Updated: July 24th, 2013

If you are racing the marathon to achieve a specific time goal or to place high in your age group (or overall), you will need to consider a lighter shoe option than traditional trainers.

This shoe will still provide protection from the demands of the distance, but will have a more stream-lined design with fewer added features that often add unnecessary weight.

There are many great options out there for marathon racing flats. These will be different from your standard 5K-10K flat, so be sure you make an informed purchase to suit your needs for the race.

Check back soon for an exclusive article where marathon flats will be discussed in more detail!

The Need for Speed – Choosing your Perfect Marathon Racing Flat

If you have a specific time goal, optimum place position, or racing achievement such as qualifying for Boston at your upcoming marathon, then you may want to invest in a pair of marathon racing flats.

Marathon flats differ from most other racing shoes in that they will typically have a bit more cushioning, weigh a tad more, and provide some arch support to help you comfortably go the distance in comfort.

Will shoe companies always advertise a shoe as a marathon flat? No. In fact, rarely will you see a shoe dubbed a “marathon racer” amid all of the bells and whistles that go into many of the flats on the market where “speed” is the singular goal behind their construction.

You just have to know what you are looking for, know your body’s mechanics, and know how you will respond at mile twenty in a particular pair of shoes.

First Time Competitive Marathoners Moving Up from Shorter Distances

These runners typically will have a good base of speed from all the 5Ks and 10K they have raced over the years, and will probably be accustomed to wearing racing flats that are thin, light, and rigid to enhance performance at faster speeds.

To accustom yourself to the marathon distance, I recommend purchasing a pair of light-weight trainers for your first competitive marathon; you may even be able to train in these shoes for most of your long runs or tempos without incident. These shoes will weigh 9-10oz for most men, 7-9oz for most women. They may have a touch of support, and should allow you to heel strike comfortably if your form fades late in the race.

Break them in well prior to your race, and be confident running for a long duration in these shoes without blisters, rubbing, or hot spots.

Veteran Marathoners

If you’ve done Boston, New York, or your hometown marathon more times than you can count, frequently PR at the distance (or used to), and compete for sporting glory, then you can probably go a bit lighter for your marathon flat.

The best shoe for you will have a durable outsole for frequent racing, weigh around 8oz for most men’s shoes/7oz for women’s, and will accommodate your foot’s natural motion with some arch support in the midsole. It needs to be nimble yet sturdy, just like the runner wearing it, and well-prepared to go the distance at a solid clip.

Elite Competitors

While you may not be world class, you are still relatively “elite” if you compete to win your age group at larger marathons or vie for a spot on the overall podium. If this is you, then your marathon racing shoe will most closely resemble a traditional flat.

It will be low profile, quite light, and just cushioned enough to get you through 26.2mls without incident.

I would recommend a 6-8oz shoe for most men, and a 5-7oz shoe for most women. It will lack the stability features of some pseudo-flats, still offer a touch of protection from the road (maybe 10-12mm of underfoot cushioning or so), and fit the foot well to not cause blisters late in the race.

A seamless upper is always a good choice for marathon flats, as is a secure lace design (avoid “silky” laces or replace them). These shoes will look like what you see Ryan Hall or Shalane Flannagan wearing in marathons.

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