Are they worth it? Which one is right for you?
As I mentioned on Instagram, the Fourth of July looked different this year, but hopefully, you were able to have a happy and safe one.
If you read for a while, one of the first newsletters I wrote was about was carbon plated shoes. That was about 18 months ago! Things have certainly changed since. Now there are more options from Hoka, Saucony, New Balance, and Brooks. This week I'm highlighting their differences and giving you more knowledge so you can figure out which may be a good fit for you.
One of the most asked questions is: "Are carbon plated shoes worth it?"
It can be a hard pill to swallow to purchase a $200+250 carbon plated racing shoe.
There is research to prove you’ll run faster in carbon plated technology, but it won’t substitute training. Only you can answer is a few seconds worth $250 to you?
Do you run faster because of the shoe or the training you've put in?
If you’re anything like me, you want to know how and why a carbon plate could help you run faster.
While running, most runners expend energy bending toe joints during impact. When you bend other areas such as your arch and ankles, they spring back into position ready for the next stride.
Your toes don’t spring back, and energy is wasted. The carbon plate keeps your toes straighter, which in turn saves energy. The curvature in the carbon plate almost functions as a spring. Combined with unique foam to each brand, the midsole creates the “energy savings.” The carbon plate alone (or the foam) doesn't make you run faster, but the carbon plate+the foam will. Here is a good article about it.
Here are a Few Carbon Plate Shoes on the Market:
The Nike Next% uses ZoomX foam, which is lighter, softer, and more responsive than any other Nike foam. Studies have shown the technology in the Next% results in improvements of up to 4%, but that doesn’t mean every person will get 4% faster in the shoe. For instance, your friend might improve by 3.8% and you only improve 1%. Not every shoe works for every person. The shoe was initially designed for proficient elites. The shoe also tends to exacerbate bad form and highlight unbalanced.
The 4%, Next%, and now AlphaFly are shoes almost every road racing world record has been set in. It does have a clear advantage over other brands in their technology.
If you want a soft, yet cushioned and responsive shoe, plus what the majority of elite runners are using, the Nike Next% is a good option.
The Hoka Carbon Rocket (Review here):
The Hoka Carbon Rocket is the faster of the two Hoka Carbon Plated shoes. The drop is 4 mm, which makes it the lowest drop of the carbon plated family. Most Hoka professional runners are racing in the Carbon Rocket or updated Carbon Rocket X. Of any of the carbon plated shoes, the Hoka Carbon Rocket is one of the most responsive.
If you prefer a racing flat feel but a little more cushion, the Hoka Carbon Rocket is a good option.
The Hoka Carbon X (Review Here):
The Hoka Carbon X has more cushion than the Rocket. If you're doing longer distance, more injury-prone, or just prefer more shoe, the Hoka Carbon X might be more your style. It's a lot more shoe, and I (personally) find it better on my body for workouts.
Of any of the carbon plated shoes, the Carbon X is the most stable and one of the more durable. While there is no stable carbon plated shoe, the wider base gives it that inherent stability. It was used to set the 50-mile world record, so it has to be durable!
If you're looking for something with a wider base, more cushioned, and durable, the Carbon X is a good option.
Saucony Endorphin Pro (Review Here):
Saucony released three new shoes recently (the Pro, Speed, and Shift). The Endorphin Pro is the carbon fiber plated racing shoe. I believe it is the closest technology-wise, to the Next%. If you are someone who wants a carbon fiber plated shoe, doesn't want to buy Nike, the Saucony Endorphin Pro is probably the first shoe I recommend.
If you're looking for a light, responsive, carbon plated shoe, the Saucony Endorphin Pro is a good option.
New Balance Fuelcell TC: (Review Here):
The New Balance Fuelcell TC is the beefiest and softest of the shoes. There is a lot more cushion, but it's a lot softer than other brands. Of any of the carbon plated shoes, you'll probably get the most amount of mileage in the New Balance Fuelcell TC. It's got the trainer feel, but it's also responsive and fast.
If you want a more cushioned and durable shoe and also a carbon fiber plate, the New Balance TC is probably your best bet.
Brooks Hyperion Elite (Review Here):
It's one of the lighter shoes and it's still reasonably durable. If you like the feel of a racing flat (like the old Brooks Hyperion, or even shoes like the Nike LT Racer, New Balance 1400, Saucony Type A), you may love the Brooks Hyperion Elite. But, it's hard to justify that price when the shoe feels like a $100 racing flat. You can nearly buy three pairs of racing flats for the same price. I think the noncarbon plated Brooks Hyperion Tempo is awesome, though.
If you prefer the feel of a racing flat but want a carbon plate, the Brooks Hyperion Elite is a good choice. Brooks does plan to come out with an updated version just in time for the fall. I would wait until then.
Asics is entering the party and releasing the Metaracer on August 1st. I don't know much about it, but if it's good enough for Emma Bates, it's got to be good.
Nikes' latest update to their carbon plated shoe is the three plate Alphafly. The Alphafly has a higher stack height as well as three carbon fiber plates. Could the higher stack height result in more Achilles injuries? Maybe!
The thickness of the Alphafly carbon plates are also scaled to size. So now, a women's size six carbon fiber plate is not the same as a men's size 12. Which theoretically should make sense.
If you prefer the latest and greatest technology, the Alphafly might be for you. Good luck getting a pair though.
$250 Nike Next%: 50ish miles
$180 Hoka Carbon X: 200-300 miles
$160 Hoka Carbon Rocket 100-150 miles
$200 Saucony Endorphin Pro 150+ miles
$200 New Balance Fuelcell TC 200+ miles
$250 Brooks Hyperion Elite 100 miles
Non-ideal situations for Carbon Plated Shoes
Smaller races: Have you ever seen any carbon plated shoe being used by the miler or 5kers? Of course not. It is better for races 10k and above.
Trail Racing: It is not feasible to use these shoes for running on trails because many have minimal traction. Therefore, it will not give you an edge or advantage.
During Casual Training: You can purchase carbon-plated shoes if you have a spare $200. The more you use them, the more you'll go through them. Plus, when you use them for everything you'll get less of an advantage on race day.
What About Injury?
Despite claims that carbon plated shoes are "the best ever," there is no shoe that is perfect for everyone. I cannot emphasize this enough; no shoe works for 100% of people. Every person is different!
If you read my blog, you may know I believe the Nike Next% has been a cause of two injuries I had in 2019. After running 18.12 miles in the Next%, I had hamstring injuries, which ultimately led me to DNS my marathon. Six months later, I raced the Hilton Head Half Marathon in the Next% and my Achilles issues began. My Achilles problems led to my calcaneus stress fracture.
Am I saying the Next% is the only cause of my injuries? No, but I do believe it played a role in it. Every person is different and just because it works for many, doesn't mean carbon plate shoes will work for all.
Most carbon plated shoes aren't designed to last the same amount as a trainer. The technology won't last. Sure, you might be able to run and not get injured, but you aren't going to get the same 4% advantage. For instance, Nike Next% only lasts 50 miles before the technology starts deteriorating. You can still run in them at 75 or 100 miles and probably "feel fine," but you aren't getting the same technology advantage.
I highly recommend saving them for workouts and races and not running a lot of extra miles in them. If you have the money, sure, but there is no need to do every run in them.
To see if a carbon plated shoe works for you, you must try it yourself. They will never substitute training, but they could help you shave a few seconds off.
What is Keeping me Entertained This Week?
Article: You Don’t Know Shelby Houlihan
Podcast Hurdle: Jay Ell Alexander, CEO & Owner of Black Girls Run
Fuel Review: Muir Energy Gels: Slow Burning vs. Fast Burning
Shoe Review: Brooks Hyperion Elite Shoe Review
This newsletter is sponsored by Aftershokz. If you are looking to try Aftershokz Headphones, you can use this link and save 15%. Why Aftershokz headphones? They are wireless and go over the ears so you can hear traffic as well as your music. I’ve used them for several years now and never had an issue. I have reviews of the XTrainerZ, Aeropex, and Air).
If you are looking for an excellent headphone for swimming, I recommend the XtrainerZ (seriously, I am still amazed I can swim and listen to music so clearly).
Finally, thank you, everyone, who shares. Sharing and growing is what helps keep the newsletter free! If you enjoy reading, I appreciate you sharing to someone else who you think might enjoy it too!
Stay healthy and safe.
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