By Brad “Dang those shoes are pretty” Anderson
In 7th or 8th grade we had a field day at the high school. I decided to run the mile, which was the final event. I was wearing some Bugle Boys cargo shorts, a Public Enemy t-shirt and my favorite Air Jordan 5’s, which I still consider to be the best Air Jordan’s ever released. It was a sunny spring afternoon when I stepped onto the rapidly deteriorating 440 Yard track, at Morgan High School filled with ruts, and more holes than a wiffle ball. I sized up the competition, and made sure the girl I liked was watching before I set off to remind the rest of the grade that I was a runner and a damn good one too. ;)
When the race started I took off “hell-bent-for-leather” as my Dad would say. Within 200 meters I had a sizable lead. I cruised along, to what I remember in my mind, was the cheering of the entire grade, even though in reality, who knows who even watched. I came across the line in a brisk 5:13 mile. Not bad for running it alone.
I got home and proudly told my Dad about my feat. He was impressed and said: “We should get you in some racing flats and see what you can do.” Up to this point, my Dad had taught me all I knew about running. But, with my expanding Middle School knowledge of how the world worked, I still thought: “He just doesn’t understand how light Air Jordan’s are.” I mean, it’s all in the name right? AIR! What is lighter than air? (Helium…I know. Get off my back, this is my essay.)
It wasn’t until a year or two later, when I got into High School, that I laced up his white and grey Saucony racing flats at a meet at Roy High school. “Holy Crap!” I thought. “Maybe these are lighter than my 23oz AIR Jordan’s.” Ever since that day I have worn racing flats, or spikes when racing.
Now, I know what you are thinking. “Why would a guy as slow as you, Mr. Anderson, need to wear racing flats?” I don’t need to, I want to. The great thing about running is that most people are just running against the clock. I want a PR as much as Haile Gebrselassie does. Let’s look at some of the benefits before we go into some reasons you would not want to wear flats.
This is the part where I get to show you why I am right and the naysayers are wrong. I live for this section.
1. Research shows that you will shave off 1 second per ounce per mile that your flats are lighter than your trainers. If you go to a 7 ounce flat, from an 11 ounce trainer that is 4 seconds per mile. And in a sport that is judged by a stop watch, this makes this PRO clear.
2. You feel faster. It helps get me into race mode. It tells my body and brain that it is time to run fast. To run fast, I believe you have to feel fast. (Even if my fast is a lot slower than your fast…show off.)
3. They are lower to the ground and more responsive.
4. They are typically more flexible than trainers.
The grandfather of a good friend of mine once said in a movie/documentary. “With great power comes great responsibility”. I will change the quote a little. “With great racing flats comes great caution.” RACING FLATS ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE.
1. Less Cushioning and Support: The same features that make racing flats faster also make them have less cushion and support. If you need a lot of support or stability, you should stay away from racing flats. Less cushioning in the shoe means that your muscles take more of the impact. Light weight trainers may be a good option. Go to a specialty running store to get some sound advice on what shoe they have for your needs.
2. They are not as durable as trainers and are only good for about 200 miles.
3. Your calves may be screaming at you after a race. You shouldn’t wear them if you have sore muscles either. They are also low to the ground. Most training shoes are built with a 21- 25 mm heel height and a 12mm drop to the front of the foot. Road flats might be as low as 9 mm in the heel. This difference increases the strain on the lower leg. If you have calf or Achilles issues use extreme caution. If you have no issues break racers in slowly or your lower legs will be killing you.
But getting used to flats during speed workouts or intervals will help condition your legs for the lighter shoe.
4. Bigger runners, or runners that are biomechanically challenged may want to steer clear of racing flats. The only thing that will slow you down more than my Air Jordan 5’s is a running injury. (I fit in here, but I have been wearing them for years and so far so good.)
5. The longer the race, the more caution you should use in wearing a racing flat. I, bravely, wear them up to a Half Marathon. This may be too long for a lot of runners. The World Class runners wear them all the way up to a marathon. But since I am spending a whole lot more time out on the course, I prefer to wear something that will keep my knees and calves from exploding at mile 17. Ninety-nine percent of runners probably wouldn’t wear flats in a marathon.
Racing Flats are not for everyone. Like I said before, get into a specialty running store and let the professionals fit you in a shoe for racing. All running shoes are not created equal. If you don’t have issues with any of the CONS, then get yourself into some flats. Then you can send me a thank you note (With or without a $25 gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse) after you run your next PR.
And of course next time that you pass me in a race, and I am sure most of you will, you don’t have to think:
“Why would a slow, but very good looking and charming, guy like Mr. Anderson be wearing those sweet, bright yellow, Adidas racing flats?” Now you know.
by Brad Anderson – Inspirational Runner | Has raced from the front & the back of the pack | Voted “Most Comical Sense of Humor” by UtahRunning.com