Best Carbon Plated Shoes of 2020

RW Staff

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#1
One of the hottest topics in running right now is the Carbon Fiber plate. 2020 saw more brands adding a carbon plated option to their line-up. While some models have received more attention than others, our team was able to breakdown each model and come up with a list of our picks for best carbon fiber plated shoes.

Read our picks here.

What have been your favorite carbon plated shoes? Below is the list of our categories:
  • Best for Marathon Racing:
  • Best for 5k-Half Marathon Racing:
  • Best for High-Performance Training:
Comment and let us know!

Tyler
RW Staff
 
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#2
My only experience with carbon plated shoes so far is the Hoka Carbon X. I wear them for my fast workouts and race days. I haven't ran a marathon in them yet, but 3 Half Marathons now.

The way they react with the ground is very noticeable and they've revitalized my runs, and I've seen some improvements in my PRs!

I'll be trying the Hoka Carbon Rocket next, I've read the very low heel-toe offset gives a very springboard feel. Cant wait!
 
#3
I was contemplating on getting the Hoka Carbon X but figured I should wait a bit before I'm fully back into running and putting serious mileage on. A few friends swear by them and of course, we know how popular the Nike Vaporfly Next% and Alphafly Next% got.

@RW Staff how would you rate the comfort generally for the carbon plated shoes versus regular foam ones? I know they are perfomance based but would you recommend to someone into casual running and who isn't preparing for races (Marathons, 1/2 Marathons, etc).

Thanks
 

RW Staff

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#4
@haqq777

Generally, carbon fiber plated shoes aren't as comfortable for casual running. They tend to be overly stiff and runners have noticed it puts pressure on the calves and other areas of the foot that they aren't used to. To compensate for that, some brands will utilize a plate made from composite materials that are softer and more forgiving for casual running. The Saucony Endorphin Speed is a great example of that.

Additionally, most of the cushioning used in carbon fiber plated shoes aren't built as durable and runners will notice they break down faster. Most of the training versions of the Next% shoes (Nike Zoom Fly) will still have a plate, but different cushioning for added durability.

If you were looking for a plated shoe for casual runs, the Hoka Carbon X (top pick), Nike Zoom Fly, and the Saucony Endorphin Speed would be my top recommendations. They won't be as comfortable as non-plated shoes, but you will feel the speed!

Tyler
RW Staff
 
#5
I am using my first plated shoe -- Adizero (NOT ADIOS) Pro.

I really like it because I am wary of high stacks due to my weak ankles. I am feeling the shoe out.

It is comfortable at all paces, but I took it out for 3x800 this morning, and boy does it seem to reward form.

I felt more and more tired on each rep, but only got faster. I held a 171-172 cadence on all reps, and notice an increase in stride length (1.43-1.46 meters on each rep). I am not a fast or slow runner (low to mid-7 5k pace), and I ran my 800s at 6:33, 6:31, and 6:26, which is very fast for me.

I like some stability and these shoes have them, but I get hotspots when lacing to the top lace holes, so in order to avoid the hotspots I have to sacrifice full lockdown in the ankles. I would say this shoe has the same feel as a Forefoot Zoom Air Bag, but more propulsive.

I just wish they used a higher density boost in the mid and forefoot. It would have saved weight, which isn't really a big deal for me, but more it would have made the shoe a tad bit firmer and probably could avoid those hot spots. That's a very personal preference though.

In the end, for me, due to my speed limitation and the fact that I only have somewhat good form at speed, they are likely only a 5-10k racer, but could easily go to half- and marathon distance for those that can keep their form and pace at those distances. Therefore, I think it's aptly named the "Pro"
 
#6
@haqq777

Generally, carbon fiber plated shoes aren't as comfortable for casual running. They tend to be overly stiff and runners have noticed it puts pressure on the calves and other areas of the foot that they aren't used to. To compensate for that, some brands will utilize a plate made from composite materials that are softer and more forgiving for casual running. The Saucony Endorphin Speed is a great example of that.

Additionally, most of the cushioning used in carbon fiber plated shoes aren't built as durable and runners will notice they break down faster. Most of the training versions of the Next% shoes (Nike Zoom Fly) will still have a plate, but different cushioning for added durability.

If you were looking for a plated shoe for casual runs, the Hoka Carbon X (top pick), Nike Zoom Fly, and the Saucony Endorphin Speed would be my top recommendations. They won't be as comfortable as non-plated shoes, but you will feel the speed!

Tyler
RW Staff
Thank you very much, Tyler! Appreciate the knowledge drop! :)
 
#7
These are my personal picks:

Best for 5K-Marathon Racing:
Boring pick but you cannot beat the Vaporfly. (Haven’t tried the Alphafly). Nike is still the one to beat. Other brands have now come out with their own competitors but I feel like other brands sacrificed pure performance for other reasons (like increased durability). Also it is still the lightest of carbon plated racers.

Best for High-Performance Training:
I have been a Zoom Fly 2/3 addict for a while. I’ve put 350-400 miles on 5 different pairs! They are versatile enough for me to use for any type of run. However, there is definitely competition now in this space. FuelCell TC is great and super soft but I have to give this one to the Saucony Endorphin Pro. I haven’t tried the Speed which I think would be a closer Zoom Fly replacement in terms of cost. For $200 I am picking the Endorphin Pro over the FuelCell every time. Also the durability seems very good so far so no I don’t feel guilty running training miles in it ;) . With more high end training shoes hitting $200 (expecting the Tempo Next% soon), I think the Saucony Endorphin Pro isn’t alone in this space and is leading this pack of shoes. The Nike Vaporfly only beats it for racing as it is a little bouncier and lighter. But the Vaporflys durability is so bad I don’t take them out for training runs.
 
#8
I have the Hoka Carbon X and the Sketchers Speed Elite. The carbon X is a proven shoe but the shoe and I are still trying to figure each other out but it is definitely a long mile racing shoe. The sketchers Speed Elite is the BOMB! Out of the box I set PB's back to back and it was so effortless I was laughing I was having so much fun. The Speed Elite will be my 5k to Half Marathon shoe no doubt.
 
#9
The 4% is the only racing shoe with a CF plate I've raced in. Back to back weekends of an 8k all-time best (-40 seconds) and then a near lifetime PB in the marathon. Blowing by people the last 13 miles and holding great form. I've run a lot in the Fly-Flyknit for training and it is a solid shoe, but the React foam is really heavy. My next CF purchase will either be the Asics Metaracer, Skechers Speed Elite or Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 (if that goes on sale ever).
 

RW Admin

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#10
The 4% is the only racing shoe with a CF plate I've raced in. Back to back weekends of an 8k all-time best (-40 seconds) and then a near lifetime PB in the marathon. Blowing by people the last 13 miles and holding great form. I've run a lot in the Fly-Flyknit for training and it is a solid shoe, but the React foam is really heavy. My next CF purchase will either be the Asics Metaracer, Skechers Speed Elite or Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 (if that goes on sale ever).
@RunTommy!,

The Hyperion Elite 2 is coming very soon! I'm reviewing for RW. I did a workout in them yesterday. It is just a first impression, but I would definitely look at grabbing a pair. They feel awesome underfoot.

Justin
RW Staff
 
#12
Somewhat related, Runner's World recently posted a short article, What were people wearing on their feet for the World Half Marathon Champs? that explores this question.

I was surprised to see that twice as many athletes opted to run in the Vaporfly over the Alphafly. I only have experience in the 4% so, with my next racing purchase fast approaching, this is particularly interesting for me. For the average runner there probably isn't a wrong choice between the two but I am definitely intrigued by the fact that the Vaporfly far and away remains the favorite, despite the Alphafly having the claim to fame of being on Kipchoge's feet during the Ineos challenge. I have seen some comments that some of the pro runners haven't "adapted" to it yet (Bekele in the build up to London when discussing why he wouldn't be running in the Alphafly), so I wonder what's going on here?

My next in-person race isn't until June 2021 and I suspect that I will have a lot to think about when picking up my next racers, especially now that it is no longer a one horse race... as a related aside, I am stupidly drawn to appearance and the Meta Racer and Endorphin Pro both look awesome.
 
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#13
Somewhat related, Runner's World recently posted a short article, What were people wearing on their feet for the World Half Marathon Champs? that explores this question.

I was surprised to see that twice as many athletes opted to run in the Vaporfly over the Alphafly. I only have experience in the 4% so, with my next racing purchase fast approaching, this is particularly interesting for me. For the average runner there probably isn't a wrong choice between the two but I am definitely intrigued by the fact that the Vaporfly far and away remains the favorite, despite the Alphafly having the claim to fame of being on Kipchoge's feet during the Ineos challenge. I have seen some comments that some of the pro runners haven't "adapted" to it yet (Bekele in the build up to London when discussing why he wouldn't be running in the Alphafly), so I wonder what's going on here?
It's apparently a different fit and feel, it's not simply a matter of the Alphafly being a "bigger and better" version of the Vaporfly. Plus, the Alphafly on Kipchoge's feet are not the exact same shoe you can buy off the shelf, they have been customized and tuned to his specific biomechanics. The majority of OT marathon runners were unsponsored and had the opportunity to run in the Alphafly for free in that race. I would be surprised if a majority of those able (not in conflict with sponsorship contracts) took advantage. Jake Riley (2nd place) notably chose the Vaporfly after trying the Alphafly for some strides before the race. He didn't find the Alphafly to be an improvement over the Vaporfly that he had been used to (and ran a PR in last October in Chicago), so kept to what he knew would work well.
 
#14
It's apparently a different fit and feel, it's not simply a matter of the Alphafly being a "bigger and better" version of the Vaporfly. Plus, the Alphafly on Kipchoge's feet are not the exact same shoe you can buy off the shelf, they have been customized and tuned to his specific biomechanics. The majority of OT marathon runners were unsponsored and had the opportunity to run in the Alphafly for free in that race. I would be surprised if a majority of those able (not in conflict with sponsorship contracts) took advantage. Jake Riley (2nd place) notably chose the Vaporfly after trying the Alphafly for some strides before the race. He didn't find the Alphafly to be an improvement over the Vaporfly that he had been used to (and ran a PR in last October in Chicago), so kept to what he knew would work well.
I need to correct myself, I definitely misremembered details his coach had mentioned. Riley certainly did wear the Alphafly for the OT though only after wearing them for some strides prior to the race, on advice from his college teammate Chris Derrick. Riley has some further thoughts, from this recent interview:
 
#15
Vapor Flys work well for me from 5k to Half, I am VERY pleased. That said, would I find the Nike $274.99 Alpha Flys even more appealing? My marathon days are long over. Looking for FAST shoes for 5k-Half. I also race in Asics MetaRacer, but it doesn’t provide same pop as Vapor Flys. Please help! At $274.99, it’s a lot of money to invest for me.
 

RW Admin

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#16
Vapor Flys work well for me from 5k to Half, I am VERY pleased. That said, would I find the Nike $274.99 Alpha Flys even more appealing? My marathon days are long over. Looking for FAST shoes for 5k-Half. I also race in Asics MetaRacer, but it doesn’t provide same pop as Vapor Flys. Please help! At $274.99, it’s a lot of money to invest for me.
Hi @Dooley3,

It is tough to say about the AlphaFly. As we've seen, some people gravitate towards the AlphaFly, while others keep to the VaporFly. Personally, I haven't run in the AlphaFly, but I have heard from testers that it has a bit of an odd sensation. From what I'm told, it can take some getting use to it.

I would say the AlphaFly isn't the best shoe for 5K-Half. If you are looking at Carbon Plate options, I think the RC Elite or Endorphin Pro are solid options there. I think the AlphaFly may be a touch too heavy for shorter distances. However, a lot of this comes down to personal preference.
Thank you,


Justin
RW Staff
 
#18
My only experience with carbon plated shoes so far is the Hoka Carbon X. I wear them for my fast workouts and race days. I haven't ran a marathon in them yet, but 3 Half Marathons now.

The way they react with the ground is very noticeable and they've revitalized my runs, and I've seen some improvements in my PRs!

I'll be trying the Hoka Carbon Rocket next, I've read the very low heel-toe offset gives a very springboard feel. Cant wait!
I have tried the Carbon Rocket. It is a good shoe and more like a traditional racing flat feel to it. I ran a 15 mile run in it and legs felt pretty good the next day. I was running a little slower pace for that run and had no issues. I think the shoe is pretty versatile.
 
#19
@haqq777

Generally, carbon fiber plated shoes aren't as comfortable for casual running. They tend to be overly stiff and runners have noticed it puts pressure on the calves and other areas of the foot that they aren't used to. To compensate for that, some brands will utilize a plate made from composite materials that are softer and more forgiving for casual running. The Saucony Endorphin Speed is a great example of that.

Additionally, most of the cushioning used in carbon fiber plated shoes aren't built as durable and runners will notice they break down faster. Most of the training versions of the Next% shoes (Nike Zoom Fly) will still have a plate, but different cushioning for added durability.

If you were looking for a plated shoe for casual runs, the Hoka Carbon X (top pick), Nike Zoom Fly, and the Saucony Endorphin Speed would be my top recommendations. They won't be as comfortable as non-plated shoes, but you will feel the speed!

Tyler
RW Staff
Great explanation and breakdown on the differences! I will use this as a reference when I get these questions.
 
#20
Marathon - I plan on running my first this year and I will probably use the nike vaporfly next%
5k-Half - Nike vaporfly next%, saucony endorphin speed, rocket x
Performance training - saucony endorphin speed, rocket x

I am interested in trying the zoomx invincible for training. It is on the heavier side of shoes though.
 
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