The sixth week of training is underway, which means that half of our 12-week half-marathon preparation is already over. Time to start thinking about the competition itself. Namely about the subject of equipment. Special competition equipment, especially a pair of competition shoes, is a matter of course for professionals. This begs the question: Does something like this make sense when you’re more in the middle performance range? Or to put it another way: do better shoes really make me faster?
What makes fast shoes?
A shoe is “fast” above all when it is light. Because the lighter the shoe weight, the less effort the runner has to exert when lifting. A normal training shoe weighs around 300 grams. A lightweight trainer – i.e. a particularly light training shoe – around 250 grams. And a competition shoe usually weighs less than 200 grams. To achieve this, manufacturers use the lightest possible sole and outer materials and leave out comfort elements or thick cushioning foams away.
A thin, firm sole for a very direct walking feeling and often a more curved last are also typical of competition shoes. The latter should support the rolling movement of the foot and “catapult” the runner forward. More information and a model overview is also available in our competition shoe test.
“Special competition shoes are not recommended for lower to medium performance levels”
If anyone can say anything about running shoe questions of all kinds, it’s RUNNER’S WORLD equipment expert Urs Weber. And he says to me: “Special competition shoes are not recommended for what you are aiming for, i.e. half marathon under two hours. This is because their positive effect can be reversed. If the foot muscles are not fully trained and, above all, if you are used to running in more stable shoes, there is a high probability that you will have problems if you suddenly run 21 kilometers with almost no cushioning and support.” Fast shoes can even do that slow down.
But of course, Urs emphasizes, that better shoes, in the sense of better-fitting shoes, can actually make a runner faster. On the one hand, because they ensure a more ergonomic running style, on the other hand, because they improve the general running feeling, making running easier and more fun.
Lightweight trainers are better suited for competition
Nevertheless, ambitious leisure runners do not have to do without the advantages of light shoes. The solution is: lightweight trainers. These are lightweight training shoes that still offer sufficient support and cushioning. In general, by the way, the following applies: Today’s training shoes are already on an extremely light level and, thanks to high-quality new materials and better workmanship, already have a high speed capability.
Competition equipment is also useful for non-professionals
Even if recreational runners don’t necessarily need competition shoes, Urs recommends getting individual competition equipment anyway. “If you don’t run in the same old training clothes, that also has a mental effect that shouldn’t be underestimated. It supports the feeling that this run is something special.” In short: Equipment can definitely make a difference in the race. Then it’s best for me to start thinking about which shoes I’ll wear for the half marathon.