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Adidas Adizero RC 3 Review: Keeping the Traditional Racing Flat Alive
By Chief Editor Matt Klein and Senior Contributor David Salas

In the days of super shoes we don't see too many "traditional" racing flats. Well that's not the case here. The Adidas RC3 is almost the definition of a traditional racer. The shoe features a minimal lightweight upper, a firmer ride with a high drop ratio, and good traction and outsole coverage. In the elite world you don't see too many athletes racing in this per se, but plenty of adidas athletes using this shoe for trackwork for all of things above mentioned. Athletes like Drew Hunter and Dom Scott have used the RC for mile repeats down to 1k's approximately. However, I did see these on the feet of Reed Fischer at the Mt. Sac Pro race this last weekend. 

Adidas Adizero RC 3
Price: $100 at Adidas (now on sale for $80)
Weight: 7.4 oz  (men's size 9)  
Stack Height: 21.5mm heel / 12 mm forefoot
Drop: 9.5 mm 
Classification: Racing Flat // Workout Companion


Matt: Thee Adidas RC 3 is a more traditional racing flat/workout shoe with a firmer ride for those who good ground feel on a variety of surfaces. A fantastic workout shoe for those who want something light with a little more drop but plenty of room in the upper. The Adidas Adizero RC 3 is a rare shoe in today's market, but is lightweight, comfortable and can move as fast as you can.

David: The Adidas RC 3 is a traditional racing flat featuring a low riding design that will work great for those looking to feel the ground underneath you. Many athletes use this shoe or similar types of models for track and speed work when they are not in spikes. The shoe is certainly firm riding but gives you feeling lightweight "all you" feeling that is familiar to the track.


Matt: The Adidas Adizero RC 3 fits me true to size in my normal men's size US 10. The fit is secure, but has plenty of room. The heel and midfoot are a bit more snug, but open into a wider forefoot for a racer/workout shoe. The upper material is a comfortable mesh that provides plenty of room up front. It is slightly thick, but the trade off is comfort. There is an external heel counter that is flexible. Combined with the light heel collar cushioning I had no trouble in the rearfoot. Despite the relatively wide forefoot, I did not have to lace lock the shoe to get a secure fit. Quick turning was not the most secure as I felt a little translation up front, but overall had no issue. Running sockless is a possibility for those who are experienced as there is some internal stitching in the midfoot. However, with the slightly wider fit up front, I would go with socks. Overall this upper is comfortable and will work for those who want a little more room in the forefoot or those who want a racer/workout shoe with a slightly relaxed upper fit.

I think the fit of the RC 3 is done very well. The width is normal through the heel and midfoot for a performance shoe (normal to slightly snug). The toe box and forefoot is normal to slightly wide. The tongue is padded very well and allows for you to lock the shoe down tightly if that's your thing without having to worry about irritation to the dorsum of the foot. The mesh upper is lightly reinforced throughout with very minimalistic overlays that help it keep its structure. I do think the mesh itself may be a little thick for a shoe of this kind of profile but it still breathes really well. There is a heel counter present that is structured a little more than most racing shoes, but it is integrated really well and does seem to give a nice sense of security in the region. Overall I am very happy with the upper. The only things may be that the shoe is slightly long (normal for adidas performance shoes for me) and just the thickness of the material. 


Matt: The Adidas Adizero RC 3 is a slightly firmer workout/racing shoe. The forefoot rides close to the ground with good ground feel and solid traction on a variety of surfaces. There is a higher 9.5 mm drop that is evident thanks to the firmer Lightstrike. So those who want drop in a racing/workout shoe will do well here. The forefoot is flexible with a solid transition at higher speeds if you have enough toe flexibility. The rearfoot is firmer initially then breaks in. There is a small heel bevel that once the shoe breaks in improves the heel. For the most part, the heel is more solid and a little clunky initially. This is not noticeable as the pace picks up, making this shoe better for workouts or races. The traction on the outsole is good and can handle a variety of terrain. I have run on trail and wet road without issue. It does not have a rock plate, so rocky trails are not a great idea given how thin the forefoot is, but XC courses, road and light trail are all surfaces this shoe can handle. In regards to workouts and races, the RC 3 can handle both short intervals thanks to the lightweight and close to the ground ride as well as tempo runs thanks to the extra Lightstrike in the heel. Due to the firmer ride, most people will find this works as 5k-10k shoe for road races and XC courses. For those who can handle firmer shoes, this will ride very similar to older marathon shoes. So for those wanting a more traditional ride, this shoe will work well. For those who want a simple and durable workout shoe, the RC 3 will do well. I have almost 60 miles on my pair and there is barely any wear on the outsole. This shoe can be found for under $80 now, so it is a simple, effective and affordable faster shoe option. 

David: The adidas RC 3 is exactly what you sign up for. The shoe rides pretty close to the ground but provides just enough protection to log some longer high effort miles. The drop ratio for me is very noticeable. I don't land super hard at initial contact and so the shoe did feel a tad slappy to me through the midfoot and forefoot. That's not a deal breaker for me, as the transition feels nice through the forefoot/toe off with just enough flexibility for a natural feel. I will note though that because of that high drop ratio there was an adjustment period for me as I would notice a lot more work in my tibialis anterior controlling the motion through loading response. The blown rubber outsole with nearly full contact coverage provides great traction and I feel confident taking this both on track and XC conditions. The shoe has a small but effective posterior lateral heel bevel which does help with easing the transition at initial contact. The torsion system underfoot does feel that it helps with stabilizing the transitions through that region. I'm not sure I feel it help out with any responsiveness, but it does seem to impact the shoe positively, especially since it bifurcates along the medial and lateral aspect of the early forefoot. At the end of the day this is a shoe that is all you, and there is something I really like about that. 


Matt: The Adidas RC 3 is a neutral workout shoe. There are no traditional methods of stability. However as someone who needs stability, I found this shoe to have just enough for me to use for workouts. The torsion system is bifurcates in the heel and forefoot, adding additional torsional rigidity to the sole. There is a solid amount of sole flare in the forefoot and heel, which adds some subtle natural stability. However, the forefoot does narrow, so those who need stability there may only be able to handle short distances in this shoe. However at the heel, there is a surprising amount of medial sole flare, so those who need medial stability at the heel will do well here. 

David: Overall the stability on the RC 3 is done really well. The shoe is a little bit lower riding than most shoes on the market which does help keep a closer connection to the ground. The midsole also leans to be on the firmer end which also makes the shoe feel a little bit more stable underfoot. The traction and outsole is done very well which makes me feel much more trusty on my feet. The upper locks down well throughout and keeps the foot on the platform. For a racing flat I'm not sure they could really improve in the stability category. They did a great job. 


The Value of a Shoe Like the RC3, by Matt Klein
With the number of fancy carbon plated, super foam shoes coming out, some people may ask if the Adidas Adizero RC 3 still has a place in a running shoe line. I would definitely say yes, but it depends on the person. The affordability is quite high for this shoe, which at $80 is a great deal for how durable and light this shoe. The other factor is that sometimes not having a plate can make a shoe great for some people. Having different shoes available is important as everyone has different biomechanics. For those who do not want a maximal ride, want good forefoot flexibility, good ground feel and a higher drop, the Adizero RC 3 fits perfectly. It is also lighter than many of the other carbon plated racer out there.

We know from research that different people will do better in certain shoes and not others. We know that each person benefits from different levels of sole stiffness (McLeod et al., 2020). Some people may do well with stiff soles with carbon plates, while others may need flexible rides. Some people may be able to handle maximal cushioning, while others may not. We also know that when it comes to carbon plates, if the curve does not line up with the 1st MTP joint, then it will not improve running economy and may actually require more work from the runner (Beck et al., 2020; McLeod eta l., 2020).

Some people do not like carbon plated or super foamed shoes and just want something simple and light. For those who want a little more drop, that is where a shoe like the Adizero RC 3 comes in. So it is still relevant, just in a different way compared to footwear design in the past.


Beck, O. N., Golyski, P. R., & Sawicki, G. S. (2020). Adding carbon fiber to shoe soles may not improve running economy: a muscle-level explanation. 
Scientific reports10(1), 1-13.

McLeod, A. R., Bruening, D., Johnson, A. W., Ward, J., & Hunter, I. (2020). Improving running economy through altered shoe bending stiffness across speeds. 
Footwear Science12(2), 79-89.


Matt: The Adidas Adizero RC 3 sits in a great place as an affordable workout/race shoe that is a bit more traditional. My recommendations are going to depend on where Adidas plans to take this shoe, as they already have the Takumi Sen, Adios and Adios Pro series. To further differentiate this shoe, I would love Adidas to change the upper to a celermesh style like the other Adizero shoes. I love this upper, but if this is meant to be a more traditional performance shoe, would like it updated in order to drop more weight. I know I sound like a broken record, but I would like to see a slightly larger lateral heel bevel in this shoe. Adidas normally does that really well and I think this is necessary with the higher drop and firmer lightstrike.

David: My main recommendations for the RC 3 may actually be to reduce the drop ratio a tad to maybe 8mm. That would make the shoe a little less slappy for me and would make it easier on the shins (part of that is me getting spoiled by rockers I'm sure though). I think the upper material could be thinned out a little better too. I really liked the original celermesh and was sad to see it updated this way.


Matt: The Adidas Adizero RC3 is a workout shoe / racing shoe for those who want a traditional racing shoe design or a higher drop, firmer riding fast day shoe. The traction is good enough for track, trail or road for those who want a higher drop shoe. The weight is low, making it easy to turn the legs over in. The low stack height in the forefoot combined with the high level of flexibility means that those used to maximal shoes should transition cautiously into this shoe, but those craving more flexibility and ground feel will love the more traditional racing flat design.

David: The Adidas RC 3 is a racing flat or workout companion for those looking for a traditional racing flat. The shoe is low riding and provides a firm and natural "all you" feel. The shoe does have a little bit of a high drop for a shoe in this category and I did notice a little bit more work in the front of my shins but with some training that will go away. This is an excellent option for track and speed work and potentially some XC racing. Those who are used to low profile shoes, this could also double as a trainer, just not for me personally on that front. 


Fit: A- (Comfortable upper with wider forefoot. Secure fit despite flexible heel counter)
B (A slightly clunky rearfoot that breaks in. Fast forefoot with quick transition. Overall firmer ride with good ground feel that works on both road and light trails)
Stability: B (Solid medial heel flare that stabilizes heel, narrow midfoot but solid ground feel that helps with proprioception
DPT/Footwear Science: B (A workout/racing shoe that uses concepts from the past well. Nothing new here)
Personal: B+ (A solid choice for workouts and shorter runs for me. I always take this shoe farther than expected. A little firm for my tastes now, but works well)
Overall: B+ (A traditional flat that doesn't do anything new, but provides an option for those who want something affordable and not complicated)

Fit: A- (Fit and dimensions are done really well. Locks down great, but material could be thinned a little bit.)
B+ (You get what you sign up for. Relatively firm and natural ride under foot. Nothing revolutionary but a lightweight traditional performance shoe. Drop ratio may be a tad high)
Stability: A (Good lockdown, good ground feel, great outsole coverage and traction.)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (A good shoe that continues on the past footwear we've seen, nothing revolutionary though)
Personal: B+ (I want to give it an A- but the drop ratio and midfoot transition does make my shins work a little more than I'd like. If that was cleaned up this would easily be a shoe I'd reach for on speed days.)
Overall: B+/A- (A great option for track work and speed workouts for those looking to have a low riding traditional racing shoe with no new age foams or plates. If you like high drop ratios and heel stability even better.)


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Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 to 70 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, 

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Running Warehouse for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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