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Can xc racing flats work?
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Samuel Kau
(Skau) - M

Locale: Southern California
Can xc racing flats work? on 09/19/2011 09:43:20 MDT Print View

I was wondering if any one had experience with hiking in xc racing flats. I have never used racing flats myself but am looking for minimalist footwear other than merrel's, fivefingers, or new balance since all of those have not worked well for me. If people use them, i hear that the life of them aren't that long? I don't quite understand why they wouldn't so please explain? Opinions welcome =)

Stephan Doyle
Re: Can xc racing flats work? on 09/19/2011 10:51:15 MDT Print View

I have used several different pairs.

I suspect they don't last as long because of the stress put on the outsole. Flats are designed for quick footstrikes over fairly level terrain (compared to hiking in the mountains). While hiking, my foot is in contact with the ground for considerable more time, and often at these times the shoe is flexed in several directions. Even the uppers are not designed to hold on so tight - the running motion naturally brings the shoe up, but with hiking, I find that I am forcing the upper forward and sending it in several different directions. Basically, they aren't designed for the type of stress that I encounter whilst hiking.

For a big hike in old shoes, they may be worth it. But it's an expensive habit to keep up routinely. From a performance standpoint, they can be fantastic, but a basic cost-benefit analysis of flats versus other minimalistic shoes (like those you mentioned) has me reach for other footwear.

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Can xc racing flats work? on 09/19/2011 10:54:34 MDT Print View

New balance MT100's and Mt101's are my shoe of choice. the life is shortened by hiking, but they are cheaper than a normal trail runner.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Can xc racing flats work? on 09/19/2011 11:22:39 MDT Print View

Racing flats filled the "minimal footwear" niche long before anyone outside of XC runners, track runners, and elite racers were told they should have minimal footwear. I've always found it odd that the minimal shoe market has blown up when flat, lightweight, breathable shoes have been around the running scene all along...Yet very few people outside of runners consider them.

Good for backpacking? That's a pretty relative thing...
The biggest issue (for most people) is probably going to be the lack of a rock plate and pretty delicate upper materials. They'll get trashed pretty quickly if you're on rough trails/talus/scrambling. Your feet are going to hurt from stepping on rocks if you're not used to it. They're also typically a narrow, fairly snug fit. Most won't work for wide feet. Many aren't even made past size 12.

They can be a much cheaper alternative to all the "minimal" marketed shoes out there. Many XC/Road flats can be found for $60 or less.

Some are also lighter...Asics Pirhannas, though a pricier road flat, are only like 4oz. each.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
"Can xc racing flats work?" on 09/19/2011 13:59:53 MDT Print View

I love my Asics Piranhas. The ones from a few years ago wore out fairly quickly, but the newer ones have added hard rubber little dots and dashes, and they don't wear as fast. I have average-to-wide feet and they fit like they were custom-made for me. They are amazingly padded for such light weight, but you would prefer a fairly smooth trail over a trail with sharp, rocky points sticking up.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Can xc racing flats work? on 09/19/2011 14:45:35 MDT Print View

I have a pair I like for runs on pavement and fairly non-rocky forest trails:

Inov8 f-lite 230

Did a two-nighter in an area with several rocky trails, and now I'm not sure if I'd use them there again or not. A rock plate might've helped, although it wasn't the rocks on the bottom of my foot which bothered me. To adapt to the positions necessitated by stepping on the rocks, my feet started getting sore on the sides of the soles and the front of the toes. I think I'd rather have a more stable shoe which will allow my feet to be in a more typical position.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Can xc racing flats work? on 09/28/2011 21:36:58 MDT Print View

Stephan and Craig hit all the pros and cons.

I love hiking in racing flats. Consider these weights (one shoe) for my size 12 feet:

Vibram Five Fingers KSO = 6.7 oz for comparison

Saucony Shay XC = 7.2 oz
Saucony Kinney XC = 6.5 oz
Asics Piranha SP 2 = 5.3 oz
Mizuno Wave Universe 4 = 4.9 oz

Most comfortable are the Asics followed by the Mizuno which are the widest foot box.

The Asics soles were wiped out by a few miles of volcanic rock. Both of the Saucony shoes made it through the same section of trail fairly intact. I have been wearing the Mizunos for the past couple of months. I suspect the uppers will not last as long as the soles. But they are incredibly light and are like weightless compared to my Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultras at 13.4 oz.


Wave Universe 4

Samuel Kau
(Skau) - M

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Can xc racing flats work? on 09/29/2011 00:46:59 MDT Print View

Cool! Great to hear your input and good to see someone actually using racing flats for hiking. I was looking at the brooks mach spikeless 13 but will try to give the saucony shoes a try. Nick, when you say you have been wearing the Mizunos for a couple of months are you referring to the same pair? or just multiple pairs of the same brand? thanks

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Can xc racing flats work? on 09/29/2011 01:15:25 MDT Print View

The same pair. Probably have around 100 miles on them.

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Cheap Asics on 10/03/2011 15:51:43 MDT Print View

I spent a while hiking in cheap Asics Hypers XCs. The soles are still usable, in my opinion, though the uppers bear a closer resemblance to some sort of sandal. They were great while they lasted, lightweight, didn't interfere too much with a proper stride. My only caveat was that the rubber had absolutely no stickiness, so it was slick on smooth surfaces.

The summer spoiled me, however; I did nearly all my hiking and running barefoot, learned that toes work sort of like stubby fingers, and can no longer really deal with narrow toeboxes. I coughed up for a pair of Inov-8 Baregrip 200s when it was time to hit the mountains, and I've been pretty well in love ever since. Too bad the uppers are wearing already.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Cheap Asics on 10/03/2011 17:17:28 MDT Print View

I have a pair of the hyper speeds. Size 12 weighs 8.8 oz each. I don't care for them much, they just aren't as comfortable as some of my other shoes. But overall a good shoe and you can buy them on sale pretty cheap.

All these XC flats are pretty neutral pronation-wise.

Here are some heel to toe drop measurements

Asics Piranah 5 mm
Asics Hyper Speed 8 mm
Sacouny Shay 4 mm
Sacouny Kilkenney 4 mm
Mizuno Wave Universe 3 mm