2018/2019 Road Racing Shoes / Racing Flats

In the last decade I went through a lot of models of racing flats and track shoes. I am a heavier runner due to my 6″6′ height. I need stability, strength and reliable muscles not just for running but for life too. Getting down to Kenyan weight might benefit me in case of running, but I would loose functional fitness for mountain biking and weight lifting.
I wear through shoes a tad bit quicker than used to be. Still, I can push up towards 2000km in well built racing flats. Back in the days I used to be able to run, literally holes on shoe soles.

 

 

Shoes I loved were the Nike MayFly, The Asics Piranha and the Wave Universe. Later on I ran monstrous miles in the F-Lite 195. I loved that shoe so much. It carried me through short and ultra races too ! Great shoes they were. However today we are here to see the final line up of 2018 ! It is surely better, technologically more advanced, but somehow less interesting. Pushing the limits are kind of different today than 5 – 10 – 15 years ago. In case of a shoe, no new thing can really come up. It is kind of easy to make great looking shoes with high end materials. For me personally functionality and correct fit is key to success. For ultra running a lower drop shoe is more natural with a wide fit and large toebox, but for racing, I feel like a more performance oriented shoe fit is crucial. We can see this is roller skating and rock climbing. The more the mould holds the feet, the more power you can generate !

Nike Streak LT 4 (141g / Drop 22/18 = 4mm, Neutral) &

Saucony Typa A8 (167g / Drop 17/13 = 4mm, Nautral)

The two most interesting shoes are these. This is personal of course ! Racing flats are very unique to each runner. However these road racers are low to the ground, still providing enough cushioning under the forefoot, have very little stride modifying structure.
They ran fast and feel fast, with no sensation of being too tempered by impact caused by the concrete. They are not too soft either to run like on clouds when wearing these for the track. I find the Nike though, better on softer synthetic tracks and the Saucony performing more naturally on dirt and cinder.

 

Screenshot 2018-12-23 at 07.02.10Screenshot 2018-12-23 at 07.01.44

NB Hanzo (185g / Drop: 17/13 = 4mm, Neutral)

A shoe what really interests me. Probably it is not getting an update and will be discontinued. I will try obtain one before it is going obsolete. I heard only good things about roadfeel, speed and responsiveness.
A seamless upper is mentioned everywhere, but I cannot see it. There are stitches all over the place. The sock liner might be seamless, but not the upper for sure.
I ran tons in the RC5000 and the RC1600 and both were excellent shoes. The RC5000 was actually the second lightest shoe in the market with 85g staying on the 2nd step of the podium together with the first Endorphin Race. I think one iteration of the Wave universe was hitting 79g, if remember well.
Either ways the Hanzo looks very promising, but no news about having it in 2019.

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Adidas SUB 2 (155g / Drop: 21/15 = 6mm, Neutral)

This shoe I admit, I never tried on, nor did I see in live, but it looks greatly promising. IT has a full, classic Air-Mesh upper, so comfort is going to be slightly compromised. However this weight save will provide an opportunity to put more focus in the midsole, providing a lot of cushioning. The Boost Light is said to be having more energy return than the original Boost. Unfortunately more likely under the heel. Recently we don’t see too many 3mm drop shoes, as I think the public is kind of afraid going under 4, but the SUB2 would be surely a better suited shoe for those fast Kenyan runners with a 20/17 offset !

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NB1400v6 (200g / Drop 25/15 = 10mm, Neutral)

This 6th version just got better. Suitable for runners seeking a comfy shoe with a slightly wider forefoot. Probably for heel strikers or runners looking for a racing shoe on rolling terrain. For instance I run 99.9% of the time, exclusively with a proper forefoot stride. However I’d sure like to have a bit of extra padding under the heal, when running a comrades or other road ultras, where long downhills are included. In the meantime, it could be great for uphill races too, to give the calves a rest when terrain angle gets lighter. We have the annual La Bonnet run to get up to the highest car suitable mountain pass of Europe. 26km with D+1800m of gain. Perfect shoe !
I love the feel and bounciness of the RevLite material in NB shoes ! They are great and sturdy !

Suitable also for groomed trails, due to the little knobs on the outsole.

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NB1500v4 (230g / DROP 23/17 = 6mm, Pronation)

Unfortunately this great shoe has a substantial weight, but it still feels as part of your body. The mesh upper hugs the feet and together with the 6mil drop they provide you with an enjoyable ride. Revlite is still mostly there, but there is a short inner stability post on the inside ! I don’t like any kind of foot or stride modulation, but again, if you have to endure harsh road downhills, it will help you ! Don’t be afraid of this dual density foam, even if you were a natural runner ! You’ll see that when have to run a 15min downhill after already having 2-3-4 hours in your calves, you’ll say thank you, saving your caving-in knees and ankles.
Specific fast kenyan hill sessions, downhill repeats and rolling hill road races !

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Hoka Tracer 2 (201g / Drop 24/20 = 4mm, Neutral)

Marathon racer for efficient but slightly weaker runners or someone wanting to increase quality weekly mileage while keeping up speed. The benefits of having a high-tech and thick foam is ultimate shock absorption. Some lab testers might disagree with this, but those impact plate fuelled researches are kind of flawed. Running on the concrete is not natural. Running fast on the concrete is even less natural. Surfaces change and surface densities too. Hard beton, a gravel like rough layer on top, highway type smoothness and so. Also running fast through a force plate would not give the same result after 10 15 30 and 120 minutes. Force output/input and stride efficacy, cadence, core strength; they all change through out a race. They wiggle from strong to weak and back.
The Hoka Tracer 2 and the upcoming 3 are great great shoes for handling fatigue, maintaining speed and saving your legs for a final finish. It feels bouncy and fast and actually not that thick. It needs a little bit more break in time like 40km, till you feel that the foam is ready to rumble.

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Brooks Asteria (230g / Drop 27/17 = 10mm, Pronation)

Great fit, comfortable upper, responsive ride, very classic look. The ST4 Racer was my wife’s very first racing shoe and she loved it. This is a continuation of that shoe. For smaller runners with mild over-pronation, it can be a great transitionary option, till they get their stride sorted out. It is far from a “road running flat” with its higher weight and 10mm drop, but still in the racing category.

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Brooks Hyperion ( 190g / Drop 27/17 = 10, Neutral)

This is a beast of a shoe. It feels extremely good on your feet and wants to go for a half marathon immediately. I love the fit of Brooks shoes as they are really close to your feet, but still wide enough without compromising foothold. It has tons of tech inside and I was honestly looking forward to this cheetah. However, when I saw the 10mm drop, I cried out NOOOOO. As I mentioned earlier, I live 0 drop and not willing to compromise my stride too much either. I am not getting anything over 4mm. Six maybe, maybe, but did not go there yet. So outside of striding through the shop isles, I did not do distance in these, but as I did mention, they feel fantastic ! I mean, yeah, look kind of lame and oldie, but runs very well.

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Altra Vanish-R (116g / Drop 12/12 = 0mm, Very Neutral)

Light shoe, low height toebox, snugger heel than in most Altras. Comes with two insoles. One minimal and one more built up to give you more cushioning.
It is one of the better fitting shoes like the King MT. It is great for track sessions and some 5 or 10k races, where there are not a lot of switchbacks like in urban trail races. There is a propulsion plate, what is quite noticeable at the beginning, but after 2 runs, you won’t feel it anymore.
Honestly, I just out-loved Altra shoes. I don’t feel them anymore, just as some comfy walkers. For hiking, city sightseeing, walking around in certain situations. Even at those activities, I prefer Merrell, because the toebox curve corresponds to my feet better. This is personal though, so don’t judge Altras based on this. I feel them sloppy in case of speed.
I also never heard about the Prop65-warning, but the shoe contains some cancer causing chemicals what must be reported for Canadian customers. Interesting. I mean don’t be afraid of this, all shoe manufacturers use glues, melted plastic, TPU and so, what are all cancer causing. Just I saw the very first time this warning to these shoes.

You might find similar shoes in case of weight and toe box, but not associated with the zero drop features, nor the cushioning. If you needed a barefoot type feel, but with a little more cush – 12mm –  than in five-fingers and thinking about performance, well, there is no other shoe in the market that provides you with these features at this weight in one complete package.

Mostly suitable for lightweight runners, as the rubber pods on the bottom cover only the big toe and the heel area. Wondering why there is anything on the heal, as forefoot runners tend to use more likely the front of the shoe. A more strategic strengthening on the outer part of the outsole would be more beneficial. A tiny bit of supination or a micron of “land & slide” in your stride will shred down the outer exposed EVA like it was cheese. It will be visible in just a couple of runs. This was the problem with The One shoe as well.

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PS: In case of Altra there is the Escalante racer too, but I really find it way too cushioned and “baggy” to call it a racing flat.

Nike Lunarspider R6 (167g / Drop 21/16 = 5mm, Neutral)

Being 20grams heavier than the Streak LT 4, it still gives a harsher ride. It is probably the difference between Lunarlon and Cushlon midsole and also the 2mm extra in the forefoot of the LT4. Also for heel-strikers the Streak LT has an air pocket under the heel, while this one has non.
It is however still a fantastic shoe. Same great upper upper, though not from classic mesh, but this more comfy stretch mesh. There is a more substantial heel counter too, giving you more stability. The flywire lacing system looks bizarre at first, but it is actually better than in the Streak. Looking for an excellent racing shoe, stepping down from the Streak 6  while not sure in the Streak LT4 ? This one will be your next best friend !

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Salming Race 6 (176g / Drop 17/12 = 5mm, Neutral)

Again a shoe I never had on my feet. However I asked around and the responses are extremely positive. People believe in them. They love them. It is minimally built, but all the angles and curbs are scientifically tested and constructed. The midsole drop is 62° till the forefoot and the toe curb is 75° , to really be able activate the carbon torsion plate. Whatever this means, at Salming science matters  !
People like to stick to brands, whose line-up is rather selected. Road shoes, for training, long distance and short distance racing. Trail shoes for racing and training. 6-7 models top or even less.
It has a 5mm drop and a 12mm for foot. I think you can prepare for a harsh ride, so stick to smooth surfaces and short distance but very fast running !

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Mizuno Wave Sonic Race (218g / Drop 20/16 = 4mm, Neutral)

It is a neutral shoe, but feels like there is something going on here. I don’t think that the different colour part on the outside of the midsole is just colour. It might be a little different density. I used to love the Ekiden and the Universe. Ekidens are just shoes. They are light, but nothing extreme. They are okay to Marathon or maybe a half, but anything under, they are a tad bit heavy. They don’t have a visible wave plate, but still it is said by runners, that there is a quick stride transition and great propulsion. Whatever this means, I think they were most likely heel to toe type runners. I tried a shoe for a shorter tempo run, but did not grasp my imagination.

Mizuno might be out of running shoe business ? There are no light shoes, no low drop shoes, no spiked athletic shoes, the trail shoes are cheap. Or just the website is not updated including eu and us version ?
They for sure make one of the best volleyball shoes in case of the wave lightning, but also for other court sports, but where is running design gone ?

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Adidas Takumi Sen 5 (179g / Drop 22/16 = 6mm, Neutral)

The shoe looks very simple and I like this. If it looks simple, it works well. If it is simple, it runs well. It has tons of tech included, in case of materials used, but not energy returning plates and plastic overlays added. Yeah, there is that “old” Torsion system for side stability, but after 80km in the shoe, it will have absolutely no effect on your landing, because of the extreme flexibility of the shoe.

Guess what. Adidas got smarter, than all the other brands ! They put their proprietary tech under the forefoot, as they know that this shoe is for runners with efficient stride ! Boost is not my favourite type of cushioning / protection. Probably the Boost Lite would please me better not in the case of energy return, but less energy loss. I feel boost to be over soft and and while landing on a full boost sole, you can actually go through it and hit the ground. It is not the reality, but a feeling. I think Adidas knows this sensation ! This is why there are 2 other layers of midsole foams sandwiched under that boost meat.
I ran in the Hagio, the old Ren and Sen, and this shoe also looks like it would worth to try. However I think, it is going to be discontinued.

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Nike Speed Racer 6 (178g / DROP 22/12 = 10mm, Neutral)

Shoe made for the Japanese market. Big drop, ideal weight, epic traction. I had my feet in these and the 1cm offset was very feelable, but it is made for heel strikers anyways as the air-pod cush is placed under the heel. Also to decrease the deceleration of the first to ground heel contact, there is a propulsion TPU shank to transition you forward. I mean this is my explanation of course, not Nike’s 😀
In the racing flats from Nike, this is the first one where we can see the Phylon midsole. I love that from years ago, when first tried on the trail Terra Kiger 1. It feels awesome. Reactive and fast ! I would definitely use this for tarmac uphill racing.

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ASICS 451 (192g / Drop 22/16 = 6 , Neutral)

Can I say that Asics is out from the racing shoe market ? There isn’t a Hyperspeed (170g), nor a Piranha (110g / Drop 4.5mm) in the lineup. Neither can we choose a spikeless CC shoe, like the NBX900 or the old Hyper XCS.
I mean the 451 is not even a racing shoe. It is not that flat, nor it feels lite. It is more likely a fast and supportive every day training shoe. I have a high arch / high instep, so the Boa system is not working out great for me. I tried on other shoes with Boa, where the wires don’t go over the top, but pulling the tortilla tongue to the side. In all cases, NB got it quite right, but only for Road Running. I perso am not a Boa guy. Neither for running, nor for cycling. For Triathlon, on certain occasions maybe.
The foam, the total sole and the form of the shoe, continues the line of the Hyperspeed, what I used extensively in the past. V4 & V5 were excellent oooskoool looking shoes, with fast wear, but great grip and feel on dry road, however with horrendous quality shoelaces. V6 was a total disaster in case of fit and feel. V7 became again a great shoe. I think the Input of Ryan Hall to this shoe made it great in the past.
I am not against the 451. There are tons of good deals on it for 40 / 50 bucks. A good one to add to the rotation for longer outing or recovery days.

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La Sportiva Vertical K (204g / Drop 19/15 = 4mm , Very Natural)

Epic fit and feel. Made for trail running, but can be an epic choice on other occasions. Urban  trails or road races with a lot of turns, urban orienteering and so. Because of fit and feel, I might choose this for a future road marathon too. Way better than the old version ! The sole and structure made for forefoot runners. It has protection against roots and rocks in case of overlays, so for an out and back fast road half or 10km, imo it is not a good choice. Ups, downs, turns, switchbacks, stair climbing ? Fantastic !

Screenshot 2018-12-31 at 07.43.40

Asics TARTHERZEAL 6 (160g / Drop 22/15 = 7mm, Neutral ? )

Haven’t really seen this one. I am not even sure, that this one is available to US. In France we can get it for cheap now.
Asics lists 10mm offset, while other sites from Australia and Japan say 10 or 8mm. Normally it is the kind of successor of the DS Racer, what I tried once like 8years ago and was very disappointed. In my opinion this will have 10m drop and a little bit of stability added to it. Looks like it is made with a classic technique of adding seams on top. Get a thick pair of sock ! Not for me, sorry 😀

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Merrell Vapor Glove (160g / Drop7/7 = 0mm , Barefoot neutral)

It can be a racing shoe, but for a very limited audience. Perfect weight ! Wide toebox for a very stable platform and a powerful pushoff. Extremely grippy Vibram outsole for again, a non slip, forward propulsion minded, well trained feet ! Comfortable and functional lacing, what can be adjusted to the speeds of running.
It has only 7mm of thickness to it, that includes outsole, midsole, insole. OR ! – could say, outsole and insole 😀 Keep your eyes open for nails. It has extreme flexibility to let your feet working as it has to be working. Don’t even think that you can run a hard 10km while breaking down during the last quarter. You’re gonna quit or injure yourself. I have been living barefoot and in barefoot shoes for a very long time. I have no flip flops, and no shoes for life, over zero drop, for 8 years now. I can run in these easily, however still have to keep an eye on everything, including terrain and my form.
My favourite workout in these are a limited speed, controlled tempo run of 3 to 8km on the track. Soft surface, half marathon to a marathon pace.
They are not as tough as other Merrell shoes, but count at least 2000km in them !

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Merrell Bare Access Flex (205g / Drop 15/15 = 0mm, Neutral)

If you were looking for a half or a full marathon, zero drop shoe, this would be it. While Altra shoes are fantastic for ultra racing and distance walking, I find that for speedy running, they are too sloppy as fit goes. Also the hard and resistant foam of the Merrell shoes is very responsive !
I have 2 pairs of Bare Access 4s and both have over 5000 km in them ! They are indestructible. They are fantastic. The foam stays flat everywhere and the outsole resists to all kind of friction. I just ran whirly xc tempo run yesterday in them.
It is for a small audience, but it has it’s place and future, even in road running, not just trail running and fitness.

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Reebok Floatride Run Fast ( 187g / DROP 24/14 = 10mm, Neutral)
Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro (100g / Drop 20/17 = 3mm)

Listed both neutral, both are for racing and both looks great. Never tried, them and while read reviews and presentations, I never seen any serious racer using them here in France nor talked to anybody with personal experience.

I am intrigued to try the Pro version, however the 250€ pricetag makes this shoe, the most expensive racing shoe in the market ! I think in the past there was some 3D printed track shoe what was similarly priced, but generally track shoes and racing flats are cheaper than regular shoes.

 

ON CloudFlash (211g / DROP 20/15 = 5mm , Nautral)

I never used to like ON shoes and when tried them on, this got confirmed. I could get used to it, no problems. However when tested them out during a shoe test, I just really not felt a connection to the ground how I’d liked to have.
A couple of years later I again did some testing and still not. Recently put the feet in the Cloudflash and strolled around the run shop isles. The pods got smaller and more responsive and can see to use these for speed training on hard surfaces or for a fast 10km race.

There is one thing I completely dislike. Stability and stability on soft surfaces. On a running track it feels very bad. I mean really bad ! Especially in turns ! I am getting here into hairsplitting a bit, because most of you who are not dialled in and just run around how it comes in shoes recommended by the sales people will not feel anything. I see it directly that when get into the turns, the sensation of a stable racing flat or track spike is very far away !
Don’t get me wrong ! I am not putting down here the ON brand. These are personal findings and I am sharing them. ON stays one of the most innovative and research based companies and I hope that they continue to work on the same way they do. For sure, that if they found another type of light cushion technology to get better, they will get rid of the old one, to not to fall into the trap of Mizuno and Asics for instance.

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To mention….

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361°-Feisu
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Carlson Footwear – 0mm drop minimalist

 

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Scott Palani RC
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Unfortunately Newton has no more lightweight racers this is the Distance 7
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Under Armour – Speedform Velocity
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Salomon S-Lab Sonic 2
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NB XC900 Spikeless
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Enda Iten
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Puma Speed Racer (No more Puma Faas 100 😦
Screenshot 2019-01-02 at 07.23.19
Skechers Go Run 6 (No more Go MEB Speed 😦
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Skora Core (Back and alive, 0drop long lasting, sweet training shoes )
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Vivobarefoot Stealth II (No cush, zero drop, wide toe box)
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VFF SeeYa
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Spira Vento (Mechanical doping – yes it has springs in it, banned from competition in France)

 

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