In transitioning to efficient running and flat racing shoes, I've been pacing recently in a pair of Nike Mayflys. With almost 100k on the clock and 8 weeks to the Hong Kong marathon, the time has come to slip into the shiny new Asics SP3s.
Firstly though, what are racing flats? Essentially they are the fixed-gear of running. Whilst most trainers are about support, cushioning and tread. Flats are about minimalism, efficiency and getting as close as possible to barefoot. With a reduced heel cushion they allow the sole to rest flat and place more emphasis on the ball of the foot.
Whilst this might sound like a recipe for impact-related joint issues, to me it has the appeal of riding fixed; no gears, no breaks, no comfort... but you can't beat that feeling of rolling on something light, responsive and in tune with your rhythm. From what I've read, going barefoot is the same sensation and so, being the enthusiast minimalist, I sought out the lightest and most expensive racing flats I could find.
Light and expensive they are indeed. Weighing in at 136g per shoe they feel like an egg carton and at £90 a pair there's not a lot of material for your money. The devil is in what's left onboard. Things like the metallic Asics hash motif must have been designed super-light, or it wouldn't be there. The laces are flat slivers of fabric. Inside there are a couple of suede lined sections for no-sock softness.
Putting them on is like sliding into slippers. They're have a wide sensation at the front and are particularly spacious around the toes. I got sized at Asics in London and glad I did, I would've gone smaller if choosing on my own. On the bottom are little dots of grip in the impact places. They look like they'll wear quite quickly - not surprising as racing flats typically have half the life of their trainer counterparts.
And so, on a crisp Shanghai winter's morning, I went to the track and ran the fastest 10k of my life. I was only supposed to be wearing them in, some sprints, walking and a few star jumps. I felt like a freshly shod horse and instead pranced 25 laps with a smile on my face.
They definitely increase emphasis on the balls of your feet. I felt a lot of pressure under my toes and could feel my feet spreading a little to stabilize. That would be what the extra space is for. Throughout the run they felt airy and comfortable with no chafing - unlike the Mayflys which are slowly gnawing at my third toe.
At one point I though they were emitting a fine whine but it was just me humming along in the happy zone.