Nearly every major brand has made a push lately toward lighter running shoes. Even models that are on their ninth, tenth or eleventh iterations have mysteriously shed several ounces.
This ad from New Balance pretty much sums it up:
Here are some examples (all of these are described as “trainers” by their respective companies):
Why Is This Happening?
I think there are a couple of reasons this is happening. First, it’s the latest marketing gimmick, and as it has gained traction, more and more companies have piled on. Second, it has gained traction because lighter shoes – especially shoes with soft uppers and soft soles – are comfy. They feel good when you put them on, and this is enough to convince consumers to purchase them. Third, companies like it because they are able to use less raw material to produce shoes, without having to reduce the amount they are charging.
Is It Better To Train In Light Shoes?
I highly doubt it. In fact, I prefer to train in heavier shoes (by heavier, I mean anywhere from 12 to 16 ounces). I think it can add something to the workout. Obviously, I don’t want to pull a hamstring or end up with knee issues, but I think heavier trainers help build strength in my legs. This has been particularly useful as I’ve done more trail running/racing. Anecdotally, I think the soles that are on many shoes now are wearing much more quickly. I used to put a thousand miles on a pair of shoes rather easily, but now I am wearing soles completely smooth in as little as seven or eight hundred miles.
Is It Better To Race In Light Shoes?
Yes. Here is where there is a difference! Jack Daniels, the guru of all things running, claims a runner expends one percent more aerobic energy for every 100 g (3.53 ounces) of weight on a shoe. That difference is notable. That means shaving four ounces from a shoe would mean a faster marathon time by up to three minutes.
Sadly, this has a limit (if it didn’t, you would see a lot more barefoot runners!). Shoes also provide shock absorption and energy return and you want your shoe to be able to provide both. That means you need to find what works best for you – 5 ounces? 6 ounces? 7 ounces? 8 ounces? I recommend you go to your local running store and get some expert advice!
What Is Next?
Shoes can’t get much lighter from here. In fact, I expect a reversion back to 10, 11 and 12 ounce shoes. With that being said, I think some features of the lighter shoes – particularly the thin, durable uppers – are here to stay.
How does shoe weight impact your decision when you are selecting shoes?
Do you train and race in the same shoes? If not, how much lighter are your racers than your trainers?