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Find your ideal racing shoe

A dedicated racing shoe separates the casual runner from someone looking to take things a step further, faster. But despite their promise of pace, racing flats simply aren’t for everyone. Let’s take a look at whether a racing shoe could help make 2018 your fastest year yet.

What is a racing flat?

Racing flats are the shoe model designed for maximum lightness and minimal molding around the sole, purposely built ‘flat’ to keep things simple and direct underfoot. This means limited cushioning, no arch support and little to no heel-to-toe lift (referring to the height of the heel off the ground as the shoe curves up). These were the shoes your grandparents’ generation used to race in, before the bells and whistles of cushioned running shoes and the rise of jogging.


On top, these shoes were traditionally little more than socks; a light upper that is the definition of minimalist. This allows the foot to move the way it wants to inside the shoe, and to let air circulate around the foot.


Of course, we’ve come a long way from these early models, with technology enabling a kind of racing flat for every type of race (not just on the track). To help you know what to look out for when finding the right pair of this running royalty for you, we’ve boiled it down to a few questions you need to ask yourself to find out if racing flats are for you, or if instead you need the next best thing for chasing that personal best. 

What kind of racer are you?

Track racer – The typical favored track of professional athletes, racing flats in these circumstances will usually come with spikes on the sole (though many have evolved from the nails used underfoot a half century ago). These give the ultimate traction during takeoff and for an enhanced push in the final important seconds of a race. Keep in mind these professional runners are usually the born-to-run, minimalist style of runner anyway, so these shoes are definitely not for someone who runs off the track, or has always raced in a cushioned and molded shoe.


Road racer – This surface is commonly run in racing flats, however due to the hard nature of the terrain, if you have never run it in real racing flats, you’ll need to ease into using them on the road and start with short distances first. Picture running the way our ancestors did, with only the barest layer between your foot and the road. For these races, the spikes come off and instead a small sole is all that lies between you and the road, meaning one of the most direct running feelings possible next to bare foot running itself.


Trail racer – adventure and rough terrain have never been run faster than in trail running flats. Thanks to advances in rubber and sole protection, even the rocky roads of the trail now can be home to racing flats, when not that long ago, trail racing meant big boots (and big blisters). Thankfully the new breed of trail racing flats look great and provide you not only with the low-to-ground shape of flats, but also grip and protection on top (and below). 

Things to think about:


Your experience level

Our bodies are made to run, but modern conveniences and supportive shoes mean we don’t use some of the muscles that help us run strong and injury-free as often as we should, and they become weaker over time. This means if you’re new to running you might initially benefit from more cushioning than a racing flat has to offer, at least at first. But don’t worry, cushioning doesn’t mean sacrificing speed entirely. Check out the Cloudsurfer, the Cloudflyer and the Cloudflow for lightweight shoes that offer soft landings. Not sure which to go for? Our Shoe Finder tool can help.


Your foot type

Let’s face it; racing flats are all about speed. They need to be ultralight, so you can forget you’re wearing them and concentrate on your running style instead. With that in mind, where your foot means the ground when you run and your individual foot shape influence whether a racing flat may work right for you. Not sure where you land? Get advice from your local On dealer.


  • Forefoot runner: Land on the front of your foot when you run? Congratulations, you’re in. The fastest runners tend to favor the front of the foot, meaning you’re probably no stranger to speed.


  • Midfoot runner: Also works. Speed is your friend, and so the racing flat may be too.


  • Heel-striker: It may be worth exploring more cushioned options first. Due to how direct racing flats can be, and the lack of cushioning, excess running on racing flats might do you (and your PB) more harm than good. See the section above for some other options.


Ok, we're in the home straight. Here are five last quick-fire questions to find out if you really could be a racing flat fan. What do you think about:



Not that needed (racing flat could work)

I need it (less likely a racing flat’s the way to go)



Just from the crowd (racing flat looks good)

From the shoe (not so good for racing flats)


Shoe weight

Less is more (racing flat)

More is more (not a racing flat)



Can go without (could be racing flats)

Can’t go on without (less likely to be a racing flat fan)


Lifetime of a shoe

Is as long as it is (racing flats yes)

Should last as long as I do (racing flats no)


If your answers indicate a racing flat could be the shoe for you, it's time to make your choice for the fast lane: 

For racing flat purists: the Cloudflash
The On closest to the traditional running flat. This shoe uses the latest technology for a pure direct feel and explosive speed.
See it here
For the road runner: the Cloudrush
True to the sock-like upper of the old-school racing flat, with pure rubber technology below, the Cloudrush offers a flat-like run with more cushioning thanks to the Cloud elements below.
See it here
For the trail racer: the Cloudventure Peak
The Cloudventure Peak does what few shoes can do: brings a racing flat’s speed to the peak of the mountain.
See it here

Still unsure? Head over to our Shoe Finder tool and see if there’s a racing flat (or another shoe) that might be best for you with a few simple questions.

And for the ultimate lightweight racing sensation, combine your chosen speed shoe with On Performance Running Gear that’s engineered to help you hit top speed, from the Tank-T and Performance-T to the Running Shorts.

Whatever you choose, here’s to making 2018 your year of speed.