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, 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. You can 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 one event where racing flats and their ilk come in handy. 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 you need for a 5K.
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 Asics Heatracer, Brooks Hyperion, and the Nike Streak LT4 are ‘ road racers’ rather than unadulterated flats. For the 2020 list, we’ve thrown in more cushioned models like the New Balance 1400V6 as well. Thus, most of the shoes here can be used for 10K races too. In case your 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 gripping 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 for ride comfort.
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. There is no fancy foam used here, but the Flytefoam midsole adds enough cushioning for runs of 5 – 10k.
You’ll find 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 V1. That means you can buy the V1 instead (at a bargain) and get the same experience.
3) Nike Zoom Streak LT4
The Streak LT4 is a lightweight racer with a snug-fitting yet extremely breathable upper. There isn’t a whole lot of cushioning due to the thin stack of foam except for the heel area that has a snappy Zoom Air bag.
The forefoot outsole is covered with a colony of micro lugs which grip extremely well. And just so that you know, the Nike Streak 7 is the more ‘cushioned’ version of the LT4.
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 a 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 fit tight for a superior grip.
5) 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.
6) Asics LyteRacer TS 7
There’s no fancy tech here. The LyteRacer TS 7 is as traditional as a road racer can get. The upper has a secure fit, courtesy of the regular mesh and synthetic suede.
The low-profile EVA foam midsole has an 8 mm offset and a plastic midfoot shank. There’s no DSP under the forefoot but the small lugs offer excellent grip during toe-offs.
7) Asics Heatracer 2
Like the Lyteracer TS7, the Asics Heatracer 2 is a simple road racer with a traditional form factor. This is also a racer that retails below $100, and that’s good value in our eyes.
Instead of a full-length Flytefoam midsole, Asics uses EVA foam with a tiny Flytefoam plug under the forefoot. There’s nothing that stands out on the upper – just a basic, all-mesh upper that breathes well and fits narrow. Asics running shoes have become better looking in the past year, and the HeatRacer is no exception.
Though the outsole does not have aggressive micro-lugs like the Tartheredge, the grip levels are satisfactory.
If you ask us, the Heatracer V2 is a nicely executed and well priced racing shoe that blends cushioning comfort with a fast ride.
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.