Best Carbon Plated Running Shoes 2021
Buyers Guide | Fleet Feet
From the mile to the marathon, running shoes with carbon-fiber plates have revolutionized the sport.
The boom of shoes with carbon-fiber plates came in the wake of the original Nike Vaporfly 4%, which promised a 4 percent improvement in running economy. Nike’s claim was initially backed up by independent lab tests, and it was bolstered by a steady stream of boundary-breaking performances by athletes like Eluid Kipchoge, who ran the marathon in under two hours in the Nike AlphaFly Next% in 2019.
Soon, other brands began releasing their own models packed with ultra-responsive foam compositions and propulsive carbon-fiber plates. HOKA ONE ONE debuted the Carbon X at a special event in California, and New Balance unleashed the FuelCell 5280 for one of the premier mile events in the country.
By propelling athletes to new world records, surpassing the perceived limits of human performance and claiming podium spots around the world, this new generation of speedy shoes has proven it's here to stay—and there are more on the way.
Here are the best carbon fiber-plated running shoes you need to know about:
- HOKA Carbon X 2
- Brooks Hyperion Elite 2
- New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2
- Saucony Endorphin Pro 2
- New Balance FuelCell 5280
- ASICS MetaSpeed Sky
- HOKA Rocket X
- Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%
[Updated June 15, 2021. This article is part of the Fleet Feet Buyer's Guide for The Best Running Shoes 2021. Find all the best running shoes from the top brands for all situations.]
HOKA ONE ONE Carbon X 2
The updated HOKA ONE ONE Carbon X 2 improves upon the groundbreaking tech found in the Carbon X by adding classic HOKA comfort to a blistering-fast shoe.
The Carbon X 2 features a carbon-fiber plate integrated into the super-light midsole foam to deliver a responsive yet cushioned ride for fast road races or long training runs. A redesigned, robust Meta-Rocker in the midsole supports a rolling cadence to keep your transitions quick and light.
Brooks Hyperion Elite 2
Brooks powered the updated Hyperion Elite 2 with a DNA Flash midsole designed to cushion fast transitions and deliver big energy returns with each step. An integrated carbon-fiber plate propels you forward with each step and keeps the shoe responsive so you can reach top speeds on the road. Brooks also carved the midsole foam into a newly engineered Rapid Roll shape to support smooth heel-toe transitions as you run.
Designed with durability in mind, the Hyperion Elite 2 will last anywhere between 200-400 miles, giving you the premium speed of a race shoe and the endurance of an everyday trainer.
New Balance FuelCel RC Elite v2
New Balance updated the FuelCell RC Elite v2 for the lightest feel yet. The FuelCell midsole foam is uniquely designed to deliver high energy returns and provide lightweight cushion so you can float through your next race.
A full-length carbon-fiber plate keeps the ride snappy and maximizes the efficiency of each step to push you to faster speeds. The Dynaride outsole provides the traction you need to take on unpredictable road race conditions without slowing you down. Designed to push 5K or marathon pace, the FuelCell RC Elite v2 is streamlined for performance.
Saucony Endorphin Pro 2
Featuring a full-length carbon-fiber plate and Saucony's newly engineered PWRRUN PB foam, the Endorphin Pro 2 is built for speed. These two new technologies work together to deliver smooth transitions, high energy returns and unbeatable responsiveness. Saucony also features SPEEDROLL construction in the Endorphin Pro 2 that uses elevated cushioning and a stiff forefoot to generate power with each step.
Combined with an updated, foot-contouring fit and a grippy outsole, the Endorphin Pro 2 delivers a cushioned feel and top speeds.
New Balance FuelCell 5280
Built to tackle the road mile, the New Balance FuelCell 5280 was first debuted by brand-sponsored athlete Jenny Simpson in 2018 at the 5th Avenue Mile in New York.
The FuelCell 5280 is designed for top speeds in short road races. Featuring a multi-directional carbon-fiber plate the FuelCell 5280 delivers a propulsive, snappy ride while FuelCell midsole foam works to cushion each step. New Balance designed the 5280's with a specially engineered outsole to provide traction on slick roads so you can chase your PR in any conditions.
ASICS MetaSpeed Sky
Whether you've watched Sara Hall smash American records in them, or are looking for a cushioned, fast feel, the ASICS MetaSpeed Sky is the shoe for you.
A full-length carbon-fiber plate lays on top of a high stack of FLYTEFOAM Blast Turbo midsole foam that provides a super-responsive, cushioned feel on the run. A beveled outsole and strategically placed traction elements help the MetaSpeed Sky remain durable without adding extra weight.
The upper is a sleek, breathable mono-mesh that is flexible enough to allow for natural foot movement, but keeps your foot engaged over the carbon fiber plate.
HOKA ONE ONE Rocket X
HOKA ONE ONE engineered the Rocket X with its lightest components yet to float you through your next race.
Featuring a carbon-fiber plate throughout the midsole to create a responsive, snappy ride, the Rocket X is a cushioned, lightweight alternative to the Carbon X or the Carbon X 2. The midsole is designed with super-light EVA foam to support each step and propel you forward toward your next PR.
Nike Zoom Vaporfly NEXT%
Nothing beats the original.
From top performances by professional athletes to up and coming NCAA runners, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly NEXT% has pushed the limits of speeds achievable.
Packed with Nike's lightest ever ZoomX foam, the Vaporfly is designed for energy return and responsiveness. A carbon-fiber plate lines the entire midsole for a propulsive ride that has proven itself on world-class courses. The higher midsole promotes smooth transitions without weighing you down so you can push your boundaries in comfort.
Standing Behind Our Picks
We picked the best running shoes based on what we think will work for the most people in the most situations. If you buy a pair of running shoes from us and you don’t like the way they look, fit or perform, bring them back within 60 days for a full refund.
Plus, we offer free shipping on all orders over $99 on fleetfeet.com, and we’ll match a lower price from a qualifying retailer. That’s our Happy Fit Guarantee.