it lacks that sense.

Of course, this shoe will naturally be too cold to wear in winter, unless you particularly like your toes to get a breeze in the winter cold.

PROS:

  • The breathable, single-layer mesh upper is almost translucent and molds nicely to the shape of your foot
  • Minimalist cushioning offers an excellent ground contact feel
  • Pronounced rocker provides incredibly smooth transitions while pushing you forward
  • Road Contagrip outsole keeps you safe wherever you run

CONS:

  • The shoe may run narrow
  • The minimalist design means the shoe lacks support
 

Carbon Plate Racing Shoes

Best Overall

6. Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2

Our first carbon fiber shoe on the list, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% is a popular and springy choice for racing. This is record-breaker Eliud Kipchoge’s first choice!

What We Like

If you’re looking for the best carbon-plated racing shoe out there, you won’t find it better than this. Nike has some of the best technology in their racing shoes, and the Alphafly NEXT% 2 is top of the range.

As Nikes go, this one features a wide enough forefoot for a stable landing. The Atomknit upper is single-layered, seamless, stretchy, breathable, and doesn’t absorb moisture. It’s structured enough to provide great support to the feet without being restrictive.

The sock-like fit can be a little tricky to get on, as there’s not much stretch to the opening. But this indicates a great lockdown once the shoe is on your foot, along with the integrated tongue and secure lacing system.

In the midsole, ZoomX PEBA foam is the perfect mix of light, springy, and comfortable. It offers good arch support, although it won’t be enough for overpronators. Along with this softness, a carbon plate is seamlessly integrated into the shoe.

This flexible plate adds a nice pop to your toe-off, returning the energy it stores on each foot strike. Also protecting your joints from shock are two Zoom Air units near the front of the shoe.

As for the outsole, the forefoot is completely covered in durable rubber, with two strips on either side of the heel. It’s clear this shoe is designed for speed.

Why We Like It

Who wouldn’t want to race in the same shoe Eliud broke records in? The NEXT% 2 has exceptional cushioning, shock absorption, and energy return, making it one of the best options on the market to up your speed and set new PRs.

What to Consider

The high stack height and unusual outsole shape may make some people feel a little unstable when wearing these shoes for the first time. This may be more pronounced around corners.

It also has a glued-in insole, which means you can’t switch it out for another one if you find there’s not enough support for you. Overpronators won’t be able to wear this shoe, unfortunately.

What’s New

The updates to this shoe are significant. The drop has been increased from 8 mm to 4 mm, the forefoot has been widened by 5 mm, there’s an extra millimeter of foam in the heel and less 3 mm in the forefoot, and the weight has increased by almost an ounce.

A more structured heel counter and revamped upper finish of the new version of the shoe.

PROS:

  • Breathable, structured Atomknit upper hugs your foot for a secure lockdown
  • Combination of the ZoomX PEBA foam, a carbon plate, and dual Air Zoom pods provides a propulsive ride
  • The carbon plate is stiff but not aggressive and offers a smooth, effortless ride
  • Wider platform helps create a more stable ride throughout

CONS:

  • The unique outsole shape makes it a little unstable
  • The insole is not removable
 

Top for Cushioning

7. HOKA Carbon X 3

This shoe is surprisingly versatile, but it really shines in the cushioning department. This is an excellent option if you’re looking for a max cushioned shoe that can be used for racing.

What We Like

This shoe has the best of both worlds packed into it—an energy-loaded carbon plate and a stack of soft cushioning. It was actually designed for ultrarunning, so if distance running is your thing, but you want some softness underfoot, this is the shoe to choose.

It’s one of Hoka’s better-looking shoes, featuring a sleek knit upper with great ventilation. The integrated tongue stays out of the way but means getting a tight lockdown may be a little more difficult.

Unlike most other Hoka shoes, this one uses Profly X supercritical foam to give it that spring while staying light. With 32 mm in the heel and 27 mm in the forefoot, there’s plenty of padding underfoot for shock absorption and comfort.

The full-length carbon plate gives it that little bit extra. It’s not overly bouncy, but there’s a definite boost, and you should find your legs don’t fatigue as easily. And finally, the aggressive meta-rocker works with everything else to propel you forward.

At 8.5 ounces per shoe—for an average-sized men’s—this one is a little heavier than most but still a decent weight.

Why We Like It

This shoe is well-cushioned and comfortable enough to wear for long distances. At the same time, the carbon plate adds a bounce that ups the shoe’s speed, making it great for shorter distances.

What to Consider

This shoe features a carbon plate and a rocker, which may be too aggressive for some runners, especially if they’re not used to the motion.

Some wearers have reported that the fit is sloppy for those with medium to narrow feet. It’s great for wide feet, though!

What’s New

The fit has been updated on the 3 to contour to the foot more comfortably. It’s also a little more accommodating for wider feet, thanks to the stretch and structure.

There’s new foam in the midsole, and the shoe is about half an ounce lighter than the previous version.

PROS:

  • Sleek design with a knit upper that’s well-ventilated
  • Thick layer of Profly X supercritical foam provides a smooth and stable ride
  • Aggressive meta-rocker and carbon plate work well together and provide smooth transitions
  • Versatile shoe that hits a variety of paces but excels at uptempo paces and long distance runs

CONS:

  • The rocker may be too aggressive for some, coupled with the carbon plate
  • The upper can be a little sloppy on medium to narrow feet
 

Best Responsive Shoe

8. Brooks Hyperion Elite 3

Brooks fans will enjoy this shoe. It offers more pop than the average Brooks shoe, which racers will appreciate.

What We Like

The new improved QuicKnit upper fits like a glove and stretches ever so slightly to accommodate various foot types. It’s nicely breathable, and the flared collar provides support at the heel without chafing the Achilles.

DNA Flash in the midsole offers great energy return, but it is a little firm and unforgiving. The faster you run, the more pop you get out of it. But on the flip side, the slower you go, the more sluggish it feels.

A “Rapid Roll” rocker at the front of the shoe helps you move even faster through your gait, quickly transitioning you to your toes.

On the outsole, rubber on most of the forefoot and high-wear placed on the heel increases the shoe’s lifespan over the miles.

Why We Like It

This differs from your average Brooks is that it’s got quite a bit more energy return to it. This one is ideal if you want to break new records in a pair of Brooks.

What to Consider

This shoe is comfortable at a speed but may be extremely unforgiving at lower speeds. They’re not likely to be easy on the feet for training runs. The traction is also a little less grippy than others.

What’s New

The big change to the new version is the upper. It now features a QuicKnit material that’s more breathable and structured than before while providing a better fit.

PROS:

  • QuicKnit upper is supportive with a slight stretch that can accommodate a variety of foot shapes
  • Supremely cushioned with a thick layer of DNA flash foam, which provides an energetic ride
  • Rapid Roll technology gets you onto your toes very quickly
  • The higher, flared collar has ample padding to enhance comfort without irritating or chafing your Achilles

CONS:

  • The midsole foam is dense and may be unforgiving
  • A bit less grip than other shoes
 

Most Comfortable

9. Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

Comfort is important on the road, and if that’s what you’re focused on, the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 would be a good bet.

What We Like

The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 is a surprisingly comfortable shoe. The upper has had a revamp and is now lighter and sleeker than before, sporting a new, stylish 3D look.

The company has made some innovative changes to reduce the weight of the shoe, including cutting three holes into the tongue. This lowers the weight without compromising the structure of the shoe.

Those who need forefoot space will be pleased with the amount of room in the toe box. On the other end, there’s a great heel counter to lock your foot into place and prevent heel slip as you run.

PWRRUN PB foam dominates the midsole, with an extra 4 mm over the last version’s stack height. This foam is impressively responsive, but it’s also soft enough to be surprisingly comfortable.

The S-curve carbon plate and the Speedroll rocker design are added to the responsiveness. This S-shape provides a great roll as you move through your gait, propelling your forward.

Plenty of rubber across the outsole, with a light but effective tread pattern, delivers excellent grip on several different surfaces.

Why We Like It

The comfortable toe box, sleek upper, and soft yet responsive cushioning make this shoe an exceptionally comfortable ride. Great for those who value comfort during a race.

What to Consider

The Endorphin Pro 3 seems to run a little small, so you may want to size up if you want a comfortable fit.

What’s New

There’s been an increase in the stack height since the previous iteration of the shoe, which adds to the comfort. The surface area has been widened a little to accommodate the instability that may come with this.

It’s also lost about 9 grams in weight for the men’s and 3 or so grams for the women’s shoes. The upper has also been stripped down to be more minimalistic.

PROS:

  • Lightweight, breathable mesh upper is supported with ample space in the toe box
  • Extra 4mm of midsole foam provides a stable, soft and responsive ride
  • The S-curve carbon plate and Speedroll geometry provides a propulsive feeling
  • Durable rubber outsole offers good traction on a variety of surfaces while providing a smooth and consistent ride

CONS:

  • This shoe runs half a size too small, so you should size up
 

Best for Heel Strikers

10. ASICS Metaspeed Sky+

The stack height of this shoe pushes the limits. But if you’re a heel striker looking for protection, comfort, and performance, the Metaspeed Sky+ might be your new favorite.

What We Like

The ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ is may look chunky, but it’s surprisingly light—7.5 mm. There’s a lot built into the shoe to supercharge your performance, including a full-length carbon plate for a bit of bounce.

Your foot will be well locked down thanks to the updated mesh upper, which is thin and very breathable. Despite its thinness, the heel collar is nicely padded and helps to lock the foot down effectively.

In the midsole, two FF Blast Turbo foam layers hold the carbon plate between them. This offers the best combination of soft comfort and rigid energy return, giving you a springy ride. There’s also 4 percent more foam than their last shoe.

The midsole is a little wider than average, which makes the shoe more stable than it looks. Sticky rubber keeps you safe while you run and extends the shoe’s lifespan.

Why We Like It

The thick stack of foam under the heel protects the foot on the landing, and there’s still ample cushion under the forefoot. Despite its chunky appearance, it’s still light enough to feel speedy on the road.

What to Consider

Some wearers have reported that the toe box is a little more narrow than was comfortable for them. Although the mesh upper is accommodating, if you need extra room in the forefoot, you may find this shoe to be too tight.

What’s New

There haven’t been many changes from the original Metaspeed Sky. The upper has undergone a slight visual change but has softened a little to be more comfortable against the foot.

PROS:

  • Super thin, breathable jacquard upper hugs your foot for a secure lockdown
  • Thick midsole with an extra 4 percent foam provides a softer and more propulsive ride
  • Wider midsole base and shallow groove under the heel enhances stability and optimizes the compression of the foam
  • Well-padded heel collar locks the foot in comfortably and effectively

CONS:

  • The toe box is a little on the narrow side
 

Buyers Guide – Racing Shoes and Flats

There are two kinds of racing shoes; racing flats and then your shoes that contain a carbon fiber plate in the midsole.

Racing Flats

These are your traditional racing shoes. They’re usually quite lightweight and aerodynamic, with minimal cushioning to avoid weighing the runner down.

They also have a lower heel-to-toe drop which encourages a forefoot or midfoot strike, helping you to run faster.

However, due to their minimalist design, they’re not as durable as other shoes.

Carbon Plate Racing Shoes

Carbon plate racing shoes are a more modern concept. These shoes have a carbon fiber plate inserted into the shoe’s midsole, which helps propel you forward and increase your speed with less effort and fatigue.

The heel-to-toe drop can vary by brand, but they’re often on the higher side regarding stack height. Despite this, most of them are not very durable and only last around 100 miles or so before needing to be replaced.

The other downside to carbon plate shoes is that they’re more expensive than racing flats. However, they do have the potential to cut down your time quite significantly in a long race.

FAQs

When Should I Wear Racing Flats?

Racing flats are an excellent choice when you’re looking for lightweight shoes. They’re best for short to medium runs in which you want to keep a good pace and not be weighed down.

However, their lack of cushioning may make them less suitable for longer races. In these cases, the extra stack height of a carbon plate shoe may be welcomed, and the plate can improve your performance.

Are Racing Flats Supposed to Be Tight?

There should be no extra room in the midfoot and heel of a racing flat. However, you should have space in the forefoot to wiggle your toes without chafing. This makes them aerodynamic without being too restrictive.

What Does the Carbon Plate Do in Running Shoes?

A carbon plate stores energy. It gets this energy from the impact when your foot hits the ground and holds onto it until it leaves the ground again.

When you push off, it acts like a loaded spring and releases the stored energy, effectively giving you an extra push on the toe-off.

Do Carbon Plate Shoes Make a Difference?

A carbon plate could make a difference when it comes to knocking seconds off of your time. The plate acts like a bow, storing energy upon each step and returning it on the toe-off for an extra bouncy ride.

The better your form, the more use you will get from a carbon plate. However, using a carbon-plated shoe doesn’t automatically mean that your performance will improve—you still need to train accordingly.

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

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