In recent years, there has been a buzz in the running world about carbon-plated shoes. These shoes are touted to improve running performance by providing better energy return and reducing the amount of energy lost during each foot strike. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at carbon-plated shoes and examine their impact on running.
Carbon-plated shoes are designed with a carbon fiber plate embedded in the midsole of the shoe. The plate is usually curved, running from the heel to the toe of the shoe, and is designed to act as a springboard. When the runner lands on their foot, the plate compresses, storing energy, and then releases it during toe-off, propelling the runner forward.
The most well-known carbon-plated shoes are Nike's Vaporfly and Alphafly, which have been credited with breaking records and improving running times. Nike emphasized this point by naming their early iteration the "Vaporfly 4%" after tests showed it required an average of 4% less energy to run at a given pace compared with regular shoes. However, other brands such as Hoka and New Balance have also introduced their own versions of carbon-plated shoes as well.
Those who have either completed a marathon or understand the commitment and effort required, can recognize that a reduction of 4% in exertion is not a minor improvement but a significant advantage. For instance, a runner who completes a marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes could potentially shave off approximately 8 minutes from their overall time (finishing at around 3 hours and 22 minutes) – a feat that would otherwise take several years of rigorous training to achieve.
So, what makes these shoes so special? The Carbon Fiber plate provides a stiffness and springiness to the shoe that is not found in traditional running shoes. This means that less energy is lost during each foot strike, and more energy is returned during toe-off, resulting in a more efficient stride.
It’s important to note that carbon-plated shoes are not a magic bullet for running performance. They cannot make up for poor training, lack of fitness, or bad running form. In fact, wearing carbon-plated shoes may lead to overstriding and other biomechanical issues if the runner is not used to the stiffness and responsiveness of the shoe.
Carbon-plated shoes offer real benefits to runners in terms of improved energy return and running economy. However, they are not a substitute for good training and proper form. If you’re considering investing in carbon-plated shoes, read on to compare different models.
Nike Vaporfly Next% 3
The “super shoe” that started it all! THE ELITE RACING POWERHOUSE.
Catch 'em if you can. Giving you race-day speed to conquer any distance, the Nike Vaporfly 3 is made for the chasers, the racers, the elevated pacers who can't turn down the thrill of the pursuit.
Nike Zoom Fly 5
Bridge the gap between your weekend training run and race day in a durable design that can be deployed not just at the starting line of your favorite race but in the days and months after your conquest. It offers comfort and reliability but with a propulsive sensation that’ll help you feel fast and fresh. That kind of versatility is uncommon in the running arena. But who said you can’t have it all?
New Balance SuperComp Pacer
Designed for 5k to half-marathon distances, our FuelCell SuperComp Pacer contains Energy Arc technology, a carbon fiber plate and a double-layer springy FuelCell midsole to help propel your strides forward. These men's racing flats also feature a single-layer engineered mesh upper for breathability and a lightweight feel. The sleek design offers runners a lower stack height racing solution and a snappy ground feel.
New Balance SuperComp Elite
You push yourself to go the distance – get the gear that helps you get the job done. New Balance's FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3 men’s running shoes are built for marathon runners who never let up. The two-layer FuelCell midsole delivers impressive energy return along with innovative Energy Arc technology, and the bootie upper construction provides a locked-in fit and feel. Lightweight and breathable yet packed with technological efficiency, these shoes are made to help optimize your marathon performance.
Saucony Endorphin Pro 3
It's speed over everything when you lace up the Endorphin Pro 3. Designed with a carbon-fiber plate and an even thicker stack of PWRRUN PB foam cushioning, you get more pop underfoot for the ultimate go-fast experience.
Saucony Endorphin Elite
Pushing the limits takes courage. If there's a limit. Saucony pushed it. If there's a PB. They've propelled it. Trust them - after four years of development - it's the turbocharged race shoe you've been waiting for.
Hoka Tecton X
Grippy. Propulsive. Assertive. Coined after the earth’s tectonic plates, which inspired its parallel carbon fiber plate design, the new Tecton X is poised to unleash a seismic shift in trail running. Built for speed and bolstered by a Vibram® Megagrip with Litebase construction outsole for traction, the ProFlyX™ midsole merges a light, responsive foam base and ultra-soft foam underfoot. HOKA’s first trail shoe to incorporate propulsive, parallel carbon fiber plates, the Tecton X is finished with single-layer jacquard engineered mesh for ultimate foot-hugging comfort.
Hoka Bondi X
A maximally cushioned road shoe designed to go the distance, the game-changing Bondi X is spring-loaded with our propulsive carbon-fiber plate. The original Bondi cushioning and lines are here, providing the soft, balanced ride the franchise is known for. The Bondi X fine-tunes the geometry with an extended rocker for greater acceleration, while also delivering smoother toe-offs, thanks to the carbon-fiber plate. HOKA’s extended crash pad acts like a veritable marshmallow, employing the softest foam in our arsenal to date. Paired with a progressive upper with embroidered TPU yarn, the Bondi X will get you there, and then some.
Hoka Transport X
Sleek enough for everyday wear and speedy enough to pick up the pace, this versatile trainer knows no bounds. A crossover shoe with everyday appeal, the Transport X is geared to propel runners through daily life.
Asics Metaspeed Sky+
The METASPEED™ SKY+ racing shoes are designed for stride-style runners who are looking to start fast and finish faster. Runners wearing these shoes will be able to take longer strides while conserving energy with each step. Thanks to an energetic midsole foam and a propulsive carbon plate, runners wearing these shoes will be able to conserve more energy while maintaining their pace at the later stages of the race.
Looking for a carbon pretender?
Meet the Topo Specter - Topo's first-ever high-cushion performance trainer, featuring Topo's distinctive fit and feel. The single-layer engineered mesh upper features recycled materials for a lightweight, secure, and sustainable fit. The 35 x 30 mm platform features a Pebax Powered® core wrapped in an EVA frame to deliver soft cushioning and high energy return with a stable and responsive ride.
Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
Want to feel faster? Meet the Endorphin Speed 3a shoe that's the definition of swift. Designed with a new winged plate that helps support your run from toe-off to landing, it's everything you need to push your pace with ease.
The SUPERBLAST™ shoe is the newest hero of the BLAST series. It creates a lightweight and responsive ride that makes it functional for long runs, tempo runs, and everything in between.
This shoe's upper construction features an asymmetric mesh design. It features different colors on the medial and lateral angles of the shoe for visual interest.
The midsole features a combination of FF BLAST™ PLUS and FF BLAST™ TURBO cushioning. Also used in Asics' METASPEED™ racing models, this foam helps create one of the lightest and bounciest running experiences.