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Should You Wear Racing Flats?

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published January 8, 2013


Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Racing Flats
Bill Bowerman and Nike became famous thanks to the introduction of the lightweight waffle racer. And since the day Bowerman first molded rubber with his wife’s waffle iron, scientists have been studying how racing flats can make runners faster.

1. Racing Flats improve efficiency: It doesn’t take a PhD to understand that the less weight your foot has to lift with each stride, the easier it is to increase turnover and move forward. However, few runners know exactly how this drop in weight will translate into faster race times. Luckily, a group of researchers determined that the effect of extra weight on oxygen uptake is 1% per 100g per foot. Simply speaking, you can improve your VO2max by as much as 1-2% for every 3-4oz you’re able to cut from your shoes. That’s a pretty quick and easy way to improve without any extra work!

2. Shorter ground contact times: Another benefit to the use of flats is improved ground contact time (the amount of time it takes your foot to hit the ground, roll forward, and toe off). Faster ground contact times lead to increased speed and efficiency, but only if a runner doesn’t have to generate greater force to improve contact time (i.e. it comes effortlessly). By naturally improving your ground contact time without a related increase in oxygen consumption, racing flats help you run faster and more efficiently. Furthermore, faster ground contact times indicate mid-foot and forefoot foot strikes, which are indicators of good running form.

3. The psychological advantage: While I really shouldn’t classify psychological advantages under the scientifically proven benefits heading, it is widely known that your mental preparation and outlook can have a major effect on your performance. If you’ve ever slipped on a pair of 5oz racers just before the starter’s gun sounded, you know how much of a mental boost it can be. Sometimes just having your shoes feel as light as feathers can give you all the confidence you need. Likewise, an important component of racing is getting “in the zone”. Any ritual you can perform on race day that helps trigger your mind into competition mode will improve your performance and execution. Slipping on the special racing shoes is a clear sign to your mind that it’s time to boogie. Remember, not all the benefits of racing flats have to be measured in a laboratory.

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