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slow you down

Do some running shoes slow you down?

We currently sell shoes by Asics, Brooks, Saucony, Mizuno, New Balance, Under Armour, Hoka, and Adidas. Not one of those manufacturers claims that any of their shoes will make you run faster—or slow you down.

But that doesn’t stop consumers, especially track racers, from making the claim that the lighter the shoe, the faster you run. Knowing this, sneaker manufacturers boast about how lightweight their shoes are.

Track racers give two reasons why they prefer to wear lightweight shoes. First, they believe that they will run faster. Second, they believe that heavier shoes would slow them down. Track racers run in shoes that are called, fittingly enough, racers. They are lighter than training shoes.

Heavy running shoes can’t slow you down because they don’t really exist

slow you down

I am aware of no conclusive evidence that people run faster in lighter shoes, or slower in heavier shoes.

There is at least one study that concludes that heavier shoes slow you down. The study compared running times in men’s racers that weighed as little as 202 grams with racers that weighed up to 725 grams.

We only sell training shoes, not racers. And we have one of Philly’s largest, if not the largest, selection of them. My experience with the product leads me to make a few remarks about the study.

*Our training shoes weigh between 232 and 329 grams. The comparative size of the study’s racer weighed 202 grams. The study’s racers and lightweight trainers are close in weight–there’s only about a 1-ounce difference between them.

*When the racers’ weight was increased to 302 grams, runners ran slower. How much slower? They ran the 3K (1.9 miles) about 4 seconds slower. Our heaviest trainer is only about 1 ounce heavier than 302 grams, and most of our trainers are less than 302 grams.

*When the racers’ weight was increased to 502 grams, runners ran 14 seconds slower over 3K. We don’t sell a shoe even close to 502 grams, which is 173 grams (6 ounces) heavier than our heaviest shoe.

*The participants were young men who all ran the 5K in less than 20 minutes. They were not casual runners. So it’s not clear if slower runners, which is to say, normal runners, would have seen their speeds significantly slowed by heavier shoes.

Are there other benefits of racing shoes?

slow you down

Racers are assumed to be more flexible and to have more traction than trainers. But the Saucony Freedom ISO is a very flexible trainer—you can roll it up. And trainers these days probably have better traction than racers on wet surfaces, except racers with spikes.

It may be the case that lighter shoes require less energy to move than heavier shoes. But that reduced energy requirement doesn’t necessarily translate into faster speed.

These days, training shoes are just about as light as racers. The shoe’s actual weight, your running ability, and other factors will determine what effect—if any—lighter shoes have on your running speed.

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Phil Clark