Racewalkers are a different breed from runners so we need different shoes to perform at our best. The high-heeled, stiff, clunky trainers that most runners wear will not do for the high-speed gait of the racewalker. But running racing flats? Now that’s where the action is!
Ever since New Balance phased out the 111 racewalking shoe in early 2007, running racing flats are about all we have left. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Racing flats come in a wide variety of styles ranging from flimsy non-supportive slipper-like creations to much more cushiony trainer-racers. Within that range, racewalkers can find a wide array of PR-worthy shoes.
Most racing flats are “slip lasted,” or “strobel lasted,” techniques that allow for light weight and superior flexibility. Because we racewalkers hit the ground with less than half the force of the typical runner’s stride, we can get away with these much lighter shoes for both training and racing.
Steer away from the flimsiest shoes, like cross-country racers or track flats, but any shoe designed for 15k to marathon racing should work well for racewalk training and racing.
The downside to using racing flats for day-to-day wear is that they’re designed for runners to wear only once every few weeks to race, so they often don’t last very long. But life-spans vary considerably; some flats will last 300 miles or more, some extremely lightweight flats may be shot after a mere 50 miles. Shoes designed for marathons are made with high carbon outsoles that will usually hold up for several hundred miles.
The features sought out by racewalkers are lightweight, a low heel, a flexible midsole, a moderate amount of support, and a generous toe-box to prevent blisters or the dreaded “black toe-nails” that can arise after miles of walking in narrow-toed shoes. Outlandish colors seem to be a plus.
There are dozens of shoes that “foot” the bill. But who does it best?
For serious racers looking for the lightest and fastest shoes around, the Adidas adiZero RC and the Asics Gel-Hyper Speed 2 are heads above the rest. For marathon walkers or 50k specialists looking for more support, the New Balance RC1001, Mizuno Wave Revolver 5, and the Nike Air Zoom Marathoner get the edge for lightweight stability.
Buying a shoe for racewalking isn’t like buying a car. There aren’t an unlimited number of dazzling features that will steer you one way or another. Ultimately, fit is what matters most. How far you’ll be walking, how heavy you are, and the mechanics of your feet will also play a role. What the Olympic Champion wears - or the guy who just won your local 5k for that matter - is immaterial. Having said that, these are some of the very best new models from which to choose.