If you’ve ever tried to go for a run wearing heavy shoes, you know how uncomfortable it can be! Not only can they weigh you down and impact your performance, but wearing heavier shoes than you’re used to can increase your risk of injury.
So you may be wondering… Should I run in lightweight running shoes? Will they offer enough support? Which shoes are right for me?
In this article, we’ll discuss lightweight running shoes, their features, some potential benefits, and who should avoid them. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of whether lightweight shoes would be a good choice for you or not!
What Are Lightweight Running Shoes?
Any running shoes that weigh less than 9.5 oz for an average-sized men’s pair and 7.5 oz for an average-sized women’s pair are considered “lightweight running shoes.”
In the past, lightweight running shoes would have been extremely minimalist. However, with the advances in running shoe technology, even lightweight shoes offer technology that can protect and cushion your feet.
Benefits of Lightweight Running Shoes
Wearing lightweight running shoes has some advantages over traditional running shoes. Since they’re lighter on your feet, you feel like you’re running faster.
The minimalist cushioning underfoot means you have a better ground feel, which is more natural. This can help you improve your running form as your feeling isn’t inhibited by cushioning.
Lightweight running shoes can also often be more responsive as their foam is geared more toward performance than comfort.
How Are Lightweight Shoes Different From Heavier Shoes?
Lightweight running shoes differ from heavier shoes in various ways. It’s not just about weight! Here are the features that set them apart.
Lightweight shoes are often very light on the cushioning. This is what allows you to get a better ground feel and helps the shoe be more responsive.
For many heavier shoes, the cushioning is what adds weight. However, more cushioning delivers more shock absorption, so heavier shoes tend to be better at protecting your feet from jarring.
Stability shoes are notorious for being heavy. This is because they often feature more dense foam in the midsole, or a built-in stability system that increases the weight of the shoe.
You can find lightweight stability shoes, but they’re usually best suited to light overpronators who only need subtle support.
Those who need strong support often need to make do with a heavier shoe, as their technology to correct severe overpronation is on the heavier side.
Heavier shoes tend to feel less natural than lightweight running shoes. Their substantial underfoot cushioning helps absorb shock, but it reduces ground contact and makes the ride less natural.
Lightweight running shoes have less cushion, so you’re better able to feel every rock, dip, and bump in the surface. This can help you improve your running form and make you more able to adapt to the surface as you go, but it is less protective.
Do Lightweight Shoes Make You Run Faster?
If your form is good and you have a natural running gait, lightweight running shoes can help you feel as though you’re speeding up because you’re not being weighed down by cushioning.
Wearing lightweight running shoes doesn’t automatically increase your speed, but the lightness of the shoes may make you feel like you’re running with less effort.
The lighter the shoe, the less effort you need to lift and move your feet as you’re running. The less energy you expend on this movement, the more energy you have to expend on pushing forward.
It’s unlikely that you’ll see a noticeable improvement in speed due to your shoes in shorter races, but you may notice a positive change in longer races.
But even if your time doesn’t change much, the motivation boost can actually help you perform better.
Who Should Run In Lightweight Shoes?
The truth is, lightweight running shoes are not for everybody. But they can change your running if you’re the kind of runner who would benefit from them. Here are the types of runners who should run with lightweight running shoes.
If You Want Race-Specific Shoes
Training in normal shoes and racing in lightweight running shoes can help you feel sleeker and faster on race day.
While the actual difference in your time may not be life-changing, you’ll definitely feel speedier while racing!
If you feel heavy while training and would rather feel fleet-footed while training, you can train and race in lightweight shoes. It may be worthwhile to do your recovery runs in more cushioned shoes.
If You Do Speed Workouts
Wearing lightweight shoes can help you get the most out of your speed workouts. You’ll feel light on your feet and won’t feel weighed down by your shoes, which can be both motivating and performance-enhancing.
You may not notice much difference in results—time—on speed workouts, but the feeling of being faster on your feet is motivating and helpful.
If You Like Road Feel
Runners who enjoy feeling every bump, twist, and slope in the ground they’re running on may appreciate lightweight running shoes.
The minimalist cushioning and flexible outsole will allow you to get a close-to-ground feeling on every step, making you feel more natural on your feet.
If You Don’t Need Support
A lightweight running shoe could work well for you if you’re a neutral runner with no foot problems. These shoes offer very little support, you’ll need to have strong, well-aligned feet to make the most of them.
You should also have strong ankles and a well-aligned kinetic chain. If you have knee, hip, or back pain, you should consider a shoe with a bit more cushioning that can absorb shock effectively to prevent aggravating your pain.
If You Aren’t A Fan of Plush
Not everyone likes a soft, plush shoe. If you’re one of those people who prefers firm over luxurious, lightweight running shoes may be for you.
However, keep in mind that with less cushioning comes less underfoot protection. If you wear lightweight, minimalist shoes, you will need to take extra care of your feet during recovery to make sure there’s a low chance of injury.
Who Shouldn’t Run In Lightweight Shoes?
Even if you want to, not everybody can handle wearing lightweight shoes on their runs. Here’s how you know lightweight running shoes probably aren’t the best choice for you.
If You Like Plush Cushioning
Plush, comfortable cushioning has become a sought-after feature, which is what makes brands like Hoka popular.
If you like max cushion shoes and enjoy the feeling of cloud-like softness beneath your feet, then you probably aren’t going to enjoy wearing lightweight running shoes.
You will, however, have to deal with more weight on your feet as cushioning has some ounces behind it!
If You Need Support In A Shoe
Overpronators may not deal well with minimalist shoes. Lightweight running shoes don’t provide the kind of support needed to keep overpronating feet safe, so we highly recommend investing in more cushioned shoes if you’re an overpronator.
Stability shoes are naturally heavier due to their stability features, so overpronators often have no choice but to wear heavier shoes.
If You Want An All-Purpose Shoe
Lightweight running shoes aren’t likely to last as long as max cushioned shoes, as there’s less to them.
So if you’re looking for a shoe that you can use as a daily trainer, a lightweight shoe may not be the best choice. It could wear out too quickly and leave you searching for a new pair.
Whether you’re carrying a bit of extra weight or you just land heavily, added weight on a pair of lightweight shoes may cause them to wear out quickly.
If you want a pair of shoes that will last, you may need to go for a max cushioned pair simply for durability.
The Bottom Line
Should I run with lightweight running shoes? That’s up to you. If you fit the criteria for those who can run safely and comfortably in lightweight shoes, then it’s worth a try.
You never know—you may discover that you feel better, lighter in your feet, and your performance improves.
However, if you have any foot conditions, pain, joint alignment problems, or you’re an overpronator, we highly recommend choosing a medium to max cushioned shoe instead.
Even if you choose to run in lightweight shoes, we suggest having a second, more cushioned pair for your recovery runs and longer runs.
You can use your lightweight shoes for racing, but your feet will need a bit of TLC every now and then!