5K training runs and races are great. Most people in reasonable shape can do it, and even if you trod along at a very leisurely pace, the run is over within 30 minutes. You don’t have to train for months or go through a carb-loading ritual, and for most runners, recovery is a non-existent problem.
But where’s the fun in taking over 20 minutes to finish a 5K?
These short distance races are where you can go full out for the entire duration. It is possible to maintain a rate of speed that is otherwise hard to sustain in distances of half-marathon and beyond. It’s like a road version of your speedy track workouts.
And shoes – that’s what we’re here for, yes? You need the right pair of running shoes to make the best of those 20 minutes.
5K is a distance that’s best served by racing flats and their ilk. The fact that they aren’t very cushioned is irrelevant given the short distance. In lieu, you get a featherweight shoe with a superlative road grip – exactly what a 5K entails.
On the following list, most of the shoes loosely belong to the category of racing flats. We say ‘loosely’ because only zero-drop shoes qualify as true racing flats. The Reebok Run Fast Pro comes very close to being a flat but still has a few millimeters of offset.
Others like the adidas adios 5, Brooks Hyperion, and Saucony Type A9 are ‘road racers’ rather than unadulterated flats. For this year’s list, we’ve thrown in more cushioned models like the Asics Hyper Speed as well. Thus, most of the shoes here can be used for 10K races too. In case you’re searching for cushioned speedsters, read our other guide here.
One of our selection criteria was to choose shoes with a DSP outsole. A Dual-Stencil-Process (DSP) construction uses small pieces of outsole rubber attached to a fabric base.
A DSP outsole gives the shoe a superior grip advantage, as the small lugs do a better job than regular rubber slabs. And boy, do they feel good on short runs; the crunching sound that the DSP makes when biting the road is addictive. That, and there’s a far better sense of connection with the road.
In the spirit of brand diversity, we’ve put together recommendations from various manufacturers, so not all models have a DSP outsole. To make the selection process easier, the product description includes what the outsole is made of.
The following list is in Solereview’s order of preference:
1) Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro (DSP outsole)
The Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro is lighter than the box it comes packed in. This racing shoe weighs less than 4-ounces, has a full-length DSP outsole that grips phenomenally well, and its Floatride (Pebax foam) midsole delivers an unprecedented weight-to-cushioning ratio that makes the ride relatively comfortable.
The paper-like upper is incredibly breezy yet foot-conforming, and the flat tongue is tacked on one side to prevent slippage. The $250 retail price is inversely proportional to your bank balance, but if you can afford it, the Run Fast Pro should be everyone’s grail 5K shoe.
2) Asics Tartheredge 2 (DSP outsole)
If you miss the New Balance Hanzo S V2, consider the Asics Tartheredge V2 as an alternative. While the latter differs from the Hanzo with its 10 mm offset and a half-ounce heavier weight, several features make the Tartheredge V2 an excellent 5K shoe.
The entire forefoot outsole is made of Dual-Stencil process (DSP) lugs, thus imparting the shoe with an exceptional grip for quick push-offs. The plastic midfoot shank adds the necessary rigidity to the low-profile midsole. Though there’s no fancy foam used here, the Flytefoam midsole produces enough cushioning for runs of 5 – 10k distances.
There’s plenty of ventilation in the traditional racing-style upper. A porous spacer mesh is stitched together with soft synthetic suede to create a snug-fitting and breathable upper. The flat cotton laces put finishing touches to the classic racer silhouette.
The Tartheredge 2 shares the midsole and outsole with the last year’s model. That means you can buy the V1 on sale instead and still get the same experience.
3) adidas adizero adios 5
Thanks to its full-length Boost foam midsole, adios 5 is a relatively cushioned racer. While its narrow and minimal mesh upper fits like a traditional road racer, the midsole packs plenty of cushioning for its low-profile stack.
When we used the ‘plenty’, that means that there’s a lot more cushioning softness than a pure racing flat. The resilient layer of Boost foam protects the foot during high-cadence runs, whereas the firmer EVA rims keep the foot supported for quick transitions.
The outsole is no longer DSP (adidas Quickstrike) like the earlier adios versions. That said, the traction isn’t lacking – the lugs of the Continental rubber outsole deliver a satisfactory bite.
4) Saucony Type A9
Saucony has an excellent history of making racing shoes, be it for road, XC, or track. The storied legacy reflects in the Type A9 – a lightweight and padded road racer with a soft and minimal upper. It weighs only 170 grams or 6-ounces – that’s as light as it gets. It retails for $100, which is decent value for a road racer.
The 4 mm drop midsole has just the right amount of cushioning and fast feel for 5K runs. The small lugs on the PWRTRAC forefoot rubber outsole provide excellent traction for toe-offs.
The Type A9 is a racing shoe, so the upper has a snug fit for superior grip.
5) Saucony Fastwitch 9
Just like the Type A9, the Saucony Fastwitch’s $100 MSRP makes it excellent value. The grippy Pwrtrac compound is molded into a colony of small lugs under the forefoot to deliver excellent traction.
The firm ride translates into a speed-friendly transition that’s perfect for 5K runs. The midsole behavior is predictable; using compression-molded EVA foam results in a smooth and efficient ride.
What makes the Fastwitch different from the Type A9 is its tiny medial post. So for whatever it’s worth, this is a ‘stability’ road racer. The firmer wedge is barely noticeable, as it blends near-seamlessly into the firm midsole.
6) New Balance 1400V6
The New Balance 1400V6 is more cushioned than purebred racing flats. So if you crave more cushioning and upper room, this is the shoe for you.
When we say ‘more cushioned’ or ‘spacious’, that’s purely relative in the context of this guide. The 1400 fits snug but without the narrowness of racing flats. While the midsole is low profile, there’s enough Revlite foam to prevent your feet from getting beat down.
The Hanzo is no longer available except for key markets, so the 1400 ends up being your go-to racer from New Balance. Unless you’re willing to splurge over $200 on the FuelCell RC Elite, that is.
7) Asics Hyperspeed
If you think you’ve heard of the Hyperspeed before, you’re not wrong. Asics had a long-continuing series that culminated with the Hyperspeed 7 – a traditional-looking distance racer with a firm ride.
The updated Asics Hyperspeed is a reset of the series and bears no resemblance to the previous model. The new version borrows its design lines from the Carbon-plated Metaracer, but manages to make a strong case for itself.
The 2021 Hyperspeed is a lot softer than the Hyperspeed 7 we once knew. The EVA midsole delivers a smooth and cushioned ride that feels fast enough for 5K and 10K runs. Underneath, the dense colony of rubber lugs delivers excellent grip.
The soft and comfortable upper fit and feel is surprisingly well put together for its $90 retail price.
8) Brooks Hyperion
At just over 6 ounces, the Hyperion is a speedy racing shoe. It’s also got a 10 mm heel offset and a rearfoot stack higher than the most on this list, so the cushioning level is similar to the 1400.
The upper fits very narrow and pointy – even for a racing shoe. There’s a reason why this model features at the end of this buyer’s guide. Unless you’re a Brooks loyalist, just know that there are superior alternatives to the Hyperion.