What’s in the Shoe: What is a Carbon Plated Race Shoe

Laura Barreca, PT, DPT

Starting in 2016, we got our first glimpse at the carbon plated shoe.

This release was the start of a huge change in running performance and shoe wear.  Nike was the initial company to develop this idea with the Vaporfly and most other shoe companies caught on moving into 2017 & 2018.  So what is a carbon plated shoe, what is it used for and why does everyone want them?  The premise of the carbon plate is that the material of the shoe will allow you to be up to 4% more efficient when running, AKA run faster.  The carbon plate enhances the ability to run faster but gets significantly more efficient the faster we go.  This doesn’t mean they won’t work for all of us recreational runners but they will show much greater gains for those running at the pro level!  Let’s get into the specific make-up of the shoe.

These shoes have a carbon plate in the midsole.

The carbon plate plus the foam underneath the plate work together to help propel the wearer forward looking to improve efficiency, and of course improve time. Whatever fast is to the user, this shoe is supposed to enhance that efficiency.  These shoes are built for workouts and races, NOT easy runs as they push your foot muscles to work a lot harder to stabilize over the carbon plate putting additional stress on the lower legs.  It is important to incorporate them a few times, as a gradual introduction (in workouts or races) prior to your goal race to make sure they work for you.  It is also important to focus on prehab for the foot when wearing a carbon plated shoe with exercises such as toe yoga, foot intrinsics, and ankle mobility. It has been found that in a carbon plated shoe, mechanics will change; runners will have a decreased cadence, longer step/flight time, and increased ground reaction force.  These shoes are expensive and typically only last a few hundred miles max so make sure to save them for big efforts!  

Every shoe company has now developed their own “fast” shoe resulting in a ton of options for anyone looking.

Some of the most popular being: Nike Vaporflys, Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3, ASICs Magic Speed or Metaspeeds, New Balance Fuel Cell Super Comp, Brooks Hyperion Elite 3s, Hoka Rocket X 2, and Saucony Endorphin Pro 3s.  Our advice here at Custom is to go to your local running store and give these a try to find what works best for you and what your foot is most comfortable in.  Depending on the make-up of your foot at static stance along with your mechanics while running dynamically, not every carbon plated shoe will work for you so find your favorite.

Come visit us here at Custom Performance to get the right running shoe recommendations for you!

By Laura Barreca, PT, DPT

Skip to content