When super shoes were first launched there were very limited options; the Nike Vaporfly 4% was the only shoe out there and caused a bit of a stir when it first came on to the market!
What is a super shoe? A super shoe has a carbon fibre structure in the sole. Originally this was in the form of a plate, but as technology has progressed, some brands use carbon fibre rods. But why use carbon fibre? The carbon fibre helps with forward momentum, propelling you forwards with each step. It also adds structure and stability to the midsole which improves energy return. Both of these factors improve overall running efficiency and reduce your time to fatigue.
In 2019, when the Nike 4% was launched, there was a lot of controversy due to the performance benefits from the shoe. Runners were breaking long standing world records and many running PBs. However, there were lots of runners out there who didn’t respond well to the Nike shoe and missed out on faster times! If we fast forward to today, choosing a carbon plated shoe is now a complete mindfield as nearly every running shoe brand has ‘their shoe’. Runna have put together their top 5 carbon plated shoes to help you narrow it down.
Adidas Adios Adizero Pro 3
The Adidas Adios Adizero Pro 3 is Coach Steph’s favourite carbon shoe. Steph wears this shoe for all of her road races from 5k up to marathon distance, as well as for speed and tempo sessions in training. The energy rods embedded in two layers of resilient Lightstrike Pro foam in the midsole give a balanced and bouncy feel. The high-stack does not feel extreme and the wider base gives stability. Coach Steph said “The base feels stable so I can confidently run around corners or the bend of the track. I also love the responsiveness and bounciness of the shoe. I feel fast and confident!". Steph also loves the rubber sole, which gives good traction and keeps the shoe going for that bit longer!
Asics Metaspeed Sky
The Asics metaspeed Sky is Coach Beth’s top carbon shoe. The Metaspeed Sky is one of four carbon plated shoes produced by Asics. The shoe uses Flytefoam Turbo foam, Asics lightest and bounciest foam to date. The carbon fibre plate is placed higher within the midsole to allow the foam between the plate and the outsole compress more. As a result, the foam stores and creates more energy, which can be translated into every step. Coach Beth would agree this with. Beth loves the feedback these shoes provide from the ground. She said “the propulsion from the shoe is great and I feel fast when racing”.
Hoka Rocket X 2
The Hoka Rocket is Coach Ben’s favourite carbon shoe. Hoka has had a few carbon plated shoes on the market for a while now (Hoka Carbon X and Rocket X) but these did not have the same bounce and responsiveness compared to its competitors. The Hoka Rocket X 2 was launched in Spring 2023 and Coach Ben couldn’t resist trying, setting his half marathon PB in their first outing! The ProFlyX midsole consists of a dual-density PEBA midsole and a spoon shaped carbon fibre plate to give the shoe an early-stage rocker, which provides extra toe spring and smoother transitions. The Rocket X2 is on the firmer side for a super shoe but the flip side of this is “it feels very stable compared to other carbon shoes I've tried with higher stack heights”, says Coach Ben. The upper is supportive, a foot-hugging fit but flexible. Coach Ben also says “It feels fast! I feel confident wearing the Rocket X2. It is my go to racing shoe at the moment, I’ve even ran some PBs and it'll be my pick for my Ironman this year too!”
Nike Alphafly Next%
Most people will have heard of the Alphafly’s as this is what Eliud Kipchoge wore during the famous Breaking Two Project (if you haven’t heard of it then we recommend checking it out!). The Alphafly has a responsive feel due to the ZoomX foam in the midsole combined with the rocker geometry. The ZoomX foam is lightweight and bouncy. Some people aren’t a fan of the narrower midfoot arch, which can feel unstable or unsupportive, but others are distracted by the great responsiveness of the shoe once they get going and don’t find it a problem.
Saucony Endorphin Pro
Saucony’s Endorphin Pro’s is aggressive and responsive enough for more experienced runners but also stable, supportive and cushioned for the beginners too. The newer PWRRUN PB midsole is light and firm but springy and propulsive. Embedded in the midsole is a S-Shaped carbon plate that provides a high energy return, flexibility and stabilises the bounciness of the foam. This shoe is also suited to runners with any foot strike due to the design of the Speed Roll (rocker sole).
When to use carbon shoes
Carbon shoes should be saved for those speedier sessions or race day. Ideally for your 'A Races' you want to run in a relatively fresh pair (<100km) so they still have their pop! So you might want to keep them in their box and not use them too much in training. This also means come race day, you'll feel extra bouncy and fast, compared to all the sessions you've done in your everyday heavier shoes.
Why shouldn't we use super shoes for easy runs? The faster you run, the smoother and more efficient you are, and carbon shoes are designed to tap into that. When we move slower, we aren't as efficient so a more stable or supportive shoe is better for us. The higher stack height and spring like foam on a lot of carbon shoes will change how we move biomechanically, put stress on different areas and may cause instability issues. All of these factors increase our chance of injury. Regardless of your running experience, you should transition gradually into super shoes - introduce them slowly into your tempo sessions and avoid using them for warm up and cool downs.
Choosing your carbon shoe
Choosing your carbon shoes is no different than choosing any other type of shoe. It is a unique decision. We would recommend going to a running shoe shop, trying on a few pairs to compare and running on a treadmill to see what feels best for you. Additionally if you know you agree with a particular brands sizing in the rest of their lineup you're more likely to agree with their carbon option than changing brand too!