Now that 2023 is coming to an end, it’s time to get back in running and talk about my 13 best carbon plate running shoes of 2023.
As race day approaches, you want to have a great carbon plate shoe on your feet to take advantage of all the hard training you’ve put in over weeks and months.
If you’ve been to a race in the past few years, you’ve likely seen loads of runners wearing carbon-plated racing shoes or maybe you’ve tried them yourself and just couldn’t get enough of them.
But which carbon-plated racer should you choose?
If, for any reason, you’re not considering the Nike Vaporfly, these are some solid alternatives.
Best Carbon Plate Running Shoes
Let me introduce myself – My name is Eric Barber, a non-elite runner who reviews running shoes day in and day out on Steadyfoot.com.
Before we dive in, let me go over some disclosures. I do want to let you know that I have bought all of these shoes with my own money and no one has paid me to write this article or to feature their shoe in this list.
There are so many options to choose from, but let me start with my top five carbon-plated shoes…
Saucony Endorphin Elite
Neutral 〉 W: 6.5 oz 〉 M: 7.3 oz 〉 Drop: 8 mm 〉 Heel: 39 mm 〉 Forefoot: 31 mm
The 2023 shoe year kicked off on a high note with the release of the Endorphin Elite and I’ve been loving it from the very first moment I put it on.
Saucony introduced a new foam for this shoe called PWRRUN HG, a super-critical Peba foam paired with a fork-shaped plate.
When you combine these two components, it creates an experience that I’ve truly been enjoying. The forefoot boasts a spacious landing pad that delivers ample cushioning and an area to spring back as you’re getting into that next ride.
The Endorphin Elite manages to achieve the challenging balance of maximizing the amount of foam packed into it while still maintaining a lightweight feel.
The wonderful combination they’ve achieved makes it wonderful for running those marathon miles, and that’s why the Endorphin Elite is my top carbon-plated shoe of the year 2023.
This is how I’ve been using the Endorphin Elite…
How I’ve Been Using the Endorphin Elite
In my initial testing of the shoe, I did a lot of marathon effort miles. However, more recently, I’ve shifted my focus primarily to threshold mile repeats—a workout that I consider my bread and butter.
The Endorphin Elite is an excellent carbon-plated shoe for marathon and half marathon racing for many runners. And for some, it could even serve as a fantastic 10K racer.
And despite how big it looks, the Endorphin Elite comes in at a very lightweight 7.2 oz. or 204 grams, especially with the trimmed-down upper and the use of a very lightweight foam. It’s a shoe that won’t weigh you down as you strive to turn those legs over quickly.
If the Endorphin Elite has tickled your fancy and you’re looking to build a rotation around it, here are some good options to consider…
If you’re thinking about racing in the Endorphin Elite, I’ve found that pairing it with the Asics GlideRide 3 for your daily training can be quite enjoyable.
The GlideRide 3 offers a pleasant squishy foam with a channel at the bottom to guide your foot forward. It naturally adds some stability with its slightly wider footprint. I think it could be a fun addition to your rotation.
If you’re looking for something between an easy-day shoe and a racing shoe, I think a solid choice for your fartlek sessions or similar workouts would be the Puma Deviate Nitro 2.
The Deviate Nitro 2 features a layer of Puma’s Nitro Elite foam along with a carbon fiber plate. It strikes a good balance, providing comfort for easy runs while also allowing you to pick up the pace effectively.
I believe these three shoes together can form a well-rounded trio in your training, preparing you effectively for your next big race.
I feel like the PWRRUN HG foam used in the Saucony Endorphin Elite strikes a great balance between lightness and squishiness.
It compresses effectively yet springs back with both force and well-timed responsiveness. This quick spring-back has proven beneficial for me not only during marathon effort miles but also at the threshold levels of effort that I’ve been doing more recently.
Something I’ve gradually noticed over the months of running in the Endorphin Elite is that, even though this shoe still looks like it’s very aggressive in terms of how sharply the front of the shoe curls up, it feels like it’s kind of mellowed out more and more.
Either my foot has subconsciously adapted to where it lands in this shoe, or more likely, there’s been a bit of extra compression in that part, softening the transition from the main flat area to the forefoot. It just doesn’t feel as harsh as it did initially.
Now, I’m experiencing a smooth roll-off in the shoe as it makes contact with the ground. I’m pleased to report that this part of the shoe I initially thought might pose an issue turned out to be a non-issue for me.
The material they’ve chosen for the upper is both highly breathable and sturdy. However, it does have a slight abrasive quality. During some early runs, I experienced a bit of rubbing on the top of my toes.
Strangely, my toes were curling up themselves, unintentionally trying to grip the shoe. This caused the knuckles to rise a bit, resulting in some minor bleeding.
Now, I’m not sure if the upper material got a bit softer or the midsole foam has mellowed out, but whatever the reason, my toes aren’t curling up inside the shoe anymore. Since that initial discomfort, I haven’t encountered any issues with the upper at all.
Reaching the 100-mile mark, I can say that this upper has become one of the more comfortable ones I tested in 2023. Saucony is known for crafting excellent uppers for their racing shoes, and although this may be slightly less comfortable due to the material’s rough nature, it still fits me exceptionally well.
So, after hitting the 100-mile mark, I’ve noticed the materials loosening up a bit, but it still maintains that snug racer fit, which is exactly what you’d want in a racing shoe.
Fortunately, none of the materials feel too loose or overstretched, and there’s no sign of premature wear and tear.
The outsole features a thin layer of rubber with no lugs or tread but instead has cutouts and subtle grooves etched into the rubber to enhance overall grip.
Speaking of outsole durability, even though the medial side of the outsole features exposed racing foam, it’s holding up remarkably well.
While there are scuff marks and signs of wear, these haven’t led to any significant grinding or chewed-up pockmarks in the midsole foam.
As I’ve reached the 100-mile mark, I still observe a lot of fine detail in the rubber, which is proof to me that the entire surface of the rubber outsole hasn’t worn down significantly.
The rubber is proving its durability admirably, even though I’ve predominantly used the Endorphin Elite for faster-paced runs, pushing it beyond what I typically subject a daily trainer to.
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Asics Metaspeed Sky+
Neutral 〉 W: 7.2 oz 〉 M: 7.2 oz 〉 Drop: 5 mm 〉 Heel: 37 mm 〉 Forefoot: 32 mm
The Metaspeed Sky+ held the title of my favorite carbon-plated racer last year. It has proven exceptionally effective, earning it the second position on my list this year as well.
Designed for speed, the Sky+ has helped me achieve personal bests in the 5K, 7 Mile, and the marathon.
Let me tell you how I’ve been using it…
How I’ve Been Using the Metaspeed Sky+
Time and again, the Meta Speed Sky+ has proven to be one of my go-to race shoes, and while it’s been marketed as a top-tier super shoe, it unquestionably lives up to that description.
It not only propels me to my desired speed but also provides ample protection from the roads, allowing me to cover the full distance and seamlessly continue running and training for the next race.
The Sky+ doesn’t quite fit the bill as an easy-day shoe, nor is it an all-purpose, do-it-all shoe. Rather, it’s a highly specialized, single-use racing shoe.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s exclusive to race days. I’ve also used it as a workout shoe while training for races. I particularly appreciate the Meta Speed Sky+ when running at marathon effort, and it truly shines when I’m pushing myself at threshold effort.
I find that the speed and the way the foam compresses and rebounds align seamlessly with my foot strike, which tends to land a bit more towards the forefoot than the heel.
Again, on those days where I aim to run the fastest, cover the most distance, and push myself the hardest, the Metaspeed Sky+ is the shoe I instinctively reach for the most.
What I truly appreciate about the Metaspeed Sky+, especially in comparison to last year’s version, is that they added more FF Turbo foam in the forefoot. They’ve also made adjustments to the rocker’s behavior, enhancing the overall performance of the shoe.
Let me explain how this rocker works now…
The rocker in the Meta Speed Sky+ doesn’t really curl up until the very end, meaning the toe spring where it curls off at the end happens a little bit later.
This, coupled with the carbon fiber plate positioned high, provides a substantial amount of foam to land on in the forefoot.
The wider landing area and ample foam create a sizable landing pad, offering a comfortable stomp with every stride. This configuration caters specifically to midfoot and forefoot strikers, making it a dream for those who prefer this running style.
Talking about that high plate position, the Meta Speed Edge+ has a different plate angle, which results in a firmer sensation due to the lower placement in the forefoot.
This configuration prioritizes stability and a quick turnover, but it lacks the plush and bouncy feel present in the foam of the Meta Speed Sky+.
The elevated plate position in the Meta Speed Sky+ allows for a more immersive experience with the abundant foam, and I believe this enhances the overall running experience.
The Meta Speed Sky+ features FF Turbo foam. This is a nylon-based midsole foam and Asics’ premier racing foam. FF Turbo provides quick compression and decompression, making it a high-bounce shoe.
Plus, it excels at absorbing the impact from the roads, contributing to a responsive and comfortable running experience.
The Metaspeed series has consistently had a somewhat aggressive curl over from the toes, a characteristic that persists in the Metaspeed Sky+. However, among the Metaspeeds I’ve run in, the Sky+ is the most generous in providing a bit of breathing room for my pinky toe.
While I still get a bit of pressure on the pinky toe, it’s important to note that this is a racing shoe. Comfort takes a backseat to the need for a snug and secure fit, ensuring you’re ready to push your limits and give it your all on race day.
Overall, the Metaspeed Sky+ excels in quick compression and decompression, providing excellent feedback with each footstrike. It’s a shoe that keenly communicates the nuances of your running form, letting you know when you’re striking pretty and when you’re running not so pretty.
Given all these factors, the Metaspeed Sky+ aligns perfectly with what I seek in a race-day shoe when aiming for my fastest times in marathons and half marathons. For these reasons, I’ve chosen the Asics Metaspeed Sky+ as my carbon-plated shoe of the year.
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Now, moving on to the third spot, a very close contender right behind is the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3…
Saucony Endorphin Pro 3
Neutral 〉 W: 6.9 oz 〉 M: 7.3 oz 〉 Drop: 8 mm 〉 Heel: 39 mm 〉 Forefoot: 31 mm
In the initial two years, I feel like Saucony faced challenges with the Endorphin series. It often felt a bit too firm for me, making it less suitable for marathon distances.
While I extensively used the Endorphin Pro for half marathon races and marathon workouts involving marathon paces and thresholds, I hesitated to rely on it for the full 26.2 miles.
The Endorphin Pro 3 marked a change because I believe Saucony addressed some of the issues. They introduced a bit more foam in the forefoot and overall softened the shoe slightly.
This adjustment provided the ideal balance I seek in a shoe— a touch of squish, a really quick response, and a nice stiff carbon plate. Now, I can truly feel the proper loading of the carbon plate, experiencing a satisfying pop with every step.
Now that I’ve run 100+ miles in the Endorphin Pro 3, let me tell you how I’ve been using it…
How I’ve Been Using the Endorphin Pro 3
The Endorphin Pro 3 held a spot as one of my favorite marathon racing shoes last year, and cutting to the chase, it continues to secure its position among my top choices.
It’s worth noting that my collection of favorite racing shoes is expanding, which is fantastic for us runners. Having a multitude of excellent options, the Endorphin Pro 3 stands out as a compelling choice.
The Endorphin Pro 3 did great during my longer steady runs. Also, it was a really capable shoe in high-intensity sessions, handling threshold mile repeats with such proficiency that I pushed myself to the point of dry heaving.
Endorphin Pro 3 vs. 2
The Endorphin Pro 3 retains certain similarities with its predecessor, the Endorphin Pro 2, particularly in the aggressive carbon and the beaded Peba foam.
However, I feel that the Pro 3’s foam is either softer and/or a little bit taller. It seems they’ve strategically placed more foam directly under the pads of my foot, precisely where my midfoot/forefoot strike makes contact with the ground. This adjustment results in a more forgiving shoe, finally making it a viable option for marathon distances.
Another thing I truly appreciate about this shoe, even with the release of some other excellent models since the Endorphin Pro 3, is the upper. It just stands out as one of my favorite uppers in current racing shoes.
The upper strikes a perfect balance – snug where necessary, roomy where desired, without any binding, pinching, or chafing. Every element of this shoe contributes to a comfortable and confidence-inspiring experience.
I just love how the upper sparkles when the light catches it just right.
Over the course of those initial 100 miles, the Endorphin Pro 3 has demonstrated impressive consistency, maintaining its performance from the start to the 100-mile mark.
I believe this shoe has the potential to exceed the 150-mile threshold, and even beyond that, it will continue to shine as one of your favorite training or session shoes. Therefore, I project that you’ll derive considerable long-term durability and mileage from this exceptional shoe.
If you’re considering the Endorphin Pro 3, another shoe worth your attention is the Adidas Adios Pro 3…
These two shoes share many similarities, from their stack heights and forefoot geometries, down to the rocker and excellent uppers.
The foams in both shoes behave similarly and if you’re eyeing one, it’s worth taking a closer look at the other as well.
However, if you want a shoe to pair with the Endorphin Pro 3, I recommend considering the Saucony Triumph 21.
Endorphin Pro and Triumph
The Triumph series serves as an excellent everyday and recovery-day shoe, while the Endorphin Pro 3 will deliver a powerful one-two punch for your training, racing, or workout days.
With that being said, I appreciate the thoughtful design tweaks Saucony did in the Endorphin Pro 3.
Again, the Endorphin Pro 3 shines in marathon racing and excels in pushing through threshold repeats until the point of exhaustion.
Hence, the Endorphin Pro 3 earns its place as a top-tier carbon-plated shoe, securing my number three spot for this category.
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Let’s move to shoe number 4 on my list…
New Balance SuperComp (SC) Elite 3
Neutral 〉 W: 6.6 oz 〉 M: 7.6 oz 〉 Drop: 4 mm 〉 Heel: 40 mm 〉 Forefoot: 36 mm
I feel like New Balance fixed everything that’s gone wrong with the RC Elite 2, not that the RC Elite 2 was a subpar shoe; I did find it quite enjoyable.
The SC Elite and I have shared many miles, both in training and races. Allow me to share how I’ve been using this shoe…
How I’ve Been Using the SC Elite 3
I’ve been using the SC Elite for my marathon races and training sessions, which means it is a really versatile shoe. It has proven to be a really fun shoe for such workouts because I feel like this is one of the squishiest most forgiving super shoes that’s on the market today and that’s coming from the midsole and the upper.
Given its versatility, I’ve seamlessly transitioned between work phases, recovery intervals, warm-ups, and cooldowns during my sessions with the SC Elite.
Again, the New Balance SC Elite truly offers optimal performance marathons, marathon training sessions, long runs, and threshold repeats.
Its impressive comfort ensures a pleasant experience throughout these activities, making it a reliable choice for runners aiming for longer distances and sustained efforts.
That’s why the New Balance SC Elite is on this list of my top carbon-plated shoes.
When it comes to partnering the SC Elite with other shoes from the New Balance family, I’d say the Rebel v3 could be a great choice.
Even though the Rebel v3 doesn’t have a carbon fiber plate like the SC Elite, it’s still got that snappy feel to it. The way it’s shaped and the stack height make it surprisingly responsive.
You still get that FuelCell foam goodness in the Rebel, and together, they make a pretty solid one-two punch.
Let’s say you’re craving something extra plush for recovery after a tough session in the SC Elite v3. The New Balance Fresh Foam More v4 steps up.
It’s like a perfect one-two combo, not just in how I’d use them but also visually, they make a nice pair. The More v4 offers a slightly different feel, but on those easy days when you crave added comfort and a touch of luxury, it’s the go-to shoe for me.
The midsole features FuelCell which I believe is a critical EVA midsole foam with ample give. When your foot makes contact with the ground, it compresses the foam nicely, yet it also provides a satisfying amount of pop.
Previous iterations of the SC Elite had a bit too much squish and lacked sufficient pop. However, they addressed this in the current version by adding a touch more foam and refining the carbon fiber plate.
This adjustment helps give the shoe that nice amount of snappiness and makes it so that you get out of that squishiness quickly and pleasantly.
Talking about the plate…
The SC Elite features an Energy Arc carbon fiber plate that is bent and angled from the heel, extending into the forefoot. This design contributes to the overall performance and feel of the shoe, enhancing the running experience.
SC Elite v3 vs. SC Elite v2
In the RC Elite v2, although the shoe had sufficient foam in the forefoot, I sensed it was somewhat bottoming out. Plus, I felt the carbon wasn’t assertive enough; I wanted a more palpable carbon effect and a bit more of a landing pad. These are the two aspects that I believe have been addressed in the SC Elite v3.
In terms of the upper, the SC Elite 3 has a fantastic knit upper that I absolutely love whether you’re using the shoe for daily training or racing.
The knit upper was exceptionally comfortable, causing no discomfort to the toes.
I thoroughly appreciated the fit, and they’ve addressed all the aspects I felt were lacking in the RC Elite 2, truly hitting it out of the park with the SC Elite 3.
The only downside to knit uppers is that when you get really sweaty, moisture tends to linger in the knit a bit longer than I’d prefer. Nevertheless, overall, it’s still a fantastic shoe.
The knit tongue provides exceptional comfort and stays unobtrusive, while the stretchy toe box adds to the overall flexibility and comfort of the shoe. The lace loops have proven to be durable, holding up well even during rigorous use.
The SC ELite is almost a shoe that I can kind of slip in and out of without even having to untie it, but since I am going to be using it for my harder sessions and racing, I do make sure that I am tied in nice and tight.
Overall, the upper offers an exceptionally comfortable and forgiving fit, making it ideal for both long training runs and marathon races.
The heel cup features a decent amount of rigidity, providing essential support to keep your foot securely locked in place. This added structure is particularly crucial for a knit shoe for it to stay firmly on your foot, especially at some of those faster paces.
On the outsole, they’ve added a substantial central channel to help kind of accentuate the squishiness of this FuelCell foam. It’s a clever move, and they even threw in a rubber pad to protect the carbon fiber plate. This way, you’re covered when your foot hits the ground, giving you a smoother and more enjoyable run.
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|Road Runner Sports
ON Cloudboom Echo 3
Neutral 〉 W: 6.6 oz 〉 M: 7.7 oz 〉 Drop: 9.5 mm 〉 Heel: 38 mm 〉 Forefoot: 28.5 mm
I found that the third iteration of some of my preferred racing shoes often resulted in them becoming my absolute favorites. It seems the saying “third time’s a charm” holds true for the Cloudboom Echo 3.
This shoe features two main components: ON’s Helion HF, which stands for hyper foam, a Peba-based racing material and a carbon fiber plate referred to as their full Carbon Speedboard.
Being an ON shoe, the Cloudboom has mini scallops above and below the carbon fiber plate on both the lateral and medial sides, although on the medial side, it’s present only in the forefoot.
Let me tell you how I’ve been using it…
How I’ve Been Using the ON Cloudboom Echo
I believe very efficient runners can race their marathons in the Cloudboom Echo. However, for most of us, I think it’s best suited as a half marathon racing shoe.
I’m happy to report that ON has indeed crafted a legitimate super shoe. This racing shoe is undeniably enjoyable, thanks to the impressive combination of the Helion HF foam and the stiffness of the carbon fiber plate.
Despite its initial 37-millimeter stack height, the shoe maintains a low-to-the-ground feel, ensuring stable compression as you move through each foot strike.
While the shoe may appear to compress significantly, it defies the squishy sensation, offering instead a lively and responsive experience with a noticeable bounce off the ground with every step.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using the Cloudboom Echo 3 particularly for my 400-meter repeats at 5K effort. The combination of the foam and the carbon fiber plate in this shoe delivers a powerful and responsive experience.
Again, while I believe this shoe can handle the marathon distance, it seems to me that, for many non-elite runners, it’s exceptionally well-suited for half-marathon racing.
The upper showcases ON’s distinctive styling, offering a fantastic aesthetic that combines Swiss engineering for both function and form.
The one-piece upper with a gusseted tongue on one side provides a great fit. While there’s minimal padding and structure around the heel cup, it maintains a certain level of vertical structure, preventing it from being completely floppy.
The fit of the shoe is impeccable, as expected from ON, but the upper leans towards being less breathable.
The Cloudboom Echo 3 has a distinctive insole featuring silicone grippy tabs oriented perpendicular to the shoe’s direction. These grippy tabs play a crucial role, particularly in wet conditions, ensuring a non-slip experience.
The Cloudboom Echo 3 features a combination of strategically positioned rubber and exposed midsole foam in its outsole design, a configuration seen in many other ON running shoes.
However, the grip on the outsole fell slightly short of expectations, particularly when faced with the challenge of a slippery treadmill deck due to sweat during threshold repeats. Despite this minor setback, the overall experience in this exhilarating and rapid shoe was highly positive.
In terms of durability, the shoe’s packaging indicates a projected lifespan of four marathons. This estimate is notably shorter than the expectations for contemporary racing shoes, which typically offer a longer lifespan.
So, according to ON, four marathons is where they feel confident that the Cloudboom Echo 3 will maintain its race-ready performance. Beyond this point, they anticipate a gradual decline in factors such as the energy return of the foam, signaling a potential decrease in overall performance.
Once more, it’s worth noting that ON places this shoe on the shorter end of the durability spectrum. Their recommendation is to reserve the Cloudboom Echo 3 specifically for race days, suggesting that other models like the Cloudboom Echo 1 or 2 could be more suitable for regular workout sessions.
To help you grasp the feel of this shoe, it reminds me a lot of the Endorphin Pro 2. Like the Endorphin Pro 2, the Cloudboom Echo 3 strikes me as an enjoyable and excellent choice for half marathon racing, though I might hesitate to take them for the full marathon distance.
Another comparable shoe is the Hoka Carbon Rocket, specifically not the Rocket X 1 or the Carbon X 1.
If you feel the On Cloudboom Echo 3 is a good fit for you and planning to integrate it into your shoe rotation, let’s discuss some shoes to pair it with…
If you’re interested in the Cloudboom Echo 3, think about pairing it with the ON Cloudsurfer 7.
The Cloudsurfer feels great underfoot, with a perfect blend of squishiness and responsiveness. It’s a versatile shoe suitable for everyday use and delivers the comfort and energy you need for various activities.
If you’re looking for a workout shoe, especially considering the limited mileage you can get in the Cloudboom Echo 3, the Takumi Sen 8 is an excellent choice.
It’s one of my favorite workout shoes currently available and doubles as a fantastic 5K/10K racing shoe. The aggressiveness and racing potential in both these shoes make the Takumi Sen a solid preparation for the race experience in the Cloudboom Echo 3.
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Hoka Rocket X 2
Neutral 〉 W: 7.5 oz 〉 M: 7.5 oz 〉 Drop: 6 mm 〉 Heel: 37 mm 〉 Forefoot: 31 mm
Hoka has been falling behind the competitive arena of carbon-plated racers. However, observing Hoka athletes performing exceptionally well in a new prototype has sparked optimism among loyal Hoka enthusiasts.
I’m not saying that Hoka didn’t have good carbon-plated shoes in the past. However, I always felt these weren’t the same as what the rest of the competition was making and what the rest of us seemed to love to be racing in.
For me, the most significant development is that the Rockert X 2 marks Hoka’s departure from compression-molded EVA in their racing shoes. They’ve introduced a Peba foam with two layers—one above and one below what they’re calling a Spoon-shaped carbon fiber plate.
How I’ve been using the Rocket X 2
I think the Rocket X 2 excels during training sessions. The ample stack height allows for comfortable long runs and marathon workouts. Your feet will feel good, and your body will be relatively protected, ensuring you’re ready for the next session in good condition.
I’ll say that I definitely believe it’s suitable for racing half marathons, and probably 10Ks and 5Ks as well, because it feels like a fun, fast shoe. However, due to the slightly denser nature of the Peba, I’m not certain I would choose it for a full marathon race.
Shoes Similar to Rocket X 2
I think the Rocket X 2 and the Brooks Hyperion Max share many similar characteristics. The foams in both are a bit firmer than my usual preference, but they effectively respond and provide more rebound the more pressure you apply to them.
Another shoe that I believe could work well if you’re considering the Rocket X 2 is the Altra Vanish Carbon (below). I see a lot of similarities in terms of how these two shoes perform.
Similar to the Rocket X, the Vanish leans towards the firmer side, yet as you’re putting more effort into it, you’re getting more out of it, which makes for an exciting underfoot experience.
The Vanish features a flexible heel and ample forefoot space. Being a zero-drop shoe, it compares nicely with the 5mm drop in the Rocket X 2.
If you’re going to opt for the Rocket X 2, you might want to think about some shoes that you can pair it with if you are trying to build a rotation.
I believe the clear choice if you want to stick with the Hoka family would be the Rincon 3. The Rincon can serve as your daily trainer, while the Rocket X 2 becomes your go-to racing and workout shoe.
Alternatively, if you prefer the Rocket X 2 as your racing shoe, you might consider the Rocket X v1 for your training sessions.
However, if you’re open to exploring options beyond the Hoka family, I think the Adidas Adizero SL would pair exceptionally well. It features Lightstrike and EVA foam, along with a puck of Lightstrike Pro—Adidas’ racing foam—in the forefoot.
So, you get a shoe that’s somewhat on the firmer side but offers a lot of enjoyment while running and a touch of speediness.
I believe the combination of firmness and speed in the Adidas Adizero SL would align well, serving both daily training and workout, complementing the characteristics of the Rocket X 2.
I really love the sensation I get from this Peba compound, and I believe it significantly influences the overall performance of this shoe.
The use of carbon in the design seems strategic, not just for stability but also for a springy, propulsive effect—a characteristic we’ve come to anticipate from that top tier of racing shoes.
Now, the feel of Peba can vary depending on its manufacturing, assembly, and the placement of carbon, whether it’s positioned higher or lower in the stack height.
However, I must note that the Peba in the Rocket X 2 feels slightly denser than you might initially expect from a Pebax-powered shoe.
Nonetheless, I find that this shoe generously returns energy, especially when I’m pushing the pace in a half marathon race.
The Rocket X 2 is a relatively stable shoe. Even in the later stages of the race, around Mile 16 and 17, I found the shoe was still easy to run in, providing stable landings.
The Rocket X 2 features a mono mesh material. It looks like a ripstop material appearance on the outside, but internally, there’s a midfoot cage that ensures a secure fit.
While the back of the heel lacks substantial structure and is quite flexible, there are strategically placed bumper pads along the sides and towards the back to enhance comfort and provide a bit of additional support.
Fit and Lockdown
In terms of fit, I think they’ve achieved an excellent fit in this shoe. The internal midfoot cage effectively keeps you securely locked in.
I appreciate the flexibility of the heel, and the bumper pads play a crucial role in ensuring that I still feel securely locked in.
The Rocket X 2 offers ample room in the toe box without it feeling loose or sloppy. No crunching or smushing occurs, and there’s no chafing or bleeding in this shoe—it all feels very comfortable yet secure.
The only drawback I’ve observed in terms of the fit and performance of this upper is that the ripstop material doesn’t offer optimal breathability and doesn’t let a lot of moisture out.
On a hot day, it’s likely to result in damp feet at the end of the race. I believe Hoka could have done a bit better in this regard for a racing-caliber shoe.
The outsole features strategically placed rubber with a few exposed areas of foam. The rubber appears to be a harder compound, likely enhancing outsole durability. However, I did notice it tends to be a bit slippery, especially in the wettest aid stations.
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Puma Deviate Nitro 2
Neutral 〉 W: 7.8 oz 〉 M: 9.2 oz 〉 Drop: 6 mm 〉 Heel: 37 mm 〉 Forefoot: 31 mm
When I first tried the Puma Deviate Nitro 2, I quickly realized that it was my favorite running shoe from Puma. However, after running in the shoe for a few months, was my initial enthusiasm merely part of a honeymoon phase?
Let me tell you how I’ve been using it and you’ll get the answer…
How I’ve Been Using the Daviate Nitro 2
I’ve been using the Deviate Nitro 2 as a versatile daily trainer, primarily for easy runs, but it’s proven to be suitable for picking up the pace whenever I want to do so.
The configuration of the carbon composite plate in this shoe is a bit more forgiving and relaxed compared to a pure racing option.
This design choice ensures that when you use the shoe for easy runs, it feels like a well-cushioned and springy shoe without being excessively mushy due to its softness.
Upon foot impact, the foam absorbs the shock, and the carbon plate helps lift your foot back out of the foam, creating an energetic and enjoyable experience even at some of those easier paces.
However, whenever you’re trying to pick up the pace, the combination of the Nitro Elite foam and the carbon composite plate creates a remarkable synergy and gives you a race-like sensation when you’re in this otherwise daily training shoe.
Overall, you can use the Deviate Nitro 2 for easy runs, daily training, and speed work—it’s versatile enough to handle it all. For many runners, it could also serve as an excellent racing option given its adaptability.
In case you’re looking to insert the Deviate Nitro 2 into a rotation or build a rotation around it, here’s a good pairing option…
The On Cloudboom Echo 3 comes with a higher price tag and may not be the most durable racing shoe, although durability isn’t the primary consideration for racing shoes.
However, I notice several similarities in the mechanics of the shoe, particularly in the forefoot where the super foam and carbon fiber plate interact.
This resemblance makes me think that you could use the Deviate Nitro 2 could as your daily trainer and workout shoe, and then save the Cloudboom Echo 3 exclusively for your races.
The Deviate Nitro 2 uses two types of foams—Nitro foam, a nitrogen-infused foam, and Nitro Elite foam, a premium racing foam typically used in their race shoes. Between these two foam layers lies the carbon composite plate.
The combination of these three components gives me a comfortable ride in the back, which provides additional impact protection for heavier landings.
Simultaneously, it delivers a lively springy sensation in the forefoot when you’re pushing off and transitioning into the next stride, especially when you’re trying to pick up the pace.
In terms of durability, even at the 100-mile mark, the midsole of the Deviate Nitro 2 still feels very comfortable during my easy runs.
When I push the pace for some strides or other pace changes, I find the Deviate Nitro 2 to be very capable and eager to accommodate those faster paces as well.
The upper material is a touch on the warmer side of the spectrum, but the trade-off is its exceptional durability. It has proven to be resilient, maintaining a relatively new appearance over the miles.
Although the tongue has these two elastic straps intended to keep it in place, for some reason—likely related to my gait—both tongues tend to tilt towards the lateral side of the shoe.
On the outsole, the PumaGrip rubber has treated me really well in terms of how well it grips onto wet surfaces as well as other soft surfaces, but also the amount of wear that’s on the rubber is minimal.
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Altra Vanish Carbon
Neutral 〉 W: 6.9 oz 〉 M: 7.6 oz 〉 Drop: 0 mm 〉 Heel: 33 mm 〉 Forefoot: 33 mm
The Vanish Carbon marks Altra’s inaugural entry into the realm of long-distance speed shoes. It is a distinctive carbon-plated racer, unlike any I’ve experienced, because it features a zero-drop platform and provides plenty of room for the toes.
In case you’re unfamiliar with this brand, Altra is known for two primary principles. Firstly, all their shoes feature zero drop, meaning the stack height in the heel is equal to the stack height in the forefoot, referred to as Balanced Cushioning.
At first glance, you might assume this is not a zero-drop shoe. However, it’s an optical illusion crafted by design, as the shoe maintains the same stack height in both the heel and the forefoot.
Also, their shoes have foot-shaped toe boxes which they say are designed to mimic the natural shape of your foot. The concept is to provide more room for your toes to splay or stretch out naturally as they hit the ground, aiding in balancing the foot during each stride and facilitating a smoother push-off for the subsequent foot strike.
Sandwiched between the two layers of Altra’s EGO Pro foam in the forefoot is the Carbitex Half Plate, which takes on a unique almost “W” shape.
Is the Vanish a Good Marathon Racer?
Right off the bat, the Vanish is excellent. I’m pleasantly surprised by this shoe, as it defied my expectations.
This new EGO Pro midsole foam, when I look at it and give it a squeeze, seems quite similar to other nitro foams I’ve come across.
Initially, I thought it might be almost identical to the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2. However, as I got into running with the Vanish, I quickly realized that Ego Pro is a distinct compound.
Surprisingly though, it’s not as rigid as the nitro foam in the Brooks. I’m not entirely sure how they achieve it because it doesn’t give the impression of being a particularly soft shoe. Nonetheless, it felt remarkably comfortable in the forefoot area.
Among the marathon super shoes I’ve tested, I believe the Vanish Carbon is probably one of the best at easy paces too.
For those of you who are going to be doing long runs with intervals of marathon effort miles, this shoe is fantastic and proves to be comfortable not only during easy miles but also during workout miles.
It’s a remarkably versatile and comfortable shoe across a wide range of paces, which is quite uncommon in this category.
How It Feels
Once I picked up the pace with the Vanish, everything clicked into place. The best way to describe the Vanish Carbon, in my opinion, is that it’s incredibly smooth. It’s not the kind of shoe that forcefully bounces you forward with each ground contact.
However, it’s a bit sensitive, and I find myself needing to ensure a cleaner running form. Indeed, I’m investing a bit of mental energy in ensuring I land cleanly, but the payoff for the extra attention to detail in each foot strike is the smooth and almost effortless feeling once you get it right.
Let me explain the things contributing to that sense of smooth power…
The EGO Pro foam doesn’t collapse or compress quickly like some of the other super foams. It doesn’t deliver the same sensation as the Vaporfly Next% or the Metaspeed Sky+—that quick, intense compression. Instead, it offers a pleasant squish with a bounce back that doesn’t feel jarring in any way.
Everything in this shoe is operating seamlessly, with a smooth and fluid feel. Working with this foam is genuinely exciting.
Initially, I had some reservations about the half carbon fiber plate, but I’m starting to appreciate its impact not only at my marathon pace but also during my threshold pace, such as when I’m doing mile repeats. Even when pushing harder, the shoe doesn’t feel like it’s bottoming out.
I feel that I’m extracting more and more from the Vanish, and I attribute that to the carbon element really coming into play. Even with firmer ground contact, the shoe maintains stability, providing a reliable launch pad for a powerful push-off into the next stride.
Another unique aspect of the Vanish Carbon, in my experience, is the substantial Achilles loading in a positive way.
Thanks to the slight rocker and my midfoot/forefoot striking style, I feel like the back of my heel loads the Achilles as it comes down upon ground contact. Then, as I push off, my Achilles experiences loading and releases in harmony with all the other materials in the shoe.
While it may seem like there’s a substantial amount of rubber on the outsole, it’s actually a hardened EVA compound. This sets it apart from many other companies that typically utilize thin layers of rubber for their outsole traction.
Upper and Fit
The upper features a highly comfortable and breathable mesh material in the forefoot and midfoot areas. Moving towards the rear, it transitions into a rubberized material that, while less breathable, includes a bumper pad on the back of the heel and ankle for added stability.
In terms of foot shape, it’s notably foot-shaped and wider than any other super shoe or carbon-plated racer I’ve run in. In fact, there’s almost an abundance of space overall.
Initially, I wondered if I had the wrong size, but once I started running, the regular size I chose proved to be the right fit for me.
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Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro
Neutral 〉 W: 6.3 oz 〉 M: 7.4 oz 〉 Drop: 6 mm 〉 Heel: 39 mm 〉 Forefoot: 33 mm
The Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro is undeniably unique in its appearance, with a blend of beauty and eccentricity. But the real question remains: does its performance match its distinctive looks?
Mizuno introduces what they term the “Smooth Speed Assist,” featuring a substantial cutout at the back of the heel. It appears that Mizuno strategically incorporated this design element, potentially aiming to navigate within the regulations set by World Athletics for eligible shoes in road marathons.
These regulations impose a limit of 40mm for the stack height in the heel, and Mizuno’s reported 39mm stack height might be an intentional maneuver to comply with these guidelines.
What It Was Like to Run in the Rebellion Pro
I think the Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro is best for both half marathon and marathon training and racing. In my view, it unquestionably qualifies as a top-notch marathon super shoe.
I find it incredibly enjoyable and undoubtedly the best Mizuno shoe that I’ve ever run in.
I must say, contrary to what I had heard about its squishiness, the shoe didn’t feel as soft as reported. However, I still found it to be an excellent shoe, with a super shoe quality that I believe can handle the marathon distance. It leans a bit towards the springy and firmer side, offering a more responsive feel.
The squishiness became noticeable for me, particularly when I reached marathon pace and faster. It seemed like loading the shoe correctly at those speeds brought out the desired squishiness.
At easier paces, where I wasn’t hitting or pushing off as forcefully, it felt like I was still on top of the foam. However, during faster efforts and at higher speeds, the shoe and I found a great synergy, and that’s when the positive qualities of the shoe truly stood out.
I feel that Mizuno has captured a similar sensation to the Endorphin Pro 2 and extended it to create a feeling that is not only enjoyable but also conducive to running the marathon distance comfortably in this shoe.
The Rebellion Pro is Not for Everyone
If you tend to overstride or if your form tends to break when you get tired at a longer marathon type of effort, you may get penalized when you run the Rebellion Pro.
This is the type of shoe that’s going to make your tired strides feel even less strong. It’s going to let you know when you’re messing up and so you got to pay a little bit more attention to how you’re running in it.
I think the Rebellion Pro requires a little bit more experience to be able to run well in it. It’s going to remind you to hit that midfoot, roll through onto the forefoot, get up there, and get off of that heel to be able to stay strong for the entire marathon distance.
That’s how this shoe shines and for me. The Rebellion Pro rewarded me the most when I was hitting the ground cleanly and rolling through in the way that the shoe was designed.
And then when I got a little bit sloppy, then I got a lot of negative reinforcement really quickly.
Certainly, there are other marathon shoes available that offer a more forgiving experience and allow for a smooth roll-through even if your form becomes a bit sloppy.
I won’t claim one is better or worse than another, but I’ll note that the Rebellion Pro is a bit more intricate and may not be the most ideal choice as a first carbon shoe purchase.
If you’re looking to build a rotation around this shoe, I would assume your preference leans toward a firmer and more responsive feel.
For your daily trainer and sometimes workout sessions, I would recommend considering the Brooks Hyperion Max. It features Nitro-based foam, which, in my opinion, tends to be on the firmer side.
However, as you increase your pace, the foam noticeably becomes more responsive. With the max version of the Hyperion, I believe it’s versatile enough to handle a significant portion of your daily training miles.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed option for your longer easy runs, I suggest considering the Solomon Aeroglide.
The Solomon Aeroglide falls into the max cushion category, and it’s a little bit on the firmer side for how I like my max cushion shoes.
Combining these three shoes – the Rebellion Pro, the Brooks Hyperion Max, and the Solomon Aeroglide – could create a well-rounded and versatile mini rotation.
Midsole and Carbon Plate
Mizuno uses their Enerzy Lite Pro foam in the forefoot, designed to offer a soft cushioning experience with a notable amount of energy return.
Additionally, the Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro features a unique Wave plate – Mizuno’s first carbon fiber-reinforced Wave plate.
While I think it’s distinct from carbon plates in some other shoes, it serves similar functions by maintaining stability during landing and toe-off. Simultaneously, it adds a touch of snappiness to the foot strike.
To achieve a balanced midsole, Mizuno incorporates two different densities of Enerzy Lite foam. This thoughtful design aims to maintain both squishiness and springiness, ensuring a blend of the best of both worlds—a characteristic often expected from a marathon super shoe.
The Kakizome version of the upper is not only visually striking but also backed by high-quality materials. Mizuno uses an engineered mesh with minimal padding and structural support, which I think is really nice.
There’s plenty of breathability thanks to all these mesh holes, and there’s a little bit of structure on the outer edge of the toe box, but not a lot that’s in there, which contributes to a lightweight and well-ventilated design.
The tongue lies completely flat. It doesn’t have a gusset, but small lace loops at the top prevent it from shifting too much from side to side. However, it’s quite thin, almost like paper.
In the heel counter, there’s a slight bit of structure, but the heel of the shoe is notably flexible. I personally find this feature very comfortable, not just in general but particularly for my racing shoes.
The outsole has a fantastic design. Mizuno has named it the G3 outsole, featuring minimal rubber coverage that surprisingly delivers ample grip and confidence.
It’s essentially a lattice of rubber strategically placed on the potential contact points of the shoe with the ground. This design not only protects the midsole foam but also ensures the shoe remains exceptionally lightweight.
As you examine the outsole, you’ll notice the intricate design carved into the midsole. I believe some of it serves a functional purpose, like the sizable cut-out in the midfoot, which makes the shoe easier to bend and load the carbon-reinforced wave plate.
I also think it’s going to contribute to weight reduction by removing a significant amount of foam.
Now that I’ve shared my top picks for carbon-plated running shoes, let’s briefly explore some other noteworthy options worth considering.
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Adidas Adios Pro 3
Neutral 〉 W: 6.9 oz 〉 M: 7.6 oz 〉 Drop: 6.5 mm 〉 Heel: 39.5 mm 〉 Forefoot: 33 mm
I’ve been loving the Adios Pro 1 and 2, and version 3 is a nice little tweak and update.
Like most of the shoes that I’ve been enjoying, I feel like the main difference is I’m getting a little bit more cushion right in the forefoot area.
This is Adidas’ carbon plate wonder, boasting a carbon plate in the heel and carbon rods throughout. Once you hit the road, it feels incredibly lightweight and lightning-fast.
The mesh upper is a dream. It’s so breathable and comfortable that it’s almost like strapping soles directly to your feet. The rocking motion in the Adios Pro is fantastic, which makes it feel like you’re propelled forward from the get-go.
Now, the fit was perfect for me, both in width and size. However, a word of caution regarding ankle support – the low profile might leave you feeling a bit exposed. If you’re prone to ankle rolls, it’s worth considering.
The outsole is impressively smooth, and despite my initial concerns about traction on wet surfaces, it held up well even on fast corners. The sleek design? Absolutely gorgeous. I’m a sucker for aesthetics, and Adidas nailed it.
While it’s quickly become one of my favorites, I do wonder about the sole’s longevity. I haven’t clocked enough miles to give you a solid estimate, but it’s undeniably a beautiful and speedy shoe that makes you feel faster.
But the great news is the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro now holds two world records:
- Kibiwott Kandie broke the world record in the half marathon in Valencia (57:32) and …
- Peres Jepchirchir broke the women-only race world record for the half marathon in Prague (1:05)
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Brooks Hyperion Elite 3
Neutral 〉 W: 8.3 oz 〉 M: 8.3 oz 〉 Drop: 8 mm 〉 Heel: 35 mm 〉 Forefoot: 27 mm
The Hyperion Elite is Brooks’ second take on a carbon-plated shoe. Unlike some others in this lineup, it impressively provides stability, addressing concerns of ankle support often associated with lighter shoes. During my tests, it was among the most stable.
Sizing-wise, it generally runs true, but those with wider feet might notice a slightly narrow toe box. However, the snug fit felt supportive and comfortable.
The stack height of 37 millimeters puts it in the league of top-tier shoes, approaching the World Athletics limit of 40 millimeters.
The Hyperion Elite delivers a stable and comfortable ride, invoking a sense of speed with its rocking, propelling motion aided by the carbon plate. If you’re willing to splurge a bit, the Brooks Hyperion Elite is a solid choice that won’t disappoint.
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Salomon S/Lab Phantasm 2
Neutral 〉 M: 7.4 oz 〉 Drop: 9 mm 〉 Heel: 37.5 mm 〉 Forefoot: 28.5 mm
The S/Lab Phantasm 2 has undergone significant changes from its previous version, with Salomon now incorporating a Peba-based midsole.
Sporting a tall stack height of 37mm in the heel, a 9mm drop, and a plate, this shoe brings a nostalgic yet updated and responsive feel.
Despite the firmer touch, the Phantasm 2 is an excellent racer, blending retro aesthetics with modern performance.
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Adidas Pro EVO 1
Neutral 〉 W: 5.1 oz 〉 M 5.1 oz 〉 Drop: 6 mm 〉 Heel: 39 mm 〉 Forefoot: 33 mm
This one might stir some debate among enthusiasts because it’s not only one of the rarest racing shoes out there but also comes with a hefty price tag.
Weighing a mere 4.7 oz. or 134 grams in my US men’s size 9, it boasts a special Lightstrike Pro, a non-compression molded version that adds extra bounce and excitement but contributes to the elevated cost but shorter lifespan.
The Adios Pro EVO 1 is an incredibly thrilling shoe. While I, as a non-elite runner, may hesitate to run the full marathon distance in it, the sheer excitement it brings, even for someone at my level, is undeniable. I’m eagerly looking forward to the impact this shoe will have on the future of marathon racing.
Now that we’ve delved into some remarkable carbon plate running shoes, you might be curious about additional details or have questions. Let’s move on to the FAQ section, where I’ll address common queries and provide more insights into these exceptional shoes.
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Carbon Plate Running Shoes – FAQs
What are carbon plate running shoes?
Carbon plate running shoes are designed to give you an extra edge on race day. They feature a carbon fiber plate in the midsole designed to make the shoe perform better and faster by increasing energy return and delaying fatigue.
Brands often pair their carbon fiber plates with springy foams and lightweight uppers to create the ultimate race-day experience.
This all started with Nike’s Vaporfly 4% shoes in 2017. And as the name suggests, the Vaporfly claims to give you a 4% improvement on your performance.
From the Nike Vaporfly 4%, then came the Nike Vaporfly Next% which promised even more improvement for runners.
Ultimately, that’s also been followed by the Nike Alphafly Next%, which was based on the prototype shoe that Eliud Kipchoge wore when he broke two hours for the marathon distance back in 2019.
Are carbon-plated shoes better for running?
A study by Springer focused on testing the new Nike prototype, featuring a ZoomX foam and an embedded carbon fiber plate. The shoe exhibited a remarkable 87% energy return, twice that of other shoes, owing to its elastic midsole and carbon-fiber plate combination. Top-level Kenyan marathon runners were used to assess running performance, revealing a 4% average reduction in the energetic cost of running with carbon-plated shoes.
Despite minor changes in vertical ground reaction forces, step frequencies, and contact times, respiratory exchange ratios and oxygen consumption rates remained consistent. The study suggests a potential 3.5% improvement in running velocity due to the reduced running economy.
What are the cons of carbon fiber shoes?
Carbon fiber shoes come with several advantages, but it’s important to note some drawbacks. First, they often come with a higher price tag. Second, they’re typically not very durable, especially the carbon plates, and may wear out faster than traditional running shoes. Additionally, users need to be mindful of their usage to prevent premature wear and tear on the carbon components.
How many miles do carbon plate shoes last?
Carbon plate shoes typically last around 250 to 300 miles before their performance starts to decline. It’s recommended to keep track of your mileage and replace them when they approach this range to ensure optimal functionality and support.
Can you run in carbon plate shoes all the time?
While carbon plate shoes can boost performance during races and high-intensity runs, it’s generally not advisable to wear them for all daily training. Continuous use may lead to over-reliance on the shoes’ unique features, and considering they’re typically not very durable, they may not provide the necessary comfort and support needed for varied training purposes.
Can you wear carbon shoes if you overpronate?
Wearing carbon shoes when you overpronate might not be ideal. Carbon plate shoes prioritize performance and weight reduction, often lacking the structured support needed for overpronators in their uppers, heel cups, and midsoles.
Can you wear carbon-plated shoes on the treadmill?
Certainly, while carbon-plated shoes can be used on a treadmill, it’s recommended to avoid using them for your daily training routine due to their limited lifespan. These shoes are designed for high-performance racing, and the treadmill’s consistent surface can contribute to faster wear and tear.
Who benefits the most from carbon plate shoes?
What was the first carbon-plated running shoe?
The first commercially successful carbon-plated running shoe is widely considered to be the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, released in 2017. This innovative shoe introduced the use of a carbon fiber plate embedded in the midsole, designed to provide energy return and improve running efficiency, particularly in marathon racing. The success and performance of the Vaporfly series contributed to the widespread adoption of carbon-plated technology in the running shoe industry.
Do Hokas have a carbon plate?
Yes, Hoka offers the Hoka Rocket X 2, a notable carbon-plated running shoe.
Does Brooks make carbon plate shoes?
Yes, Brooks does make carbon plate shoes. They have models like the Hyperion Elite and Hyperion Max that feature carbon plates.
Worl Athletic rules and carbon plate running shoes
There have been concerns about these innovations and technology throughout the elite running world.
And so new World Athletics rules state that for road races, shoes must have a maximum stack height of 40 millimeters.
For track events, it’s between 20 and 25 millimeters and that depends on the distance. But across all shoes, they must only contain one carbon fiber plate.
These rules were brought in by World Athletics to preserve the integrity of competition because, in many parts, people were worried about the fact that the innovations were placing more of an emphasis on the conversation about shoes than they were on the athletes themselves particularly when athletes are sponsored by different shoe brands and whether or not they have access to the same sorts of technology.
So, even though there’s been a lot of debate around carbon plates in shoes, a lot of brands have followed Nike’s lead and some are even on their second iteration of these shoes.
So those are my top picks for the best carbon plate running shoes. Let me know in the comments which ones you raced in. Or, if there’s one favorite racer that you’ve been running in that I missed, let me know down there as well.