Our Top 5 Carbon-plated Racing Shoes

A pair of Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

Head over to any race start line and you’ll find runners clad in moisture-wicking singlets, too-short shorts and the latest advances in running shoe technology on their feet. We’re talking about carbon-plated racing shoes. Carbon-plated racing shoes have gained widespread popularity in recent years and now nearly every major running shoe brand has one in their lineup.

What are Carbon-plated Shoes?

Carbon-plated racing shoes are designed to give you an extra edge on race day. The carbon-fiber plate is placed in the midsole and helps you run faster by returning energy and delaying fatigue. Paired with responsive foams and lightweight uppers, these shoes are designed to provide maximum comfort with minimal weight.

With so many options to choose from, we compiled a list of our top 5 carbon-plated racing shoes (in alphabetical order) to help you choose the best shoes for you.

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3

The Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3.

Unisex sizing

Weight: 8.1 oz

Drop: 6.5 mm

Stack height (heel/forefoot): 39.5 mm/33 mm

The Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 features Adidas’ responsive Lightstrike Pro foam and carbon-infused ENERGYRODS. Unlike most other race day shoes, the Adios Pro 3 doesn’t feature a single carbon-fiber plate but rather a series of carbon-infused rods that create a stiff, propulsive feeling.

While the Adios Pro 3 is the heaviest shoe in our list, it’s still significantly lighter than most daily trainers. Reviewers enjoyed the smooth, lightweight upper and energetic ride.

“As I picked up the pace, this shoe really locked in. It was able to smoothly round corners on the track with efficiency and a poppy energy return,” Nate says.

Reviewers also found the Adios Pro 3 to be a significant improvement over previous versions.

“This shoe is a winner in my book for all kinds of speedwork. It’s comfortable, light, and definitely built for speed. If you weren’t crazy about the original Adidas Adizero Adios Pro, give the third edition a try. It’s a big improvement,” Kate says.

Check out our full Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 review.

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ASICS Metaspeed Sky+

The ASICS Metaspeed Sky Plus.

Unisex sizing

Weight: 7.2 oz

Drop: 5 mm

Stack height (heel/forefoot): 39 mm/34 mm

The ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ treats you to a full-length carbon-fiber plate sandwiched between two layers of ASICS’ FF BLAST TURBO foam. The lightweight, rigid plate helps the foam compress upon landings and snap back during take-offs, propelling you forward. The result is an energetic, springy ride.

ASICS touts this shoe as being best for runners who increase their stride length rather than their cadence while running at top speed. The ASICS Metaspeed Edge+ is geared towards cadence runners, but reviewers didn’t get a chance to review it. If it’s anything like the Sky+, it’s sure to be a hit.

“These feel firm and propulsive. They provide just enough pep and bounce while remaining rigid enough to propel you forward. I cruised through some threshold intervals in these and my stride felt smooth the whole way,” Caroline says.

Check out our full ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ review.

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HOKA Carbon X 3

The women's HOKA Carbon X 3.

Weight: 6.6 oz (W), 7.8 oz (M)

Drop: 5 mm

Stack height (heel/forefoot): 30 mm/25 mm (W), 32 mm/ 27 mm (M)

The HOKA Carbon X 3 isn’t your typical soft, plush HOKA. It’s built with a full-length carbon-fiber plate, a double layer midsole and a distinct rocker shape that offers a stiff, propulsive feeling.

Reviewers appreciated the smooth transitions and energetic toe-offs, but opinions varied on the one-piece knit upper. If you have wide feet, you’ll probably enjoy the fit of the HOKA Carbon X 3. Our narrow-footed reviewers found the upper too roomy and hard to lock down.

Nevertheless, the HOKA Carbon X 3 serves up a generous dose of energy and pep. And at $200, it’s easier on your wallet than the other shoes on our list.

“I’m grabbing these the next time I gear up for a full marathon, or a half marathon, or really any road race,” says Nate. “So fast, so fun and so comfortable.”

Check out our full HOKA Carbon X 3 review.

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New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2

The women's New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2.

Weight: 6.5 oz (W), 7.7 oz (M)

Drop: 8 mm

Stack height (heel/forefoot): 39 mm/31 mm

The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 features a full-length carbon-fiber plate sandwiched between New Balance’s responsive FuelCell midsole foam. The midsole is light and bouncy to keep you moving, while the carbon-fiber plate adds energy return to each stride.

“These shoes feel quite soft, but there is a very responsive bouncing sensation with each stride. My first run in these was for a moderate workout with a series of short, fast pickups, and I couldn’t believe how quick and smooth they felt. They feel really good over longer distances, too,” Kate says.

A breathable knit upper tops off the shoe, complete with a bold New Balance logo on the top. Reviewers enjoyed the responsive ride and eye-catching design.

“The heel collar is lightly cushioned, which provides a comfortable, supportive fit without being too heavy. The forefoot mesh has a good bit of stretch to it, which makes the fit more accommodating to different foot types,” says Kate.

Keep an eye out for the latest version of the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite, coming soon.

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Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

Weight: 6.2 oz (W), 7.2 oz (M)

Drop: 8 mm

Stack height (heel/forefoot): 39.5mm/31.5mm

The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 features responsive PWRRUNPB foam cushioning and a redesigned S-curve carbon-fiber plate, all in a featherweight package. The result is a springy, energetic ride that’s made for breaking personal records.

“These shoes are magical. Somehow they are as comfortable as the maximally cushioned shoes on the market, light as the most minimalist shoes, and still give a noticeable bouncy kick to your stride,” Alex says.

Saucony uses their SPEEDROLL technology in the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, the same geometry used in the previous two versions to help roll you forward during transitions. That, combined with the carbon-fiber plate, the springy foam, and the smooth, breathable upper, creates an effortlessly smooth ride that will keep you moving for miles.

Check out our full Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 review.

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