Running shoes with a carbon fiber plate are here to stay whether you like it or not (and chances are you will, especially if you’re chasing a PB). A technological breakthrough in running shoe technology, born out of the Nike Breaking 2 project, now has just about every running shoe brand producing carbon plate running shoes – although not all are created equal and that ‘they certainly don’t work the same way.
The shoes listed below, unless otherwise specified, are designed for longer runs starting from the half marathon. That’s not to say they won’t feel great on a smooth 5k run, but that’s not what they’re ultimately designed for, so recommendations are based on use at pace, in more races. long.
Why is rhythm important? When you run fast (regardless of your speed), you run with greater efficiency and these shoes are designed to improve that efficiency, so that’s when you get the most out of it.
Carbon plate running shoes all sit around the 40mm stack height (the maximum height for a shoe stack as defined by World Athletics), which is a lot of foam/shoe. This means that if you wear minimal shoes or just someone who likes to “feel” the ground when running, these might not be for you, as there is a certain disconnect that happens with anyone. what a bigger shoe. That’s not to say you’ll walk without feeling your feet on the ground, but there is a degree of instability that comes with a larger shoe.
The shoes have been tested by a variety of runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities over a wide range of distances, but with a primary marathon focus.
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Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2
The shoe that can trace its roots back to the beginning, the Nike Next%2 is still the benchmark that other carbon fiber running shoes aim for, at least in popularity. Just take a look at runners’ feet during races and the flashes of green and pink will tell you how commonplace they’ve become.
They’re slightly sturdier than previous versions and will get you through several runs before they’re destined for the back of the closet, but they’re still a lightweight, stripped-down running shoe, meaning you don’t want to do too many runs. training in them.
However, on race day you will find that
Adizero Adios Pro 2.0 Shoes
If big race wins are any barometer of a shoe’s quality, since its first appearance the Adizero Adios Pro has helped a number of elites to the top step of the podium, such as Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir, which won women’s marathon gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This latest version is a fast and comfortable shoe, with no carbon plate as such in the midsole, but five energy rods (mimicking the five metatarsal bones of the foot). The lack of a full carbon plate doesn’t diminish the performance of these shoes, and if you’re looking for a race day shoe for under £200 then these are the real deal.
They’re also among the best-looking shoes on this list — so you know you’ll look flawless on race day.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% Flyknit
The most expensive shoe on the list, and perhaps the most revered, is the one if you have Kipchoghe expectations of your shoes.
With two airpods under the forefoot, combined with a ZoomX foam wedge and a custom carbon plate, this really is a thoroughbred running shoe. And while he’s comfortable when he’s trudging, he just wants to go fast and show you what he’s capable of. You just need to make sure you’re ready to follow!
FuelCell RC Elite v2
If your criteria for a quality race day shoe is comfort and performance, then the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite is the shoe for you. Its high stack height of FuelCell foam provides a comfortable ride, while the carbon fiber plate adds the dynamism you need to pick up the pace.
The only real comfort benefit is a bit more weight for the shoe compared to others, but that’s marginal when other factors are taken into account. If you’re an NB fan, its carbon offering is a solid choice.
ASICS entered the carbon shoe battle a little later than the others, but they came into full force with the Metaspeed Sky. Compared to the Vaporfly from a performance standpoint, ASICS has done a great job of finding the right balance between ride comfort and top speed.
Unlike the Vaporfly, however, the 33m stack height and slightly firmer ride feel. This gives the shoe a snappy and fast feel over all running distances. The shoe’s versatility and performance really impressed us.
Brooks Hyperion Elite 2
Ever since Des Linden won the Boston Marathon in a prototype of the first shoe, the Hyperion Elite has always had the accolades for carbon shoe performance, but fell short (firm ride, short life, etc.).
Version 2, however, is different and, for the current price – £100 less than the top-end shoes – delivers in spades with its springy ride feel.
A real benefit of the shoe is that once on the foot it feels less noticeable than some of the other shoes, but it’s still great when you pick up the pace.
Hoka Carbon X 3 Running Shoes
If there was a great everyday shoe, then the Carbon X 3 would be it. It’s the ease of use and versatility that makes this shoe so great, rather than its outstanding performance.
That might just be a drawback for those who only have a pure running shoe, but if you want to spend your hard-earned cash on a shoe that can be used for training AND running and a few other things (and you glad you’re not X% faster), then this is a smart option.
The racing feel is more subdued than the Vaporfly or RC, but it’s no lame horse – remember Jim Walmsley running 100K in the Carbon X 2? It’s just that it doesn’t quite pack the punch of the other shoes on this list.
Endorphin Pro 2 for Men
A PEBA midsole, carbon plate, and rocker profile all help make the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 one of the best shoes we’ve tested. The shoe is nimble for a tall shoe, offers a smooth ride thanks to the rocker, and there’s a real feeling of plate propulsion when you dig.
We’re also very drawn to the orange and yellow colorways, which offer something a little different from the patterned fluro that’s become commonplace with carbon shoes.
If you’re running a PB marathon this year, you really can’t go wrong with this shoe.
Deviate Nitro Elite Racer
All our testers rated this shoe which, to be honest, surprised us a bit. Puma has been a bit hit and miss with running shoes for the past few years, but the Deviate line has been impressive and this shoe is the crowning glory.
For £160 you get a lot of good stuff for little weight: it has all the hallmarks of a proper running shoe, like a special nitrogen-infused PEBA midsole and carbon plate, but is lighter than the most carbon shoes (about 200g, depending on size). . This provides a fast yet comfortable and cushioned ride feel that will have you flying on race day. Carbon performance at a slightly more affordable price.
This being an On shoe, the ride is firm and direct and the carbon plate only enhances those characteristics. The shoe’s rocker profile gives it a smoothness throughout the gait cycle that makes it efficient and stable – more precise, perhaps, than some of the other shoes on this list. However, it lacks cushioning and this becomes more noticeable the further you go in it.
The price is the biggest limit to the selection of these shoes. This puts them in the middle of the Vaporfly, RC and Metaspeed, which our testers felt gave more bang for their buck in terms of comfort and performance.
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