Is Lighter Better?

CatShoes

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:

NB

Here are some examples (all of these are described as “trainers” by their respective companies):

Adidas Adizero Tempo 6: 8.1 ounces

Adidas Adizero Tempo 6: 8.1 ounces

Brooks Launch: 9.1 ounces

Brooks Launch: 9.1 ounces

Mizuno Sayonara: 7.9 ounces

Mizuno Sayonara: 7.9 ounces

New Balance 980: 9.1 ounces

New Balance 980: 9.1 ounces

Nike Flyknit Lunar 2: 8.3 ounces

Nike Flyknit Lunar 2: 8.3 ounces

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?

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17 Responses to Is Lighter Better?

  1. laufvergnügen says:

    I agree — I love my Brooks, but they’re wearing away after a mere 300 miles 😦

  2. How interesting! I agree with you on all pointers. It’s funny that I haven’t thought of the cost decrease before with my business background lol! I guess I didn’t put much thought into this subject 🙂 Speaking of fads and what not, completely off topic, have you seen Quinoa milk yet?! I saw it at Costco the other day and was schocked haha! What do you think about it? xoxo

  3. Shawna says:

    i’ve been running in the women’s New Balance 750s (7.6 oz) for the past year and absolutely loooove them. i do train and race in the same shoes and have had no issues. i’m just happy i found a lightweight pair that i feel is perfect for me and that has made my running easier, as well as alleviated any IT band pain i used to have in heavier shoes. i think they’ve forced me to change my gait, which has made all the diff.

  4. 262x2 says:

    This was a trend back when I was in high school 14 years ago (man, I feel old!). Girls on the cross-country team would train in their clunkier shoes and then wear racing flats on race day. If I did that, I’d probably get injured. I’d love to TRY the Mizuno Sayonara’s because I have a serious obsession with Mizuno in general, but if I wore them to race in i would probably limit them to 5-ks. I am seriously injury prone!

  5. bpangie says:

    Currently, I’m in the SKORA Core. I really liked the Phase and am thinking of picking up an extra pair to use as a racing flat – they’re about an ounce lighter. I love having shoes go to 1000 miles. I shudder when I hear people having to replace shoes after 300, 400 miles….

  6. I love my Kayanos and they’re on the heavier side. I’ve tried lighter but haven’t found any that work. I feel like I’m still trying to find “my” shoe…

    • Jason says:

      I like those too! They aren’t light but they are a lot lighter than they used to be. Fortunately, I can still squeeze a lot of miles out of them!

  7. I definitely like having lighter shoes, but depending on what you are doing, you might need more. I personally love my reebox reflex 🙂

  8. I’m currently on the NB Minimus Trail Zero V2. 9 oz., monster lugs and perfect for the types of trails I run. Light, but they still have adequate protection and haven’t shown any design flaws like all of my previous NB trail shoes. They’ll be my go-to shoe at the CT50, with 1010v2’s as my backup pairs.

    To answer your questions, though: the shoe weight doesn’t affect my decision, I just gravitated toward the NB shoes a few years ago and stuck with them because they felt right; and I always train and race in the same shoes 🙂

  9. This is a really timtely post for me. I ran a 5k last week in Brooks Glycerins (when normally in flats). I honestly cannot decide if I was just having a bad day or it was the shoes (I was about a minute slower then I should have been).

  10. atwinthing33 says:

    I like light shoes….

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