carbon plate running shoes

Carbon Plate Running Shoes

Carbon plate running shoes are also known as ‘supershoes’.  This term describes running shoes with a thicker, lightweight foam midsole and a carbon-fiber plate embedded within the midsole.  Nike’s Vaporfly was the first running show to include a carbon plate, and their popularity, along with their performance, prompted a new series of running shoes.

In this guide we are going to take a look at running shorts in more detail.

What Are Carbon Plated Running Shoes?

These shoes have a carbon plate in the mid sole of the shoe to give a degree of rigidity, it also enhances the energy return produced at every step because of the additional stiffness. The reason for using carbon is because it can withstand heavy loads but is also very light.

Nike were the first to introduce these types of running shoes with the ‘Vaporfly’ running shoe. The original carbon plate was flat, however in many cases, it has evolved to one that is curved, like a rocker ski, which companies like Nike claim add to the benefits.

How Do Carbon Plated Running Shoes Work?

On every step, the stiff carbon fibre plate helps the foam in the sole compress and expand more quickly, returning more energy to the runner. 

The carbon fibre plate also helps stabilise the runner’s ankle, reducing rotational force and lessening the workload for the calves, in theory helping runners stay fresher for longer through the race and recover more quickly afterwards. Reduced flexion at the ankle joint allows you to propel yourself forward with less effort. Curved plates lift your heel faster to promote forward momentum. The plate keeps the toes straight, further reducing energy loss.

How Much Faster Are Carbon Plate Running Shoes?

Running shoes with carbon plates have revolutionized the running shoe market in recent years.

This is because these shoes have ensured that almost all world records over the long-distance disciplines on the road have been improved in recent years. Amateur runners are also increasingly affording these models, although not all runners will actually benefit from this technology.

Top runners estimate a time savings of about two to three seconds per kilometer over long distances. That doesn't sound like a lot, but in elite sports it's a world away. For example, someone who used to run a marathon in 2:04 hours now has the opportunity to run a time of 2:02 hours with the carbon shoes. At major city marathons, that could mean the difference between winning or finishing outside the top ranks.

Meanwhile, nearly all podium finishes in major marathon events are achieved by athletes wearing carbon running shoes. However, that's hardly surprising anyway, since hardly any professionals want to do without this technology in long running competitions.

Do Carbon Plate Running Shoes Cause Plantar Fasciitis Or Achilles Problems?

Stiff running shoes, which can force the Achilles to twist, can cause some cases of achilles problems. Runners who overpronate (when the feet rotate too far inward on impact) are most susceptible to Achilles tendinitis.

Plantar Fasciitis (chronic heel pain) can be reduced and in some cases prevention by using certain types of running shoe.  Shoes with a large stack height can help reduce the load on the heel and the achilles. A mid section with firm but well cushioned arch support can also help alleviate symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Lastly a fairly firm toe section that reduces toe extension can also help.

How Long Do Carbon Plate Running Shoes Last?

Carbon plate running shoes should be treated the same as any other running shoes, most experts agree their ‘lifetime’ is 400-500 miles (however long that takes). If there are no obvious signs of wear and tear after that time and they are giving the same support you may be able to wear them a little longer and not cause injury.  Heavier weight runners tend to wear out their running shoes faster than lighter people, solely due to the increased impact with every step.

Who Should Use Carbon Plate Running Shoes?

When they first burst onto the scene, carbon plate running shoes were solely for elite athletes who wanted to chase records.  Now though, five years since Nike’s Vaporflys burst onto the scene, more and more noncompetitive runners are opting towards buying ‘supershoes’.

There are a few reasons why this may be: competitors to Nike have shaken up the market meaning the price point for certain brands of supershoe aren’t quite so high.

People wanting simply to improve their speed even if it isn’t for competitions and lastly some may be trying carbon plate running shoes to see if they can provide them more comfort / correct running styles compared to traditional running shoes.

Are Carbon Plate Running Shoes Legal?

There has been an ongoing debate over whether carbon plates offer athletes an unfair advantage and whether they need to be banned or regulated for competition, for now though they are legal and are very popular amongst the running community.

Should Carbon Plated Shoes Be Banned?

Personally I don't think they should be banned. Technology improves all the time, as does track surfaces, coaching methods, and nutrition. No one complained when Paula Radcliffe broke the women's world record all those years ago wearing Nike's most innovative trainers and no one complained when Michael Johnson broke the world record wearing Nike's lightest spikes. Shoe technology will continue to improve. 

The Best Carbon Plated Running Shoes For Half Marathons To Marathon Distance 

1 - Nike Alphafly Next%

Price: £270 | Buy now from Nike

 PROS CONS
  • Fantastic energy return
  • Quicker recovery
  • Expensive
  • Not the best for cornering or stability

A carbon-plate competition shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, has been favoured by professional athletes Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei. Should you purchase it? We've looked at a lot of reviews from both professional and amateur athletes to help you decide.

In conclusion, the Nike Alphafly is the greatest of the Nike series in terms of performance. Its high price and cutting-edge configuration, on the other hand, are aimed especially at elite athletes who demand the finest.

The general consensus seems to be use the Alphafly for half marathons and marathon distance and the Vaporfly for 5k to 10k.

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2 - Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3

Price: £220 | Buy now from Pro:Direct Running

 PROS CONS
  • Celermesh 2.0 upper for breathability
  • Energy Rods 2.0 provide spring/bounce
  • Made from 50% recycled materials
  • Some runners have reported that they are harsh inside and can rub. 
  • Can take a few runs to break in
  • Can come up small

The Adizero Adios Pro 3 is the ultimate long-distance road racing shoe; the mesh upper hugs the foot as if it’s a second skin, whilst allowing airflow to keep your feet cool. 

The soles are cushioned using Lightstrike Cushioning; two layers of foam that will support your feet through the gait cycle whilst remaining as lightweight as possible. Embedded in the midsole are optimised ENERGYRODS 2.0 which support your foot as you run and propel you forward. 

The outer soles are made from Continental rubber giving extraordinary traction in wet and dry conditions. The rubber construction of the outsole is highly durable, resisting wear as it comes into contact with the ground for longer-lasting wear.

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3 - Asics Metaspeed Sky+

Price: £225 | Buy now from Sportshoes.com

 PROS CONS
  • For and rearfoot support
  • Ventilated and no seam upper
  • High performance midsole
  • Elite racing shoe that may not work for beginners

The Asics Metaspeed Sky running shoes are designed for power and speed, these shoes are specifically crafted to help runners who produce a longer stride and tend to exert more force at toe-off.

The FF Blast Turbo midsole compresses before quickly snapping back to its original shape, to enable you to get the maximum power with every stride. The midsole is curved, reducing ankle flexion allowing runners to conserve energy. These running shoes also offer forefoot and rearfoot support in the form of thicker material surrounding vulnerable areas of the foot.

The jacquard mesh on the upper of the Metaspeed Sky is designed to fit like a second skin. The material will sit comfortably over the foot, moving and flexing to allow you to make a full range of movement without any restrictions. The no-sew construction of the upper will also encourage targeted airflow, whilst it will also remove the risk of irritations being caused by rubbing and chafing.

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4 - New Balance FuelCell RC Elite

Price: £210 | Buy now from New Balance

 PROS CONS
  • Great stability
  • Excellent grip
  • Very breathable
  • The tongue can slide

The New Balance Fuelcell RC Elite are marathon running supershoes that combine a full length carbon plate with high density Fuelcell foam in the midsole. The FuelCell midsole compound is a nitrogen-infused foam that cushions, provides springy rebounds and delivers long-lasting performance.  Due to the shape of the midsole these running shoes would be good for runners who over pronate.

They use a very breathable knitted upper with 3d printed logos; the result being barely there, lightweight support. The lightweight outer sole is extremely grippy and the cut out midfoot reduces weight.

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5 - Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

Price: £210 | Buy now from Pro:Direct Running

 PROS CONS
  • Very springy and bouncy
  • True to size
  • Very lightweight
  • Firmer energy return carbon plate

The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 shoes are super lightweight and designed for speed.  They have form fitting mesh uppers to keep your feet feeling secure and comfortable, as well as promoting air flow. The tongue is very thin with holes in it to provide additional ventilation.

PWRRUN PB technology in the mid sole provides lightweight and springy cushioning to always keep your feet comfortable. The PWRRUN PB Foam technology is 40% lighter than its PWRRUN predecessor. Sandwiched in between two layers of the foam, the Endorphin Pro 3 features an S-Curved carbon-fibre plate, this technology supports your foot as you move through your gait cycle.  

This shoe has an XT-900 rubber sole, for great grip even on greasy roads.

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The Best Carbon Plated Running Shoes For 5K To 10K Distance

1 - Nike Vaporfly Next% 2

Price: £225 | Buy now from Nike

nike vaporfly next% 2 carbon plated running shoes
 PROS CONS
  • Springboard type carbon plate
  • More comfortable upper compared to previous versions
  • Narrow midfoot with prominent arch
  • Short tongue

The Nike Zoom X Vaporfly Next% 2 is the latest generation of the fabled Vaporflys. The original Vaporfly shoes by Nike were the first to have carbon plates, before it became a ‘thing’. What makes it so special is its unique forefoot geometry that provides a forward-tipping sensation during each toe-off.

The Vaporfly Next% 2 is the third iteration of the Vaporfly series, and it is only a minor update. This version is an upper-only update that improves the fit and comfort of the shoe. The midsole and outsole are the same as the previous version.

Not only is it one of the lightest super shoes but it’s also one of the most cushioned and propulsive. The Vaporfly Next% 2’s midsole stack height is 40mm in the heel, the maximum allowed by World Athletics, so you get a ton of cushioning and very little ground feel. What makes the Vaporfly so fast is its full-length carbon plate which provides the spring-loaded propulsion.

The Vaporfly Next% 2 has a unique design in that its forefoot is angled upwards, but the high toe-spring isn’t rounded so it doesn’t work as a rocker like in other super shoes. It’s also great for tempo, threshold or speed work sessions.

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2 - Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 8

Price: £170 | Buy now from Adidas

 PROS CONS
  • Feel like a minimal old school racing shoe with a energy return
  • Bit of plastic feel to them

Find your fastest tempo in the Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 8 running shoes which are designed for 5K to half marathon road races but we think like many others these are at the best for the short distances of 5K to 10K.

The Lightstrike Pro cushioning energises your stride while Adidas's version of a carbon plate which they call ENERGYRODS add stiffness for snappy toe-offs.

The upper has a barely there feel which makes the shoe incredibly light. It is made with a series of recycled materials, with the upper features at least 50% recycled content. This shoe represents just one of Adidas's solutions to help end plastic waste.

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3 - Puma Deviate Nitro Elite Racer

Price: £170 | Buy now from Pro:Direct Running

 PROS CONS
  • Light and fast
  • Soft and boucny
  • Reflective detailing
  • Plain styling
  • Lower stack height than some of shoes

The Puma Deviate Nitro Elite Racers use Nitro Elite foam cushioning in the midsole and full length carbon fibre Innoplate for maximum energy transfer, as well as a heel piece that boosts stability. The upper is made of mesh and in some areas is completely see through! So naturally it affords a lot of ventilation and yet maintains foot stability.  The running shoes are super light and as such are perfect for 5k and 10k distances, they have enough support and stability for longer runs.

The outsole uses PumaGrip LT which is a complete rubber outsole that is very durable and offers great grip, it also adds stability to the soft foam above, and some stability to the soft foam above. 

These shoes have become more high profile since Molly Seidel put them on the map with her third place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games marathon.

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4 - Hoka Carbon X 3

Price: £170 | Buy now from Hoka

 PROS CONS
  • Light but supportive
  • Great styleing / colours
  • Good price point
  • Sizing comes out large
  • Stiff and can be hard to get on
  • Long tongue / stitching in hell can cause chafing

The Hoka Carbon X 3 gives you cushioning, comfort and most of all propulsion. The Profly midsole is high density and cushions the tread to real speed and a boost while the softer density foam has been used on top to increase underfoot comfort and provide the perfect amount of resilience and response.

The carbon plate gives structural support as well as increasing propulsion. The carbon plate helps to maintain the meta-rocker action; designed to increase running efficiency. 

Constructed with a recycled, vegan yarn mesh the Hoka Carbon X 3 Running Shoes offers a secure fit that hugs the foot for optimum comfort and flexibility.

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5 - On Cloudboom Echo 3

Price: $249 | Buy now from On-Running

 PROS CONS
  • Excellent cushioning
  • Mkae you run quicker
  • Superlight
  • Narrow outsole under the heel can inform your running form too much unless you're a a seasoned runner

The Cloudboom Echo 3 running shoes are designed for long distance road running competitions, they are highly cushioned and on top of the additional midsole cushioning, there’s a carbon fiber infused propulsion plate sandwiched between two Helion foam outsoles. 

These features give the Cloudboom Echo a very cushioned feel underfoot for running long distances fast. This all comes with the benefit of being propelled forward with the help of the springy carbon fiber plate. The Cloudboom Echo‘s upper mesh is single walled and extremely breathable.

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The Best Carbon Plated Running Shoes For Interval Training & Tempo Runs

1 - Saucony Endorphin Speed 3

Price: £165 | Buy now from Pro:Direct Running

 PROS CONS
  • Great traction
  • Support and propulsion
  • Upper doesn't lock feet in very securely - wider fit
  • Colour runs off foam midsole easily in all blue colourway

The Saucony Endorphine Speed 3 running shoe has a minimal, engineered mesh upper that encases each foot in breathable comfort. The perforated mesh allows cool air to flow throughout the shoe, however the footbed is on the wide side and some have reported that the upper does not lock the feet down securely.

The Endorphin Speed has been constructed using Saucony's signature ultralight and springy PWRRUN PB cushioning. PWRRUN PB provides lightweight and springy cushioning and an ultralight composite plate in an S-curve, winged shape which provides support and energy return. The new winged plate is designed to keep you within the shoe and over the centerline.

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2 - Nike Tempo Next%

Price: £180 | Buy now from Nike

 PROS CONS
  • Great for long runs
  • Fast - pushes you forward
  • Lightweight
  • Poor traction on wet surfaces
  • Stability could be better
  • Noisy

The Nike Tempo Next % is built for daily training at long and short distance.  It is marketed by Nike as the ‘everyday version of the Alphafly’. The major difference between this shoe and the Alphafly is the addition of React foam in the midfoot-to-heel segment, a little more rubber in the heel, and, instead of a carbon plate like the Alphafly, the Tempo has a composite plate. 

This shoe works well at a faster pace, but users have reported that at more steady speeds the shoe feels clunky and unbalanced.

The Tempo NEXT% is designed to be a fast training shoe, so not excelling at easy runs isn’t necessarily a problem, but it does restrict the market for it.

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3 - Nike Zoom Fly 5

Price: £145 | Buy now form Nike

 PROS CONS
  • Excellent cushioning
  • Great for long runs
  • Best for speed work
  • Fit is snug
  • Grip could be better
  • Midsole wears easily

The Nike Zoom Fly is meant for fast runs, both tempo runs and races.  The collar is very cushioned, and the tongue is offset which helps to hug the foot and keep it in place. The laces stay in place and secure the foot well and the upper material is very breathable.

The midsoles are constructed of Zoom Foam, giving a great amount of cushioning and the stack height is very high. The midsole has a carbon plate inside which leads to rigidity and helps with energy return and propulsion.

These running shoes are not built for regular training runs – more for speed training and race days. 

The Nike Zoom Fly shoes don’t have a great amount of arch support, so along with the narrow width of the shoe and the height of midsole, it isn’t well suited to runners who overpronate when running.

For anything other than pavement/ clean road running they don’t have great grip so this will limit the usage.

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4 - Hoka Bondi X

Price: £180 | Buy now from Hoka

hondi bondi x carbon plated running shoe
 PROS CONS
  • A upgrade on the class Hoka shoe

One of the most iconic Hoka models is the Bondi running shoe and the Bondi  has received a carbon plate upgrade.

In a nutshell, the Hoka Bondi retains its original DNA but with the addition of a carbon plate!

For people who like the original, you will be happy with the upgrade that gives you a little spring in your step as well as the cushioning you expect. 

If you’re looking for a reliable and comfortable running shoe that gives you a little bit of energy return, the Hoka Bondi X is definitely a contender you should consider.

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Discounts

In the early days it was hard to even get your hands on a pair of Nike Vaporflys as they would sell out as soon as they were released so it was difficult to get them let alone get them cheaper. 

However, it is worth shopping around as the prices are getting more competitive with many sites regularly having sales on now especially at key times of the year like Black Friday. I got a pair of Nike Vaporlfy's from Pro:Direct Running from £225 to £170. 

Someone at Pro:Direct Running also made the error of pricing the Nike Alphafly's for 56% OFF at £106 when it should have been £206! However, they quickly noticed the mistake, cancelled everyones orders and presumably gave a massive telling off to the employee with naughty fingers.  

You Wont Go Back...

Carbon plated running shoes are a fantastic advancement in shoe technology. The exciting thing is, we are still in the early stages of this new development and fully expect them to keep getting better.  Soon you will even have a range of carbon plated running shoes in other running niches like trail running. 

The only thing we can guarantee, is which ever pair of carbon running shoes you choose, you will never go back to normal racing running shoes because the energy return and speed is to good. 

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